On Disappointment…

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonWell, the charmed streak my beloved Irish enjoyed all season long came to a crushing end last night.

The pundits said we were overrated and they were right. They said we were lucky and they were right too.

Still, hope dies last. Or as the Spartan philosopher Epictetus wrote in his remarkably readable The Enchiridion: “dum spiro, spero”: “While I breathe, I hope.”

Hope is a crucial currency in advertising. In a world of endless pitching, hope keeps you coming back despite the disappointments, the rejections and the outright failures.

But last night’s disappointment wasn’t solely limited to the game. Midway through the first half, a TV spot we produced well over four years ago at the now defunct Element 79 aired for Lay’s potato chips. Which means two things. First, that despite canning all of us at that agency, Frito Lay has yet to find something better and second, those three actresses are positively killing it on residuals. Still, it’s tremendously disappointing and judging by a Facebook post and the comments that followed, the sting of that injustice still rankles.

The only way to deal with disappointment is perspective. It’s always perspective. As a Notre Dame friend of mine posted last night, “Who would have thought we would have a disappointment on January 8th?” We were blessed with an improbably charmed run, and a raft of storylines that warmed the heart and fueled the imagination, with both Notre Dame’s football season and our work on Frito Lay at Element 79. And it ended, as things inevitably do. Now the only proper response for that experience is gratitude.

So despite the sting and the disappointment, I am grateful. For a brief and shining moment, a wonderful group of magical people were center stage at the show.

Today, the hard work of getting back there begins again.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

SPECIAL FRIDAY BONUS POST!

Working in a creative industry with creative people is simply the greatest privilege any working person could hope to enjoy. Even during the rougher moments when, as the Gipper might say–“…the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys…”–even then, the sudden appearance of an idea, the spontaneous flash of a headline or a one liner, a caricature or karaoke can suddenly brighten any environment with possibility, with joy, with belief.  At Element 79, I’ve worked with many people, from many different departments, all of whom had their moments of sparking an idea and quickly changing the emotion of a room, the tone of a day, the fortunes of a brand.

One of those people is the prodigiously talented Dave Straus.  If you haven’t been to his Vimeo page, go there now and see the greatness that a creative mind can achieve by reinventing cel animation via Adobe Illustrator. Among his other remarkable labors of love, he just posted this farewell to me.

To be commemorated with this sort of art is an honor for me–and with the mellow, precursor to Soul harmonies of the Mills Brothers no less. Thanks Dave. I’ll miss you. Hell, I’ll miss all of you.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO for one last workday at Element 79

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“We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Server Farm”–Amazing Facebook Fact Video

Alex Trimpe studies at Columbus College of Art & Design over in Columbus, Ohio where he’s proving himself to be pretty adept at motion graphics video.  Less than two weeks ago, he posted this Adobe After Effects class project on Vimeo, where it is quickly approaching half a million views. Wow, no one ever seemed that anxious to look at my homework.  Nice job Alex…

 

Happy Friday to all.  Mine is bittersweet as I say goodbye to the good people and clients of Element 79 Chicago before starting an exciting new chapter at OLSON in Minneapolis on Monday.

Yes, this Monday.  The one three days from now. Scheduling has never been a real strong suit of mine…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Todd Baxter Is Chicago’s Best Photographer

Seriously.  At least to me.

Yesterday, the news broke that I was leaving Element 79 for the CCO job at OLSON in Minneapolis.  As part of this transition, I needed to take a press photo.  A tough gig given I’m a writer, not a model.

Despite my new employer hiring a big name photographer, the first shots didn’t work out so well.  I looked like a tired and overweight Mrs. Doubtfire, if Mrs. Doubtfire were an investment banker–not exactly the look I was hoping for to impress my new agency.

Panicked, I Facebooked a friend of mine who’s taken photographs of Element 79 staffers since we opened: Todd Baxter.  Basically, I begged him to save my bacon.

Todd found some time and asked if I had any ideas for the shot.  I thought of this photo which I’d seen online a few weeks earlier…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

Something about this legion of mini-snowment made me laugh.  So I attached this sketch and sent them to Todd…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

Todd jumped right into the concept.  Unfortunately, just as we shot last week, the three feet of snow piled on the deck behind his studio melted away during an unseasonable thaw.  Before it all disappeared, Todd found one lingering patch of icy slush down the street in a church parking lot.  His intern Ryan and studio manager Debbie packed it into ten jumbo garbage bags and lugged them back.

