Tag Archives: Advertising

Art Director Mark Nicholson brings authenticity to award-winning Adidas campaign

Creativity has always been a fundamental aspect of Mark Nicholson’s life. As a child growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, his artistic side was evident even from a young age. Over time, this childhood hobby developed into much more, and now, Nicholson is an internationally celebrated Art Director.

While working on several high-profile campaigns around the world, Nicholson’s talent has directly led to the success of each project he has worked on. He created the concept for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation competition to “Make millennial’s care more about charity work and causes happening around the world,” and their campaign Plight Map went on to win the prestigious Cannes Chimera Award. While working as an Art Director for the rebranding campaign of 118118, the project went on to be nominated for a British Arrow Award. He has worked on several popular commercials with the world’s most recognizable companies, such as Nike and Microsoft. He also contributed greatly to the success of the Adidas Break-up Service campaign.

“Adidas is iconic. It’s created work globally that has pushed advertising into new territory. This, combined with my natural interest in Asian culture, seemed like a match made in heaven,” said Nicholson.

Break up Service was a multi-media advertising campaign for the latest Japanese inspired safety wear fashion range from Adidas Originals. A film, print campaign and website followed a young man that worked for a fictional ‘break-up’ service and the danger that falling in love creates. The film won a Silver Cannes Lion Award at the prestigious international festival, as well as a Bronze BIAA.

“The campaign is one of my proudest pieces, the team we worked with in Japan – especially the award-winning director Kosai Sekine, it was all fantastic. Learning first-hand about Japanese culture whilst on location allowed us to adapt the script as we went, working with the Japanese team to make it as authentic, but as entertaining, as possible,” said Nicholson.

After having previous success with TBWA London on a campaign with the Chelsea Football Club and Adidas, Nicholson was immediately sought-after for the Break Up Service project, knowing that he had the exact skillset needed. As the Senior Art Director, Nicholson first created a mixed-media campaign idea and presented it to the client to secure funding for the project. He wrote the script, and oversaw storyboarding, design and branding. The project required a unique knowledge of Japanese subculture, which was a specific skillset that Nicholson possessed. After funding was secured, he was responsible for finding and collaborating with an authentic Japanese director, refining the script and making creative decisions whilst production was already underway. While filming in Tokyo, he was responsible for all on-set creative decisions. He also oversaw a fashion shoot that was in tandem with the TVC, advising on location and models. He was the creative advisor for the online content that a third-party agency was creating. There is no doubt that his work was instrumental in the campaign’s success. 

I had the pleasure of working with Mark while serving as Executive Creative Director at TBWA London. He was lead Art Director on the Adidas Originals campaign about a fictional Break-up service in Tokyo. Mark ran the project under demanding timescales and cultural challenges and he was rewarded with a Cannes Lion. It was an amazing piece of work,” said Al Young.

Because the film was set in Japan, Nicholson’s knowledge of Japanese culture proved to be a great asset. He has always had a longtime love of manga and anime, like the classics; Akira, Ghost in the Shell and anything Ghibli. He found that this, combined with his work on the Japanese influenced work I created for 3Mobile at WCRS, gave him a good knowledge of Japan.

“How wrong I was, there was so much more and it was fun learning along the way,” said Nicholson. “I had to create a huge style presentation. Introducing Japanese fashion styles, locations and cultural nuances. We introduced the client to Japanese Pleasure Hotels, Capsule Hotels and Cosplay so we had to be prepared. I researched Tokyo’s relevant scenes, modern Japanese art, designers and comic book pop-culture, and then created thorough presentations for the client. The more familiar I got with the culture the more interesting our ideas became, but I also had to be very mindful that we didn’t come across as a predictable Western brand looking into Asia. Authenticity was paramount, and luckily the culture naturally allowed itself to be weirdly authentic.”

As well as the film, Nicholson and his team ran a poster campaign that reflected a distinctive Asian art direction. They also created a commerce website dedicated to the campaign, which had several more fake content films showing Japanese fan girls humorously confessing that they use the break up service. The website even included a video from Akira himself, emotionally describing the origin of his service, when he had to tell his mother that his father was breaking up with her.

“Working on this campaign was fast and fun. The shoot was exceptionally smooth. The planning was exceptional, and the final product was amazing,” said Nicholson.

With all the work that Nicholson did, he still managed to overcome the “all work and no play” mantra, taking advantage of his surroundings.

