The Art and Craft of Advertising

Following the white rabbit of advertising down the deep hole of modern digital world – with our correspondent Yana Sereda and media expert Natasha Louckevitch.

8143We used to consider an advertisement as something usually annoying and tiresome and thus always try to omit it while watching TV. Nevertheless, keeping pace with the modern transformation the advertisement, as well as TV in general, is trying to tune in to the spirit of the times and be smart, mobile, clear and fair. After all the ultimate success of any advertisement and thus its quality are defined by its purity and creativity. In this regard the craft of focusing the camera on the product is becoming more and more complicated. It`s no longer just a craft, step by step it is transforming into the real art of film-making. 

The Top 10 Countries Spending on Advertising (infographics)

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As we can see, the United States lead the list of top 10 countries that spend the most money on advertising. Any way in different countries it is differentiated not only in terms of expenditures, since a great number of other aspects are also being considered. There is always something more behind the necessity to sell the product – a real life of real people with their hopes and fairs, an imaginary life in an ideal world: beautiful, smart, creative, successful and happy. To be interesting to the audience it should coincide with the people’s interests and desires, their dreams and believes, after all with their cultural background and even history. This is the reason why it was so important to ask for comments a professional who has been involved in this process in various regions and countries for the comments and, as the phrase goes, could “feel the differences”. So, we decided to ask Natasha Louckevtich, an experienced video advertisement producer, what it means to be an advertiser and what the specific of such kind of production is.

Natasha, we are glad that you agreed to an interview and we have to put our cards on the table. We find you an extremely interesting person due to the huge and worldwide experience that you have in the advertising production sphere. So let`s start:

Yana: As we can admit, you have already gained considerable experience and have taken part in a variety of projects of various formats, but I am absolutely positive that you have your favorite one, so what advertisement format do you prefer the most?

Natasha: Well, as for me, it is not exactly about the format, but about people and creativity. Whenever I am involved in a project where I feel right from the start that it is implemented by new talented directors or that the project will definitely have sway over the industry, it is always more inspiring. Honestly speaking, this is more frequently true for a film rather than an advertisement.

Yana: Natasha, do you remember the most interesting person that you were lucky to work with, for example, as a co-producer, and that really impressed you? What was significant that you gained from this experience?

Natasha: Yes, of course. I can say that I am really lucky in that sense. I have worked with so many amazing and inspiring people, and I gained something significant from every project. From the first short film, Daddy’s Little Girl, that I ended up being shot at Sammo Kam-Bo Hung’s house – to the sequence that I made while shooting jingle commercials for France2 in Brazil. The sequence was eventually chosen for the movie Le prophet nominated for the Oscar. Or a pitch for a beauty campaign in Brazil with Darren Aranofsky.

…about what really matters:
I have fun. I meet intelligent and talented people all the time! Ultimately, all that really matters is human connections.

Yana: We have already noticed that you put more focus on advertising at your job and it seems that advertising takes pride of place in your life, so the question is: what does advertising mean for you personally?

Natasha: Don’t get me wrong. I think that advertising can do amazing things for the world and for the community. And sometimes, I actually go crazy about some ideas I see, especially now, when we have all this new formats: VR, transmedia, digital. But mostly, this is a way to make money and still be close to inspiring people.

Yana: What is the specific of doing advertising in terms of the content being produced (I mean the difference between an advertisement and a show, a film or series) and how do you usually build a team, is there any difference?

Natasha: When it comes to advertising, we usually have to deal with red tape and have many rounds to pass (namely budget approval, client approval, offline, online, etc.). As for the content, it is always more primitive. You are not pressed for time, and at least in my case, the money for the content was always way shorter than for advertising. In regards to the team, the passion component prevails. With a great leader pulling every string (producer, director…) the team will be tightly-welded and be able to make things happen to create a dream. This is a process of creating beauty.

Yana: When looking at you portfolio there’s no denying that you also have a great experience of working in various cultural environments (parts of the world); could you tell us about the difference and specific that you noticed?

