Rut Buster II

October 13, 2010

By Dave Huerta, VP/Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

When I was 9 I used to play this game with my uncle where he’d draw a squiggle on a piece of paper, then hand me the pen and ask me to finish the drawing.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” he said.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could approach more projects with that in mind?

It’s a tough challenge these days. In our attempt to give consumers more ways to connect with brands, a single print ad, for example, can end up with multiple logos, multiple urls, tag lines, QR codes…

“Hey, what’s this ad supposed to communicate again?”

Well, here’s an exercise that helps us get back to that idea of “whatever you want it to be.” Pretty amazing how many different things can be seen from one squiggle.


Process is liberating.

August 5, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

When I was a runt, my parents would put me in a playpen to 1) get a break for themselves, and 2) give me time to be with myself and toys. If you looked at it from the outside it seemed kind of like a jail with happy colors and clowns. But as I see it now, and I believe I understood it back then, it was a safe haven. In that confined space, I could let my mind wander, be carefree and be emotionally anywhere — as opposed to leaving me in an open field or a mall (another story) where I would feel self-conscious, vulnerable and, ironically, withdrawn and caged. The boundaries released me; nothing could get me as long as I physically stayed inside the four slated walls and on the bouncy, stain-free rainbow cushion. It’s kind of what Thoreau meant when he said, “I have traveled far in Concord.” It’s what we do when we sit on a cushion for long spells and meditate – we become expansive.

We are changing our process at NYCA again to harness our energies, fortify our structure and free ourselves to create faster, more effective and just plain more content.

I find process is liberating, strange for creativity perhaps. As long as it is a thoughtfully-built structure, it allows us to stretch. Sets the hard fundamentals down and so we play. The frame unlocks the painting.


How to be in a constant state of wonderment.

June 16, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Quietly taking her place among the circle, Lynne bends open the book and turns us into children.

She more than reads; she breathes life into Harold and the Purple Crayon and the 40 people of NYCA.

This is the true story of how creative power trumps all. It’s based in fact. And it’s a ritual we do every year, whenever.

However many we are at that moment, we sit on the carpet, quiet, some eyes closed, various stages of smiles smiling. It’s a cookies and milk, endless sky, puffy-white-cloud NYCA moment.

To see the world as a child is to be fully alive to invention.

Lynne’s voice rises, vibrates, slows, floats, pitches and loosens the titles. The years melt away and unfurls grip on the baggage, and creativity rises, weightless, colored in all colors.

Playfulness and possibility and openness and agelessness and measurelessness.

“And” is a big word here. It’s an energizer. A window opener. A mind cracker.

And this happens and then this could happen, yeah, and then, and…

“And” kicks “but”’s butt, and dances merrily over “no”, and can’t even hear “can’t”’s doubts.

It is just so very easy to be old. To know; to be sure, safe, right.

Lynne takes her work seriously to make us young. She arches an eyebrow and her neck narrows and cranes a foot longer, “And so Harold…”

She does this so we ask why the night is darker than day, and how to build integrated communications platforms that perform beyond expectations with less time, smaller budgets.

She makes sure we question what we have been taught. What has been proven. To disbelieve in barriers. So when it appears we have no way out, we all know all we have to do is reach to the NYCAer next to us and borrow the purple crayon.


Bill Bernbach and Aristotle inspire NYCA to grow!

April 28, 2010

By Mike Frey, Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

Great insights into creativity. Still relevant.

“You don’t persuade people through the intellect,

you do it through the passions.”

-Aristotle.


Should morality affect creative opinion?

April 16, 2010

By Mike Frey, Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

It’s a subjective business.

When the face of your brand falls from grace, what do you do? The public is outraged at Tiger for his indiscretions. So chances are, any Nike ad featuring Tiger would be damned by the public no matter how he was portrayed. I thought they showed guts by attacking the issue head on.

I thought to myself before the spot aired, what would his dad think about his infidelity? In fact, according to a show I saw recently, his dad also cheated on his wife. So he might not have even cared. Who is to say whether his dad would have disapproved of using his voice for this commercial?

Much of the public has judged this spot as being manipulative.

This is how I judge a commercial.

Does it hit me and make me think?

Is it original?

Is it not pandering to make a sale?

Is it going to create buzz?

