Two spreads for Grace Ormonde magazine. Part of an on-going media program for Monvieve. Bridal fashion at its finest. We’re also creating on-line media to support the brand for the fall bridal season.

Luxury brands succeed by creating connections with their buyers through insights that leverage value against deep seated emotional needs.

These emotional values last a lifetime because they are not driven by trends but rather by qualities inherent in the buyer. Understanding these connections is at the heart of branding. At one time, the bespoke nature of true luxury brands limited their audiences to all but the most-wealthy. Today this dynamic is radically changed.

With the advent of mass customization and highly controlled product releases, within the mass market framework, luxury has come to mean many different things to different people.

Luxury brands of the truly bespoke type still do exist however.  The audience for these brands continues to expand with the growth of global prosperity. The internet has made these brands more accessible than ever which means that Haute Couture brands like Monvieve now enjoy a global clientele.

A designer and maker of bespoke bridal fashions, Monvieve is unique in the world of fashion design. They are an accessible luxury with heirloom quality. Derived from old world craftsmanship and a highly refined aesthetic Monvieve stands above all others. It is a luxury of pleasurable, aesthetically framed memories. These are #MonvieveMoments and this is the heart of the brand.

Working closely with the creative director and owner of Monvieve, Alison Miller, we’ve been carefully crafting #MonvieveMoments. From our participation at the global destination wedding planners conference in Florence, to our shoot at the Belmond Villa San Michele. From a new showroom in NYC, to video production, and the U.S. launch event at the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C., it’s been a series of #MonvieveMoments all its own.

The event launch video is below.

In April Team Brandforming was on location in Florence Italy at the incredible Belmond, Villa San Michele, shooting our campaign for Monvieve.

Monvieve is a haute couture Italian Fashion Brand. Monvieve designs and handcrafts bespoke bridal veils in Italy. Each veil is a unique work of art, as fine and beautiful as you can imagine. Our client, is Alison Miller, the creative director, owner and driving force of Monvieve.

Villa San Michele dates from the 15th century, the Villa’s facade is attributed to Michelangelo. Step inside and you experience the ethereal beauty and solitude of a Renaissance monastery that is as much a part of Italy’s culture as her great cathedrals. Grazie’ a lei Clio Cicuto and the entire team at Villa San Michele.

For those who know me personally, you will immediately grasp the joy in this moment, a lover of art, art history and nearly all things Italian.  

To work with another Italian luxury brand such as Monvieve and to shoot in Florence, puts this gig on the top of my list of great experiences. Our photographer, Massimiliano Botticelli and his all star team did an amazing job. They flawlessly executed a long and intense day of shooting. His team hit every mark in our production schedule to take best advantage of the glorious natural light. Max did not stop until the sun was gone from the sky. Grazie’ a lei Max!

Composing images for our campaign #MonvieveMoments against a backdrop designed by Michelangelo was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by our client. Team Brandforming was thrilled to play our part in bringing the story to life. It takes years of dedicated focus and talent to succeed in the fashion industry and Alison is on her way to her next great success.

Defining Moments is what Monvieve is all about and it is exactly what is achieved whenever a woman steps into a Monvieve product. It is a transformative moment, a defining moment, a #MonvieveMoments

Check out some of our production stills up on the Monvieve Facebook page. Follow Monvieve on Instagram. Please remember, it’s nice to share.

Brandforming was on location at Carnegie Mellon filming a PSA for the Computer Science Teachers Association. We nicknamed the spot Robot Love.  

After months of work and insight development, derived from one-on-one interviews, we finally rolled cameras. Special thanks here to our partners Associations Development Group for bringing Brandforming on as collaborators.

We created 5 different concept boards for client review. It didn’t take long for the client team to settle on of the themes we presented; Computer Science. Cool Stuff.

The goal of the PSA is to encourage more young people, especially girls, to get involved in computer science. In fact, the Fox TV show, FabLab is equally dedicated to this goal. Nearly half the high schools in the US do not offer computer science. It’s astonishing to consider since there is hardly a life today untouched by some aspect of computer science.

Filming took place at Carnegie Mellon because of their outstanding computer science program and also because of Professor Manuela Veloso. Professor Veloso is an extraordinary person, her brains, talent and determination make her a fantastic teacher, mentor and coach to all the enthusiastic students we met while filming. Thank you #ManuelaVeloso. Thank you #CMU. Thank you #Pittsburgh.

Professor Veloso is very quick to point out that computer science is about a lot more than just robotics.

Kids in America need more exposure to computer science and a better understanding of the many career opportunities associated with it. I hope the TV show #FabLab catches the imagination of its young audience and that our TV spot helps drive awareness of just how cool computer science really is.

