A Sweet Act of Creative Generosity

Most challenges modern agencies face stem from how we, as an industry, spent decades devaluing our one, singular asset: creativity. We gave it away for years since we earned our margins in media markups.

This worked fine, until it didn’t. By the time broadband and mobile fragmented the media landscape into a thousand platforms, we had trained clients not to pay for the one thing we truly own. And the results have not been pretty.

It’s a situation made worse by creative people themselves. We tend to underprice our own product, accepting lower compensation due to our sheer love of making things. That’s why a story last Saturday involving a creative team from Wong Doody LA made me smile so much. Call it “The Saved Quinceañera.”

The creative team was prepping a massive video and still shoot down in Houston with Patrick Molnar, a nationally-recognized, professional lifestyle photographer. As they worked in the museum district off Rice University, producer Amy Wise noticed a group of teenagers posing around a fountain as family members snapped photos with their phones. Being curious and outgoing (invaluable traits in an agency producer), Amy quickly learned it was Jasmine’s quinceañera–the traditional celebration of a fifteen year old girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood. Unfortunately, the large bus they had rented for their celebration hit a curb and blew a tire, setting them back a few hours. By the time they arrived at the park for their shoot, their photographer had given up and left.

And yes, the movie-of-the-week scene you are currently imagining in your head is exactly what happened next. Amy told the creative team, the creative team told Patrick, and within minutes, a major professional photographer was lining up shots of the young woman and her court, saving the day with a level of professionalism far beyond anything the family might have imagined. For no other reason other than it was fun, and it would brighten this girl’s day, transforming disappointment into delight.

The whole experience lasted less than fifteen minutes, but in that time, Patrick squeezed off bursts, insuring he’d have lots of selects to choose from, which he did later that night, retouching frames in the hotel bar.


Unretouched photo courtesy of Patrick Molnar.

Creative people get into the business for the joy of making things. On Saturday afternoon, they didn’t make an ad or a piece of content or a digital experience; they simply made someone’s day. And in this case, that feeling was compensation enough. Well done Matt Burgess, Vanessa Witter, Callie Householder, Amy, and Patrick.


Know Anyone Looking To Start a Career In Advertising?

The difficulty of finding an advertising job serves as a good first test for an industry where rejection occurs daily. That’s why when parents of jobseekers call me, I ask them to have their child/nephew/friend’s amazingly creative daughter contact me directly. You have to really want to be in this business to build a career in it.

For young creatives, the typical path requires creating a portfolio. That used to mean assembling a book, but now it all happens online where any applicant with programming savvy can really wow non-digitally native people like myself.

Because that’s the job: creating interest in your ideas, your creativity, your own unique perspective and world view.

Yesterday, we launched our application for OLSON’s Summer O-tern program. We’re looking to hire three students interested in the creative side of marketing. In an inspired bit of thinking, our team of Matt Burgess and Bryan Michurski, led by Tom Fugleberg, created this unique application challenge…

Note, they created this piece using only a phone.

I love this idea. In the past few years, the widespread availability of broadcast-level technology has democratized production; smartphones with 1080p video literally put that production capability in all of our hands. And sharing through social media circles forms the foundation of modern connectivity and community building.

Of course, what you do with that capability is the real challenge. We plan to post the entries and offer constructive criticism about them. After all, if students take the time to create something for us, they deserve to get direct feedback on their work.

Learn more about the program by clicking here (recently, someone at ICF Next reached out, asking me to update this link. The Otern program is long dead: this now links to their employment opportunities. Good luck!) And if you happen to know any child/nephew/friend’s amazingly creative daughter who wants to explore a career in advertising, send the link to them.

I look forward to seeing where their imaginations can take us.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON