Founder and Chief Creative Officer, No, No, No, No, No, Yes
Issue 30 | March 2014
Even more than that, it is, as he explains in the interview below, a fundamentally optimistic approach to life.
For 18 years he was the creative partner at Shalmor Avnon Amichay Y&R, where he put not just the agency but Israel on the international map of creativity, with 19 Cannes Lions among hundreds of other international awards.
In 2012 he was President of the Cannes Lions jury for Direct. (For the Directory interview with him at this time, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lard49Brfhs)
Patience, persistence and stubbornness are qualities to be found in most creative people. Amichay has an abundance of all three as well as an ability to reinvent himself regularly. Cartoonist, writer, art director, teacher, designer, thinker, author, businessman, he is all of the above.
Directory is proud to be able to reproduce a part of his book, with thanks to the author and publisher, but first wanted to talk to Gideon himself about his past, his present and his future as a creative person.
Gideon, how would you describe yourself? At various stages of your career you have been a cartoonist, an artist, a designer, a writer, a developer, an art director, a creative director, a thinker, a talker. What are you today?
I just love to create. My strong passion is to create – stories, campaigns, projects, content etc.
But actually that is a very good question! You're so right, because today there are no borders anymore. Media is everything and everywhere. Therefore I try not to limit what I create. I do problem solving. When I get a brief
or an assignment I try to find the best solution and then find the best medium for it. Sometimes it ends with branding, other times with content or an art instillation, and, yes, sometimes the solution is in advertising.
With all of that in mind I see myself as a storyteller, a problem solver and creator of ideas.
Gideon, looking back over your past, as a writer/designer/ creative, which three pieces of advertising work, which you created, are you most proud of and why?
It's so hard to choose. I am lucky to have been part of a team created thousands of campaigns over a span of more than 20 years.
That said, I would say that I'm very proud of the Israel Radio campaign. We created that campaign in 1994 and it is still running. A 20 year-long campaign is a very unlikely event in the Israel market. I'm especially proud of the positioning we created for one of the radio stations – 'Reshet Gimel' – as an only Israeli / Hebrew music station. It is a successful positioning in terms of marketing the great value of saving and promoting Israeli music.
Israel Radio campaign (a few examples):
- "No Slate" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWtlc5hydZ0
- "No Model" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3Czc8Ja2sM
- "10,000" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrAkwLuoD6k
- "Sounds" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz1DPZdcvVs
I still have strong emotions when I think about my time at Bezalel and School of Visual arts. At that time my dream was to publish a cartoon in the New Yorker. I was blooming and it was one of my best creative periods. Part of my graduation project at Bezalel had sold to the New Yorker, which was a moment of true happiness. Another drawing from this pack was the trigger for the creation of '9/11 - It's been ten years' animation project in 2011.
Getting a proposal from the 9/11 Memorial Museum to show the project as part of the opening museum in 2014 was really exciting.
Have a look at the "9/11 - It's Been Ten Years" animation project at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NOSsZ30Beo
Lastly I’m very proud of my TEDx Talk. Maybe it was the hardest task I’ve ever been given.
First, to write an 18 minute long story was very hard and it was in a difficult format. Then it was all about the show, and a TED Talk is a show with a massive audience. It had to be engaging and entertaining. It had to capture the attention and, more important, it had
to conquer the heart of the viewer. It was such a long process to learn it off by heart because TED does not use teleprompters, so you have to know your talk inside out. English is not my mother language so you can imagine how tough this was. But the comments afterwards were worth more than anything I’ve done in my entire career.
TEDx Talk: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sZScrNJ2gTQ
Looking back as a creative director, which three pieces of work, which others created under your guidance, are you most proud of and why?
The launch of Orange into the Israeli market and making them a market leader for innovation comes
to mind. Among hundreds of campaigns we have
done for them there was a print ad for not texting
and driving. This was back in 1997, which was a pioneering message at the time. Today it is everywhere, a common problem, but we were the first mobile brand in the world to raise that issue. The ad was also the first print ad from Israel to win a Cannes Lion (2008).
Orange: http://www.gideonamichay.com/wp-content/ uploads/2011/01/ORANGE-TEXT-MESSAGING.jpg
I’m also very proud of the huge amount of pro-bono work we did. We had more than 20 different clients. We treated them as regular clients and not as a gesture. I’m very proud of the work we did for the Aids Task Force, Latet, ATZUM the Task Force on Human Trafficking and the ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ installation.
Aids Task Force: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=sj4tZ9XZb8Q
ATZUM the Task Force on Human Trafficking: http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF28gEzFS8k
‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ installation: http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=SFJsPlNsbmE
What was it that prompted you to write a book? And why a book? In this digital age?
I was lucky to have great mentors when I was young. They shared all their professional secrets with me. Sometimes during the classes they taught and other times during personal meetings. It was a great experience for me and an empowering lesson for life. So now I feel I have to share my secrets and insights with all creative minds.
I do so by teaching at School of Visual Arts in NY and through being a guest lecturer in other universities. Writing a book was just the next logical step.
Since I’m not the only one who get NO’s in the world, I thought it’s about time to share my story about how I chose to tackle those NO’s.
It was clear from the reactions I got to my TEDx Talk that it had a strong impact. I received hundreds of comments and emails about the energy people said they got out of my talk that encouraged creative people to fight for their dreams; to fight for what they believed.
A book is timeless. First and foremost it’s a story. Yes it’s a hard cover book, but it’s also a Kindle and an iBook. I believe today is the best time for storytelling, more than any time in the past. There’s a great demand for good stories. A book is a great medium to them.
