Creative Advertising & Film


When I was taking a continuing-education Film class at School of Visual Arts, the professor took a brief survey on what the students wanted to gain from taking the course. I was the only person who wanted to leverage it to explore a career in Creative Advertising, and also the only person that had studied corporate finance and was working on Wall Street. Others just peered at me like I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, which admittedly, I did not. Also, none of them wanted to go into advertising either–because if that were the case they’d be taking an advertising course instead. But I always believed in the power of learning at the edge instead of studying a directly-related field to model after everyone else in the industry, because I thought innovation came from tangential domains and not a textbook.

I explained myself: that one evening after a long day at work I stumbled upon series of 360 Ad-Campaigns on Youtube. That soon, I realized these weren’t ordinary Tide-commercials that I normally skip through. That I was being reeled into each and every one of them as if I were watching a movie. That a Duracell commercial reminded me of a National Geographic documentary and a Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign hypnotized me like Inception. And that next thing I knew, I wanted to buy Duracell batteries and Dove soap, neither of which I had ever bought in my life before. The students and the professor started nodding.

After the course was complete, I made a few commercials for artists to raise money. The film course had turned out to be much more effective for me than traditional advertising courses.

Creative advertising is not as regimented or pseudo-scientific in its real-life applications as marketing courses taught in school. It’s way worse, a total crapshoot, and completely void of any forms of science. But that’s because it’s follows a screen-play type of logic rather than a corporate marketing strategy; which makes it much more logical when examined in that regard. Like Quentin Tarantino films, creative commercials leave breadcrumb trails for the audience to follow, only to take a complete turn in the end. The audience may not have expected that an avid rock climber could beat his personal record with the reliable power of Duracell, or that women are the harshest critic of themselves and are far less forgiving of their own appearances compared to when they see and measure other people’s appearances (a visual survey powered through Dove).

Compelling stories are an integral component of creative advertising, and an engine behind the ‘immersing’ of the audience. The goal is to tap into the unconscious part of the brain that triggers deepest emotions whether it is nostalgia, regret, or renewed hope. Film is the original art of persuasion, and if you weave it into commercials–risks are much higher, but the potential upside is vastly consequential as it will permanently imprint into your consumer’s minds and beat the contrived brand-management tactics that are used everywhere else.





New Needs Hierarchy for the Millennial

“You know that story of the Russian cosmonaut? So, the cosmonaut, He’s the first man ever to go into space. Right? The Russians beat the Americans. So he goes up in this big spaceship, but the only habitable part of it’s very small. So the cosmonaut’s in there, and he’s got this portal window, and he’s looking out of it, and he sees the curvature of the Earth for the first time. I mean, the first man to ever look at the planet he’s from. And he’s lost in that moment. And all of a sudden this strange ticking… Begins coming out of the dashboard. Rips out the control panel, right? Takes out his tools. Trying to find the sound, trying to stop the sound. But he can’t find it. He can’t stop it. It keeps going. Few hours into this, begins to feel like torture. A few days go by with this sound, and he knows that this small sound… will break him. He’ll lose his mind. What’s he gonna do? He’s up in space, alone, in a space closet. He’s got 25 days left to go… with this sound. So the cosmonaut decides… the only way to save his sanity… is to fall in love with this sound. So he closes his eyes… and he goes into his imagination, and then he opens them. He doesn’t hear ticking anymore. He hears music. And he spends the sailing through space in total bliss… and peace.”

– Rhoda Williams, from Another Earth

Maslow’s needs hierarchy needs a bit of updating for the millennial. If you are a citizen of a developed country, the needs aren’t so ‘hierarchical’ anymore in a sense that one doesn’t need to have their physiological and safety met first in order to need love, belonging, and self-actualization. Rather, technological advancement (among other evolutionary developments) has allowed the needs hierarchy to deconstruct itself. Speak to a millennial like myself, and one will find that we want it all: food, shelter, achievement, incessant adulation, affirmation, and the ever-elusive self-actualization (which, in my humble opinion, is the most challenging to attain, because an inundation of information does not necessarily give way to more wisdom).

We’ve become these crazy creatures with compulsive desires to express ourselves creatively, define our own sense of morality, build a charity, and find a start up–all at once without having a single clue about how we want to plan and spend the next week of their lives.

