What I learned in 2016 – Val Carlson from EVB

By Egotist / /

By Val Carlson, Executive Creative Director at EVB.
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So, 2016. Tough year. On many levels.

As a creative leader who has been in the industry for over 15 years, I can easily say that this has been my most challenging year and I am not alone. I’ve had so many conversations with other industry leaders who feel the same and when I ask why, they all say similar things:

1. The dominance of social platforms has forced a focus on volume of work vs. meaningful engagement.

2. Budgets have been drastically reduced and the priority is speed to launch vs. quality.

3. Clients are looking for agencies who will produce one-off projects vs. those who are long term partners.

4. Brands have lost focus on the long term experience because “real time” has become both a mantra and an excuse to produce disposable content.

Also, Kanye melted down. Why is this even relevant? In 2015, I did a presentation at SXSW entitled “Why You Never Go Full Kanye”. In it, I talked about a number of things that I was excited about, a few things that I thought could be improved and a few things I believe will help us create meaningful, connected experiences. I used some of Kanye’s theories to drive this presentation because I think he’s an important figure in our creative world. He’s a multi-media creative director who strives to re-define categories, make human connections, and challenge norms. The clips I chose were egotistical ramblings and perhaps previewed his breakdown, but they were a fun way to categorize the types of experiences and technology that I felt were relevant.

I recently took another look at this presentation and was pleased to see that a few things have evolved for the better:

1. I proclaimed my love for Lyft, but described my frustration around the redesign of the mustache on the dash (the glowstache). I felt that it was a missed opportunity in that it should be a connected device that brings people closer. In 2016, they moved in that direction with the Amp, which is a connected, color-changing device meant to help drivers communicate with passengers. Go Lyft!

2. I delighted in the evolution of Miranda July’s somebody app, which “forces” people to interact through the delivery of a message to a stranger. In 2016, her joint experiment with Paul Ford created a commentary on the way we present ourselves online by cyberstalking everyone in attendance, culling together a story beginning with births and ending with deaths and goodbyes from the raw material of their social media performances. It was brilliant and really reminded me think about how important context and privacy is to brands.

3. I talked about services as solutions and the 12 tenants that the Gov.uk team used to build open source community solutions. Examples are “Build for Inclusion”, “Build Things People Can Build Upon” and “Understand Context.” In 2016, we at EVB used these tenants to create some of our best work alongside clients who trust us and are true partners beyond the project. For that, I am grateful.

Back to Kanye. In 2016, he said this about his studio:
“People come, they go away, they work here for a bit, they work on other projects, we argue. We’re all these fighting artists with a common goal of wanting to affect the world through positive change, which is this really politically correct way to say “save the world.” If you don’t have the vision to see where you could go, there’s no way you can believe in the possibility of a utopia.”

I dig this. No doubt, he’s nuts, but there are parallels between this statement and what I’ve learned in 2016. In the end, if we don’t believe in positive change and the possibility of a utopia, then why do what we do?

  1. Anonymous February 1, 2017

    Nice, but would be better if you properly used the word "tenets," as in aspects - instead of framing items in an agenda as "tenants" like human residents.

  2. Anonymous February 7, 2017

    "Clients are looking for agencies who will produce one-off projects vs. those who are long term partners." - No, you just work at EVB where clients expect them to do brainless one-off projects fast for no money - always will.