I just can’t help myself to always snap a few, or a shit-ton of pics with my cell phone at a client location when we’re there for meetings or other, non-photographic reasons. They are so helpful. Clients love to see past and future mockups actually placed in their environments, and it is sooooo hard to get images from them of their spaces.
The fun part is that you’re not actually suppose to be taking pictures and using them, especially not for your marketing purposes. So usually I’m creeping around before the client lets us in, like around reception in the public area, just snapping cell phone pics in a non-discreet manner like I’m just reading text messages horizontally… which nobody ever does. I’ve only been called out at a client retail location but never in a corporate office. But I have been told before to be sure not to get any computer screens in my pictures.
My favorite is getting people in the pictures also. Especially since most of our digital work is based on engagement… so I want some people in there either looking at a screen or about to touch a screen. I get a lot of receptionists in there, some random guests, even some co-workers (they really hate it usually).
Of course the pics aren’t the best but usually if you get a steady and in-focus shot, you can photoshop that bad boy in some professional fashion to make it work. Lets be honest, iPhones will take a pretty badass picture these days and will work for most needs these days, and a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for a photoshoot or high res stock images (… don’t get me started on prices of high res stock images of fucking office building interiors!!!).
As soon as I saw the first IBM Watson national spot where they had people conversing with Watson in creative ways, I knew I wanted to do something with it (since IBM is a big client of my company and we have free reign to try new stuff sometimes). The TV spots had cool settings with very visual surroundings, and very unique looking people (from a cute little girl to Bob Dylan) which I thought would turn out really well in some cool motion graphic treatment across a large-scale videowall. The commercials also featured some good tag lines around cognitive business and also good witty banter between Watson and the featured person. A great challenge to turn it into digital content.
My first opportunity was for a much wider digital canvas, a 7 portrait screen array which is about 3 times the width of HD. But this wasn’t a hindrance, as its a normal thing we do and actually gives you a lot of freedom in creating supporting graphical treatments to surround any existing HD footage or maybe use to put some title text or supporting messaging.
The biggest challenge on these were the audio because the videowall we were creating content for didn’t have the audio turned on due to it being in a corporate lobby and not wanting to be overly distracting. But the audio piece was the compelling part of the video which highlights the value and personality of Watson.
So we transcribed the people talking to Watson and figured out how much of it we should try and use and how to show the text on the screen. We decided to have some messaging on one side of the screen, and then for the actual conversation we treated it almost like a text message string or chat client type of format, where each speaking person had a little avatar/headshot with their line. Then each one would animate onto the screen after a few seconds, trying to mimic a conversation, and essentially allow a viewer in this corporate lobby to see this really cool visual piece and then follow along with the text-based conversation.
Here’s a couple examples, the text on the right is too small to read, but it animates through the conversation/audio:
You see a beautiful client marketing example and then when you really wonder how they envisioned it with motion, you’re stuck. Of course you can dream up some motion treatment but you know they have very experienced agencies or people already doing it. Then, it happens, you randomly see a new banner ad one some random webpage that is the exact campaign and shows the animation treatment. Opa! Champaign (or beer) falls from the heavens, angels start signing … you got the insight you need and you didn’t have to bug your client to go through the endless channels to try and find that answer (that they really didn’t understand how to ask anyway).
I feel stupid admitting this now but I use to take multiple screenshots to try and capture the essence of the motion. Then I was slapped on the back of the head and introduced to Quicktime’s screen capture feature where you can easily record a specified part of your screen and save it as a video. And, its free. I know, crazy talk, right? When SnagIt costs money, but a video capture tool is free with the Quicktime app that we’ve all had on our Mac’s forever.
Then the little problem of assets come into play. You hope and pray that the PDF you received (or downloaded from the client website) allows you to open it in Illustrator and easily separate the layers. Usually you get lucky and you’re able to at least save out the background and its in some decent size format for you to leverage in a HD or UHD/4k manner.
Just for reference, www.Moat.com is a good site to easily throw in a client name and it pulls up all their online media. BUT, this does not let you play any motion clips, only view the static media. But its still a good tool to use if you want to quickly glance at a brand’s newest online styles or marketing campaigns. It has become a staple in my online client stalking repertoire.
Looking towards the next year, I started looking into media buys aligning to our 2016 marketing budget allocation, which is when I felt some extra gray hair coming in. (like I needed that) I had captured all the influential industry outlets that I wanted to target and now was the time to reach out for all their material and pricing. Doesn’t sound that hard, does it?
