Grip Associate Partner and MMA fan Ben Weinberg sat down to interview Canadian martial artist and UFC competitor Elias Theodorou. Topics ranged from fighting to branding, to romance novel cover modelling. No injuries were sustained and no medical suspensions were issued.
Illustrators: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado & Lisa Byers
Nas, Biggie, Tupac. Who ruled the hip hop world? Take a hit of some of Hip Hop and R&B’s best as Social Content Strategist, Lisa, brings us her favourite classics. #GRIPJams
Randy Stein – Partner, Creative – recently had the pleasure of talking to CBC Radio’s investigative journalist Dave Seglins. Topics included the rapid change of how news is reported, and consumed, as well as some current affairs including, yes, Rob Ford.
Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado
Grip promises to create remarkable connections by engaging our communities in the most inspiring, meaningful and enduring ways. We push the boundaries to build lasting bonds and maintain loyalty from an audience skeptical of most media messaging. We apply this thinking to every piece of business we touch, but also every relationship we manage internally.
Grip is a strong believer in the power of mentorship, recently launching a program to help young Griplings find their footing and develop their professional character during their time at Grip—and beyond—with the help of some of our most influential colleagues.
Grip’s commitment to mentorship, combined with a love of beer and an emphasis on the importance of supporting Grippers’ outside passions, lead to a recent donation to Paddle Royale, a ping pong tournament supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto. The event is organized by BBBST Young Leaders, of which myself, Jill Patterson and Ann Tsunakawa are proud members. To commemorate the donation, we decided to hold an internal ping pong tournament to get the agency talking and show some orange pride the day of the event. With over 55 Grippers including our CFO signing up, the competition was fierce and the smack talk ran throughout the agency. In the end, Director of Interactive Production Todd Harrison and Editor Duane Vandermeulen will officially represent our agency at Paddle Royale 2014, competing against top talent like myself, Jill Patterson and Ann Tsunakawa.
Paddle Royale takes place on August 21, 2014 at 7PM. Over 55 teams have signed up to compete in the tournament, raising a minimum of $500 each for the youth of Toronto. It’s not too late to register a team for some light-hearted (unless you’re Jill Patterson) competition, and it’s definitely not too late to get your name on the guestlist by donating $30 to the cause. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for answers to any of your questions. Hope to see you at the table or dance floor.
Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado
“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.”
- Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life
“Your ad is the comedian who comes on stage before a Rolling Stones concert. The audience is drunk and they’re angry and they came to see the Stones. And now a comedian has the microphone? You had better be great.”
- Luke Sullivan, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads.
All Joking Aside
It’s hard to get people to laugh. It’s really hard to get seven uncomfortable people to laugh in an empty bar. Especially since they’ve already seen 15-20 comics perform. Laughing can be draining.
The host says my name incorrectly. He’s managed to add both an “L” and an “R” to my last name. I walk onstage. Take the mic from its stand. An audience can smell fear, and once they have, good luck. So I pretend what I’m doing isn’t a weird breach of social contract. I say my first joke. I hear a few chuckles. Not bad for midnight on a Tuesday. I finish my five minutes. Walk off stage and bike home.
I repeat this process three or four times a week. Why keep working at something so ridiculous? Something so absurd?
Because there are great shows.
Shows where the venues are packed. Shows where all the comics are your friends. Where the audience trusts you as a comic. They go on a journey with you. They accept your point of view. They want to hear your story. They know you’re funny. These moments are to be savoured. It makes every bad show worth it. On nights like these, your instincts take over and you’re able to step outside yourself.
And that’s what doing great work in advertising feels like. You put as much effort into difficult clients and less glorious work as you do with the great ones. It’d be difficult to be proud of great work if you didn’t have a dog walker ad to compare it to. It’s all a part of the process. You put your head down because you look forward to the interesting/one-of-a-kind work. You do it for that one ad or campaign where the client trusts your instincts and lets you guide them towards a solution you believe in. And when that happens, a point is reached where the solution is bigger than both the agency and the client.
In comedy and in advertising, it’s the great work that keeps you coming back for more.
Hey, Anyone from Out of Town?
There’s no secret formula to comedy or copywriting. Comedy and copywriting share a universal truth: one only gets better by doing.
And hoo boy, is it a big, empty universe until you get good.
But that’s the fun part. Right? Challenging ourselves and discovering our strengths, weaknesses and everything in-between.
As far as I can tell, everyone fakes it for those first few years. And I’ve learned that the only way to get good at either is by trying again. And again. And again. And right when you think you can’t, you try again. It’s hard work that you have to love doing.
