For our 5 Questions series, we ask creative professionals five questions about the nature of creation and collaboration. This week we spoke with Antoaneta Metchanova, global créative director at Publicis 133 Lux, a french advertising agency that specializes in working with premium and luxury brands. Her career has taken her to cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Paris, where she’s worked with high end brands and visionary artists to create ads with some of the most prestigious agencies in the business. With over 15 years in the ad world, and a portfolio that would turn heads, Antonaeta has won just about every single award for advertising in existence, and established herself as one of the go-to creative directors for premium and luxury advertising. Though she’s constantly working on new and astonishing ads, Antoaneta recently wrote us while on a trip from Paris to Saint-Malo to talk about her favorite ad she’s ever created, some of the award winning artists she’s had the pleasure to work with, and how it’s important to find inspiration in everything.
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LASTBLOG: Where do you go for inspiration?
Antoaneta Metchanova: My answer would be unbearably long… maybe more reasonable question would be where I do not go for inspiration… Everything is a source of inspiration. I got into what turned out to be my job today through the gate of my favorite passtime. I come from a family of artists, so anything that has to do with creating good vibrations like music, visual arts, or meeting curious people [who are] passionate about what they do is what makes me feel alive and hungry for more. Anything from a tune on an unknown radio station to a full blown concert, from a doodle in someone’s notebook to a masterpiece in museum, or a piece of raw material, or a ray of light flooding a room in an unknown hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere, you get my point… I do think that everything can be inspiring, what I think is more important is to be inspired. There is a big difference.
To be inspired is the trickiest part. I think that it’s about hearing your inner voice, your instinct. Sometimes that is not that easy when there is so much noise around. Take a look at someone like Van Gogh. He could turn the most trivial scene, a fish and newspaper, into a masterpiece… He was able to make us see beyond the form, we see colors, we see light, we see his feelings… I just saw this amazing film “Discovering Vivian Maier,” an incredibly prolific photographer, inspired by life. Nobody had a clue during her time that even the most common things were powerful sources of inspiration for her…. Inspiration is inside not outside.
Then there is something else, “being cultured” which is often confused with “inspiration” but that’s another, very different story… and we are not going there…
LASTBLOG: Walk us through one of your favorite things you’ve created.
AM: It’s really hard to pick a favorite but there is one project that comes to mind when thinking of great collaborations. It was for one of those iconic brands that everybody loves but that had gathered quite a bit of dust over the years and was calling for a splash of freshness to make it more relevant to today… It was for Scrabble [see above video]. We had the tiniest budget but there was an idea that we, the agency, really believed in and so did the client. The idea was very simple: replacing the connecting words with interacting images. I developed a series of visual grids with the team in the agency and then briefed 6 artists around the world who had distinctively different visual styles. A few very intense weeks of around-the-clock calls between Paris, San Francisco, Moscow, Prague, Cape Town, Marseille and Amsterdam, and we had a campaign that made a 60 year old [game] look young again. It all started with an idea, that despite some of the logistical shortcomings, came to life. When people believe in something anything is possible, and that’s real collaboration.
“I do think that everything can be inspiring, what I think is more important is to be inspired. There is a big difference.” – Antoaneta Metchanova
LASTBLOG: What is the value of collaboration?
AM: Collaboration is everything. Even if you are an individual sportsman like Usain Bolt or Novak Djokovic you are never ever alone. Nothing is possible if you do it by yourself. We don’t always see all the people behind a project but they are the ones who make a real difference. And I’m not talking just about “scale” I’m talking about combining the passion of all those people that we don’t see…They say that you go faster alone but further with others…I quite agree with that.
I think that there is no successful project without successful collaboration. That doesn’t exclude potential hick-ups along the way, that’s part of the process of discovery, but that’s not the point. What matters is that we have a bunch of people that have the same goal of making something successful, and that none of them sees “not possible” as an option… That might sound intense but there is no other way. Imagine what it would be like if you have 80 super talented musicians who don’t collaborate while trying to play a symphony… A great conductor could help, but that’s another story.
LASTBLOG: Tell us about your most memorable collaboration to date.
AM: I’m a very lucky girl, I had quite a few memorable collaborations. The one that maybe had the longest reverberation was a project I had the chance to become involved with few years back, it’s the Core Values Campaign for Louis Vuitton. I do believe in good timing and that’s definitely a story about good timing!
At the time I was spending my life between the offices of an agency in NYC and Paris. It looked kind of sexy to my friends on the two sides of the pond, but the reality was that it was quite physically grueling. I was living in a state of constant jet-leg. I was getting ready to simplify my life by returning full time to the US when my boss at the time called me up one evening and asked me if I can do a pitch with the French part of the agency. I said yes, as I always do… Fast-forward an intense couple of weeks, and the agency I worked for won the pitch. It was the greatest feeling because that project felt very personal. It was about travel, and at the time I was at a big crossroads in my life, literally, but also in a sense of “where do I want to go next in my life?” The idea of the campaign was first reflecting the core values of the brand, but the fuel was coming from very personal experiences. The client didn’t have to know any of that but they must have connected with what was coming across. Adding ambassadors with incredible life journeys like Michail Gorbachov, Catherine Deneuve, Keith Richards, Francis Ford Coppola (among quite a few others) to create strong story telling was an incredible elevating experience. Annie Leibovitz shot all the print ads. It was incredible to see how her sense of perfection and immaculate teamwork was helping to bring the ideas to life. Bruno Aveillan directed the film, and his personal sense of “exploration” combined with the brand idea turned the script into touching personal experience. Gustavo Santaolalla wrote the music, which couldn’t have been better. And all of that started with a great client brief, very specific, yet leaving space for surprise. In what I do, you really depend on collaboration, first with your team, then with your client and then with everyone involved during the production phase. When this works, magic can happen…
“It all starts with a doodle.” – Antoaneta Metchanova
LASTBLOG: Who would you like to collaborate with, past or present Why?
AM: I would love to collaborate with anyone who has put enough experience under their belt so they can afford to under-think! We live in times when we must constantly reassure ourselves, our clients, our customers, so the idea of bringing any spontaneity becomes unthinkable. For those who know me, I’m quite of an obsessive person when it comes to work, so I am not afraid of rolling my sleeves up and polishing something until everyone is happy. But from my experience, the best work always happens when there is of course strong idea to start with, strong execution, and (super importantly) making it happen fast, before the momentum disappears and moves to another project.
I have huge respect for anyone who manages to reinvent themselves on a constant basis. They say “the only constant is the change”…so true. Look at someone like Steve Jobs, I’m sure that he would have been successful in anything he had chosen to do. Last week I met this incredible watchmaker, who is considered as one of the top ones out there. When I asked him how he got into watch-making he said something quite amazing, “I flipped a coin,” he said, “I wanted to be a photographer, a watchmaker, or an architect, and the coin decided for me.” It’s an amazing story and I truly believe it; It’s not about what you do, but about how you do it. That’s what will make all the difference at the end. So here is a secret dream of mine: I always wanted to be able one day to get a couple of great-at-what-they-do people in the same room and ask them to switch hats for a day. I would love to see the dessert Richard Serra would create, or the building Thom Yorke might imagine, you see what I mean… Even if it’s just doodles in a sketch book. It all starts with a doodle.