I setup folders per each website and event that I was targeting, which already got confusing because some companies owned multiple, and some events actually mapped back to some industry websites but didn’t actually have their own section. But, at last, I got that ironed out and put their various PDFs in each folder. Yeah, various PDFs… each organization sent between 1 and 4 PDFs that ranged from pricing tables, screenshots, audience graphs, media examples, etc. So that was fun.
Then I took a deep breath, went and bought some beer, and then started trying to compare the options. Each one was completely different in how they package and price their options. Literally, from pricing media per view, per 1000 views, per page, per email, per month in an email, per blast, per 1000 emails, etc. And the best is, no sales person wants to give you the easy answer because they actually want to know your budget, then they’ll sell you a sweet package for about 130% of your budget. I’m not mad at them. They know its easy for us to approve that then haggle for weeks with them.
So you finally get the sales people to give you buttoned up proposals of clear options so you can really compare them. Then the hard part…. presenting those options with your recommendations to your boss, controller, or anybody else who gets to chime in. Now I know just to prepare to go back and forth with those proposals at least 3 times before everyone is happy and satisfied. I’ll just plan on writing another blog article after Q1 next year, when I share marketing results and get feedback galore on how I chose wrong!
There’s almost nothing more frustrating than coming to a great idea for the photo direction, but then not exactly finding the right image. I couldn’t imagine trying to find the right stock photo way back in the day, before websites with metadata and account preferences and fancy features. I do have to admit this is a frustrating process and almost silly thing to bitch about, since before the more advanced internet of things, this process was so much harder when your only option was to plan, budget and execute on a custom photoshoot to capture that perfect image.
Anyway … websites like istockphoto.com have made it so efficient to not only find the perfect image, but to repeatedly use their tool for ongoing campaigns, special needs, and any research. From all the autosuggest category tags, which is actually extremely very helpful if you think about the fact that they are showing you what actually tags have content, and you don’t have to peck and hunt via crazy words that you just came up with.
The “light boxes” on istockphoto are also worth a shootout. They are essentially just folders to save your image ideas in (and what a cool way to brand it and make it sound more connected to the industry) … anyway … The real reason I love this is because I used to take thousands of screenshots when doing research for images or just mood boards, and it was a pain because I was always ensuring I also captured the ID or URL, in case I wanted it and then couldn’t find it again (starting the craziness of the process over again). I fill those light boxes up, and love the comfort in knowing every idea is one click away from purchase.
And thank god, they have the additional filters like file type, because I can’t stand seeing illustrations when I’m looking for a photo. Theres way too many people out there essentially doodling in illustrator and trying to sell it professionally as stock work.
I love when a client is asked for their brand guidelines and instead they send over some random files. I don’t hate them for it. I really just find it amusing and fun to analyze. It usually consists of some type of Powerpoint template file, so jpgs, and a PDF or two. Some people get put out and want to over-analyze it and fight to get the “official” and latest brand guidelines, but I’ve been on the client side before and that isn’t always the easiest thing to track down.
It becomes a challenge, to really try and fit to their brand with the simple assets given. To try and decipher their brand code, color palette, photo styles and any graphic treatments, with only the few samples you’re given. Its a challenge of pure art direction, mixed with graphic and visual intelligence that is actually fun if you aren’t already swamped with work and deadlines. And the amazing thing is usually these type of client stakeholders aren’t that picky, and sometimes (very rare) your new take on their branding execution sparks a fire among their company and they start using your new execution on various brand pieces or extensions. There is a fine line to ride here, which only experience can speak to, but it can be fun, and as long as your honest and get approval from your client stakeholders, don’t be scared to push it a little … or a lot!
One of the more satisfying things I’ve done from a design execution standpoint … go out and concept a large-scale media wall application from scratch, just based on a client’s new marketing campaign. They don’t even see it coming, but you hit them with some beautiful mockup laid over a photo you took on your last visit. They usually freak out a little, and then often seem a bit timid to ask how much its going to cost them, like we can’t tell they want it no matter what.
The beauty of how to do this, especially when talking about large-scale media walls which can be over 10,000 pixels wide, is to make sure you can re-use all the campaign assets from their website and NOT require the client to seek out any original assets which is always a pain for them. I’ll usually download all the graphics from the website before I start concepting in real pixels, so I know how I can blow them up (about twice their resolution at most) and what exact pieces I have to work with per each type of content node I want to include. After that, I get a developer with me and start whiteboarding it out, just to make sure you’re not getting too crazy, everything is working from a data perspective … and at the end of the day, it gets them involved early in case the client wants to pull the trigger quickly, and you always want the developer in a more ‘ownership’ capacity to get the ball rolling on this type of innovative digital media.
My old wise Chinese design professor said if I didn’t write this shit down it would vanish in thin air. Note taken, here is my daily discoveries of the ever evolving design world around me.