I love it when an idea hits like a lightning bolt-- assembling a group of inspired, passionate, solution-driven writers, art directors and designers, encouraging them to take risks and generate what I hope will be a mind-blowing idea.
Please give us a brief bio of yourselves.
VF: I am a Creative Director at The Martin Agency, where I’ve had the opportunity to lead and develop fully integrated campaigns for Benjamin Moore since winning the account in Jan. 2013. Previously, I was a CD on Walmart for three years, helping the retail giant to win it’s first ever One Show pencils. I started my career at Leo Burnett, working on P&G, McDonald’s, Hallmark, and Kellogg’s, before moving to Saatchi & Saatchi NY, where I was CD on the global accounts for Iams, Eukanuba and Olay. I’ve been lucky enough to sit on some juries, and win some awards along the way, but this is my first FWA recognition. Big day.
JW: I am a Digital Producer at The Martin Agency, where I primarily work on Benjamin Moore, TIAA-CREF, and Oreo. Prior to Martin, I was at a tech startup in the RTP area, honed my producer skills at McKinney, interned at CP+B, and worked in my father's commercial photography studio since about the time I could walk. My passion is to combine analytical thinking, strong creative ideas, technology, and the right people to make things happen.
What do you do for inspiration?
VF: Get out of the agency: museums, film, books, photography, architecture. I’ve always had an intense connection with music and practically live in surround sound. To quote Nietzsche, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
JW: Reddit, Mashable, and design blogs always get me excited about new possibilities. Also, I love reading the classics at the beach. Dumas, Emerson, and a little sand under your toes never cease to inspire.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
VF: Creativity, Cool Hunting, New York Times
JW: FFFFOUND!, Reddit, and of course thefwa.com
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
VF: Launching Design By What Matters was pretty huge. It’s the first website I was involved in from scratch. I’m really proud of our team and what we were able to achieve-- the design, the voice, its multi-functionality in mobile and tablet. I think consumers will find the tool both practical and a lot of fun. And hopefully it helps sell massive gallons of paint.
How many hours do you work each week?
VF: I'm in constant pursuit of a healthy work/life balance. Mike Hughes said it best, "Nobody on a deathbed ever said, 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.' Although I occasionally wish I somehow magically had more time to spend at the office-- time that wouldn't subtract from my other times. A 30-hour day might be nice."
How do you relax or unwind?
VF: TV. Although I'm so far behind on all the quality TV out there, it's actually become stressful trying to catch up. I'm still on season 1 of Breaking Bad.
JW: Working out, salsa dancing, and volunteering. They provide three things we all need more of in life: intense focus, rhythm, and selflessness.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
JW: Cooking or woodworking. I love working with my hands, creating, and constantly experimenting. But, I love technology. It's hard to seriously imagine doing anything else.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
VF: I love it when an idea hits like a lightning bolt-- assembling a group of inspired, passionate, solution-driven writers, art directors and designers, encouraging them to take risks and generate what I hope will be a mind-blowing idea. When there's no lightning, there's a lot of hard work and push and curse words.
JW: Working with smart, talented, passionate people can't be beat. And, Martin Agency has no shortage. It's always a challenge to corral everyone's great ideas for a project into a united focus, especially in digital. Once this happens, the idea becomes bigger than any single person and people are willing to fight for the vision. It's a beautiful moment. If we ever get stuck, we draw it out on a massive whiteboard. A single sketch done together is worth more than an hour of explaining.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
VF: There have been plenty of all-nighters. But I've learned that sleep is undervalued as a creative tool, and when up against a deadline, the REM cycle actually helps solve creative problems and promotes a sense of humor, which is vital in our industry. Bonus: salvages relationships.
JW: Vanessa is right. You need sleep to be valuable to your team.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
VF: There’ve been many. A couple years ago, Walmart wanted a spot that showed a family passing around a viral video using a variety of wifi devices. So we decided to make our own. Knowing the internet loves silly videos with cats, we created 'Yodel Cat'-- a cat yodeling 'Jingle Bells' and released it on YouTube a week before the commercial ran. In 3 days, we had over a million views, and thanks to the added push from the commercial, it climbed to 2 million by New Years. It was a lot of fun and it broadened my interest in the non-traditional stuff.
JW: There have been a few. Between growing up on set at my father's photography studio and learning C++ in high school, I knew I was going to do something with technology and design. The two were never separate in my mind. Also, I tweeted Alex Bogusky a guitar joke and (in combination with previous hard work) was fortunate to earn an internship at CP+B right out of college.
What software could you not live without?
VF: A browser.