It was good fun working with Robots to help tell our story. It was also great to work with Professor Veloso, her students and the producers of the show FabLab too.

Robot Love, the science behind computer science.

Team Brandforming and Computer Science, now that’s Cool Stuff.

I took this picture of two espresso cups at one of our infamous creative rave sessions, this  time we were in Miami cooking up some big ideas for a global healthcare brand. Espresso is a hot commodity at these sessions. We often go at ideation for days on end. Our energy stores can run low while we fill the room high with ideas. An afternoon espresso or two have been known to shake loose the cob webs.

Ideas are not usually far behind. In Cafe veritas.

And my cafe of choice, if given the choice is Sant’Eustachio il Caffè 

If only every creative session could be held at 82, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Basta

In the books Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, the authors explore the workings of the human brain. I think we can use their insights to help build #AHealthierNation, especially if we consider the workings of the Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV Spots.

Both authors point out that our brains are hot wired to detect danger before safety. We detect anger in others before joy. This extends to images and words, even those in abstract of a lived experience. For example, we can detect an angry face in a picture of a crowd of happy people faster than we can detect a happy face in a crowd of angry people. The mention of a word associated with danger, even in absence of that danger in the present lived experience, triggers lightning quick brain activity associated with a threat. This has been studied and documented with MRI data.

Kahneman points out the we live our lives as stories, collections of experiences and memories that ideally come to a happy finale, and this is what we remember. In a particularly interesting chapter, he explores the idea of duration neglect and how as humans, we will willingly endure protracted and difficult experiences if the goal, outcome and future memory would be a positive gain.

One example he explains is that of amnesic vacations. An oversimplification; the duration of a vacation ideally has an effect on its quality. I think we’d all agree that 6 days are better than 3. But if the last day of the 6-day vacation is a poor experience, the overriding memory will be one of an unhappy vacation, despite the duration. This is the peak ending and most dominant lasting memory. For more on this you can watch his TED talk here.

Both of these books are fascinating and entirely different, but with many corollaries that make them worth reading. The Master and his Emissary makes clear the right brain is dominant in the role of detecting the incongruent, new, exciting and dangerous. The left brain is dominant in breaking it down into known bits of lived experience and cataloging it so as to help us detect the new vs the known, different or dangerous. There is a mysterious beauty to the power of this duality and the yin-yang balance that it achieves to help us detect danger and feel safe. You can watch him illustrate this in his TED talk here.

Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV Spots

If we apply these findings of the workings of the human brain Vs. Pharma TV spots, it would suggest that ending a commercial with 30 seconds of “fair balance” that rattles off all the negative potential consequences of the therapy is not a good idea if we want people to seek out, consume and adhere to that treatment.  What memory are we left with? What is the cumulative effect of these negative associations to the psychology of Americans, to what is now decades of exposure to often potentially life threatening consequences of treatment? We are putting our minds on high alert and then leaving ourselves with negative memories.

The FDA lives a paradox of endorsing the use of effective therapies that are proven safe and at the same time controlling how they are promoted.

The use of Fair Balance was deemed a reasonable solution to keep some checks and balances in the system. One early justification for direct-to-consumer advertising for healthcare products was that it would help make people healthier by helping them recognize health issues and solutions to what is ailing them. That said, I would argue it is not working entirely as hoped. Direct-to-consumer advertising has certainly proven to sell more drugs but is it really helping? Adherence and compliance rates remain terrible. As a nation we are not among the healthiest, despite having the one of the best healthcare systems in the world. I can’t help but feel that there exists an unintended and negative consequence of bombarding our culture with therapy risk profiles instead of more positive educational messages about living a healthy and happy life.

I’m not suggesting that the problems of adherence and compliance have been caused by advertising, they certainly predate it. What I am suggesting is that advertising executed in this way has become just another part of the problem and it’s time to consider alternative approaches that not only make us aware of solutions but improve long-term outcomes for #AHealthierNation.

Advertising is part of the brand experience and nobody wants to experience side-effects, even in the abstract. Patients need to be educated about the potential risks of any treatment and there are other and potentially better ways to provide this learning. Awareness advertising by its very nature employs both reach and frequency to achieve its goal. The persistent drumming of risk factors in combination with how our brains are hot wired to detect risk is a perfect storm. Our abilities to detect risk and the frequency of exposure caused by this type of advertising may be creating strong negative associations with these brands specifically and perhaps more detrimentally, pharmaceutical therapies overall.

