Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I look at adsoftheworld.com to see what great ads are out there so it was really exciting to see an ad from not only my former ad agency but produced by my former co-worker, Cindy Hicks. Cindy has left the agency world to be a freelance producer (Cindyhicks.RVA@gmail.com ). And another nice element to this series of ads is that is our local photographer, Todd Wright, shot them here in Richmond, VA. Okay, so a little hometown pride this week.
Suzanne: Cindy, it is so refreshing to see the agency shooting a National campaign in our local market. How did you decide that Todd was the right photographer? And how come the agency shot it locally?
Cindy: These ads were the brain child of Mike Lear & Dustin Artz, we initially looked into using actual paparazzi images, of course that came with a host of issues, releases, etc. Most stock agencies would not touch it. (One of our images is a stock image from Getty). So when we arrived at the fact we would shoot it, there was no reason not to do it here. Richmond is a great city for shooting & when you know all the places & locations it is easy to visualize. With Modelogic/Wilhelmina based here, I knew Stacie could find the right people. Randy O’Neil; our underwear model, I knew would be perfect, the right personality to pull off the faux celebrity attitude, when you know the talent they are more than a headshot.
Todd, is great with working with the creatives. He & Dustin had worked on a previous Mentos ad, he got what their vision was right away and really has an eye for elevating the paparazzi style & mix in just enough fashion. Todd also puts together a great team, Peg Crowder his producer & I work very well together.
Suzanne: Todd, when you saw the comps for this campaign, what were your first thoughts on how to execute the rawness of the paparazzi style of these ads?
Todd: I initially used the same magazines for inspiration that Dustin and Mike were using for the concepts. It was great trying to get in the mindset of capturing something that was fleeting….of course I had the luxury of shooting it again and again.
I just took each scene and tried to envision how paparazzi would approach it. For the “Guy Who Forgot His Pants” I used a 300mm lens and shot from quite a ways down the street to get that long lens look. I did the same for the “Streaking”. For the “Wardrobe Malfunction” I stood on a step stool, so I had a slight angle down like I was shooting from the Paparazzi bleacher on the red carpet. I don’t know if I am cut out to be Paparazzi, but it was a blast playing pretend for the day.
Suzanne: How do you do a casting like this when certain body parts are so crucial to the ads?
Cindy: I worked on the casting with Stacie, and the art director gave some very specific direction (“enormo boobs”) for our nip slip image! Stacie also was integral in this process, having worked with her since the start of Modelogic, you can have short hand conversations, which will get us the perfect talent with out all the back & forth. Plus we pull this together in about a week.
Todd: We used Modelogic, an East Coast local talent agency that I have a lot of experience with to cast, so I had worked with 2 of the 3 talents that I shot. So I had a pretty good idea of how they would work for each ad, based on my history shooting them. The “Streaking” was an actor that I had never worked with before, but that’s where having a history and trust level with a talent agency is very important. They basically convinced me that he would be great and he was even better than that! The entire crew was crying with laughter every time he made his run through the frame….he must have been working on his dialogue for days even though it was a print concept. He was hilarious!
Suzanne: Todd, what were the challenges for you to create the naturalness of these ads?
Todd: I think it is a challenge to make an image look “caught”, while in reality it is a very carefully thought out production. But in the end it is having all the right people involved, it is such a collaborative thing. I mean, every one on set is SO talented….that it just comes together and of course, there again, is the luxury of saying lets do it “one more time” which really means 15 more times.
Suzanne: Cindy, while you were the agency Art Producer, were you also the producer or did Todd take care of that?
Cindy: It is co-producing, I tend to be very hands on & Todd & Co. understands that, so we make a good team. Todd/ Peg et.al button up all the locations, permits, wardrobe, talent extras and all the parts that making shooting a good experience (good assistants & better food!) It is good working with people you have known for a long time. We had a sketchy weather day, Todd being cautious (exactly what we need) was unsure about calling the day of, I, a bit more of a gambler said, lets do it, we ended up with the perfect mix of real (lovely misting rain on the soccer shot) Looked great & we wrapped before the deluge.
Suzanne: Cindy, you have worked with photographers and producers all over the country. Seeing what works and what doesn’t, this must be a very exciting time for you as a producer?
Cindy: What I adore (and loathe at times) is we are in very changing times, speed is not the same as it was 10, even 5 years ago, everything is we need it yesterday! But you adapt, love that about evolution! Budgets for the most part have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but that creates the opportunity to be nimble and often that pays off in really great ads. Yes, I really miss big budgets, but good work really just requires knowing how to pull it off. I have to say, I was not a fan of these ads, until we shot them. I told that to Mike & Dustin on the shoot! With my background in all parts of the photo world (read my bio! hire me!) it is fun to pull off good work, fast & within the budget & if you like it better than the comps, it is a win all the way around.
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Todd Wright has been shooting stills for about 15 years for clients like Seiko, Wal-Mart, AOL, DuPont, Chase Bank and has recently started directing TV spots. Prior to that he was a tugboat deckhand, bartender, waiter, hotdog cart vendor, auto detailer, airline ticket delivery driver, bank teller, foam insulation installer, telephone marketer, construction worker and many more that he’s long since forgotten.
Cindy Hicks is a photographer, producer, consultant, curator all around awesome get stuff done gal. 15 years as an art producer, the next chapter has yet to be written, but it is shaping up like a hybrid. Whether you need a producer with a photographer’s head or a photographer with a producer’s head. An art producer with a photographer’s eye who will shoot straight about your book and I have seen thousands of books & hundreds of thousands of mailers. Or maybe you need an adjunct studio manager to help you with those estimates. I see this as an organic process. I will be what each job needs me to be. Now a little of how I got here: After cracking opening a 126 film canister & developing it in a tray at age 11, my ties with photography have never wavered. From a high school internship at a the local newspaper that led to a job with them, to a BFA in Communications arts and design, I have done editorial, corporate, advertising, ran a custom darkroom (with a dip & dunk E-6 line!) Studio Manager, Producer, and my own Production / Prop styling company (propiratzi) and all that before 15 years with one of the top Advertising agencies as a senior art producer. In a word: dé•brouil•lard Pronunciation: (dā brOO-yar’), [key] —adj., n., pl. -brouil•lardsPronunciation: (-brOO-yar’). [key] French.—adj. Skilled at adapting to any situation; resourceful. —n. a resourceful person who can act independently or cope with any development. Cindy Hicks : Producer – 804.426.8140Cindyhicks.RVA@gmail.com Tumblr for now : http://cindyhicksphotography.tumblr.com or This if it works: http://cindyhickspix.posterous.com/ and of course twitter https://twitter.com/chicksRVA
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.