Tag Archives: life

Spotlight: Stephan Dybus

Stephan Dybus is a German artist based in Berlin whose watercolour paintings depict relationships, life, his career and experiences (mainly negative ones). Stephan’s work, at first glance, is not representative of the aesthetic trends and styles I tend to be interested in, but his context and narrative is so powerful and hilarious that it just works so well.

I want to transfer the essence of my inadequacy as an urban hipster/melancholic artistic into humorous illustrations. I want to quote from the world that I come from. I enjoy drawing my little funny miniature characters – they can do anything, they look stupid, they don’t care about it, unlike me, they are free.

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‘Aquarelle’ is the technique Stephan has adopted in his art, in which he paints with thin, transparent watercolours, after sketching out his ideas with pencil. The style Stephan has created looks almost juvenile, but it certainly visually translates his thoughts – it’s almost like the drawing equivalent to quickly jotting down thoughts in a diary or journal.

The stories are so deadpan, exploring failure and relatable experiences life throws at us, and translating this through sketchy, painted characters. Stephan states that he gains inspiration for pieces at any time, particularly during conversations, which adds to the instantaneous, unusual context of his characters’ stories.

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Stephan has also explored recreating his art in 3D and through ‘low poly art’/paper craft:

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Period Equity: Periods Are Not a Luxury

Just like here in the UK, 36 states in the US still collect sales tax on tampons and sanitary towels. In June 2017, the federal Senate in Australia voted down a motion by the greens to remove the GST from all female sanitary products, a tax which does not apply to condoms or lubricant. Absurd right?! So, ad agency J.Walter Thompson and The Sweet Shop created an absurd product to go with this tax law, along with a tongue-in-cheek campaign for Period Equity.
Along with the help of actress/model Amber Rose’s sultry voice, they point out that 36 US states have failed to classify menstrual products as a necessity, therefore taxing them as a luxury… just like a diamond necklace! The campaign actually launched at Amber Rose’s OPENed Women’s Conference and annual SlutWalk on September 30th in LA.

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This isn’t the first time I have blogged about Period Equity – the redesign by Pentagram’s Paula Scher caught my eye earlier this year.
Most people are not aware that the tax targets half of the US population, and I definitely think this issue should be raised (again) in the Houses of Parliament here too. What a fantastic campaign.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, co-founder of Period Equity said:

We were thrilled to collaborate on this project with JWT and Amber Rose. There’s a long road ahead in the fight for safe and accessible menstrual products for all, as well as instigating open, shame-free conversation around periods. This campaign, coupled with Amber’s unflinchingly strong voice on gender issues, is a smart approach to drumming up much needed discourse around menstrual equity, and calling for systemic change as well.

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Trans* Ban: Not a Burden

There seems to be running theme with the illustrations I am creating. It’s impossible to ignore the garbage that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth, and it’s certainly impossible to ignore messages of hate, including transphobia.
In August, Trump’s directive issued a military policy that would prohibit transgender people from joining all branches of the armed forces and ban military healthcare plans from funding sex-reassignment surgeries. Trump has decided to discredit American heroes based on their gender identity by directing the military not to move forward with an Obama-era plan (from 2016). The plan allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces, along with a ban of the Department of Defense from using its resources to provide medical treatment mentioned above.

Once more, many trans* heroes will be left in limbo in so many different ways – mentally, socially, financially and emotionally. Trump’s decision pours salt an already transphobic wound that a large part of the world is desperately trying to heal.
This illustration questions what exactly is the difference between a cis-soldier and a trans-soldier? Nothing.

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Spotlight: Patrick Sluiter

Motion and 3D Designer Patrick Sluiter has a unique style to say the least. Patrick has designed fantastic work like ‘Strangers’, personal projects and my favourite ‘Stills’ in which he has created an ongoing series based on daily passing thoughts:

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His characters are smooth and almost melancholy which are all carefully created in Cinema 4D, a programme which he has shockingly only been using for 2 years. Patrick cites inspiration in the work of other artists such as Geoff McFetridge, Alexy Préfontaine, Mike Lee, Charlie Harper, Guy Billout, Thomas Hedger, Xavier Cardona and Liron Ashkenazi Eldar.
It’s not just the form of the characters that make his unique style – Patrick’s colour scheme consists of dull, flat colour combinations that go perfectly with the overall aesthetic. Love, love, love his work.