On any given night during a TV commercial break it is not uncommon to see 2-3 pharma spots back-to-back. This results in approximately 1.5 minutes of nausea, hives, Arrhythmia, trouble breathing, night sweats, diarrhea, dizziness, life threatening rash, allergic reactions, suicidal thoughts, dry mouth, internal bleeding, increased blood pressure, stroke, liver damage, heart attack and other potential drug-drug and dietary interactions that in rare cases have caused death.

This parade of alarm bells is made no less volatile by the mostly generic visual backdrop of smiling happy people and the sometimes over-qualified claims of efficacy. Remember we’re hot wired to detect risk before all else. How’s that for a side effect? Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV could be a perfect storm of unintended consequences. June 2014 saw the beginning of OpenFDA an effort to make accessible the FDA database of side effects, drug labels, warnings, food recalls. This project is still in Beta but it holds great promise to help us better manage and understand the insights available through this repository and how insights gained across drug and device class can inform #AHealtherNation and perhaps will give us opportunity to create better, more positive and educational TV spots.

As communicators we can do better to create a #AHealthierNation and support our Physicians and other healthcare workers to help us live healthier lives.

In March of 2015 the legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles left this earth for the great beyond. In his lifetime he and his brother David, who passed many years before, established a way of working in documentary film that elevated our ability to see life as it truly is, with as little artifice as possible. The December 27, 2015 issue of the NY Times Sunday Magazine brought Albert Maysles and the work of The Maysles Brothers back to me in the cover article, The Lives They Lived.

The seminal work of The Maysles Brothers are many. If you have not seen them, you should watch a few: http://mayslesfilms.com/films.

The Maysles Brothers work continues to have significant impact on filmmakers around the world. Their approach was strongly observational and the aesthetic, sparse. Their faith in reality, as more interesting than fiction, created films of a raw, visceral quality. Occasionally hard to watch but impossible to look away.

Albert Maysles began his career as a teacher of Psychology. It was an interest in filming the life of patients in a mental hospital that represents his very first film, Psychiatry in Russia. This drive to represent reality unfiltered, to show things as they are, still holds incredible power and potential, especially in healthcare.

Early in my foray into Healthcare advertising I was doing a lot of work for broadcast. I certainly contributed my share of work to what is now the formula.  

I was really fortunate to work with Maysles Shorts, a division of the company helmed by David McNamara. As a division of Maysles Films, it was anchored in the traditions the brothers had established. David and I did some really nice work together. We did our best to break from the mold.  I’m not sure if the Maysles hired David because he has a gifted eye, or because they saw in him a devotion to a way of working that would continue to represent life as it truly is. Regardless, David is an excellent filmmaker with an approach that is all his own; straightforward and honest too. Today, David is dedicating his many talents to creating meaningful human connection with Samadhi

It is more important than ever to create work with strength and honesty. Work that connects deeply and goes beyond selling treatments and help patients understand the value of wellness. It’s time to explore new ways of representing and seeing solutions in healthcare that improve on what has been achieved thus far. The work of the Maysles Brothers remains so powerful because it is work that has a Head For The Heart. It is a belief in the intimate power of life as it truly is. True stories told with un-glossed honesty that capture human nature with an observing, unwavering respect for humanity.

Occasionally, rummaging through the back of the drawer turns up a gem. In this case, a merger pencil.  To me the no.3 lead was always the perfect choice, especially during a merger or IPO; no.2 was always a bit too soft. This was the mighty tool, long before we had computers on every desk. This, a blank sheet of paper and a cup of coffee was the ideal way to start any project. It still is a superior set of tools.

I have lived and worked through a number of mergers and IPO’s in my agency life and at this point, I can say with some degree of confidence that they are events that do little to elevate or even maintain the level and quality of the work. In fact, with rare exception, it is quite the opposite.

In the near term these events do very little to help most of the agency client base, save perhaps the largest.

Many years down the road, organizations like Wire and Plastic Products have turned up as global agency juggernaut WPP.  Sir Martin sure knows what he’s doing in this regard.  Before building WPP into one of the world’s top agency networks he was finance director of Saatchi & Saatchi  — note the pencil.

The team at WPP seem to have it all worked out, not so for the failed Publicis-Omnicom courtship. Was the proposed merger only love at first bite?

What’s working brilliantly for WPP did not turn out so well at the time for Saatchi & Saatchi. As the go-go 80’s imploded there was all kinds of intrigue and mayhem and loss of business as the operation began to unravel. Yet, it was fabulous to be there because at the time, it was the place to be…until it wasn’t. I should note that for many years now Saatchi & Saatchi is back on high ground and has been knocking out some great work, but it was a long road back.

Mergers and IPO’s come down to winners and losers. All the bather about a “merging of equals” or how being a publicly traded company will not change the culture are fantasies of good will.

