The Joy Divisions Of The World Episode 4

Advertising & Entertainment
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. LA’s Madison Ave.

A rainbow with the length my extensive travel across not just across the states but several countries. Who would have thunk it? The pot of gold happens to be where I began my journey. And then my brain digests some pensiveness only to be on the abrupt receiving end of a 50 lb. face-palm. Oohhhhh the GOLDEN State, NO WONDER!

Having gone by car, train and aeroplane, I went about another chapter of this pursuit on the Expo Line to get off in Culver City to pump force into my bike to get to the end of that rainbow. I race through non-descript buildings and warehouses to match a number the address given to me from that know-it-all Google.

And then I see a glimmer of gold that beckoned me to come closer.

I take my bike inside one of the three warehouses of 72andSunny to be met with what appeared to look like a gallery exhibition teeming with young creatives sitting on couches to simmer their thoughts to be ready for creative use. Most recently they partnered-up with Flaunt Magazine to host a group-show gallery opening in their office space called So Many Succulents, geared around holistic themes of gardening and self-preservation expressed in aggressive fashion. Of course an agency of this creative caliber was willing to oblige in hosting an opening at their place in addition to many other ones.

Then up comes one of the many kind-of-but-not-really-non-egocentric-yuppies of the place on a Razor scooter.

“Solomon? I’m Peter, the CD you’ll be speaking with. Don’t think I’m too lazy to walk, I have a sprained-toe so I need this thing to get around. Let me show you around the office and we’ll do the QA while we get lunch. Cool?”

Absolutely cool with me.

And it was thoroughly cool having toured the three warehouses of the compound and it will only be a few months time before they transplant over to a brand-spanking new home base that out shines (pun intended) their current HQ, rendering it to pale in comparison… or so my fantasies dictate. Usually moving to a new place would often denote that it’s far better, right?

Lassoing my head from its imaginative-hold in the clouds back down to Earth, it wasn’t that much of a far-cry wading through the present. The layout of the whole place, to reiterate, looks like a modern gallery with young creative minds hard at work pulling the strings to get the world moving. And by hard-work I’m talking about playing catch with a creative partner in the office, dicking around on a pinball machine, walking dogs around, having a beer-brainstorm; yeah, that still happens.

“I thought that practice was phased out.” I tell him only to be replied with a shrug and a smile. “We don’t have coasters for no reason.” I decided to take one for myself before we hop in his car and head to a Japanese ramen joint. We get to talking about his creative project, a series of books called Grafuck, which is a page-by-page display of nude bodies interpreted in various artistic styles . I feel this guy’s external pursuits are worth noting in a roster of extra-curricular things going on within an agency in addition to music and film.

We’re at the place and I whip out my recorder. The food comes out and so begins the banter.

***

First off I want to start off with a really really dumb question to break the ice. Did the higher-ups name the agency after our perfect KEEYALIFOURNYA weather?

Peter Vattanatham: I definitely think that was part of it; you can’t really have an LA-based office and not think about the weather. But more than anything I think it’s based on their point-of-view towards work and clients. It’s a very optimistic point-of-view that anything can be solved and it brings enthusiasm to creatives to empower them to think that we can solve whatever the client’s problems are.

I know you guys have a presence in Amsterdam and the last few times I was there I found it ironic to have a 72andSunny in a place that rains and pours a ton. But I feel somewhat fortunate to have you guys open me up to a QA because technically I would be treading on hallowed ground because you guys got AdAge’s ‘Agency of the Year’ a few weeks ago. A prime reason to showboat but you aren’t giving a lowly person like myself a cold shoulder because I’m talking to you now.

PV: It’s a really cool, great honor. It definitely speaks about the hard work everyone puts in and the kind of work we put out but ultimately stuff like that doesn’t get to our heads. We don’t do work for awards. For sure it’s great to be recognized but nobody at 72 is an asshole.

I feel you guys are thoroughly recognized; I’m sure you’ve won a bunch of awards and everything like that. My op-ed isn’t only about entertainment and advertising but also struggling young career creatives; what’s something that can be done to stand out? How can someone show that they are a diamond in the rough?