“It was my first visit to Asia so that was an experience that had been a long time coming. Outside of filming, I was able to absorb the local art, animation history, and the Godzilla museum,” he concluded.

You can watch the Adidas Break Up Service film here.

The Golden Girl of Advertising: Producer Susie Liu

Susie Liu
Advertising Producer Susie Liu shot by Robin Gaultier

Advertising ace Susie Liu knows everything there is to know about marketing. That’s because she has immense experience working hand-in-hand with clients – including titans of industry and Fortune 500 companies – to formulate strategies and campaigns specifically tailored to their needs. However, Liu has the added edge of having spent years as an artist, personally creating, drafting and implementing creative concepts to meet the needs of those clients.

“At a young age, I always gravitated towards anything visual or creative,” she said. “As I grew up, I enjoyed spending time in my own company, drawing on paper and eventually on the computer. I looked at ways to improve magazine articles and advertisements, and changed the style to my own liking by recreating visuals on the computer.”

Starting out with ZONE, a cutting-edge advertising production firm based in London, as a digital artist, her incredible talent helped her quickly move up through team leadership positions, and ultimately to the role of content advertising producer.

Prior to her work with ZONE, Liu worked with Wordsearch, a design and advertising company specializing in real estate advertising. In her time at Wordsearch, Liu applied her managerial and artistic skills to massive undertakings such as The Shard in London, One World Trade Center in Manhattan and the ambitious Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The iconic One World Trade Center, completed in 2013, was built as a testament to American resilience after the destruction of the previous towers on September 11, 2001. However, beyond its symbolism and status as the tallest building in the western hemisphere, it is a financial and economic hub in the busiest city in the U.S., and as such it was critical that such a costly and labor-intensive project attract the maximum possible amount of renters, businesses and investors. That’s where Wordsearch and Liu came in.

“I was involved with the creative art-working as well as the management of the print production. It was imperative to be organized and have a structure from the start,” Liu said. “It was my role to organise and ascertain from the briefs how long each element would take to execute and deliver in a timely manner.”

The Shard skyscraper in London, the tallest building in the European Union at a fifth of a mile high, is another of Liu’s most monumental projects. Completed in 2012, The Shard relied on the creative mind of Liu and her team at Wordsearch to attract tenants such as Al Jazeera, Gallup, and the five star Shangri-La Hotel, who have all made the magnificent work of art-in-architecture their home.

 “The objective was to entice companies, investors and the sale of residential apartments into this new living, working and social space by demonstrating what was on offer and how it would look once complete,” Liu said. “This campaign was worked on by a team of designers, art directors, Project Managers and myself as a Production Manager, which involved the creative art-working and design of the technical brochures, as well as managing the production on all the other work.”

Liu also helped draw tenants and investors with her campaign for Masdar City, the eco-friendly metropolis currently in development and construction in Abu Dhabi. Built in the desert of the Arabian peninsula, the arcology – or “architecture/ecology” – city is founded on the principles of responsible environmental practices. Featuring a fleet of clean energy and electric vehicles in lieu of personal commuter vehicles, operating on solar and wind energy, and carefully designed with walls, streets and building meant to maximize the cooling power of the desert wind in the hostile region, Masdar City is what many climate scientists and environmentalists envision as the responsible future for humanity.

“Wordsearch was approached by the Masdar client to adapt its existing brand and produce a series of printed and digital marketing literature to entice people into this new, not yet built city. Over a period of 2 years, the requirements were to design and produce magazines, brochures, advertising, leaflets, internal forms, point of sale, exhibition stands/space (WFES), marketing suites, banners, computer generated images and a website,” she said of the intensive process. “The idea was to entice people and investors into this eco-city by demonstrating what was on offer and how it would look when the city would be finished.”

While working for Hogarth Worldwide, a multinational company that specializes in marketing implementation and centralized advertising production for clients worldwide, Liu helped ensure the success of the HTC One ad campaign.

“This was a global campaign that was rolled out to a very tight deadline and within strict security restrictions,” Liu said. “Our job included the translation and localization of all literature in up to 40 languages, and the creation of a variety of advertisements, both point of sale and signage.”

With such an impressive array of clients and projects under her belt, it’s no small surprise that Liu has become one of the most sought after players in the global advertising and marketing fields. With her immense creative and artistic talents surpassed only by her managerial skills and her ability to oversee teams working on large-scale campaigns, she is truly a master of the trade.