All the animations grew from an idea of a lucid dream that seemed tangible, but would have a sense of abstraction. Some were more ‘out there’ than others but my favourite was a couple that have an outlet and plug prong for faces. There’s a clearly sexual undertone, but the goal was to show compatibility and the subtle motions you use to communicate to your significant other.

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The Atlantic: Michael K. Williams Asks “Am I Typecast?”

Weiden + Kennedy (New York) have created an incredible short film for The Atlantic magazine featuring actor Michael K. Williams, who questions if he is being typecast in Hollywood. This is an incredibly poignant topic, and it was performed in this ad so poetically, discussing issues such as race relations and the US election.

Following The Atlantic’s tagline “Question Your Answers”, the short film conveys four different versions of Michael interrogating each other about whether he can escape being typecast. It’s a topic one would assume shouldn’t be an issue in 2017, but it is and always has been.

David Shane (Director) said:

This was such a nice opportunity for Michael to un-typecast himself because, in one piece, he gets to show his dry comedic timing, his raw menace and the depth of emotion he’s able to access. This is a deceptively simple looking piece – the degree of difficulty for him was so much greater than it looks. He had a lot of balls in the air.

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Meet Julia: Sesame Street’s First Autistic Character

Sesame Street is incredibly nostalgic for me – I used to watch it every lunch time with my mother whilst eating shepherds pie after a morning at pre-school. Random. Anyway, Sesame Street is a truly iconic American show that seems as immortal and recognisable as The Simpsons. The difference between this and other kids shows is that Sesame Street was created (in 1969) as an experiment with the intention of finding out whether television could be used to educate young children. We now know how influential both TV shows and adverts can be on children. Since, they’ve written story lines ranging from basic learning skills to race issues and even coping with death.
On April 10th, “Sesame Street” aired the special episode “Meet Julia” on HBO to introduce viewers to their newest character. Julia was created as part of the ‘Sesame Workshop’ (the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street), alongside their autism initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children’For years, Sesame Street received requests from parents to feature storylines surrounding autism, so Stacey Gordon (plays ‘Julia’, below) and Christine Ferraro (the writer of the “Meet Julia” episode) who both have close family relationships helped bring this character to life. Stacey was uniquely placed to take on the job as her son has autism: “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviours through something they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.”

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A common concern amongst parents of autistic children is how their peers will understand, communicate with them and treat them. As autism has such a broad spectrum, the team wanted to ensure that Julia was represented based on extensive research into common traits of kids with learning difficulties.

Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centrepiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism. The response from the autism community to See Amazing in all Children has been extraordinary, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism, as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder – Sherrie Westin, EVP of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop

Although the team were cautious regarding the representation of such a broad learning difficulty in just one character, writer Christine wants Julia to exist as herself, rather than be known as “the autistic one”. Aside from this, the main aim is to teach viewers about inclusion, understanding and patience. I don’t know if it’s the childhood personal tie I have with Sesame Street, but watching the intro video above actually made me quite emotional – the way in which Julia is represented is so endearing and gentle, with Big Bird patiently trying to understand all the facts about her learning difficulty. Scenes include Julia meeting new people, the relation between autism and eye contact, common physical reactions like “flapping”, becoming overwhelmed when she hears sirens and the heartwarming scene where they all join in on Julia’s version of ‘tag’.

The most important part of this well-written storyline is how they have steered away from Julia’s differences being the source of confusion or fear, and instead created the narrative to focus on the rest of the muppets enjoying their relationships and having fun. Whilst parts of Julia’s behaviour were clearly explained to Big Bird and the viewers, the main focus was on integrating Julia into the group, like all the other muppets. My heart has melted!
It just goes to show that whilst TV can be a very scary place for easily influenced children, creatives and marketers can use their platform to educate in a way that has never been done before.

