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M. Bison on the Blackberry 10

M Bison is Team #iPhone

M Bison is Team #iPhone

 

If you don’t get the reference:

Clans, Posses, Crews, and… Guilds?

One of the illest rap duos OF ALL TIME

Heltah Skeltah: One of the illest rap duos OF ALL TIME

 

If you don’t get the reference above, it’s an adapted chorus from the song “Clans, Posses, Crews, & Clicks” by Heltah Skeltah off their debut album Nocturnal. Check it out if you aren’t familiar!

Anyway, back to the real reason for this post: I’ve joined a guild. The Creative Advertising Guild of Toronto to be exact. It all began when Anthony Kalamut (the program coordinator for Creative Advertising @ Seneca) posted in our Facebook group a link for an upcoming Meetup event. I had heard of Meetup yeeeeeaaars ago, but never actually tried it. If you are unfamiliar with the site,

Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies.

(Source)

Being a complete n00b in the world of advertising, I thought this was the perfect way for me to start “living” and “breathing” the industry outside of school. I personally don’t believe in regrets (as every mistake is an opportunity to learn from), but one thing I wish I had done better in the music business was to devote more time to networking with people face-to-face rather than online.

Also, this concept of connecting with strangers through online means was directly related to what I was studying for my CAB 001 class with Professor David Eames.  This Meetup event was scheduled for January 24th, one day before I had a presentation due on the topic of Collaborative Consumption (a rising global trend of people sharing assets, services, and lifestyles to create communities facilitated by social media). If I could attend this event, I would be able to integrate my first-hand experience with Collaborative Consumption into my Powerpoint presentation the next day in class.

I proceeded to make a Meetup account and RSVP to the Creative Advertising Guild event. It was to be held at a secret location which would only be revealed once an “Attending” status was confirmed and a $10 registration fee was paid. The $10 fee went towards the snacks, refreshments, and pizza that the organizers were to provide so I had no issue with loading up my Paypal account for them. On the morning of January 24th, I received a friendly reminder e-mail about the meeting then hurried off to school for my Integrated Marketing Communications class.

Fast forward a few hours and I was on my way to the ad agency where the Meetup was to be held. I first met Bill Whitehead, the owner of the agency that was hosting this Meetup, as well as a fashion Account Coordinator named Celine who had just moved to Toronto from France. We chatted for a few minutes until the other organizer, Denny Kurien, arrived. Denny worked as a Digital Art Director for a different agency downtown and had been organizing these Meetups with Bill for several years. We were also joined by Mario, a copywriter freshly transplanted from Venezuela, and Kelly, a marketer from Nissan who had developed a passion for advertising after working on a campaign in Ottawa I believe.  A total of 10 participants who had paid were expected, but several had called in sick as it’s been cold & flu season so we started the discussion.

Pictured: Bill (Left) and Denny (Right), the founders of The Creative Advertising Guild of Toronto

Pictured: Bill (Left) and Denny (Right), the founders of The Creative Advertising Guild of Toronto

(All photographs inside the agency were taken with prior stated permission)

A roundtable of ice-breaker introductions were made as we each spoke about what brought us into advertising, our past work experience, goals, etc. We also had to show off one creative thing we accomplished in 2012 that we were most proud about. I passed around a copy of my Vintage album while playing my Golden Age video on the boardroom’s flatscreen TV and explained how market saturation in Hip-Hop led me to read several advertising books, amongst them Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, Squeeze This and Ries & Trout’s Positioning, inadvertently sparking my passion for the field.

Mario presented us with an Integrated Marketing Communications campaign he was a part of during his time working in the Netherlands. It involved a contest where users had to answer riddles through clues provided on GoogleMaps while interacting with the brand’s social media page (in a nutshell… the actual concept and execution he played for us on the screen explained it better than I can right now).

Mario, a copywriter from Venezuela, who has worked in the Netherlands and Spain

Mario, a copywriter from Venezuela, who has worked in the Netherlands and Spain

Celine related how she had to translate copy from English to French and how the differences between Canadian French and Parisian French could lead to awkward and humorous phrases if one was not careful*. Being new to the city, she was also excited for an upcoming interview for a publicist position so I wish her the best with that! Finally, Kelly played a Nissan campaign she was involved in where 3D holograms (I’m not entirely sure about the nature of the technology) created a dazzling display over a body of water on Canada Day in Ottawa.