I thought it did all of that. I can’t remember the last time a commercial even touched me that much. I don’t think this spot was trying to sell anything. It said, “I f–ked up. I got caught. There is nothing I can say to change that. I just have to learn from it and move on.”

So the public doesn’t like it. And what does the public like? Girls Gone Wild videos. Porn. Millions of dollars are made each year off of this type of stuff. The public really liked “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin.” With Mr. Whipple. A classic indeed. But that isn’t what I appreciate or admire.

A tough assignment for Nike. Thought they handled it well. I still think it will get in the One Show. Gold is a tall order to call. But I stand by what I think is great.


Build it smart enough for your customers at their dumbest.

March 15, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

When we go too fast, our attention is taxed and our IQ drops. Happens in the car, when we talk, when we eat, when we shop.

As marketers, we spend a great deal of time learning about customers and their lives. But do we create work to serve their mindset at the buying moment, when they’re overwhelmed, distracted, mindless?

So if we want them to buy from us, we must make it easy on them, even stupid easy. We need to make our engagement pieces easier to act on in all mediums and at fast-fast motion. The speed bump is creativity’s arrogance.

Too often I used to hear that the execution is super cool, it’s sophisticated, innovative, subtle, cutting edge. That the customer will be intrigued and, yes, although it will challenge them, the customer will figure it out.

No, they won’t. They came to shop, not to pass an SAT test. They’ll move on to the next site.

So resist the ornamental and build the navigation so it’s as intuitive as if they came up with it. Design the e-commerce site so it’s easy to buy immediately. One example: don’t require a sign-up/registration before allowing consumers to check out. You might lose a customer as they are handing you the cash – that’s a nightmare.

You want drama? Make the media drivers and the content captivating. Customers might slow down for that.

We think that’s creative – the kind that creates customers.


The big idea isn’t dead; it’s just smashed into millions of itsy bitsy pieces.

March 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

The most dramatic change since I started in advertising is the big idea. In the hallways and conference rooms, that’s all you heard: “You got a big idea? Client is demanding a big idea.” We would work nights, weekends, lunches, coming up with the single-minded, iconic, brain-straining idea that would be the center of all the work. Now the big part of the big idea is that it would have to be so insightful, so expressive that it could be long lasting in the marketplace. That’s a lot of pressure on an idea and the people who were charged to come up with it. I must say I learned a great deal and still apply the intense training and scrutiny that went into coming up with those ideas. I wrote the line for the New York Stock Exchange, “The world puts its stock in us.” which was used for more than a decade because trust and fidelity must always be part of any financial institution.

In those days an idea with a lifespan of three to five years was the goal. Those were the ones that would run again and again with just resizing here and there. The longer it could last, the bigger. It was if the product, the competitive situation, the consumer was stationary, frozen, stunned timeless. A target that was a sitting duck. Hard to believe, right?

Take the Marlboro man. He was one such big idea – man, horse, sagebrush, logo. Welcome to Marlboro country. An emotional territory. Ran years and years without a change in TV, print, outdoor, POS, events. Sometimes he would ride the horse, sometimes he’d walk at its side, but that was it.

Today it’s about a lot of little ideas – tons, thousands of them, generating and regenerating connections – all energized with consumer insight and relevance, customized to the media in which it’s delivered, the time delivered, the specific audience delivered to and from again and again. Lots of small ideas, emanating from a bigger idea, packaged to travel anywhere at any time.

A big idea without the tentacles, the ability to scurry to multiple directions to many locations, is too slow, too clumsy, too asthmatic to keep pace with the consumer’s voracious appetite for more: more unique, more personal, more more. Due to the ability to see them all over, ideas can overstay their welcome fast, get outdated, become irrelevant, stale instantly. Bad for the brand.

Small is the new big. Lots and transmutable is the new focused.

Warning: this small is a bigger drain on the talent pool than the old big was. So it’s critical to find big and small thinkers and lots of small doers. And they have to love making the stuff (makes you think of Santa’s workshop with the elves). If they are passionate about connecting with consumers and generating ideas for and together with them, then it’s energizing. Then it’s a high (makes me think of those three-martini lunches of yore).

There’s a big upside for me from the old days of the single big event. Compared to now, they were lonely, self-involved, stagnant times. Just like we imagined our consumer to be. I’m big on small.