Natasha: I worked in and for France, Brazil, USA, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Italy, and others. Every place has its specificity. But, I do have a feeling that they all share some similarities, especially with regard to the teams that I worked with in different countries. The team needs some time (sometimes several days) to get used to each other and come to an announced or silent agreement: Okay, let’s make it happen. This will be difficult for sure. And sometimes we will have to work for 48 hours at a time (I did it twice, and once when being pregnant with my second baby!), but let’s make it happen. And somehow, everyone wins through. Of course, there are gruesome stories as well. And I know plenty of them. Fortunately, I have never been personally involved in either of such stories. As for me, even though I can sometimes make moan, I am always satisfied with the ultimate result.

Yana: Is there any significant difference in running production business in different parts of world or countries? Can you tell us some interesting or curious (fanny) story in this regard?

Natasha: Well, there are some obvious issues like different types of insurance in different countries, or specific union rules. The process of airing has its specifics in different regions as well. Today, it is a very common practice for the big brands to shoot one video and adapt it for other countries. Some countries have protective laws where you must re-shoot the video in any circumstance, for instance, Venezuela. Sometimes it is a casting that makes the project more expensive, sometimes it is a location, and sometimes it is Brazil, where everything is much more expensive!

Yana: How could you describe the current situation in the advertising market, for example, in terms of figures: general trends, new challenges, global leading market players, recently emerged directions/ trends, or something at your choice?

Natasha: I think that there is a very interesting transformation that we observe today. The brands and advertisers can easily reach the consumer 24 hours a day. This is exactly what intelligent people working in this industry mean when they say the focus should be made on storytelling and the content? When I was young, the cable has not been founded yet. So, basically you had those few slots to fill, and that was that! Then the cable network appeared, and then the mobile network. And today, if you don’t drag your costumer or audience in, you will lose them! They have the power to tune you out so fast. And they can look at your competitors as well. They have so many options. So it is truly the age of creative people. Advertising, social media and content merge and everyone wins. A great example is Lego .

Yana: Nowadays, advertising has become some kind of art, it requires creativity and ability to generate new ideas and approaches, with every passing day it becomes a more complicated task to make an impact and impress the audience. What is the must for a good advertisement in your opinion: a format, a storyline or an idea? How the modern audience can be attracted?

Natasha: I really like this article. It gives answers to the above questions most accurately. When possible, please quote this in my name. I am not the author of this article; I don’t have any relations with the publisher. I just really think that Lego can perfectly serve as an example in this case.

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Lego actually is one of the clear examples of creative brand management. They rebuild and transform their brand brick by brick from breaking point to the world’s biggest toymaker, with a consumer centric approach at its heart. They brought the outside in, ushering the company into a new era of content, co-creation and listening. Co-creation with its fans has become an intrinsic part of the Lego marketing strategy. The benefits are obvious; the most dedicated fans often know the product better than the company itself. And in the last 10 years, the company has embraced content like no other toy brand. It has realized the value of drawing on the wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and engagement to be found in its own fan-base to help it meet the demand for content.

Yana: Could you reveal your secrets: what approaches do you apply in producing advertisements (I mean something like the 25th shoot effect)?

Natasha: As far as I know, the 25th shot effect is forbidden in almost all western countries. And I find this approach really stupid. If you want to trick your audience, as a filmmaker or an advertiser, you are just lazy and are doing your job badly!

…about tricks and secrets:
No, I have no tricks, except for coffee in large quantities and laughing, but not laughing myself into convulsions. Too much laughter might be harmful.

Yana: Today, we have many advertising festivals; some of them are even more large-scale than some film festivals. Could you tell us what is the main purpose of these festivals and what profits does advertisement production actually bring?

Natasha: The main purpose of all these festivals is an award, which is supposed to big up the status and to help the agency and creative thinkers to win recognition, thus drawing more clients. However in actual practice, many such events are being held today for the purpose of the festival itself, keeping away from the clients and consumers. In other words, advertising festivals for the most part, for example, Cannes are simply an ego trip that can result in embarrassing moments like Apple Pulls Ad Agency’s Fake Refugee Boat-Spotting App That Doesn’t Actually Spot Refugee Boats

It is a shame that something like that is still allowed. These festivals have nothing to do with creativity as such, with the clients who actually approve, go on the air and have approved budgets and deadlines. That is a very hard work and it is in there. However, it tends to vanish.