*I smiled inside as it related exactly to what Professor Lisa Atkins had been talking about during our previous Monday class; how important it is to understand the “lingo,” language, and syntax of a Target Group.

Celine (Left) and Kelly (Right) talk about their favourite 2012 accomplishments

Celine (Left) and Kelly (Right) talk about their favourite 2012 accomplishments

An informal discussion eventually broke out about advertising. I learned terms like RFQ (Request For Qualification), RFP (Request For Proposal), and asked about what resources are available for market research since I have an upcoming AdLab assignment due. It was mentioned how sometimes a campaign can be so successful that it eventually exposes the fundamental structural flaws in a brand as the company cannot keep up with the massive influx of customers (in other words, success can be a gift and a curse). Bill and Denny also told me about several people in the industry who had previously been musicians such as myself: Brian Larter, for example, was the organist at Maple Leaf Gardens and found his fortune through writing jingles, while another ex-musician-turned-ad-man had been an underground rapper in New York named Franke Rodriguez! I definitely have to talk to him one day. I also learned how rotating the location of one ad can be effective in creating the illusion of a brand’s omni-presence.

Unfortunately, as I previously mentioned, I had a presentation about Collaborative Consumption due the next day so I had to leave early. They were about to watch and discuss the top 10 ads that won at last year’s Cannes Lion festival so I can only imagine what nuggets of wisdom I could have unearthed if I stayed. All in all though, I’m very happy I decided to go to this Meetup. I made new friends, set foot into an actual ad agency for the first time, learned a lot, and most importantly I had a good time. The next Meetup is scheduled for March 7 so I will definitely submit “Attending” into the RSVP box.

I’d like to thank Bill and Denny for hosting a great event to kick-off 2013 and I wish Mario, Celine, and Kelly the best in their advertising endeavours!

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Unlocking Your Creative Potential With The Number “8″

Just imagine if Emma Frost from The X-Men went into advertising!

The Short End Of This Post

After learning about the brain’s left and right hemispheres in my studies and personal life, I inadvertently experience a shift in consciousness that allows me to use lateral thinking methods to tackle some brain-teasers.

So before school started, I updated my status on Facebook to ask if anyone could teach me how to draw since I knew I would have to be doing storyboarding and sketching for my program.  I’ve never been capable of drawing anything more than a stick figure and I’ve always reserved a tad bit of envy for my friends who were talented in that area. One friend (Ysh Cabana) suggested that I read Betty Edwards Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain so I ordered it off Amazon.ca. It explained how the left-side of the brain was responsible for tasks such as language, writing, logic, and numbers while the right-side controlled more artistic functions such as recognizing shapes, expressing and reading emotions, and overall creativity. According to Edwards, I needed to let my brain’s right-hemisphere take control of the wheel in order to release the visual artist that had been stifled by years of left-brain-centric academic education.

The book I speak of in the prior paragraph

At the same time, another friend (Eric Tigalee) who works as an art instructor taught me some drawing basics over Skype. For about 20 minutes, he had me doing exercises like writing “8″ across a page and then doing a new line of “8′s” again, but in reverse form; so instead of moving my pencil tip counter-clockwise to start the “8,” I had to move it counter-clockwise as if I was drawing a backwards “S.” This was Eric’s way of getting “in the zone” to draw and was similar to an exercise in Betty Edwards’ book where she recommended drawing something upside-down to “nudge” the right-side of the brain to be alert while the left-side would be confused by the upside-down image.

Now the Friday before opening day, Seneca College Markham had an orientation in which students could meet their future instructors and classmates. Anthony Kalamut, the head of our program, mentioned the left-brain-right-brain dynamic in his presentation in the context that we ultimately have to learn how to combine the strengths of both sides in order to be successful in the industry (I’m paraphrasing here, of course).

