The extraordinary is only extraordinary if it’s extraordinary.*

A lot has been said, blogged and pictured about the Creative Social in San Francisco, it’s probably the most documented Social of all with all of us snapping typing and tweeting away like crazy.

So of course I am going to add some more. A sketchy account of the three days in SF. A lot is out of context for sure, but hey, here goes, anyway…

I have been extremely privileged to be part of this unique group of amazing individuals for six or seven years now and have taken away a lot of inspiration back into the day to day office life. But what exactly is this thing- Creative Social?

An invite only group therapy session for tired Creative Directors? Check.

A massive piss-up? Check.

A get together of a group of insanely talented and nice people from around the world? Check, check, check.

I think what makes CS so special is that everyone leaves their egos and politics at the door and talks freely and openly about everything. Pitch problems, agency structures – anything and everything. I think this is unique in our industry.

As for San Fran it was special from the word go. Pereira Odell hosted the event and they truly rocked the agenda.

Unfortunately I was late on the Wednesday for the traditional “That’s me that is” (each Social presents one piece of work – warts and all – in max 5 minutes). I stepped into the Barrel House to witness a talk by Brad Bird and Michael Giacchino

Some random quotes that made it into my sketchbook:

“Music is part of the cake not just the icing.” MG
“You can’t get a giant screen at home. You can’t get a giant audience at home.” BB
“Music are dreams shared by audiences.” MG
“Don’t say yes to money, say yes to creativity.” BB
“Everybody has become a mashup maniac and doesn’t come up with something from scratch.” BB
“I want a high tech version of old school.” BB
“You are who you choose to be.” BB

What struck me a bout BB and MG was the ease they talked about each other and with each other. Something you can only do when you work together as closely as they have done in the past. And it’s always good to see people doing their thing and having fun doing so.

Thursday we went to coffee heaven. James Freeman of Blue Bottle Co:
“I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers, so they may enjoy coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest organic, and pesticide-free, shade-grown beans. If they can’t come to me, I will drive to their house to give them the freshest coffee they have ever tasted.”

On Saturday Coops and I went to the small stall they have near Hayes Street , of course there was a queue around the block. If your product rocks you don’t need to advertise. People will find you.

Then Pixar.
“Don’t try to please everybody you end up with nothing for everyone.” Ralph Eggelston

Lars has already expertly written about our visit to Pixar. The building is laid out with amenities and lunch and coffee areas in the middle of the building to facilitate accidental collaboration. If your agency is not laid out like that, do it, you will have less scheduled meetings and a better creative product.

Here are the people we met. All amazing people who took a lot of time out of their day to speak to us shallow advertising lot. Thank you guys.

*Ralph Eggelston
Greg Dykstra
Lou Romano
Noah Klocek
Ray Wong
Teddy Newton
Daniel Lopez Munoz
Ronny Del Carmen

According to Klocek, with UP they made a conscious decision to go back to the classic animation approach rather than the other way towards replicating live action like for example the new Christmas Carol film.

He also mentioned these guys as up and coming animators to watch.


Back on the bus and on to St.George Spirits where Lance Winters took us through the creative process of distilling “crazy shit”. “I don’t want to be part of a focus group. I want to have it done my way.”

The absinthe in question tasted awesome. Lance: “It is as good as it is because it didn’t need to succeed.” Their Hangar One Vodka brand is the top seller which allows them to fuck around with ideas. “The Vodka keeps us able to do crazy shit, gives us the freedom.” As with the Blue Bottle coffee, people still queued around the block to buy the Absinthe when it launched. We also tasted coffee spirits and basil Martini. I think.
He also mentioned this book as his inspiration bible.

On Friday we reconggregationalised in the Barrel House again (having stuffed my face with a few of these beauties from a van parked outside) and Tom Wujec, Fellow at AutoDesk started the day with a talk about Design Strategy and designs’ ability to influence the way you run your business. The one chart that stuck in my mind is this one (left page):

It’s the curve of unhappiness. Basically as a project progresses, unhappiness increases and there comes a point when it dips down again. This is how every project pans out. Tom argued the higher you go up the mountain of unhappiness the better your product. And no shortcuts allowed. This really resonated with me. It is so difficult to get a great idea done. Once you have the idea it gets more and more difficult to make it happen, but once you have gone past a certain point things just fall into place. It’s about pushing your idea as far as you can.

Some random quotes that made it into my sketchbook:

“Build a prototype the better the prototype the higher the profit.”
“How you do anything is how you do everything.”
“If you can’t draw it you can’t communicate and act on it.”
“Microsoft is the number 1 flow killer.”

A very charming Erin McKean spoke about words and their meaning. A gentle and quiet talk that got us all listening. I learned two new words Zoogma and Diego Garciccity. I have totally forgotten what they mean though. Help anyone?.

Next up was Saul Griffith’s earth shattering talk about how we are all fucked and his unbelievable dedication to making his personal energy consumption as little as possible. One could be forgiven to think that his life of cycling, one glass of wine a day and no flying is dull, but quite the opposite is the case. He made a point that it’s about quality of what you do, possess and eat where the joy of life lies. So when he eats meat, it is the best meat he can find, when he drinks wine its expensive wine. He also argued that a Rolex and a Mont Blanc fountain pens are far more sustainable than other so called green products. Because, guess what, they last. Being generally a very wasteful and non planet caring person, for the first time I actually gave a shit. I hope it lasts.

Some random quotes that made it into my sketchbook:

“Tesla is not the answer.”
“Video conferencing is the most important sustainable technology.”

Then Mark Dwight talked about Rickshaw Bagworks and gave us all a Zero, which was nice.

Next up Craig Newark from craigsglist, the self declared couch potato, nerd and customer service person. Initially not being quite sure about him I ended up really liking him. Basically he sat down and had a bit of a chat with us. Lovely.

Some random quotes that made it into my sketchbook:

“The internet is good for all those things we’ve always done together.”
“I am constantly listening and then doing something about it and then listening some more and doing something about it.”
“Trust is the new black.”

That’s it.
A bit of a brain dump. Apologies for that.

The one overall takeout for me from the three days is kinda obvious. Still:

All the people amazing people we met from all those different fields do what they love and do it with absolute passion and zero compromise.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Confucius.

That quote didn’t make it into my sketchbook.

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2 thoughts on “The extraordinary is only extraordinary if it’s extraordinary.*

  1. This sounds like a truly inspirational and educational experience. I would love the opportunity to hear these people talk and experience those delights. As an ad student living in a quiet part of England with very little going on around me it is these kinds of stories of awesome events that spur me onto to thinking “one day, I will be at one of those events. Maybe even speaking at one.” It drives me forward. Thanks for sharing Flo!

  2. +1 on the curve of unhappiness, although I think that one is slightly less happy with really great work than with mediocrity as you are so close to what could have been. Compare getting 9/10 on a test with getting 5/10, the first case is worse as you so nearly made it to sit among the immortals.

    PS: Holy crap, you really ought to video these talks and put them online, you could be the TED for the marketing industry.

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