For the portrait, Todd sat me on some pillows covered with a white sheet on a white sweep…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON
Unfortunately, I forgot my big Sorel snow boots.  And given the snowy setting, my wardrobe was a bit drab.  But Todd was undeterred.  First, he and his team started making snowmen.  Initially, their little snowmen faced in all different directions but Todd wanted them to engage the viewer with their creepy-cute gazes and direct the viewer’s attention to me.  Additionally, he thought these little guys needed to represent two ideas simultaneously; that I am both a creative worker as well as a creative leader.  Oh and they should also be fun, stylish, modern, and expressive while still feeling classic and homogenous. Me?  I just asked for snowmen.  Thankfully, Todd thinks on deeper levels.
Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

The snowmen proved hard to form and almost impossible to decorate, mostly because by this point, they were melting quickly.  Somehow, he was able to get enough shots to mix and match bodies, eyes, noses, and mouths into an army of tiny snow people.

But there was still the matter of my drab dress.  Todd suggested changing my wardrobe, and created this PhotoShop sketch to show the color he was thinking: bright yellow, a color I never wear.  But I had to admit, he was absolutely right about its impact.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

Essentially, through the wonders of Photoshop, Todd wanted to dress me far more stylishly than I would ever dress myself.  He ordered a coat online and asked me to drop off my boots at his studio.  This is the coat he ordered, as worn by a legitimate model.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

Tuesday, Todd worked late into the night, modeling and shooting the coat and boots himself to make them match the raw portrait.  Then, overtop everything, he sprinkled large flakes of snow.  The end result is remarkable–a seamless portrait that is both artfully believable and a total fabrication.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising, OLSON

In the advertising business, we manipulate images every workday.  But when the image is your own, the stakes feel somehow higher.  Finding a creative partner who not only shares your vision but improves it markedly is one of this industry’s true pleasures.

Thanks Todd.  You made me look far cooler than I ever have.  Or will.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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PS:  Todd is currently up for an AMD Visionary award.  Check out his video and vote for him here.

 

One Final Round of Thanks for 2010

It’s been fun to think about all the unique and interesting qualities that each and every person who works at Element 79 has as individuals and how that ladders up to give the entire agency a distinct character.  Because it certainly, certainly does…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingI’m thankful for Neal Stamell who loves what we do and is ever-ready to suss out new ways to do it even better…  I’m thankful for the one-woman pep squad that is Lindsay Stevens, who—as someone put it so perfectly on Facebook—has a remarkable ability to make you feel affirmed simply by agreeing with you through her trademarked “I know, right?”…  I’m thankful for the Japanimaniac Dave Straus who first with the crushingly-original Futagoyuro and now with the fantastic Gold Giant, pushes the boundaries of creativity and inspires everyone with his prodigious and singular talents…  I’m thankful for the delightful Tracy Tran who I can trust with any project and know both the client and the creative team will walk away very, very happy…  I’m thankful for Donna Tropp who just keeps getting better and better at getting things done while laughing and cracking wise…  I’m thankful for the ever-game Maria Van Etten whose smile alone improves every assignment…  I’m thankful for Jason Weinberger who can dive deep and write voluminously and well on everything from hairstyles to interest rates…  I’m thankful for my boss Brian Williams and his leadership that ensures we’ll be keeping the doors open and the lights on despite the continual upheavals in this advertising business…  I’m thankful for Josh Witherspoon who embraces new forms of creativity and pushes the boundaries of work our clients expect…  I’m thankful Ashley Wohl recently joined us to bring her new and unique design perspective to all of us…  I’m thankful for Lih Min Yuan for his broad imagination, his discriminating palate, and candidly–his durability after this Fall’s potentially-ugly car accident…  And I’m thankful for the skills and charm of Colleen Zazzetti who brightens mornings and only through getting married a few years back and giving up her “Coleman” name lands in the final position on this list…

I truly am thankful for all of these wonderful people.  I’m thankful for so many more who’ve been at Element 79 for a while before moving on to other workplaces and opportunities.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingI’m also thankful for the helpful network of Chicago production–all the post houses, film houses, audio studios, design and animation and editing experts who help us turn thoughts into wonderful, shining things.  As a local community, we are truly lucky to work and partner with so much talent.  I’m also thankful for the larger production community on the coasts, in Texas and around the world.

And finally, I’m ridiculously thankful for all of our clients who make it possible to earn a living making things up for them.  That’s a truly wonderful gift.

