One of the first things I learned in grad school was that advertising is a team sport. You’re going to be thrown into teams and meetings with all kinds of people, and part of the career experience is figuring out how to work with everyone. You have to step into the shoes of those you’re working with. My degree concentration and my goal is to work in account management, and I’m the first to admit that the creative process baffles me.
This week’s Eric Mower Advertising Forum featured Syracuse alum Taras Wayner, the Executive Vice President and Executive Creative Director of R/GA. He is based at the New York City headquarters, but oversees the six U.S. offices including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Portland and Chicago. His talk was called “Getting to New,” and it was about how creative work functions differently in a digitally-focused, fast-moving world. He showed us a lot of R/GA’s recent work, and while the client names were familiar, it was nice to see some work we had never seen before.
The core of his talk was about how R/GA applies their philosophies to everything they do. One piece that stuck out to me was Taras’ emphasis on the intersection of design, storytelling, technology and culture to uncover the newest ideas, since this so closely fits in with what we’ve been learning at Newhouse. He demonstrated this idea with a case study about the Nike SB app, developed for skateboarders to explore new tricks and compete with others around the world. This is a group notoriously difficult to reach thanks to their stereotypical distrust of mainstream culture like Nike, but R/GA executed their strategy perfectly.
Taras also showed us the agency’s work for Equinox gyms, turning spin classes into a collaborative, competitive effort called The Pursuit. We saw Samsung’s work with Diplo, flipping the connection between music and human movement on its head. We explored Samsung’s art installation Hu, combining stunning digital artwork with a powerful product demonstration. My personal favorite was the Nike+ Pace Station, which allows runners to customize their playlists based on their preferred pace. Of course, the PSAs for Love Has No Labels brought the entire auditorium close to tears.
What stuck out to me the most came relatively early in the talk. It doesn’t matter if you’re a creative, or in advertising at all, for what he said to stick with you. When any kind of work is produced, you must make sure it can transition from the company to the consumer. Ask yourself, no matter what the work is: is it true, relevant, legible and interesting? If it is, you know you’ve done well.
And Taras closed his talk with perhaps the most relatable, poignant piece of advice of the night: don’t be boring.
-Laurie Silverstein is a graduate student studying advertising