45. Arnaud Marullaz, Art Director for Y&R

Art Director for Y&R in Paris, Arnaud Marullaz has +6 years’ experience interpreting briefs and coming up with advertising and branding solutions for clients.

How does your job fit into the advertising process? Art directors are in charge of all the images involved in the campaign project. The account handler gives me the brief, and myself along with a copywriter are responsible for coming up with the best solution we can to solve the problem or objective outlined in the brief. Once we have the answer, we make the mock-up(s) that will be used to pitch our ideas to the client. 

90% of my time is invested in coming up with ideas, once the client agrees on one of our ideas, that is when my job really begins. The remaining 10% of my job is implementing that idea:  finding the photographers, models, location, etc. To facilitate this process, many ad agencies have Art Buyers who collect and promote high-quality photographers and film directors to help us during pre-production.

I follow the project through the pre-prod, prod, and post-prod to make sure the idea doesn’t get edited out. Once the client accepts the final project, I’m no longer involved in the campaign.

What is a campaign you have worked on?

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What are a few misconceptions brands have about the industry? An ever-expanding accessibility to improving software such as Photoshop and InDesign as well as an increase in the general population’s ability to use said software has led many people to believe that anybody can do advertising. This belief has caused advertising agencies to lose power.

Also, brands may be scared that agencies are pushing the brand to be too risky solely for the agency to win awards, and not for the brand to increase sales and exposure. This has led to a certain apprehension with advertisers, and why if an idea is ‘too’ creative for the brand, they have a tendency to outright refuse the idea instead of trying to understand why it would be in their best interest to be different and stand out from their competition.

Where have you learned more about advertising: in university or at work? I learned the fundamentals in university still apply even today, but the way of working in university is nothing compared to how it is in real life. In university you’ll have two months to come up with an idea. In an ad agency it’s more like two hours! Also, clients will impose constraints that you have to abide by. Some constraints can be constructive and actually help in the idea brainstorming process such as a budget or time limitation, but sometimes those constraints are very subjective; for example: ‘You can’t use blue.’ This is the part of the job that you don’t really learn at school.

At what point would you refuse to let a brand tell you how to do your job? This always depends on the subject. A lot of this requires knowledge into how people and brands think and reason, and then working around that.

For example, one of the revisions brands nearly always request when they see the first draft of an ad is to ‘make their logo bigger.’ However, making the logo bigger risks taking away from the power of the brand message. Knowing this, art directors can intentionally make the logo smaller in the first draft than it should be, that way when the client demands a bigger logo, you can adjust the logo to its ideal size and everyone is happy.

But ultimately, you’re paid to sell the brands product, not to sell yourself. So in the end you give the client what the client wants.

How do you consistently come up with good ideas? It’s mechanical. When you train for a marathon, it’s hard at the beginning, but as you force yourself to run it becomes more natural. You do have the basics such as metaphors and similes or to change the point of view or perspective, etc.

Personally, I’ve developed my own methods through experience. Each creative will have their own unique methods of generating ideas. But to get off on the right foot, you absolutely must have a good brief. After I receive the brief I like rewrite it in my own words to better understand it.

How do you generate ideas from the brief? It does happen that creatives must create advertising campaigns for products of which they aren’t the target consumer. Therefore what the art director likes may not be of much importance to the campaign.

Generally, however, you come at the brief from three different directions:

  1. What the brand wants
  2. What we think the consumer would like
  3. What you as the art director believes is the best approach

Then, the brand will choose the approach they like best. Often times it’s a mash up of the three.

How do you get past creative block? You’re usually not alone with your brief so you can run your ideas by your partner(s), other teams working on the brief, and even people unrelated to the brief may offer insight. Who you surround yourself with plays an integral role in the quality of the ideas you come up with.

Where do you go for inspiration? To name a few Web sites:

One of your favorite advertising campaigns? Here are three:

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What’s a lesson you’ve learned from experience? Sitting through meetings, reassuring the client, giving presentations and winning pitches…Your relationship with people is extremely important to the success of your job.

Also, it’s important to explore passions outside of your work.  Working exclusively in an advertising environment isn’t enough. You have to enrich your creativity and ability to generate ideas.

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? Find people who work in advertising agencies and tell them that you don’t have much money, but that you’re willing to give them 100% free reign on creativity. Most creatives, if they are attracted by your project, will jump at the opportunity to help you and work without constraints. Like I said before, creatives need to explore passions outside of their work.

An agency might even be willing to get behind your campaign if they believe in it and if your ad offers them the opportunity to win an award. 

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