Yana: What is the biggest challenge you face making advertisements?

Natasha: Dealing with people who work for awards.

Yana: You have got very famous clients; can you tell us how you managed to “net” them?

Natasha: I can honestly say that these clients are hard-won!

Yana: You’ve mentioned in your portfolio that you are also working as a freelancer. Tell us a little bit more about it, for example, what do you do in this capacity and what benefits and drawbacks does this approach to work has?

Natasha: I produce for agencies and production companies in Paris on job/film basis. I like to be a freelancer due to flexibility that I have, and this is perfectly congruent with my lifestyle at the present moment. Besides, it’s a new global trend when fulfilment of specific tasks in production requires only short-term involvement.

Yana: I see, so there is a strong tendency for freelance in the production sphere just as in our modern life in general. Anyway, when it comes to the art of filmmaking or production, what is the key to success (I mean personal qualities)?

Natasha: I think that most important is to keep your mind open and believe in people. Production is about helping each other. So whether you are involved in a big or small production project, this all is always about being with the right group of people who are talented and have their finger on the pulse.

Yana: How do you think, is there any social responsibility for commercial advertisement with regard to production?

Natasha: Most of the time I spent producing in Brazil. And I can honestly say that it is a very inclusive market (with regard to production). I wouldn’t go as far as saying that there is a direct social responsibility with regard to production, but I can affirm that this has a profoundly positive impact there.

Yana: Many leading brands have recently produced mini serials, which are not an ordinary advertisement, but a continuous video content, often with a profound idea. Should we talk about being honest with the audience in this case (this brings up an issues of social responsibility once again) or, if there are millions ($) at stake, it is not so important how are you going to reach the goal after all?

Natasha: I think that the consumer globally is getting more intelligent and better informed. Smart brands are picking up on this trend and irrespective of whether there are millions invested or not, they are taking advantage of it instead of fighting against it, which in the end may fatten the profits, as it was, for instance, for Unilever.

Yana: Today it is held that that every advertisement concept should be based on one of the following ideas: a) superiority of a human being; b) from indifference to compassion; c) from words to deeds (experience), d) tender emotion, e) fascination, f) irony, g) inspiration. What concepts can make an advertisement efficient? Are there any changes in common trends or are they still the same?

Natasha: At the heart of advertising always was, is, and will be one simple thing, which is the human desire.

Yana: Are there any moral and ethical norms that must be followed when an advertisement is produced?

Natasha: As for me, everything that can harm other human beings should obviously be avoided. Unfortunately, in production just like everywhere where people are involved, there will always be those who can overstep some bounds for the sake of the ultimate result.

Yana: Can you tell from your own experience, what type of advertisement is more investment attractive – an Internet or TV one? Can you compare different regions and countries which are more focused on the Internet or TV advertising?

Natasha: TV advertising still prevails, though digital advertising is snapping at its heels, and digital advertising will ultimately win this race. Today, the consumer has the choice when and where to get the content and how to “consume” advertisement; a new media is being formed, namely content driven advertising.

Therefore there are few general tendencies in advertising:

• It has become a real video content just like movies and shows.

• The number and variety of means to distribute advertisements is growing with every passing day (digital, broadcasting, printed, visual, audio, audio-visual means).

• An advertisement does not cheat the audience as it was earlier and tries to interactively communicate with the consumers showing interest in their needs and expectation.

• It is more than just information; it becomes a real art of emotional appeal.

• New approaches like co-branding that make an informational impact sometimes even harder already exist.

Summing up the above, it seems that modern advertisement is the most powerful instrument of running business and when prepared and implemented professionally it may be even more interesting than a film and a show.

Thus, advertising production is likely to be a very profitable and rewarding niche to occupy in the short term.

According to the study carried out in 2014 by a pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics Paul Zak, three out of eight people now love brands more than their spouses, because thinking of brands releases more oxytocin – the same reaction generated when being hugged.

…and the final message is: let`s be aware of who we are, what we do and what we consume…

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