By Steve Favell
This week we have a brief from Alex Taylor, yes the Alex Taylor, where we have been asked to re art direct a print campaign for Chevrolet. The campaign consists of four double page spreads and, as we have to keep all the existing elements in the ads, I have decided the most disruptive way of getting a viewer to stop and glance over the ad (unlike immediately turning the page of the original) would be to get a little David Carson and dismantle it. This also affords me the opportunity to play out my romantic preconceived idea of what ad men of the “golden era” would have done and have an exercise in getting analogue.
So I set to with my partner, like art directors I’ve seen in documentaries and in stock footage and, with a scalpel and cutting mat, began to arrange the compositions by hand. Cigarettes were smoked outside, of course, but would be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy the process. There’s something about being able to quickly move elements around by hand and physically step back and look at something, playing with scale aside, that is really refreshing. Should we be worried, I would imagine, that this is not common practice anymore?
I am releasing more and more the importance of getting analogue. As much as I enjoy scamping I feel I get more ideas when I take my time. Sketching a storyboard or print campaign, I can find additional humour from adding detail that you don’t think about until you are really up close and personal with an idea, with pencil and paper. Whilst storyboarding a potential piece of content for Jameson Irish Whiskey (thank you Stylist!) of two fellas at a spa having a facial and using slices of potatoes instead of cucumber on their eyes (Random Acts of Irishness – sorry Grandad!), I got to their feet and suddenly thought they should be wearing socks. And that the socks should be all baggy at the toe. Another visual joke that I wouldn’t have thought about unless I had been forced to by my pencil. Whilst sketching you have to make decisions about every line you draw and this makes you think more deeply about what you are executing.
Another thing that may be going extinct from the “golden age”, or for the majority of us within the industry anyway, is so much travel. During Alex’s time in the industry, she has been on many a far-flung first class photoshoot and I couldn’t help but think that today most of these shoots would have perhaps taken place in a studio with photo manipulation. Also, I was looking through a book today of the 200 greatest photographers in advertising and wondering if some of the shots taken would have been efficiently realised with CG, and it won’t be long before they look even better that way as well.
A lot has been said about the “golden age” of advertising and a lot of disagreements on when that was, but I like to think there has been a multitude of golden eras, each distinct with their own advantages, that I will continue adapting into an ever-changing future, but who can know. There is one thing I am sure about though, the golden eras can keep their far-flung photoshoots as long as we get to keep, pen, pencil and pad, scalpel and cutting mat.