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My Biggest Lesson: David Moore

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VMLY&R COMMERCE New York's ECD on why sometimes, they are right

My Biggest Lesson: David Moore

David Moore is executive creative director at VMLY&R Commerce New York, leading the Coca-Cola and Molson Coors teams.


Let’s set the stage: I was a new recruit at a big-name agency in Germany. Part of a drive to get ‘international creative talent’. I did not speak a word of German, but that was okay. I was young, and I knew everything. 

My first big project – create a TV spot for a mind-blowing innovative product. Cat food that … wait for it … comes in a sealed bag, not a tin. (I told you it was mind-blowing). We wrote a decent script, and after about 400 rounds sold it in. But then came the big question – who to direct it?

We declared that work for the brand up until then was rubbish. Too bright! Too colourful! Too ‘addy’. We need to bring art; we need to bring craft! So we found a director. He was arty. He wore black. He swore in meetings. This – we told the client – this is what we need.

Things went awry fairly quickly. The director presented his boards and they looked … different. Very dark. Very moody. More like a storyboard for a Tim Burton movie than a cat food commercial. But we persisted. It was going to be visionary, we said.

As shoot day drew near the client got nervous. After one particularly tense production meeting he pulled us aside and made a promise. If we drop this director, he wouldn’t say anything to anyone. He’d even pay the cancellation fees. We could start again with someone else. A no-strings do-over.

We shunned this offer. What do clients know? We were creating art.

Needless to say, it was an unmitigated disaster. On set the director’s initial brusqueness turned to outright rudeness. He banished us to the isolated video stand. He yelled at the crew, the client, the agency. He even yelled at the cats. When we saw the first edit, the shots were so dark the entire 30-second spot looked like the final episode of Game of Thrones. It. Was. Bad.

Amazingly I didn’t lose my job. What I did do was spend the next three days in a dark edit suite (alone, the director had stormed off). We added color. We forced in brightness. We brought back all that shiny bright ‘addyness’ that we had distained. And in the end, we had a decent spot. But to this day, I wish I had taken the client up on his offer.

So, what was my big lesson? It’s this simple – sometimes they are right. Whether it’s the client, the account team or planner giving you input – it pays to listen. Let’s face it – clients live with their brand all day long. But as we all know, sometimes they are wrong. How to figure out when to listen – and when to stick to your guns? I’m still working on that.

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VMLY&R COMMERCE US, Wed, 16 Nov 2022 09:30:30 GMT