Study This Photo and Remember It

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

See that oval shaped gray thing between this man’s hands?  It’s a film magazine for a 35mm motion picture camera.  And it’s something that’s quickly disappearing from commercial shoots.  Including this one: we are also running a Canon 5D.

As much as new technologies bring their unique thrills of discovery and innovation, the demise of well loved technologies sends advocates into depression and anger.  Tens of thousands of people have built very successful careers and lives off of film technology.  Whole industries have thrived for decades providing the cameras, lenses, and film stocks, and handling the transferring, coloring and printing.  But as digital continues making it’s inexorable advances and refinements, the advantages of hard drives over celluloid, the convenience of instant transfers and the flexibility of manipulation without degradation spell an inevitable end to this era.  Ask yourself–when was the last time you dropped off a roll of film at Wolf Photo?  Maybe you did this past year, but that was the exception not the rule.

Knowing the end is near for these wonderful Arri’s and Panavisions fills me with the same feeling I get when I see a classic musclecar.  They are so beautiful and represent such a time of open-windowed optimism, you have to love them.  And yet when you actually feel the jarring, kidney-bouncing ride with its crank windows, primitive shock absorbers and engine dampening, you realize even an entry level Kia boasts a more enjoyable ride–aesthetics notwithstanding.  And you’re glad you’ll be making your Summer road trip in a car from this millennium.

Film is fading.  Long live film.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


It’s Monday Everywhere…

This week, we’re shooting in Barcelona so Monday morning came with a walk through the endlessly-under-construction Habitrail™ that is London’s Heathrow airport.  And still, it could be anywhere–people commuting, moving through the hallways, beginning their weeks of personal to-do lists and meetings and projects.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

But as exciting as visiting another country always is, it doesn’t seem quite as exotic anymore as globalization of commerce creates more and more shared collective experiences.  Like these things…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79 Chicago Advertising

Have a good week.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


I prefer to end the week on an upnote, what with this being shorts and flip-flop weather and the natural optimism sunshine engenders…

But this photograph has been ricocheting all around the web the past couple of days: dubbed “Oil Wave,” it was shot at Orange Beach, Alabama, nearly one hundred miles from the spill site.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

And yes, I’m well aware that I didn’t properly size this to fit the allotted space, but somehow that just seemed fitting.  I don’t know about grandstanding politicians or PR flacks, but this makes me want to kick everyone’s butt.  Sheez…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Too Often, We Confuse “Can’t” with “Don’t”

This Summer, my sixteen year old and I started taking a drawing course at the Evanston Art Center.  Zoe is a remarkable artist; she creates vivid and complex line drawings that vibrate with color, but she’s never had formal drawing instruction. Her high school art professor encouraged her to take a course over the Summer, so now every Wednesday night, the two of us spend three hours filling newsprint pads with charcoal and ink brush and pencil.  It’s my favorite night of the week.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingI’ve always thought I could draw.  In the third grade, I sold awkward crayon renderings of Snoopy on pieces of construction paper for ten cents.  I won 4-H art awards, drew cartoons for the school paper and regularly gave my parents illustrations for Birthdays and Holidays.  It was just one of those things I could always do, unlike climbing a rope or bench pressing my bodyweight.

In the same way, many people think they can’t draw.  They can’t capture a likeness or control their line or create any sense of volume or proportion.  Perhaps this describes you…

And yet, going to this art class every week and pounding out sketch after sketch of fabric and boxes and artist’s stools made me realize something.  At any point in the evening, someone might capture the magic.  Someone you’d never expect to demonstrate artfulness might be the one who hits the long ball.  The least likely sketcher might limn that magical line with the one gesture that captures the essence, that seizes the soul of the subject.  And whether by accident or serendipity, the evidence of their halcyon moment shines from the newsprint–a flash of brilliance captured in their own deeply idiosyncratic visual idiom.

Not because they are long on talent.  Not because they have some Dürer-esque facility with the medium, but simply due to repetition and effort.  Through the sheer act of doing, any one of us might stumble upon the sublime, might wrestle genius to the mat and capture a moment we never imagined was in our grasp.

And so our failure doesn’t lie in we can’t.  It’s mostly because we don’t.

Which means the greatest lesson from this drawing class is to try.

Whether successful or not, we should always respect effort.  Effort is a brave and glorious act.  An act that is only available to those that try.  And dare.  And do.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Is Facebook Creating a Society of Dopamine Addicts?

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingScientists have proven that one physiological reason we constantly check emails or social networks s is that when we find something interesting or something that challenges us to respond, our brains release a burst of dopamine.  Overtime, we become hooked on this stimulus and that can cause a cavalcade of negative consequences, from fractured attention spans to compulsive glancing at mobile devices, even while driving in heavy traffic.

We all have our own anecdotal evidence about this phenomenon but a study from Retrevo that asked social media users just where, when and how often they checked sites and services like Facebook or Twitter confirms: we’re addicted.

Now like any addict, we all lie to ourselves and claim we can control it, but the data suggests otherwise.  48% of respondents check Facebook and Twitter right before bed and 42% immediately upon waking.  If that’s not addiction, it’s at least not healthy.

Check out their findings by surfing here.  If you don’t see yourself in their findings, god bless you.  If you do, welcome to the club.  And get ready for a whole new kind of twelve step program…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


A Studio Day…

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanSo we’re spending the next two days shooting at Chicago’s Essanay Studios for Cricket, our wireless client.  Back in the day–and by ‘back in the day’ I mean from 1907 to 1913–Essanay was a silent film studio that produced shorts and features for stars like Ben Turpin, Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson.  Oh, and a little tramp named Charlie Chaplin.

Eventually, the studio wised up and moved to the sunnier climes of California but for a while at least, Chicago housed a major motion picture studio.

Our aim today is far simpler; to make branded retail ads.  Taking our cue from my favorite Chaplin quote– “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl”–we’re hoping all we need to make engaging ads is a stage, some talent, and a Red camera.

We’ll see…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


360º Marketing: Nice Idea, Totally Unrealistic

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday and she copped to the fact that she was sick of hearing about 360º marketing, simply because in her experience, it’s pure fiction.  And if you give it a moment’s thought, you’ll realize she’s got a point.

The idea of surrounding someone with advertising messages, of earning her attention in every medium at every moment is not simply absurd, it’s kind of creepy.  More importantly, it’s fiscally impossible.  Even automakers don’t have the kinds of advertising budgets that can even approach omnipresence anymore.  We have to be more choiceful.

The question of where, when and how to engage our consumers has never presented a greater challenge: in a dis-integrated media environment, it’s never been harder to select which opportunities to present our products in an engaging, relevant way.

It’s never been harder.  And it’s never been more important either.

The wiser way to think of targeting an audience is not the indiscriminate metaphor of a daisy-cutter bomb, but rather a series of purposeful rifle shots.

Actually, after typing that, it’s clear the first thing we should jettison is militaristic jargon.  Yeech…  So instead of the loudspeaker announcement to a disengaged general population, let’s arrange more opportunities to shake hands and introduce ourselves.

That’s so much more neighborly.  And social.  And welcome.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79