February 4, 2014#

Authenticity in Marketing

Red Bull athlete Felix Baumgartner jumps from the edge of space, as captured by GoPro.
Click the image above for 8 minutes of white knuckled inspiration.  

Red Bull and GoPro. These days, It’s almost impossible to watch documentation of a human achievement that doesn’t include one or both of these brands – and that’s a good thing. Say what you will about the brands, but realize they have both established a very impressive trajectory from which we all stand to benefit.

Marketing comes in many flavors. Some brands employ wonderful storytelling techniques, while most just create noise. We are surrounded by noise, more so than ever before. In this climate, a well crafted tale bathed in authenticity will always rise to the top. Authenticity is a tricky and often misinterpreted word. Don’t confuse authenticity with accessibility. Example – Will most of us ever have the opportunity to rise 24 miles above the earth and parachute to safety, breaking the sound barrier with our own body? No. Was this accomplishment, brought to us with live streaming coverage and a shell of logos authentic? Absolutely. The difference lies in the spirit of the effort.

Consider the aim and message of most product marketing – Buy this / Buy more of this / You’re failing if you don’t buy this / Here’s why our widget is better than their widget / All of your friends are buying this… 

Now look at the Red Bull / GoPro model – There are some amazing people on this planet doing amazing things and we will support them in any way we can. Sure we’ll make use of some strategic logo placement, because that just makes sense, but our aim to encourage people. If we happen to sell some product along the way, then that’s a nice bonus. Now go out there and inspire us!

Ok, before you accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid or being a fanboy, some background and full disclosure. I don’t own a GoPro, nor do I choose to drink Red Bull. My impressions come from honest experience. I’ve had the good fortune to work on productions for both of these companies and am continually impressed. Employees at all levels want nothing more than to see people succeed. At no point was it ever requested to place the product in a scene “just so” or to work the brand name into dialogue. Their only requests were for authentic adventure. This is where the benefit begins.

How many brands out there offer benefits outside of their posted “product attributes”? No billboard or store display has ever done much to advance human achievement. On the flip side, the data provided by the Red Bull Stratos project will push scientific research to new levels. Sure, the project and all of it’s lead up was wrapped in Red Bull logos, with much of the final footage brought to us courtesy of GoPro. But the difference lies in the delivery. Both companies have answered to a call, which I believe will mark change in marketing (and hopefully in turn, the actions of our society) as we know it – Don’t tell me how cool you are, show me. If this were simply an effort to sell product, Felix Baumgartner would have spent a day in a studio standing in front of a green screen. A few months later, after some expensive CGI work and the addition of a catchy song, a commercial would have rolled out, along with all the others, soon to be forgotten and not doing much more than maybe causing a small bump in sales. But this was not the case. Instead, millions of dollars in corporate and private funding set a team of elite scientists and one daring athlete on a course to advance research, fill a gap in our current space program and inspire scores of people to dream big. Sure, they stuck some logos on it, but I think they reserved the right to do that.

So, why the sermon? Why the rambling? What do the marketing efforts of two companies have to do with any of us? My hope is that it makes you think a bit. Think about your choices and activities. Think about why you make one decision over another. Think about why we as a society have become so cynical, trying to discredit anything that is too big or seemingly beyond us. Consider the stories to which you are drawn. What is the real message and in the end, who stands to benefit?

January 27, 2014#

It’s Coming…


January 6, 2014#

IWIHPT – Sound City


Given my current line up of projects, this second installment of IWIHPT (I wish I had produced that) should come at no surprise. Call it entertainment or research, I’ve watched Sound City a number of times and it just keeps getting better. The story arc, secondary plot lines and interviews are expertly composed. In simple terms, it’s a great film with a wonderful soundtrack.

For the story, the research and all the musicians involved, this must have been a dream project. I am increasingly impressed by the work of Dave Grohl. Each new project, be it music or film, is a success for one common factor, he’s doing what he loves. The passion is undeniable and inspiring.