We’re All Pals, Here
The wonderful thing about comedy and advertising is the people. We take risks. We all come from different backgrounds. We push one another. We develop thick skins. We do and say things others only dream of. We push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. We aren’t afraid to fail. Well, when we can blame it on the occasional bad audience… the client… creative… or accounts. And that’s something to be proud of.
If you want to get good at something, surround yourself with people that are better than you. I learned that from a fortune cookie. Not from a single cookie or a single fortune. I had to get about fifty cookies before I had the right combination of words to piece together my own fortune. Sometimes you have to take your destiny into your own hands. That, or get creative with the surplus of fortune cookies in your kitchen drawer left from years of getting takeout.
Like Copywriting, Like Comedy Writing
Standup comedy is copywriting’s younger, cooler mooch of a brother. At least that’s what my brother tells me. Or says about me. I can never remember.
Anyways. I do both. I love both. And I’ve made some hilarious and not-so-hilarious observations.
- Both are career choices that make parents very uneasy.
- A pun has the power to ruin your entire career.
- Our spare time is spent practicing. No wait. Drinking. Our spare time is spent drinking.
- You have no time for relationships, but surprisingly, you have a lot to say about relationships.
- Cynicism is proportional to experience.
- Those that have never done either think they’d be great at it.
- Never jump out of a giant cake while onstage or in a meeting. It’s just not as funny as you think.
- If you bring gum, bring enough to share with everyone.
- The words “kill,” “bomb,” and “destroy” apply only to comedy.
- Telling people about your dreams is only interesting to you.
- They both have the power to ruin perfectly normal conversations and parties. I’m not fooling anyone when I test out a new joke, trying to pass it as regular conversation. The real tell is when I pull a microphone from my jacket and ask my friends, “so, anyone from out of town?” Or when I tell my friends they’d make for great ‘before’ photos in an ad.
- They’re both highly competitive industries. Except one has lots of money and the other has lots of brooding sadness.
- The best ideas come to you at night, when you’re huddled in a dark corner of your room. Rocking back and forth just waiting for that idea. But not really. I have no idea where ideas come from. You just have to be aware of one when it presents itself. Like the time I was in Grand Prairie, Alberta. There I was, sitting on a bus, and a thought occurred to me, “I need to get the hell out of Grand Prairie, Alberta.”
- Both are rooted in the moment and rely on immediate payoffs. Most jokes and ads will only ever be as relevant as the moment they’re made in. Their cultural impacts are short-lived and the vast majority go unnoticed. A by-product of this reality is the sheer amount of ideas copywriters and comedians are responsible for generating to maintain relevance. In other words, they are crafts that go hand-in-hand.
- Both require the writer to be heavily involved with the world around them. They must be pop culture junkies. Your job is to relate to people or uncover an insight that can hold an audience’s attention long enough to get them to buy into an idea. Whether that idea is an opinion, social commentary, or product, you’re job is to be entertaining. To get people to see the world differently, no matter how slight.
- Guys, where is Carmen Sandiego? Seriously. She told me she was just going out for a pack of smokes. That was six months ago. (i.e. Don’t be embarrassed to show people everything you write. No matter how terrible. Show it. There might be merit.)
- Both have left a trail of half-baked, terrible ideas in their wake. Copywriters and comedians have seen a lifetime of confused faces, cringing and uncomfortable shifts in chairs all before the age of 25. They’ve heard plenty of silence. Oh the silence. Embrace the silence. Tip: silence is the perfect opportunity for making a fart noise.
- The stronger the performance, the more the audience buys in. Confidence is key. Present your ideas with conviction, like they’ve never heard a funnier joke or a more clever headline. I had a university prof always say “sell the steak, not the sizzle.” I was a vegetarian at the time. So the lesson was lost on me.
- A copywriter and a comedian walk into a bar… stop me if you’ve heard this one before. And please tell me. Seriously. I have no idea what the punchline is.
- Steve Martin said it best: “Comedy isn’t pretty.” And neither is copywriting.
- Oh and, writer’s block is _________.
Illustrator:: Ihar Turtsou
Music festivals are no longer all about the music. They’re about the lifestyle. Today music goes hand in hand with fashion, beauty, tech and partying. Kanye West calls himself an artist, a designer and God among other things. Now, he might be stretching it, but the truth is brands, like Kanye, should strive to be multifaceted, especially if they want to play a role on the scene. It’s not good enough to just be there and sponsor a stage – the best brands are those immersing themselves as part of the overall experience.