JW: Evernote, Spotify, Hype Machine's app, Mint.com's app, and Google Maps
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
VF: 3D scanners/printers. We have one here at the agency and I'm in awe. The power to create something out of nothing. That's magic. There was that great case study video last year where an agency printed out their own Cannes Lions, making them the Most Awarded Agency in the World. Wish I'd done that.
JW: Breakr -- My buddy Dil is building that. It allows for anonymous conversations around a topic, location, or event. Very cool concept.
Who is your target audience?
VF: Primarily, there are six audiences that Moore needs to connect with, fortunately not at the same time or through the same channels: consumers, paint contractors, independent retailers, designers, architects, and employees. Secondarily, all other humans.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
VF: I spark to websites that are part of an integrated campaign. Like the Harvey Nichols holiday campaign last year that promoted gifting yourself via paper clip and sink stopper gift items for family and friends. Holistically, hilarious.
JW: Some of the online education platforms have been really impressive. I'm glad to see some players like Codecademy teach people to code for free through real interactions and projects, and not sticking to the old standard of dry, poorly-designed textbooks and websites.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
VF: Not yet. But this is my first. So I should give it a few days.
JW: Yes, lots of high-fives.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
VF: It’s not live any more, but the first site I worked on was for Skin Cancer Awareness, promoting a program that encouraged people to get free skin cancer screenings. It included a video that we shot in broad daylight, on Fifth Avenue, in front of the New York Public Library with six hidden cameras and one brave, nearly naked actor. It was the first video of it’s kind for P&G and it opened the door for more non-traditional work.
JW: My geocities homepage with a sweet animated gif background? Oh God, I hope not.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
VF: No. After all these years of trying to reduce content to a dozen words, the mere notion of trying to extend a thought to two hundred pages is enough to strip my gears.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
VF: Spending time with my family. Not only because I love them more than anything on earth, but it makes me a better creative. They are some of the most interesting, funny, witty, complicated, talented, noisy, and messy people I’ve ever met. I’ve stolen a lot of great material from them.
JW: Family time, exercise religiously, volunteer, read on the beach.
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
VF: I think one of the great things about working at Martin is that we are truly integrated. We all sit in the same open space. I could throw a stone from my desk and hit a copywriter, digital producer, art director, developer, and designer who all worked on the site. (That's a lie. I throw like a girl.)
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
VF: As far as our mobile phones can go. The formats, the content, everything we love about our favorite sites will have to be reconfigured to fit the confines of our pockets. Unless we figure out that air-screen thingy.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
VF: Clouds Over Cuba from a team led by Joe Alexander, Brian Williams and Wade Alger for the JFK Library. And DBWM, of course.
JW: Design by What Matters because we did it start to finish in-house, and the work for the JFK Library because it is beautiful and well-executed.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
JW: Flash is a tool for expressing ideas, just as paint brushes were for cave drawings and HTML5 is for the modern web. Somewhere, someone is still drawing on caves.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
JW: Whether your strength is design, word-smithing, or code; know enough about each to express your ideas intelligently.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
VF: A photon sled, of course.
JW: Audi R8 or a beach cruiser. Either way I'm in flipflops.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
VF: I just saw the Grand Prix-winning 3-D Megafaces from Asif Khan, so I’d have to say England. At the moment.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
VF: Not one project in particular, but I dream about doing more purpose-driven work, efforts that help improve people's lives or communities somehow. Like the Main Street Matters campaign we helped launch for Benjamin Moore last year. And we have a project this summer which involves repainting Little League ballparks in underprivileged neighborhoods.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
VF: We'll keep trying new things with our partners. Become bigger entrepreneurs. More projects like 'Same Days' for J. Roddy Walston & The Business and 'Mel's Mini Mini Mart' for Oreo-- both efforts directed, produced, and edited in-house. And the idea we just hatched for a new collection of paint for Benjamin Moore. We helped create the name, the label design and the integrated campaign due to launch this summer. Very exciting.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
VF: My parents live in Wichita Falls, Texas-- a town experiencing a multiple-year drought that's so severe, the town is resorting to a new filtering system that converts toilet water to tap water. Sometimes I wish that I could take some time off and document the catastrophe that's befalling the community where I spent so much of my youth. After all, there's nothing that wakes a person up to the possibility of climate change, like a refreshing glass of yellow water.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
VF: We booked a condo for a week this summer in the Outer Banks, NC. I'm hoping for good weather. And functioning wifi.
JW: A large pork shoulder for slow roasting later this week.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
VF: Have fun.
JW: Be polite. Help others. Work hard.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
VF: Thank you. Same here.
JW: Thank you.