Check out the trailer and a host of download/rental options on the Sound City website.


December 19, 2013#

A Monster Project – Sneak Peek

In the midst of one of the most exciting projects of my career. Surrounded by great people and amazing music – this is why I do what I do. More to come soon.


November 14, 2013#

For several years, I’ve been compiling a mental list of spots and campaigns so impressive or inspiring, they make me think, “I wish I had produced that” (IWIHPT). Some of these are simply wonderful examples of pure storytelling, while others, given their production value, must have been a dream to produce. With this, I am launching a new regular feature here on the blog, sharing my sources of awe and inspiration.

The first installment is a branded story from Google India. There is a lesson in here for every brand – stop trying to make the logo bigger, just let the product speak for itself. From a production standpoint, I really enjoyed the pacing and the subtle nuances throughout the storyline. As is a trademark to any powerful visual storytelling, this piece is successful no matter the language. Script and story aside – I will jump at any opportunity to travel to India.

Kudos to Google India and Ogilvy India for the work.

November 11, 2013#

Noam Kroll – Indiewire


Great post by Noam Kroll, defining the worth of a producer. Though written primarily with the independent film director in mind, the advice just as easily applies to a commercial director or still photographer.

Visit Noam’s blog or Indiewire for the full article.

October 30, 2013#

Fstoppers – Interview


I recently sat down with Gary Martin at Fstoppers to talk through life in the photo/video world, the path to becoming a producer and my time spent working with Corey Rich. Check out the full interview for a peek behind the scenes.

October 7, 2013#

As had become a reoccurring theme over the past few years, quite a bit of my time this summer was spent on farms. Much of this was alongside John Fedele, producing a new spot and corresponding print ads for Dow Mycogen.

As is often the case on a production, I fielded numerous questions from the curious bystanders, most of which started “Why does it take so many people to make a commercial / take a picture.” I’m always happy to talk through the process and always end with “… but just wait until you see it all in action. That’s when it really makes sense.” Though, for all the questions I answered, I was the one that was getting an education that week. If you really want to experience what makes this country tick, set down your cell phone and go talk to a farmer.




September 16, 2013#

Rebecca’s Private Idaho – Trip Report


This wasn’t one of those dreams where I’m riding my bike through an alpine wonderland without a care in the world. Nope, this time, it was real.

I’m somewhat hesitant to share my experience at Rebecca’s Private Idaho. Simply, I’m feeling selfish. I want this ride all to myself. I want to know that I can roll into Ketchum each year as if I’m in on a secret, suffering along with a small group of riders who share my same ear to ear grin. Yet, in the same spirit with which Rebecca Rusch shared her backyard training grounds with 250 brave souls, I will share my story with you. This event, and this community, deserve to be celebrated. Continue Reading

September 4, 2013#

Halski Studio – Manna Pro


Production can be dangerous business. It’s not uncommon that projects have taken me to foreign, unknown lands or required travel across treacherous terrain. No matter the depth and detail that goes into the planning, there are sure to be some unknowns – primarily by the hand of mother nature or the human element.

A recent project provided it’s own form of danger, this time at risk is my wallet. Here’s the thing – I really want a horse.

Teaming up with the rockstar duo that is Halski Studio, I spent a beautiful (unseasonably cool) August day at Griffin Farms, surrounded by some amazing creatures. Charged with building a new library of images for Manna Pro, we covered a full compliment of equine disciplines – English, Western, dressage, hunter/jumpers and trail riding – all in one day. A dawn to dusk schedule left us all exhausted yet excited by a job well done. I drove home that night with a renewed desire for a horse of my own, as well as, finally, an understanding of the term “dressage”.

Many thanks to an amazing crew and to the staff and riders at Griffin Farms for a wonderful shoot. And a preemptive thanks to my wife for allowing us to keep a horse in the backyard (fingers crossed).