PV: How can someone show that they’re a diamond in the rough? Ultimately it comes down to a number of things: their work. We don’t care what school you went to. We don’t care what your GPA is. At the end of the day it comes down to your portfolio and whether or not you have a critical mind, one that can solve problems. You know, a creative mind. Even then, that’s only one part of the procedure in getting an opening. There’s a rigorous interview process. It’s when you meet with tons of people – not even just one day, maybe multiple days and the reason for that is because we want to make sure that person fits in with our culture. You can have an amazing book and win a shit-ton of awards but if you’re that kind of person with an ego or a blowhard, we won’t come to see that you’d be fit to be with makers and doers. Back to our name, 72and Sunny, we’re all very optimistic and all supportive of each other.

It sounds more or less like it would be home; contingent of course upon one’s personality and how it plays out in the office. I think a big component to that title, ‘Agency of the Year’, was perhaps due to your Samsung work – The Next Big Thing Is Already Here?

PV: I think that was part of it, you know, the fanboys waiting in line; I think we tapped into a really great cultural truth. Everybody could recognize and laugh at it, even being an Apple-head myself it gets people to think, “Oh my God, yes, why do people do that?”

Do you guys enforce everyone in the office to get an Android to support the team like they obviously do at Media Arts Lab?

PV: Nope, we don’t force anyone to get an Android phone but we do make it extremely attractive to use one.

Well yeah, that’s your job of course!

PV: (laughs) You have to know a product and live it as best you can but at the same time there’s no forcing of phones on people.

Quick question about Carl’s Jr. I’m a big proponent of the Cat Daddy, something that Kate Upton did, who also happens to be the current mascot-slash-spokesperson-slash-model for Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s; did you guys do that Carl’s Jr spot with Paris Hilton a decade ago that got a bit of blowback on the consumer-level? Attesting to the age-old notion that sex sells because the campaign is rife with faces like Upton, model Nina Agdall and Kim Kardashian doing things scantily clad and eating burgers. Please tell me there’s a layer of understanding that you aim for us to mentally tug at, not the other kind of tug! I watch those spots like a deer caught in the headlights and by headlights I’m not talking about the burger.

PV: 72andSunny didn’t do the work with Paris Hilton, however, the two creative directors who did do that work are now CDs here at 72. So they’re continuing that line of thought.

Carrying it over?

PV: I think it’s something the client has an appetite for, no pun intended. But really, their mission is to create work to attract young, hungry guys. Right now, that does it. There’s certainly other work out there to be done and we’re working on things you should be seeing soon. Most importantly, I am also a fan of the Cat Daddy.

Right on! Maybe we ought to get everyone in the three warehouses to do it or maybe even that…

PV: Harlem Shake?

Yes, yes. We’ll come back to that. The guy at Deutsch I spoke to said you guys at 72 would be moving over next to LMU, possibly that huge bunker?

PV: Uh, yeah. I believe we’re moving into Howard Hughes’s old building where his office was. Or was it where the Spruce Goose was? That whole complex is going to be housing 72 staff pretty soon. I believe in May or June.

It’s been quite some time since I did extra work but when I did it was for Transformers.

PV: The first one or the second one?

The first one. The first one was OK to watch but the rest of the series? Not so much. They told me to go over to that bunker for wardrobe and dress. I walk inside the bunker and they had that huge Megatron-thing, I suppose that’s where they built it. I assuming if Megatron fit inside the thing, you guys will have huge new digs?

PV: From what I’ve seen…

It’s bigger than what you guys have now?

PV: Yeah, it’s quite a large building. Right now, we’re spread across three buildings in what one would call a mini-campus but at the new place, everything is going to be housed under one roof; two floors of uh… yeah, awesomeness.