Yet when all these desires collide with one another and evolve to not just ‘needs’ but ‘basic needs,’ and they haven’t been met, what do we do? How do the young, naive millennial console themselves? History tells that in that case, people turn to extremism. Violence. Self-destruction, self-pity, you get the idea. Or worse, resignation. From life.

I love this quote from Another Earth, or any other stories that tell a similar tale, because it highlights the necessity of human courage, endurance, and wisdom that Maslow didn’t to capture in his hierarchy. He failed to capture what we need when other needs have not been met (some may argue that falls under self-actualization, but I beg to differ, because this kind of wisdom must kick in before we ever get to self-actualization).

Which belongs to my next point–that this resilience of the human spirit that numerous authors, artists, philosophers, etc. have talked about for centuries–might not actually be a need but something that can, and must be, developed from within. The kind of endurance that helps us to overcome disappointments when our inner world doesn’t match reality, the kind of sensibility that helps us to ground ourselves and not get frivolously won over by the next worldly trend, and the kind of moral compass that allows us to feel deeply for others without letting our own egos or insecurities get in the way of the relationship.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we need the ability to fall in love with our own tribulations, just as the astronaut did. Not just to console ourselves, but to become ‘super’ millennial–the ones that won’t throw a tantrum when things go awry, but the ones that have the maturity to understand, and come to terms with, the roots of our deepest, greatest needs.


New York: A Rorschach Test

New York is everything I ever wanted–and didn’t want–at the same time.

When I first arrived, I was twenty one years old (which wasn’t that long ago) and couldn’t have asked for a better place to be, especially coming from a school in the Midwest (which now I really, really miss). I began working for an employer of my dreams in Manhattan and started making too much money for the minuscule value I was adding to the world. All in all, I was thoroughly captivated by the opportunity to start over at a new home–by myself, with no one else. The life-long explorer in me liked that challenge.

Despite this backdrop of the desire to escape and write a new chapter of my life, the novelty quickly wore off. The pages weren’t being filled with the things I wanted. Climbing the corporate ladder and living the bachelor(ette) life sounded great; but in practice, they lead me nowhere to real fulfillment and served no purpose other than keeping me alive in this city. To further pile onto the misfortune, New York was the place to be, and if you didn’t like it here–something was wrong with you, so I hardly voiced my discomfort to anyone.

Have you visited Williamsburg yet? Or Coney Island? Oh, you haven’t. Well if you do, you’ll realize there’s so much more to New York as a whole.

…and the food! The museums! Speakeasies? Where are you going to find so many things to do and try anywhere else?

Well, perhaps the things I were seeking weren’t  meant to be bought, tasted, seen, or tried–but rather to be felt, and help others feel as an artist. I wanted to feel in love with being alive–not in a contrived, physically-fleeting sense, but in a way that touched very deeply at the core that I would be overwhelmed with gratitude. Unfortunately, this was a difficult thing to observe or measure when everyone and anyone around me, including myself–was constantly hustling, hunting, serial-dating, bar-hopping, and being squished in the N/Q/R train. And no, the speakeasies didn’t cut it for me, even though I love alcohol (full disclosure).

But that’s what New York does to you–it makes you run–run like crazy, and it’s generous enough to let you receive what you seek, but not lend a shoulder to cry on when everything comes at a screeching anti-climactic halt and you ask ‘So what now?’

What I’ve learned is that New York is more like a Rorschach test–it isn’t a place to be casually strolled into, to ‘fit’ in. Assuming that there’s a mold to begin with is a dangerous assumption to make. As cliche as it sounds, it’s a place for discovery; a place to be inundated with a myriad of cultural, intellectual, and emotional experiences–and everyone will have different take-aways in the end.

So what began as an uncomfortable relationship, I now feel an odd zen living in this city–but that took years to find. It wasn’t until that I fully accepted the inherent incompatibility between New York & I–that this city will be forever transient, and that I’ll forever seek to be grounded (in a spiritual sense, physically I am in continuous momentum), I found peace.

And honestly, I wouldn’t have ever known that about myself if I haven’t lived here in the first place.