Two weeks later and today I’m studying my PSY204 textbook as we have a quiz this Wednesday. Lo and behold, the first few pages of Chapter 2 are about the relationship between the left-brain and the right-brain! Okay, the next hour or so is painfully spent reading about boring scientific terms like “dendrites” and “axons” (seriously though, when am I gonna need to know all that!??!) and I’m seriously having the hardest time concentrating. It’s like every 30 seconds my mind wanders, I check Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I somehow manage to finish the chapter and start to do a sketch of Batman for my CAB115 class, but first I warm up and get “in the zone” using Eric’s “reverse 8′s method.”  I draw, lose track of the time since I’m all focused presumably from that brain exercise, and finish my sketch:

Hey, it's overweight Batman!

Hey, it’s overweight Batman!

 

Class is eaaaaaarly tomorrow (8am! grrr) so I pack my things ahead of time. Textbooks? Check. Clothes picked and spread out? Check. Handouts from Lisa Atkin’s CAB162 class? Check… But oh, what’s this? It’s two pages of “riddles” or “brain-teasers” that require some thinking outside of the box to solve. Lisa had given them to us last week to try out for ourselves since creative advertising is all about, well, creativity. I remember last Monday when I had gotten home, I had looked at these questions completely drawing a blank. I just couldn’t answer them. I was carefully and slowly reading every single word in the question just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but no matter what, I could not solve any of the 16 questions back then.

But now, right after I still had my right-brain in the driver’s seat, upon scanning the page, the answers were just jumping at me. I was more “aware” of the subtext of the questions rather than focusing intently on the details. At that point, the details didn’t matter; I was seeing the forest for the trees, baby.

One of the questions, for example, was: “Put a coin in a bottle and then stop the opening with a cork. How can you get the coin out of the bottle without pulling the cork or breaking the bottle?” Last week, this puzzle was frustrating me to no end, but at this moment I just laughed at myself for not getting it earlier. The answer was “Push the cork in, dummy” (or at least I hope! Lisa never gave us the answers). Out of the 16 questions, I can think of solutions for 12 of them.

Now interestingly enough, I don’t feel “comfortable” (not exactly the word I’m looking for, but it will do) writing this post. Right now I’m thinking that this feeling could be due to some cognitive dissonance between the left- and right-side of my brain. Since the side of my brain that’s usually responsible for writing and language had taken a backseat to the more “artsier” brain-hemisphere, maybe it needed to warm-up also. At least that’s my theory for now.

ANYWAY, the whole point of this post and how it applies to creative advertising is that some problems can’t be solved through logic or analysis of the details. Ultimately, this is what we advertising students are expected to be in this business: problem solvers. We need to look at factors such as the demographics of a target group, assess the brand’s competition, and figure out how to make our client’s product or service stand out in a saturated market. And none of this can be done if we focus on the numbers and the rules and the details. We need to know how to tap into that creativity that’s lying dormant under the right-brain-hemisphere.

So from now on, I’m writing my “8′s” in reverse.

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Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself, My Name Is…

A gold chain and cigar: perfect blend of the rap and ad worlds

A gold chain and cigar: perfect blend of the rap and ad worlds

 

Hey there, my name is Noel Matta and I’m about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and you’re all invited to ride shotgun. To put it in the simplest way I know how, I wrote the following description of this blog:

Former underground rapper turned creative advertising student leaves the music industry to find his way into a professional world of copywriters, art directors, and account managers. Lots of scotch is consumed.

I have a confession to make, however: one part of the above statement is false and that is “leaves the music industry.” I say this because the last time I “left” the industry, I was constantly asked by fans, associates, friends, colleagues, etc., “When are you coming back?!??!,” so I know better this time. So let’s get this clear from the get-go: I will still be making music, but really, my attention has shifted so if I release a new album, song, video, etc. you won’t be seeing me put in as much effort as before in promoting it. I’ll never leave Hip-Hop alone, but the relationship’s changed ya dig? (And if you arrived here through some way other than my music, feel free to check me out @ www.fenaxiz.com.)

So What Happened?

 

Well, funny thing, last year (2012) when I released my Vintage album, I had my most successful year with regards to my music career. I wasn’t exactly hauling in millions of dollars from royalties and album sales (well, that last part wasn’t possible anyway since it was a free online release!), but I was the happiest I’d ever been as an artist. I’d been insanely productive, I was doing shows left and right (and getting paid decently for a lot of them), my music was appearing on multiple mixtapes, dvds, and documentaries, I met rappers I grew up listening to and so many great people who showed a lot of support, I appeared on 90+ websites all over the world, etc. I was in that weird place where an artist doesn’t find commercial success but achieves a level of “cult classic” status (think of your favorite movie that bombed in theatres but became a hit on DVD) and I loved it.