Thank you for making 2010 better and here’s to a wonderful 2011 for all of us.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Still More Thankfulness for 2010

At year’s end, it makes sense to take stock and reflect on what truly matters.  In a people business like advertising, those you share your professional life with truly make a difference…

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanI’m thankful for the incomparable Mary Killen who creates order out of chaos with casual aplomb…  I’m thankful for Gillian Kindel who has made herself invaluable in short order, and not just for her willingness to wear swimwear out of season…  I’m thankful for the casually gracious Monica Klasa who creates art and beauty with wondrous consistency…  I’m thankful for Rosanna Klusmeyer who has mastered the art of replacing a slow-burn with a determined smile…  I’m thankful for the redoubtable Michael Kurbejeweit who brings remarkably fresh creativity to metrics, extracting gold from mounds of informational ore…  I’m thankful for the endlessly-resilient Chris Laubach whose creative forbearance endures even incivility to serve agency and client alike…  I’m thankful for Sandy Leib who eliminates risk while only rarely eliminating fun…  I’m thankful for Cheryl Lindquist who explores far and wide for the best way to turn our thoughts into things…  I’m thankful for AJ Livsey who approaches planning like it’s a full-contact sport…  I’m thankful for the designs and artfulness of Allison Lutze (and her helpful discretion)…  I’m thankful for Jo Lyons who can explain benefits simply despite the fact that they are never simple…  I’m thankful for the skills and commitment of Tom Macek who is always willing to stretch into new areas to keep helping the agency…  I’m thankful for Ronan Marra who lives the art of modern theater while classing up the joint with his charming brogue…  I’m thankful for Megan McCann who can juggle critical details without letting any of them fall and splatter all over us…  I’m thankful Alexis Miller just joined us to help out on CDH…  I’m thankful for Elizabeth Miller, particularly for ensuring the agency enjoys a rich and rewarding social life…  I’m thankful for Gina Muffoletto who defines creativity by mastering just enough Photoshop skills to make her monthly birthday announcements eagerly anticipated works of comic art…  And I’m thankful for the peripatetic Lisa Muzik who proves everyday that producers make Herculean tasks appear stunningly routine…

It’s hard not to be thankful when you work with so many people who make the work better.  And definitely a lot more fun.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Some More Thankfulness for 2010…

As we enter our tenth year, it’s kind of remarkable to look back and think about all the good people who’ve come and gone through Element 79 (luckily, as an advertising creative, I’m blessed with a short memory for the less-than-good ones).  But it’s even more remarkable to think about the ones currently working here, the people who make showing up each day a constant adventure.  Those are the ones you’re truly thankful for…

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanI’m thankful for Lisa Dauderman, who is both incredibly focused and simply a hill of fun as a traveling companion…  I’m thankful for Katy Denny who keeps everything wonderful on Central DuPage Hospital even as she balances work with her wedding plans…  I’m thankful for Ali Dolan who has grown into her producer role with a gracefulness few could achieve…  I’m thankful for Amie Dowker whose prodigious intellect is matched only by her warm humanity…  I’m thankful for Stacie Dunn whose easy wit feels like a comfy old glove…  I’m thankful for Ken Fill who cares deeply for his clients with a good-hearted infectiousness that impacts the entire team…  I’m thankful for Justin Frosolone not simply because he’s a ridiculously handsome man but also because he’s a ridiculously warm and attractive person (and Sox fan)…  I’m thankful for Michael Gabriele whose knowledge of film making comes first hand and thus is hard-earned and personal in a way that is difficult to teach…  I’m thankful for Phil Gant whose prodigious experience and knowledge makes me count my blessings to have him impacting the department simply because people want to learn from him…  I’m thankful for Gus Gavino who makes movies and reminds me what it means to be dedicated to your craft not only because it’s your job but also because it is the passion that fuels your soul…  I’m thankful for Marzena Grecki whose hunger to learn the American idiom fueled her desire to work at E79 to the point that she learned English from a five year old boy as a Polish immigrant…  I’m thankful for Lisa Groot who knows much, fears little and keeps her team thinking positively whatever the workday throws her…  I’m thankful for Jess Hanebury simply because I can’t imagine a world where her biting wit didn’t exist…  I’m thankful for Konrad Hedrich who handles both the mundane and the exotic work requests with equal aplomb…  I’m thankful for Jill Hefner who in less than a year, handles Harris with a sure-footedness of a seasoned pro.  I’m thankful for the smiles of Amy Henning who remains irrepressibly positive through the most challenging times…  I’m thankful for Cindy Hicks whose diplomacy and sharp mind encourage her team’s arched eyebrow irony without veering into the sardonic…  I’m thankful for Amanda Hogg who can make anyone laugh even as she moves mountains of work…  I’m thankful for Julie Howard who in any truly accurate org chart, would be in whatever position is just above ‘Grand Royal Potentate’…  I’m thankful for the charming Rick Janusz who knows the great mysteries of computer code and translates them freely and deftly for all of us…

I truly am thankful for all of these wonderful people.  And I’m not even halfway done…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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As The Year Winds Down…

It’s only natural to pause for a moment and take stock of things, to assess what worked and what didn’t, and to call to mind all the things that make you thankful.