I know ad-creatives have to pull up references for campaigns they’re servicing but I know of an agency, it could be the practice of many, that refer to already-produced ads; namely your Discovery spot. You guys should feel good because I just polished that boat you guys show. The question is, as time goes on, ideas will be bred from referencing an ad that potentially references another ad and another and another which would testify to that mantra of the dissipation of originality. The onset of the industry would pull the purest ideas when the advertising age first started. So what’s your take on using a reference of an ad of an ad of an ad of an ad? Do you think we’re retrofitting derivative productions? Are ideas truly gone?

PV: No, if anything it’s those particular creative companies that are derivative and uncreative.

That’s how I felt but I didn’t want to say it.

PV: It’s certainly one way to create work. It’s not how we want to create work. It kind of doesn’t make sense to reference another ad, personally. But those guys must have had a good reason for doing so. I don’t know… trying to be diplomatic, hahaha.

You don’t want to be put on a blacklist do you? I figure you’re too deep into the biz to be on a blacklist anyways.

PV: You brought up Discovery being referenced but I’ve seen other places that have done their version of our Nike spot for “Next Level”. It was one of the more famous ones that put 72 on the map. The director was Guy Ritchie. I’ve seen that commercial we’ve done a number of times…

The guy who’s married to Madonna?

PV: The guy who was married to Madonna.

Wait. Did they divorce?

PV: I’m pretty sure they’re divorced.

How long has it been?

PV: I don’t pay attention to that.

Obviously you do to some capacity!

PV: He directed our new Call of Duty spot call “Surprise”. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. It was pretty awesome. To finish that thought, I’ve seen our commercial done by other people being done for products or services and you know, it’s flattering. It’s a sincere form of flattery but at the same time it gets you to think, “You know, you guys had an opportunity here to do something else creative and unique and just as potentially eye-catchingly awesome but then you went about this other route.”

So the thought that probably came to your creatives trying to get in on that Harlem Shake trend. If Jimmy Fallon, John Stewart as well as Matt & Kim did it, what’s to stop you guys from doing it? It’s the length of a TV-spot, you guys got the space and capital to get it done and most of all, it’s fun. I asked Deutsch if they thought about it and they were all like, “We don’t really want to do it because Wieden+Kennedy did it.” It’s not really going to stop me from asking Chiat. I feel like it’d be something really funny to plug into this publication that no one reads – that will be omitted (ah hah).

(laughs)

What’s the motivation behind trying to be the first and only agency to do something despite the video to be a trend that’s already having its mileage going about the globe? What’s intrinsic about a pre-existing concept that deters other agencies from joining in on the fun?

Unless you guys have done it already.

PV: No, we haven’t done it. Several of us got together to do a video on another song that was really viral at one point. Honestly right now, we’re I guess… too busy. We want to try to do good work for our clients. I’m not saying we don’t have time for fun but everybody is everywhere: on production, on a shoot, at the recording suite, working on ideas for the next thing; a lot of clients need to be serviced. So on a practical level, the timing is not quite right. Like you said, now that Wieden’s done it, we’d opt to hold off as well. I actually just saw a video by Freddie Wong – do you know that guy?

Freddie Wong? Is that the Wong from Wong Doody Crandall Wiener?

PV: No no no. Freddie Wong is this really cool “internet celebrity” who does these really great online videos. He has his own channel, you should check him out. He just did a video that supposed to be the very last Harlem Shake. It’s a little silly, he comes in and knocks a guy out and he’s vocally sick and tired of it. After I saw it I thought, “Ehhh… I don’t think we need to do our version of the Harlem Shake.”

Spur of the moment question. With the onset of digital-interfacing; sites like Digg, FailBlog, 4Chan, Reddit…

PV: Love Reddit.

Same here! It brings to mind memes, a picture and a caption. If you think about it, it comes down to art and copy. You just need to tack on a caption to a picture, what’s to say it isn’t different? Perhaps it’s because the lifespan of a meme doesn’t extend that far. What’s your opinion on that? On memes and how it’s closely correlated with advertising.

PV: Memes are great, bite-sized ways to connect with people, to elicit a reaction; whether it’s laughter or to spur some kind of emotion. Like you said it takes something as simple as a picture and words to give it a new context. The best ones do at least. And really that’s what advertising does.