 

P.S. take a look at the comments on the YouTube video – lots of users have praised the creation of Julia as something they wish they could have seen on TV as children.
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Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld

Remember the best April Fools joke of all time (aka Pepsi’s car-crash ad featuring Kendall Jeanner)? Well, it seems Heineken has taken on the concept of ‘peacemaking via the sharing a drink’ in their new ad “Worlds Apart”.
The spot features sets of people who have opposing views on feminism, climate change and gender. They are tasked with a team building construction project, then shown their VT tapes (which reveal their opinions) and consequently asked if they wish to stay for a beer or leave. Whilst I have my doubts about the authenticity whenever brands use social and political discussions in ad concepts, I think Heineken pulls this off nicely. Pepsi should take note.

At the end of the ad, I found myself smiling about the fact that the transphobic man used the correct pronouns for the trans* woman: “I’d have to tell my girlfriend that I’ll be texting another girl. She might be a bit upset with that, but I’ll have to get around that one.”

What makes this work 10 million times better than the Pepsi ad? Well, agency Publicis London targeted a post-Brexit UK (like Pepsi tried and failed to do in a post-Trump world) by including discussion and conversation within the ad, rather than attempting to create a satire-style video with white-washing for ‘the resistance’. The suggestion that a beverage can heal a very divided society is a strong and fragile statement, and whilst I have my doubts about the intentions of brands who go down this route, this is the perfect counteragent for our Pepsi wounds.

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Pepsi: What Were You Thinking?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the catastrophic backlash Pepsi has received for their new TV and digital campaign featuring TV star and model Kendall Jenner. Created by its in-house creative team, Creators League Studio, we see Jenner on a modelling shoot who joins a protest mid-shoot. What is the protest for? I have no idea. No one knows.

Creatively, the advert is crap anyway. However, in terms of a brand ambassador, Kendall is actually the perfect candidate to reflect Pepsi’s pop culture background, which has previously featured other famous faces like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Beyonce. They could have worked with her social media influence and her fashion background to create a successful and fun campaign, but instead created a monster that has deeply offended and shocked so many people all over the world.
So how on earth did Pepsi get it so wrong? After a lot of thought since the ad was first released, here are my theories as to how this cultural tragedy unfurled:

  1. Diversity in the workplace: clearly no one of colour had any input in the narrative of this ad. Creators League Studio evidently do not have enough people of the backgrounds that they wish to represent in this ad.
  2. Work and fear culture: how the f*ck did this get approved?! How did no one at the Studio say “wait a minute, this concept seems really contrived”? Is there a culture there that makes people feel unable to stand up for what is right and wrong? I could never sit back and be part of something that I know is fundamentally wrong for humanity.
  3. Experience: without doubt, no one working on the commercial has ever been involved in a protest, experienced inequality, racial profiling, seclusion or segregation. Despite this, even if you have never experienced these things, surely you must know about it? The internet exists. History exists. There is no excuse.

The most disturbing and spoken about part of this advert is the scene were Jenner hands a Pepsi to a police officer. Firstly, this insinuates that protest can be solved by soda, which is highly insulting (the internet has gone meme-crazy on this subject). Secondly, and most importantly, this contrived scene is clearly mirroring that of the real life hero Ieshia Evans who faced police in Baton Rouge:

2016: A Picture and its Story

Ieshia Evans was detained by law enforcement when she protested after the shooting (and death) of African American Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Both prior to that incident and after that iconic photo was taken there have been countless protests in cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri that occurred due to the police killing of black men. It has become an epidemic that is impossible to avoid on the news or on social media. There is no way Pepsi haven’t seen this image or heard of the protests.
Aside from the shocking claim that a can of Pepsi will create world peace, the contrast of ‘peace givers’ (Iesha and Kendall) is beyond insulting. Kendall is a white, cis, privileged, able-bodied, rich celebrity – if Pepsi wanted to create a peace-making, hero narrative they should’ve chosen an activist or a real-life hero.

