AdForum Exlcusive: 5 Questions for Drumroll about the Agency's "Perspectives" Site

Creativity is the force that drives everything in advertising. So AdForum of course was interested in talking to Drumroll about Perspectives, the digital space dedicated to the creative talents at the agency. 

AdForum: Creative people need inspiration and a supportive culture in which to practice their chosen crafts and express their talents. Advertising agencies, however, are notorious for making employees work long hours on client-focused work until they are burned out. How does “Perspectives” inspire creatives at Drumroll to maintain a fresh perspective and nurture their artistic sensibilities, yet still remain productive from a business standpoint?

Drumroll: Perspectives is 100% optional. When we first started thinking about the opportunity, we quickly went away from trying to make this a mandatory effort, because we knew submission quality would drop and not everyone would have time to dedicate in a given week. Perspectives is an outlet, where anyone (on any team) can contribute. In many cases, we’ve seen people take a few minutes over lunch, or after work to create a submission. And while this work happens “after hours” we’ve actually seen it contribute to our client work from both a concepting and problem solving standpoint. I think the variety in assignment types forces people to maintain a fresh perspective, since they can span categories like photography, writing and art.

AdForum: How was the general concept of Perspectives born? Was it the result of a collective yearning at Drumroll, or did one individual spearhead the effort? And how was the idea pitched internally so that it eventually grew into an in-house platform for showcasing individual expertise and originality?

Drumroll: One of the things we pride ourselves on (and continue to look for ways to improve upon) at Drumroll is the notion that anyone at any time on any team can have an idea that can help shape the company. Believe it or not, we have a rather detailed and fun toolkit we walk everyone through during their onboarding that shows how they can take a random idea and turn it into a staple initiative. One of the main components is a strong set of guidelines and filters that allow Drumrollers to flesh out their idea by considering things like resource requirements, positive impact potential on culture and skillset and sustainability. We’re always looking for ways to push ourselves and be innovative in unexpected ways. The father of Perspectives is Mike Mitra, one of our amazing Art Directors who has an extreme passion for design and non-traditional learning methods. Mike had the idea for creating the program and after refining it through the above process, we greenlit the idea and he presented it to the company.

AdForum: Each gallery in Perspectives is based on a single theme or source of inspiration. Who selects the theme or aesthetic for each gallery, or are those decisions made by a group (and if so, who is in this group)? Take, for example, “Figurines,” inspired by Tatsuya Tananka. How did that come about?

Drumroll: In addition to including everyone in the submissions, we also encourage anyone to suggest ideas for future assignments. The Drumroll team meets every few weeks and reviews all of the suggestions we’ve received as well as throws out ideas from things that have inspired us. After a few minutes of review and brainstorming, we usually have our next assignment. During one such session we had received a link to Tatsuya Tananka’s site from Daniel Vidal, our Social Content Strategist. As soon as we landed on the site, we were in awe of his incredible scenes and attention to detail. So we ordered 100 tiny figurines, put them on the communal table and announced the next assignment to the company.

AdForum: “Post-It” is a deceptively complex gallery that features not only the mundane and diminutive simplicity of Post-it notes, but also the challenges that creatives encounter when given restrictive parameters for client-based work. “Post-It” is an exercise in minimalism and resourcefulness. How long did this gallery take to put together, from the original idea to being published on Perspectives? And who decided which person worked with which color of Post-it? It’s beautifully curated.

Drumroll: First of all – thank you! Secondly, I think you’re spot on with the approach we took to this assignment. As much as we appreciate creativity, we found that if we’re too broad with an assignment we either get one of two results. 1. People are overwhelmed by the number of directions they could go and pick nothing or 2. They come back with such a diverse set of responses, that it’s hard to tell a story with the assignment. Because of this, we like to set unique and sometimes challenging parameters on our assignments. While we always try to be proactive in bringing innovative ideas to our clients outside the primary work we do for them, if we keep coming back with cool things that don’t meet any of their objectives or parameters, we’ve failed. When thinking about the Post-It assignment we started with the conversation “one way to truly see someone’s creativity is to give them the most uninspiring canvas and see what they do with it.” We thought Post-Its were the perfect example because not only are they extremely small, but also don’t give you much of a headstart in terms of inspiration. We set a pack of Post-Its on the communal table and anyone could come by and pick whatever color they wanted. It was really cool (and funny) to walk by people’s desks and see a blank Post-It sitting there as they were trying to think of their approach. It can be intimidating, since you know your work will be featured next to everyone else’s, but I also think that’s the beauty of the program. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone in order to surprise yourself and others.

AdForum: “Strangers” is another project that incorporates a minimalist approach to a broader level of thought. It is also about storytelling, which has become a buzzword in our industry. How does Drumroll approach the art of storytelling, and how are those creative values and objectives revealed in the “Strangers” gallery?

Drumroll: I think you’re right about storytelling as a buzzword, which is also sad since it’s such an important differentiator between good and bad work. One of the things we talk about a lot at Drumroll when it comes to storytelling is context. Great stories out of context won’t land nearly as well as ones that have carefully considered their final audience, environment and context. Strangers actually started as a copywriting exercise with inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s 6-word story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) Again, we loved the idea of forcing people to so carefully choose their words that each one would carry a great deal of importance. To help guide people, we included the photo portion, so they’d have something to be inspired by. We first asked people to go out and take candid pictures of strangers (the idea was that we didn’t want a bunch of Drumroll selfies). Then we assigned photos to participants and asked them to write their 6-word story to add context. What’s great is that you can first see a photo and have an idea of the stranger’s story, then read the caption and see how someone else thought of it in a completely different way.