When a merger works, it works because the dominant agency is a top-ranked creative powerhouse and that is the driving culture.

The executive team is identified and the agenda is supported and maintained throughout the process, across the entire new organization with no excuses and with respect all around. We see little turnover of talent and business. The goal is to deliver the same great product across the globe as well as around the block. A rising tide lifts all boats.

When it doesn’t work, it’s because the merger or IPO is an exercise in financial control designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

This unleashes all kinds of grief and stress because this agenda does not always align well with doing what’s right for your clients.  As a result, we see years of management change, talent flight and loss of accounts.

On the occasion of the pencil seen above, Saatchi & Saatchi Dorland was the UK based network agency and Saatchi & Saatchi Compton was the US arm. They merged DFS and Dorland to create DFS-Dorland which existed for a fairly brief period before they combined all of us into my very special Yellow no.3 pencil.

I save these pencils as Momento mori, small monuments of remembrance to the fact that even the best of hard work and talent can be defeated by the ephemeral trappings of scale for the sake of scale.

Pencils remain the most enduring way to put ideas to paper regardless of the names changing over the door.

When you are looking for something new and different and captivating, look to your right. When you are looking for something familiar and undifferentiated and understood look to your left.

When thinking up ideas and reviewing concepts and potential ways to execute them it is essential to consider the inherent tension in the idea, the contrast.

This is the thing that drives an idea, its internal flame. Great brands thrive on one insightful point of tension that the product or service can overcome. And the campaigns that deliver these ideas with great creativity propel these brands to stardom.

Volvo cars thrive on the idea of safety which resolves the fear of injury or death.  BMW thrives on its idea of the ultimate driving machine, casting itself against dull imperfection, sensory deprivation and blandness. These are emotionally driven ideas, that touch the heart. Achieving the whitest whites in your laundry is not simply about whiteness, it’s about knowing you’ve done the best job you can, of achieving a visible perfection.

But why do ideas like these work? Why do campaigns like these hold our attention? It all comes down to the way our minds work. The left brain-right brain functionality forever studied and in some cases grossly oversimplified, hold the key to understanding what make a great idea — great.

The functionality of the right brain is dominant in alertness to new, different, incongruent and more “emotional” points of tension that appeal to our emotional self. The left brain functions as a sort of running catalogue of all things known, understood and expected. The left brain is so good at this that it gives the right brain the full freedom to perform the major task of keeping us alive to anything new at all — good or bad – it is our early warning system. The scanning, searching, emotional nature of the right and the deconstructing, comparative, analytical left come together to define the essence of who we are and our relationship to the world — our ego. This coming together to form what I’ll call the ego-energy of left and right brain function is very much a complimentary end game. Failing to satisfy one, comes at the risk of losing the other.

Effectively engaging both could be considered as producing a whole brain affect. The significance of this can not be overstated when it comes to creating ideas, because this is the terrain of the big idea.

Let’s consider the ubiquitous “Pharma Beach” ads. I’m not sure who originally coined this phrase. It started as a slight to the ever present execution of people on beaches in pharmaceutical advertising and now seems to have grown in meaning to include all the usual slice of life stuff we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing day in and day out. Pharma Beach must be a pretty big place, maybe even bigger than the Hampton’s.  At this point there are so many people enjoying Pharma Beach that it would seem we’ve all been cured. Unfortunately that’s far from the truth, and for advertisers “Pharma Beach” has grown so familiar it is not the best place to attempt to differentiate your brand.

Ideas that wash up on Pharma Beach are known and easily broken up into familiar catalogued bits by the left brain, filed and put away — a place for everything and everything in its place. The right brain has little time or attention to give to the familiar and generic. It looks past the known and understood — the generic. Why create a generic campaign for a branded product?

This is why so many campaigns fail to deliver the true potential of a brand— they die of boredom, sequestered in the left brain catalogue of “I’ve seen this before.”

The capacity of the left brain to break things down into the known and understood can cause a kind of circular thinking; its constant need to dominate the world by manipulating it into known components can hold us back from creating and trusting differentiated ideas.

Like victims of Stockholm syndrome we grow sympathetic to our captor and are held by our left brain’s incessant desire to break everything down into known bits, catalogue it for us and keep our world nice and tidy, and we like it.  This functionality of the left brain helps us reside comfortably in the known world but it can also keep us from breaking free.

If you want work that breaks through, then we need to break-through to the right brain. There are no formulas for this, no secret ingredient that will make you successful. There is only the need for a commitment that goes for the heart, that stirs the emotion that appeals to the ego. Ideally this is supported by a brand essence that embraces a meaningful incongruity that can only be resolved by the product or service itself.

It is hard work but when you Head For The Heart, great things happen.