DeRay McKesson, a leading activist in the Black Lives Matter movement said:

If I had carried Pepsi, I guess I never would have gotten arrested. Who knew? Pepsi, this ad is trash.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. In a world where violence and discrimination against African Americans has by no means decreased over the last century (if anything, it is getting worse), this has to be the most offensive, tone-deaf and contrived advert created during my lifetime.
What’s equally as perverse as using a real-life protest is the bizarre use of every token minority. The ad desperately tries to feature every single age, race, religion, gender, sexuality – whilst I praise diversity and inclusion in advertising, the clear attempt to show “co-existing” makes the Muslim woman and the “token-black-dude” stand out even more. It’s like they all sat at the casting couch and tried to tick off every single stereotypical type of person they could saying “yeah, she’s ethnic enough”.

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Pepsi’s exploitative brand social activism concept has been spoken about so much that according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence, digital content engagement around Pepsi has increased to 366% in just a day, including mentions of Black Lives Matter, the use of the phrase “tone-deaf” and tagging the ad as the “worst ever.”
An incredible amount of people have spoken out against how Pepsi have exploited the enduring suffering of marginalised people, so I have no idea how Pepsi will ever come back from this. Yesterday, they removed the ad and released this apology on their website:

PURCHASE, N.Y., April 5, 2017 “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

I’m glad they have apologised, and that the ad has been removed, but I really hope this has been a huge wakeup call for advertising and marketing. I hope Pepsi get rid of their “creatives” and use ad agencies for the future. But, will anyone want to be associated with them? I guess if the price is right…
Pepsi claim that they did not intend to refer to any particular significant issues, but the notion of a protest itself is to make a stand against a social issue. So, what social were they trying to represent? All I see is cringey peace signs and random words. Trivialising protest in an age where people are desperate to see change is an insult beyond repair, in my eyes. I’ve written about jumping on the bang-wagon when it comes to social issues (such as using LGBT characters in ad narratives), and I find myself shaking my head in shame when the scenes cut to young, attractive people blatantly drinking Pepsi (got to get in that product placement) and laughing. This itself shows how the creatives involved have clearly never been involved in anything mildly political, because no one stands around posing, giggling and pouting at a protest. We even see a fist bump. A f*cking fist bump.

Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting said:

It’s trivializing the seriousness of the issue, that merely a can of Pepsi could solve all of the problems on the streets of our country. To some extent, it’s polarizing to the Black Lives Matter movement because it makes it seem like much ado about nothing, if you just passed some out at your demonstrations this wouldn’t happen.

Following this, something that also concerns me is the actors in the advert. Whilst it’s evident that the creatives themselves have no sense of privilege and suffering, why did the multi-cultural cast agree to take part in this ad? Did they not know the entire concept prior to filming? Were they desperate for their next big break? Did the mention of Kendall Jenner appear too appealing to turn down? It’s the same confused, cringe-worthy feeling I had when I saw African Americans defending Trump during the election. How can anyone from a marginalised group associate themselves with this?!

I could spend all day writing about what is wrong with this advert. There is nothing right about it, and if you can’t see how much of a disaster it is, you need to educate yourself and understand your own privilege. We will never move away from segregation, racism and violence if we don’t collectively stand up for what is right. This is beyond poor creative work – it’s a enormous, humiliating and derogatory kick in the teeth.

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Grey becomes Valenstein & Fatt

In 1917 anti-semitism was rife – having a Jewish name would do you no favours in a predominantly white, male industry like advertising. In New York, Jewish entrepreneurs Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt, set up a company called ‘Grey’ which is now one of the largest advertising networks in the world. However, they didn’t name the agency after themselves like others did, and it’s been debated whether or not Grey would have been as successful with the name ‘Valenstein & Fatt’. As sad and unfair as this seems, xenophobia was the norm, and many Jewish people around the world hid their surnames in an attempt to “fit in” with society, along with other minorities who have done the same.

