What I Learned in 2020 – Melissa Macarian, Camp + King

By thesanfranciscoegotist / /

It was a hard year – in fact the hardest I ever had. But there was a lot to be learned, at home and at work – which turned into the same place.

Discipline goes both ways.
A few months into lockdown, in one of our usual Skype sessions, my father-in-law said “Working from home takes a lot of discipline…” I laughed it off as a classic parental teaching moment until he finished his thought “…discipline to do the work and discipline to know when to stop.” As creatives, we’re always pushing ourselves to keep going, but sometimes, knowing when to stop is just as important. Now, I make a concerted effort to take breaks, stand up, even create a little walking commute around the neighborhood. I come back refreshed and energized every time – a little distance is the best muse.

Remote shoots could be a thing. (But I hope I’m wrong.)
We were fortunate to produce work this year and it presented new challenges. We went rounds and rounds of script writing, making sure our spots were great and pandemic friendly. Production wasn’t an afterthought anymore. We had “COVID Alts” for every script and talked our clients off the shouldn’t-they-be-wearing-masks-in-the-spot ledge. We even culled our list of directors based on ones we’ve worked with before and trusted, just in case we lost picture. Our 6-day remote shoot had talent and crew in Toronto, a director in LA, clients in Denver and the only snag was someone drank my black sesame boba order by accident.

Letting go of expectations helps you find something new.
I’ve played the violin since I was 9 but during college I completely stopped. Several years went by and before I knew it, the battle scar on my neck faded away and my instrument felt foreign under my chin. Wanting to make music however never stopped but practicing violin was just too demoralizing because I’d neglected it for so long. I’d thought about learning the ukulele, but I couldn’t get over this expectation I had for myself–I was an exceptional violinist not a mediocre ukulele player. But the world was a darker place and my need for some joy untangled my twisted little hang ups that seemed much smaller this year. One day I said screw it. I bought a uke and looked up how to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and that was the beginning of a new relationship with myself – intentionally creating more space for lightness and instant gratification.

In these trying times…cut the bullshit.
Back in March, about a week after our COVID response spot went live I was served an ad on social media for a car brand with an eerily similar message of hope. Then a beer brand. A donut franchise. The U.S. Census. By the end of the month we were all featured in the viral ​COVID cliché supercut​. People called bullshit on our industry and we kinda deserved it. Like ​Gal Gadot​, we had good intentions and a nice sentiment but that wasn’t/isn’t enough anymore. We’re held to a higher standard of doing things with a lasting, meaningful impact and I’m here for it.

Sometimes, people just need free pizza.
National Pizza Month was approaching and instead of doing the usual pizza-themed posts we suggested Papa John’s spend their entire budget for that month on free pizza, and to their credit, they went for it. We posted challenges like “draw a pepperoni to win free pizza for an entire year” and had surprise pizza drops at 2am if you happened to be in pizza jammies. It was a hard year and we made winning pizza stupid easy, while also garnering the highest social engagement of the year for our clients. I learned a lot of lessons this past year, but maybe the most important one: Never underestimate the comforting powers of pizza.


Melissa Macarian is a Senior Art Director at Camp + King.


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