But there was one problem.

Actually, two.

  1. I was a few months away from becoming 30. I wasn’t about to have a mid-life crisis or anything like that, but ever since I released my first album in 2004, I’d always been telling myself and others that I would be done with the music biz after 30, regardless if I succeed or fail.
  2. I felt like a dinosaur watching a gigantic comet about to land; I was a relic in this new era of Hip-Hop where “swag” took precedent over talent, calling out fakeness was considered hate, and the online revolution had saturated the market. Not to mention Hip-Hop in itself was a culture geared towards the youth so I knew my music didn’t have viable legs financially (though I damn for sure am willing to bet that my Vintage album will stick in the ears and hearts of my target market for years to come)

I couldn’t do much about problem #1, but I was determined to solve #2. I knew that I’d be wasting time if I tried appealing to the “swag” trend followers, but after half a year of promoting myself, I had a fair idea of who comprised my target audience so all I had to do was figure out a creative way to keep them around and spread the gospel of FenaxiZ. I picked up a whole bunch of books, ranging from Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces* to Ries & Trout’s 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. Amongst that pile, however, was Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.  I was hypnotized. Just reading about the strategic thinking behind classic campaigns such as Avis’ We’re No. 2 or Volkswagon’s Think Small ads made me feel like a kid again in the sense that I was fascinated with amazement again by something other than music.

*The reason I picked this particular book up was because I wanted to find out the common threads of hopes and fears that run across humanity regardless of race, gender, or age, so I could then integrate them with my music.

After Whipple, I continued to pick up more advertising books, not for the purpose of promoting my music, but out of a genuine passion and curiousity that I hadn’t felt since I heard Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers for the first time some 20 years earlier. Now, one thing about me that’s always been a character flaw is that I’ve never known what to do with my life other than music, which would be all fine and dandy if a career in music wasn’t like winning the lottery. I had went to the University of Toronto years back and had graduated with a double major in English and New Media—two fields that I only went into because I was naturally gifted with language and computers. Needless to say, I got a job at a software company but wasn’t happy so I eventually left. But ADVERTISING! I can’t say I’m naturally gifted with promotion, because if I was, my music probably would have gone a lot farther than it did, but for the first time I could see myself happy to work in an industry other than music.

Which brings us to where I am right now. The last two to three months of 2012 were spent researching schools, writing college entrance essays, dealing with high school and university transcripts, studying for and taking admission exams, etc. I got into my #1 choice, the CAB (Creative Advertising Business) program at Seneca College, and I’m looking forward to the next 16 months.  My plan is to spend the time coming up with the most amazing portfolio I can then getting my foot in the door of the advertising industry (hopefully as a copywriter) through the program’s internship in the final semester. It’s been two weeks since the first day of school and the workload is insane, but I’m dedicated and willing to sacrifice any semblance of a social life or sanity so I can achieve this dream.

What Can You Expect From This Blog?

  • I am wholly aware of the length of this first blog post; I eventually want to find my writing “voice” and personality so that in a year’s time, my entries will be more concise and tight while stay as effective. As GZA from Wu-Tang said, “Make it brief son: half short, twice strong”
  • While I primarily want to focus on my thought process with creative ads, I’m also going to use this blog to showcase the (hopefully) evolution of my drawings. I can’t draw, never have been able to, but in a field that relies alot on visuals and storyboards, I know that is something I’m going to have to work on plus our Layout class with John Adams dictates that I regularly sketch in a moleskin.
  • I’m going to cover this in more detail with my next entry, but I plan to draw parallels between the music industry and the advertising industry.
  • “Keepers” or “Takeaways,” which I’m going to define right now as little nuggets of wisdom pertaining to the advertising industry that I have gained from my instructors, classes, textbooks, or personal revelations. This is actually required for another class and you can find out about that in detail here.

There are definitely more things I intend to do with this blog, but that’s the long end of it. If you’ve made it all the way here, I salute you and sincerely thank you for your time!

And as this is an ongoing school project, I plan to post at least three times a week so keep tuning in!

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