When it comes down to it, do you think memes would at some capacity phase out a lot of traditional advertising work? Would a lot of agencies have higher turnover rates and dedicate their much smaller staff to work on memes rather than ads because people see memes on a daily basis compared to 3 or 4 years ago?

PV: I think the difference is that memes tend to take off on their own because they are so disposable because they’re not really trying to convince you or to “sell you” or to explain a product, service or message. I’ve seen this, if brands try to create memes, it doesn’t work. If you think about it, those two things don’t belong together. You can’t force things to be viral and you can’t force a meme, it is its own thing. It’s like if you saw Grumpy Cat or Nyeh Cat or any other cat. Not just cats but you know what I mean.

Not really a cat person myself.

PV: Ah…

Down to Sonos. You oversee 72 in the music spectrum. Sell to me what it is because I see that it’s a brand campaign and with things going on with Spotify and SoundCloud and how they’re networked with social networks; what’s the aim of Sonos? I’ve never heard of Sonos.

PV: Sonos is simply a wireless hi-fi system that basically let’s you stream all the music on Earth into any room in your home wireless. Just to get into detail of that: I build a system in my home for multiple rooms, I can stream services like Spotify, my iTunes library and Pandora, I can have that music play through any speaker, all my speakers or I can have different music play on different speakers in each room. Which is really cool because when you think of “competitors”, there really aren’t any good ones out there. The stuff that’s out there whether it’s Jambox or Beats, they rely on Bluetooth, which means you can only send from your phone the device; you can’t send from your phone to multiple devices. You can’t use your phone once it’s sending. And you can’t play different music in different speakers. Does that make sense?

Yeah, it seems like very do-all type of thing. It’ll make more sense to me when it’s released; it hasn’t been released yet, has it?

PV: Yeah. Sonos is out there in the world right now.

If Sonos is networked with things like Pandora and Spotify, do they have their own independent library that has every song in the world? Or is it just the amalgam of different things it’s networked with?

PV: It’s an amalgam of everything it’s networked with. Its music services, radio stations, your library. By virtue of all those things, it’s essentially all of the music in the world.

Right on. Sound on command. I’m assuming you met a bunch of the artists that are featured. Deadmau5, Questlove and Janelle Monáe.

PV: Deadmau5, Questlove – I actually missed out on Janelle Monáe, although I did work on that part of the campaign when I was travelling at the time.

How many other artists?

PV: Mostly those but outside of Sonos more than that.

What’s an extra-curricular pursuit 72’s creatives are engaged in? The Deutsch guys allow their guys to pitch whatever they need to be financially backed. WDCW has a film-brand. A bunch of other places have magazines and bands. What do you guys have in line?

PV: I guess similarly to Deutsch. We do support cool ideas. Even on a basic-level for the entire agency, every single person has access to an allowance to use for classes or whatever they want that would benefit themselves and in turn, benefit the company and beyond that, our clients. For example, I know a lot of writers that have taken improv classes. One of our guys on Sonos takes music software classes; again it’s going to help him, which is going to help us, which is ultimately going to help our clients. It’s not a very formal process; if you have a cool idea, you bring it up to the partners and if they think that it’s worthy, they’re pretty much gung-ho and go-for-it kind of guys.

You guys gotta take me on for something so I can take classes and get educated. I think you guys should do a magazine geared towards music or film or something like that. Use that ‘Agency of the Year’ towards something. It’ll probably get you into Coachella! I’ve never been and this year in particular, I would love to snag interviews with some favorites.

PV: Wait wait wait, who are your favorites?

Have you seen the line-up?

PV: I haven’t seen it much beyond the Stone Roses… who else?

BLUR, my favorite for sure. I saw them twice for their two big shows at Hyde Park in recent time. Tame Impala, I’ve seen them twice on the East Coast and I really want to pin down a QA with them because they’re my favorite at the moment and they’ve only been around for a couple of years…

PV: Yeah yeah, I like ‘em.

… since their debut release in 2010 and they’re riding rockets for being so up there.

PV: They are fantastic. We were looking at them for music on one of our ideas. It didn’t work out but they’re great!