For fashion and beauty brands in particular, music festivals are a great opportunity to engage with their target. Fans have already bought into the lifestyle, are wearing their clothes and using their products. Here’s a quick look at how some brands are making good connections and impressions on the music festival circuit:
Knowing the audience
There’s a ton of festivals out there, but they do tend to attract different crowds. Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, for example is for the campers, while Montreal’s Osheaga appeals to city dwellers. At each festival Garnier gave their fans what they needed. At Bonnaroo, that was clean hair. After a few nights of camping, all you want is a shower, so they set up a hair-washing tent with their products, and it could not have been a better fit. At Osheaga, the partygoers’ needs are a bit more luxurious, so this year they partnered with Maybelline to give stage-side makeovers including hair styling, colour and make-up.
Getting them talking
Creating a game or a relevant giveaway like a water bottle is OK, but for more impressions the experience needs to be more impactful and worth talking about. This year at Osheaga, Diesel had an airbrush tattoo tent that encouraged people to hashtag their tattoo for a chance to win fragrances. Festivalgoers did the work for them and shared their artwork organically, and brand awareness went well beyond just the festival experience. Best of all, they now have great content for days to come.
Fostering a sense of community
Just as music can make connections with people, the festival grounds serve as a place where like-minded people can interact and form temporary communities. So much so, that these festivals continue to grow as fans come back year after year. It may look like brands are invading the music scene, but more often than not, people are depending on these brands to create unique experiences and connections. H&M bridged the gap between music and lifestyle by hopping on the trending DIY train. Their tent partnered with popular bloggers to encourage partiers to get creative with body-paint and bedazzle their clothing. On the way out, they could also create a custom mini-photo flip book as a festival memento.
At the end of the day, these brands still have to be cautious – as they fight for centre stage, the clutter can be overwhelming. It shouldn’t be about bombarding festivalgoers with hashtags, sweepstakes and contests that make them sell-out for a pair of free sunglasses. Most of the time, fans will see right through that, and are only really open to engaging with brands that are adding something fresh or valuable to the event. When it comes down to it, the best way to leave a good impression is probably the simplest play of all: just host a killer after party.
Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)
I love to compare my life to chapters in a book. I am a strong believer that we have the power to change, invent, write, and rewrite the stories of our lives as we move precariously through them. Each decision you make, or page you flip, can change the way your story reads.
Last year, I opened and closed a very big chapter of my life. One with many stories, some short and sweet, some drawn out with words scribbled in the margins, and some with sentences left unfinished. I thought of each country I traveled to in my six months of backpacking through Africa and Asia as stories within the chapters, within my life. Once I returned home, I had to start a new chapter.
Chapter 23: Start A Career
I spent a few weeks after returning home trying to adjust to everyday life. I woke up one morning and realized that I had been reluctantly looking for a job without a clear idea of what path I wanted to take. I found that when people asked me those typically daunting questions like “What do you want to do with your life?”, “What’s your passion?”, and the worst: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, the only word that came to mind was travel. But of course, this was the answer! I had just backpacked through beaches and jungles, seen the Serengeti and Victoria Falls. I jumped out of an airplane over the desert in Namibia and climbed an active volcano in Indonesia. I had accomplished all these terrifying and exhilarating things, but stood among the rest of my generation perplexed by the idea of what was on the horizon.
I was at a loss for defining my ‘dream job’, struggling to translate my enthusiasm for travel and creativity into a respectable career and feeling discouraged by my fashion major, which no longer felt like my passion. I turned to a trusted confidante who has always been able to unscramble the complexities of my mind and the answer was there all along: my minor in marketing could help me jumpstart my career in advertising, an industry laced with creativity and inspiration from the outside world. I was no longer confused, but driven to start the rest of my life. When building my portfolio, I realized that I was able to use my experiences to show my strengths. I am able to pull design concepts from the memories of fresh fruits and handmade crafts spotted along my travels, face a new client with confidence as a result of the array of personalities I have encountered, and react quickly under pressure when things don’t go as planned. My experience and knowledge of photography and film set me apart. Grip was ready for me. With a combination of networking and persistence, I landed a spot as the Social Content Apprentice!
Now I realize that the experiences I had are mine to draw upon for inspiration in work and everyday life. I believe that travel opens your eyes and changes the way you look at every situation. I now dive freely into everything I do. I have fears, but they don’t hold me back. I thrive on adventure and exploring the unknown. I can easily adapt to people and places around me. I paint my experiences in the brightest light I can, no matter how dark they might seem. I have developed an eye for detail, and when everyone is looking right, I am looking left, and photographing it while I’m at it. My experiences are meant to drive my creativity; my story is filled with colourful moments.