Your present is characterised by this recognition of persistence as a necessary characteristic of the creative person. No, no, no, no, no, yes.
It is not just your book, it is your new company. How do you describe this new company? What is its purpose? And how will you persuade the nay-sayers to become yay-sayers?
It’s the story of my life. And it’s a way of life that I totally believe in.
We live in an era, which is up-loaded with millions of messages and tons of communication efforts and most
of it, I think, is invisible. It’s a total waste of money and time. Nowadays, “creativity” has become a commodity. Everybody is busy doing creative things. There are millions of blogs, posts, tweets, photos and videos uploaded every hour. But most of them are the same. It is so boring.
That’s why I believe we should be aspiring to be innovative. Innovation is the key to success in the new world. If you cannot be innovative or at least different in some way, it’s better to find another job.
I put all my effort into combining innovation and creativity throughout dozens of multi-dimensional campaigns. When I look at the most successful projects we created in the last ten years I can see that there were many common elements to them.
Each was ‘different’ and challenged their categories.
These projects lived between branding, content, art and advertising. We got all types of NO’s while we were working on them. It was hard to get them approved, and most of the time they lived in the ‘We don’t know’ zone. This is the zone of the never-done-before projects. The great thing was that we had the patience and perseverance to fight for them.
I feel that “advertising” is a narrow definition for all of them. And speaking about advertising, the truth is, people don’t really hate advertising. They just hate bad advertising. That’s why changing tools or remixing old ones with new ones could change the result. I believe in creative problem solving. And only sometimes is the solution an ad.
And it was at that moment I realised I’d like to work in a different model and use my creativity to solve problems in a freer way. Because of my background I enjoy it very much.
So I opened No, No, No, No, No, Yes last year. It’s a creative boutique, based in New York City, focused on innovative advertising and marketing solutions. That means we relentlessly strive towards coming up with innovative uses of media and advertising in order to engage people. I think there is more openness today for unconventional communication solutions. It’s not that every client has become suddenly brave but rather that conventional adverting doesn’t do well anymore. It’s more expensive and less effective than it used
to be. I believe every brief or problem can lead to a breakthrough solution. If you aim to find unconventional solutions it’s not about the size of your budget or the importance of the brief. It’s about your willingness to find a solution that has never been tried before.
How would you describe your recent work for Pango and DogTV in the context of ‘No, no, no, no, no’ and ‘Yes’?
Pango is a great example of pushing the envelope into an art installation instead of a conventional outdoor campaign.
It was a launch of an app that allows you to pay the parking meter with your smart phone. The product itself is a disruptive app – it’s defiant, so you have to use a different approach when it comes to advertising it.
When the client knew the date and place of the launch, he asked us for a poster or a billboard to be placed nearby.
However we thought a disruptive client deserved a disruptive solution and came up with the ‘Parking Brain’. We built a car-size brain and parked it in the central square of Scranton, Pennsylvania, right in
front of the mayor’s press conference about the new service. An hour later it was breaking news on the local TV station and all over the newspapers. Earned media in this case was far valuable than everything else.
So, was the Parking Brain advertising, was it an an art instillation or was it publicity? It couldn’t fit strictly into any of those categories because it was something new.
DogTV was a disruptive TV channel for dogs that launched on Direct TV in the US.
Yes, we did prints and 30 second TV commercials for them, but there was a need for something different.
That’s why we launched the world’s first CrowDog Sourcing project.
We invited dog owners to create their own DogTV logo, starring their dog.
Thousands of photos were uploaded to the channel’s website and personalised logos were broadcast live coast to coast on DogTV, replacing the channel’s official logo.
Here was the challenge. As far as the station was concerned, replacing the official logo on-screen was absolutely out of the question.
We had a long discussion with the channel management about that. It was a NO in the because no other TV channel had done it before. Can you imagine the
BBC agreeing to replace their on-screen logo? In the end that was also how we were able to get a YES. We convinced the management to be pioneers. After all, DogTV really is a different kind of TV channel...
Dog owners were notified by email of the date and time their DogTV logo starring their pet would be broadcast live so they could share with their friends and family exactly when to tune in for the televised event. The project was part of a wider launch that included PR, TV commercials and more.
DOGTV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zolMcswgfiM Pango: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3pg7ukezZ4
What is the future for advertising, do you think?
The power of storytelling is becoming more and more important. It is sad to see how agencies are trying
to compete on how to find consumers and viewers instead of pushing more and more efforts for creating better stories and ideas. I can’t understand why you would try to compete with Google or Facebook on their own territories? It is a lost battle to begin with.
On the other hand, all those location/data/search-based campaigns can do so much better when you really have a big idea. Look at the ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ campaign or at the ‘Dove Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign. I think we are seeing the rise of truly big ideas that are effective and this trend is only going to grow stronger.
I also think everything is becoming more transparent. This is leading the industry to be more careful
when it comes to manipulating people. While it’s harder to work like that, it is for the best.
Another important issue, which is becoming crucial because of new technologies and social media is to be able to create something immediately in order to respond to events. This is a must. With that in mind, it’s not just the agency – the client has to be able
to respond and make a decision immediately.
In your TedX talk, you said: We are all students in the faculty of patience. So, waiting patiently for their time to come, what other creative ideas do you have up your sleeve?
Oh, there are so many. I still get NO’s for projects. We presented an idea for the subway in NYC. For now it’s not moving forward. You never know though. Maybe I should present it to London Transport.
Sometimes an idea needs a different environment or a different timing but that’s ok – it is just a NO with a comma. We do have patience, and as you remember, in our school there’s always another semester...