Phenomenal. In regards to home and the interactive-sphere of entertainment; video games. Let’s talk about the work on Activision. I don’t know if you have the authority to spill the beans on active developments in… development but I’m a big Halo-phile and following the release of Halo: Reach, Bungie splintered off from their partnership with Microsoft and subsequently contracted themselves with Activision. This brings me to ask, how many games do you cover that are in development? Are we talking about that one big Bungie thing there’s a bunch of chatter about following their Halo tenure? I know you guys have to be mum on details but perhaps you could spill the beans to me off the record later on.

PV: I can tell you that we are working on their new game. Anything beyond that I can’t say.

If I throw out a name can you nod a yes or no?

PV: I’ll probably keep mum on that one.

Fair enough.

PV: But you’re a smart guy.

RIGHT ON!!! That is possibly very exciting shit! I’ve been to E3 twice as press and I’ve demo’d stuff for Halo: Reach and Halo 4 and I’m primed to check this new one out if we’re talking about the same thing. Hypothetically. Maybe not.

PV: I’ll figure out if it’s permissible to me to divulge a yes or no about working on it.

Let’s talk smut. I see that you made four porn books called Grafuck. What got you onto making pornos?

PV: That was a project that my wife and I did together. If anything it was born out of a couple of things. We wanted to do something completely pure in the sense of creative control from start to finish, something that I haven’t seen before. And when we were thinking about things we haven’t seen before, tapping back to Carl’s Jr, sex is a subject that everyone’s got a reaction to and we thought it’d be really cool. And you know it’s not smut for smut’s sake, if anything it’s just us being really curious what it would be like if artists, illustrators, photographers or whomever we’ve respected or admired had that platform to create work. No one really sees that.

Admit it, you only enjoy reading material in the bathroom only if it was created by you. Just say it, just say it!

PV: I will not say it damn it! I won’t!

(laughs)

When you have the chance to check out the books, you’ll see what we were going for. To me it’s super-cool to see graphic designers taking that subject matter and doing something really cool with it or have really respected illustrators and artists playing around with it. Buff Monster did something for us. Kozyndan did something for us, Audrey Kamasaki did something for us. You know, even design companies in London like Insect did something for us. And again, this is a little older of a book series. If we were to do it now, there would be more people we’d love to have in our next book. It’s just been time-consuming with the new baby and everything.

So there’s always more Grafucks in the works?

PV: In the back of our head it’s been on hiatus for a while but we always talk about how we need to get back to that. Or something new; it doesn’t have to be that. We did four of them and it was an amazing experience that sprung out of our call for entries. We reached out to specific people we respected and liked but it was really eye-opening to see work from people who you would never hear from that would often have their work displayed on a bigger platform. It was really eye opening; the final product, talking about it, sharing it with somebody – it would open doors and relationships that would have never come about.

It’s a book composed entirely out of photos?

PV: Yeah, there’s no text, they’re just images.

No text? If it was a book with words I don’t think I’d grow accustomed to that.

PV: We were specific in our call to entries for images. We asked to be creative, no words, just images. Because when you have a subject like sex, invariably you’ll end up with a bunch of penthouse letters.

I’m wondering if I could have copy but a redacted version of all the dudes taken out of it.

PV: You’ll have fun with book 4 because there’s definitely a lot of cock in it.

If there was another one in the works, I would absolutely love to help out. Being the key grip or something fit for oggling.

(laughs)

I need to go to the restroom. Where’s the restroom to this place?

PV: Right there.

Can I take the book with me?

Thanks for the lunch Peter. And not only did he get me lunch, he graced me with the gifts of Grafuck. I’m still wondering if I should open it up to get a mental-take on the work or if I should keep ‘em sealed as a keepsake. And I’m also wondering why I would adhere to that misconception; of course I’ll open it!

We dart back to the agency and he wishes me off before he heads to his next meeting. Have I hit the end of the rainbow to a shiny pot of gold? Or am I thrown off by its majesty glinting at me from the end of a long, dark tunnel?

 

Published on 8 March 2013 |