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanThat’s a pretty easy one; because advertising is a people business, the best part of my job are the fascinating, engaging and hilarious people I work with each and every day.  So if you’re looking for insights or commentary on advertising, you can skip the blog this week; I’m just gonna be giving thanks…

I’m thankful for ever-affable Victor Alonzo who somehow keeps my laptops from getting the best of me…  I’m thankful for the genuine Amy Anderson, whose commitment to her clients is only matched by her ready laugh with her team…  I’m thankful for Carrie Baker, who deftly meets her daily professional challenges by making her sense of humor ever more twisted…  I’m thankful for Leah Barret, whose optimism and enthusiasm brightens every room she enters…  I’m thankful for John Barry, who attacks every writing assignment with a vigor and thoroughness matched only by his keen and joyous wit…  I’m thankful for Brian Battle, who despite starting maybe two weeks ago, has already displayed a willingness to throw aside his personal dignity on behalf of the agency and our Holiday videos…  I’m thankful for Nancy Bauer, whose intellect embraces open-mindedness without countenancing naivety…  I’m thankful for Alana Beseau whose effortless ability to generate soul-shaking laughter makes it easy to miss how hard she works…  I’m thankful for the game and smiling Kira Bigwood, whose writing captures intelligence without forsaking deep and abiding empathy…  I’m thankful for Kristine Black, who jumps in with both feet to get things done, juggling the multiple perspectives of a team without losing the singular vision…  I’m thankful for Ryan Bloecker, who jumped into a stampede and somehow roped his steers into a semblance of submission without losing his ever-present Nicholsonian grin…  I’m thankful for the clever David Boensch who somehow makes stolid reliability continually fascinating and artful…  I’m thankful for Jen Burak who steadily moves mountains of work with the understatement of a kung fu master…  I’m thankful for the moments when I work with Tracey Button, who somehow acquiesced to part time instead of retirement…  I’m thankful for the MacGyver-esque Ryan Carlos who makes stuff with a casualness that belies his voluminous output and prodigious skills…  I’m thankful for Tim Cerullo who graduated from intern to full time writer this year simply because his amazing attitude and nascent skill made those who worked with him unwilling to let him go…  I’m thankful for the big-hearted Jerry Conner who best exemplifies that transcendent and magical quality of curiosity…  I’m thankful for Dan Cosgrove who assignment-by-assignment, grows his art direction chops and lays the foundation for a stellar career…  I’m thankful for Todd “ST5K” Crisman who truly is 50,000 watts of heavy action, possessing that elusive quality of making everyone around him better–or at least gigglier…  I’m thankful for Tom Cutler who jumped into a hot LZ with remarkable aplomb, organizing, analyzing and setting a path forward that restores energy and hope…

I truly am thankful for all of these wonderful people.  And I’m just getting started…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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This Is Not A Promotional Agency Holiday Video

It’s not meant to attract attention, garner industry interest or do anything more ambitious than entertain ourselves at our agency Holiday party.  Which it did.  On Wednesday.

It’s also not even remotely a testament to the talents of the Element 79 workforce, beyond say, a collective good-natured willingness to participate.

No, it is purely fun.  And joyous.  And thus, one of my favorite things of this season.  The ridiculously talented Gus Gavino shot and edited this, along with able production assistance by the redoubtable Chris Shen.  I hope you can enjoy it even half as much as I do.  Happy Friday!

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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One Word Changes Everything…

At our end-of-year Holiday party yesterday, Brian Williams made this point while reviewing the state of the industry, our financial performance and our plans for thriving as we move forward…

“Advertising used to be about building brands.  Increasingly, it’s about building businesses.”

Marketing plans with longterm payoffs don’t really exist anymore.  The notion of building a brand through advertising and promotion is becoming an increasingly quaint and dangerous assumption.

That’s a hard truth for those who’ve thrived in the past.  Then again, it’s a new playing field for those willing to reinvent.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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