Unfortunately, it seems as if this attitude towards cultural, religious and racial differences has in fact not evolved as much as you’d expect over the last 100 years – the recent election of the US President is a prime example of how common xenophobia still is, worldwide:

Fast forward to 2017: Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed.
Too much in this world is still ugly. We know that the more diverse we are, the more powerful our ideas will be. So we will continue to celebrate difference. To break down barriers to progress and opportunity. We believe that everyone has the right to put their name above their door. Whoever you are, wherever you come from. We are Open.

Along with a prejudiced President in the USA, here in the UK ‘Article 50’ is being triggered this week, creating a final divide between the UK and Europe. With these events in mind, Grey is communicating a message of diversity and inclusion by recognising their Jewish founders, whilst hoping to create a conversation about diversity in advertising.
Unfortunately the name change will only be for 100 days, which is a shame, and almost makes this campaign seem like a bit of a gimmick… Although they claim the name change is “a mark of how far we’ve come, but how much there is still left to do”, I can’t help but feel as if it’s just a marketing ploy without any actual lasting impact or strong, dedicated message if they’re just going to change the name back.

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Valenstein & Fatt have written a manifesto about how they will lead by example:

1) We are publishing our diversity data. Progress cannot be made without clear measures and transparency about who we are today. Our new study is independent and in depth and is based on the voluntary responses of 305 individuals, which represents over 60% of the agency and reported according to standards set by the British Office of National Statistics (ONS). Research developed in partnership with PSB examines roots, identity, education and lifestyle. It will be measured and shared annually and we are encouraging other agencies to take it up as their methodology.

2) We are launching a cross industry taskforce to identify the barriers to recruitment and retention of talent among ethnic minorities. The first gathering will be chaired by CEO Leo Rayman, and we are inviting leading organisations in this space and the most progressive agencies, including Chairwoman of Mediacom, Karen Blackett, to join us in agreeing industry-wide initiatives and targets. We will also commit to targets for our advertising output, to ensure that it is nationally representative. 

3) We are launching the Valenstein & Fatt Bursary to pay a year’s rent for up to two young people from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. To qualify, candidates must have been offered a job at Grey, be state educated and live outside of Greater London. Applications are open from this summer.

4) We will inspire the next generation, by working with 100 primary and secondary schools to introduce students to a career in the creative industries. Working with Exec Head Michelle Williams and education therapist Jodie Cariss and starting with the New Wave Federation primary schools in London’s Hackney, we will offer a tailor made programme for the schools involved, from assemblies to full day workshops, coaching and agency open days.

5) We will develop our diverse talent. Recognising that recruiting people with different start points isn’t enough, 50 individuals identified as ones to watch will be matched and formally mentored by our Executive and senior leadership. In parallel we will run Community mentoring workshops open to any member of the agency who wants to participate.

That’s all fantastic, and it’s lovely to see such an influential agency speak out against prejudice, but I don’t believe they should have done this without 100% committing to a permanent name change. What’s the point otherwise?

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International Women’s Day: Take Your Pussy Anywhere You Want

Ad agency Invisible Man created this short video for International Women’s Day, specifically for the strike A Day Without a Woman. Arranged by those who organised the march for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., the strike is in support of the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day strike of economic equity.
The short ad states “Take your pussy anywhere you want. Just don’t take it to work” – due to the pay gap between men and women, human rights activists demonstrated March 8th as a day where women should strike from working if they aren’t going to be paid the same as their male colleagues.

This message is brought to you by a group of creative people who feel strongly that women’s rights are human rights. We believe in using our powers for good and support the efforts of every group trying to make the world a safer and more equitable place for women and girls.

P.S. We also think it’s high time women reclaim the power of a certain word for themselves.

I can’t help but see a nod towards Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remarks, which works so well as double entendre for someone being paid less just because of what’s in between their legs.

 

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