It is essential for me to have those experiences being reflected in everything I do. I strongly believe the greatest education comes from travel. So I challenge you to strengthen your skills by treating every day as an adventure. Rediscover the beautiful city we live in, get lost and find yourself in a new adventure, keep your eyes wide and uncover the small beauties in the most unexpected places. You never know where inspiration lives. This is the start of a new chapter for me, and I am thrilled to have Grip be my first destination.
Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)
A few years ago it would have been acceptable to build a desktop-only site or application. However, in today’s landscape of smartphones, tablets and devices, building a desktop-only experience is a poor decision. One that will frustrate users and lead to high bounce rates. If someone was out shopping and saw a discount promotion available when visiting the store’s website, they would likely take out their phone and visit the site. However, if the site wasn’t optimized for mobile, that person would be frustrated and probably never enter the promotion on a desktop once they arrive home. Alternatively, if the site was built for mobile, users at the store or at home would have no problem accessing the site and entering the promotion. Often, clients today will still choose a desktop-only site because of budget concerns. In the event that one can only develop a desktop or mobile site, mobile is by far the best solution.
Responsive is a buzzword. People toss it around too often and without any merit. Building a ‘responsive’ website or application can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. The idea of building a responsive website isn’t a new concept, there has always been a variety of screen sizes and resolutions for viewing content. The key concept is that you build content that everyone can access. Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, this has become a larger challenge, but one that can be easily undertaken with the right amount of preparation.
Planning is everything. Without knowing exactly how you want your website to function, it’s difficult to design and develop a fully responsive website. Some people may argue that since their mobile audience is small, there’s little or no point to accommodate for those users. I don’t believe in any scenario where you shouldn’t accommodate for the mobile users. They are often the same people that use desktops or tablets, they just may be using their mobile device to check or confirm some information.
The most basic guidelines to follow while creating a responsive website are the following:
1. Identify and separate the needs of your mobile and desktop users.
2. Create a relatively simple, flexible/scalable design.
3. Use breakpoints and media queries to adjust the content and layout for desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
4. Remove or hide non-essential content on tablet and mobile devices.
There are of course many other things one can – and should – take into consideration when building a responsive website (Performance, optimized images, conditional loading of assets, etc.). However, since most websites are unique these considerations will be case by case.
Building a smooth-working, responsive site takes more time at the beginning stages of UX and design. Users definitely don’t need the same user experience across all devices. In order to build the most user friendly and cost efficient website, it’s necessary to identify the needs of your mobile and desktop users. Ask yourselves: What type of information will they need access to from their tablet or mobile device? They might not need to see a full screen image slider on their mobile device. Although, they’ll definitely want to access the contact page, contact form or hours of operation. Separate the needs of desktop users and focus your mobile strategy to help users find information on your website quickly and easily. Once you’ve determined the most important information, you can begin to design and develop the site.
I would recommend taking a mobile first design approach. Begin the design with the most necessary information and progressively enhance the content as the viewport gets larger. Thus, giving mobile users simple access to the information they require and adding more complexity to the desktop parts of the site. Taking this approach helps distinguish the most important content from the inception and eliminates the difficult task of how to reduce, remove or redesign content for mobile at a later point.
Depending on how fluid your design and development is, using breakpoints may not be completely necessary. However, since the browsers on tablets and smartphones all support them, why not go ahead and use them. This way we can more accurately design and target specific viewport sizes or devices. We can show exactly what content is needed at the top of the page and move less important info down, or hide it altogether. This is where designing with a mobile first approach will save development time. As long as the pages have been thoroughly planned and well thought out, there will be limited changes to the mobile and tablet portions of the site. Alternatively, the mobile and tablet portions become an afterthought and end up causing many development changes. These changes are often time consuming and cause for complete re-coding of sections or the site itself.
In the end, it’s about giving users the best possible experience. The best way to achieve this is to design and develop a responsive website. Developing a responsive website takes additional preparation and planning. It takes a basic approach and progressively enhances the concept for tablets and desktops. It gives the users access to the necessary information, no matter what device they’re using. It gives the user what they want – content that can be accessed by everyone. The question you should ask yourself isn’t ‘if’ we decide to design/develop responsively. The question should be ‘how’ and ‘what’ are we going to design/develop responsively.
Illustrator: Ihar Turtsou
We work in an industry laced with buzzwords that are engineered to award their users an air of respect, or resentment, around the office. A term frequently thrown around, though not categorized as a buzzword, is insight. With everyone from client to apprentice weighing in, insights can at times become convoluted. The reason? The interpretation, or definition, of an insight can be very different, depending on whom you talk to. A trusted strategist based in Toronto, Umar Ghumman, has compiled a presentation documenting the definition of an insight from industry leaders across the continent and pond, including one from Grip’s Managing Partner, Bob Shanks. Without further ado, the round-up:
What’s your definition?
Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado
In Part 1 of our (N)UI Revolution article, we discussed some of the newer tools available, on mobile devices and other gadgets, that are shaping the revolution of user interfaces and experience. 3D sensors are another key component of this change.
Gesture Interfaces are not possible without a 3D sensor. Current 3D sensors (Kinect-like sensor bars and the Leap Motion Controller) are on the way to making gesture interfaces commonplace. While the technology currently is not sci-fi Hollywood-quality, it makes it possible to start experimenting with the concepts. However, combining current peripherals (such as a gesture-enhancing glove) could bridge the gap between the ‘almost there’ and ‘mind bending’.
Recently, there has been a lot of big news around 3D-sensing technology. In Q4 of 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense (who developed the Kinect 360 Sensor bar and its open source twins) and quickly shut down their open source 3D-sensing libraries. Microsoft created their new sensor bar independently for the Xbox One. At CES 2014, Intel announced that it was releasing a line of 3D sensors (RealSense) that range in size from a small pencil to a common webcam. Intel continued to say that they plan on releasing the new 3D sensor bars to replace your standard laptop webcam as a standard feature. Android announced Nuidroid, which will be the native Gesture Interface library on Android devices. Google is working on a 3D sensing phone currently called ‘Tango’. There are independently-funded projects out there betting on the NUI revolution: Interaxon’s Muse, which is an EEG brain wave sensor that can be used with your iOS device, or Meta’s SpaceGlasses, which ambitiously is trying to bring augmented reality and Gesture Interfaces to one platform. Startups and major research and innovation organizations have already begun to implement NUI in practical and useful ways. Military and Intelligence agencies are early adopters of touch and gesture interfaces, with plans to further explore these emerging technologies. NASA has developed their Robonaut 2 to use an intent-based interface with NUI-type inputs and controls.
Advertising has also taken notice, especially Coca-Cola! They have created emotion-stirring campaigns using 3D-sensing and Gesture Interface. Here at Grip, we are one of a handful Canadian ad agencies taking part in the Kinect for Windows (2.0) preview program. Many other 3D-sensing type installations have been created all over North America. Other startups have begun to exploit this technology for health and fitness. The applications of this technology are limitless!
3D sensing is more than just using your body to instruct software to accomplish a task. With 3D sensing technology, the possibility of bringing real world objects into a virtual world could be trivial. To a small degree you can already buy children’s toys that work with iOS apps; but with a 3D sensor bar, you can bring and use any prop with you on your virtual adventures. Even ‘magic objects’ (objects that are pre-defined within the software to have special properties) will open up our virtual worlds to new experiences. Imagine gamers buying collectable items that can be displayed in their living room. However, to use that item in-game, they will likely need to be detected holding their collectable item.
NUI isn’t just about Gesture Interfaces. It’s about interacting in ways that feel invisible and intuitive. These interfaces should be designed so that it will not require a steep learning curve, so much so that using those interfaces should feel closer to the real world rather than a virtual world. This will create a stronger connection to technology. Ideally, NUI will allow us to make technology feel more like a part of ourselves rather than become another tool to exploit.
Even with all the advantages that NUI presents, there will still be an era of transition in which UI designers will need to experiment to develop new standards. Historically [recent history], it’s been the modus operandi of Interactive Designers to capitalize on existing and established metaphors to shape our users’ experiences. Before the world of the web we have now, we saw clunky navigation metaphors, bad menus and mystery meat navigation. Lots of mistakes were made, noted and later avoided, but at the cost of countless frustrated users.
With the new technological advances we’ll soon see more and more NUI-based sensors. In the coming years, you’ll see Interactive Designers fumble through difficult-to-use and less intuitive-type interfaces until we re-establish a best set of rules for these new inputs. There could be a time when NUI will be received as confusing and hard to use, but as our users get more accustomed to these new input devices and the metaphors that they represent, it will become second nature.
New design issues will emerge and new features will need to be developed. Maybe designers will have to use modern techniques to solve problems such as using responsive design to accommodate the users’ distance from the input device rather than screen size. Standardization issues will be debated; to ‘go back’, should the standard be a left wipe or a left arm push? Until voice recognition is perfected, a new way of inputting text will need to be designed; possibly a temporary replacement for the right click. All these considerations will only be revealed when we start to experiment with building gesture-centric UI.
The emergence of NUI-related technologies will bring revolutionary changes to the world of technology and, by extension, our personal lives. This will change the way everyone thinks and feels about technology. There will be new challenges ahead, but it’s an exciting time for those innovative and creative enough to take on the challenges. I hope you enjoy the NUI revolution!