Jorge Fesser: About the richness of illustrations in advertising campaigns

Last Friday I had a great opportunity to visit the Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) office in Amsterdam. Jorge Fesser, Global Account Manager on Nike of W+K, was so kind to invite me to the beautiful agency by the canal to talk about the use of illustration in the great work of W+K. Long-time readers of Kuvva blog would have noticed that we often talk with illustrators and about illustrators. This time the story is told from the other side, by one of the best agencies, to provide a fresh perspective about the perception of illustration in the advertising work and valuable insights for young illustrators.

Hi Jorge! Thank you for having me here. Would you please give us a brief introduction about yourself and what you’re doing?

My name is Jorge Fesser and I work as a Senior Account Manager. Right now I’m working for Nike and EA – the video game label. Basically working on account management means running the business in direct contact with our clients and coordinating all activities within the agency. It’s an overarching job where you’re dealing with all the different apartments. It’s cool! You have a good overview of the business from the clients’ side but at the same time, you’re very close to all the creative work that’s been developed by the team here.

It can be a tricky process because you’re in the middle of two fronts. You have the difficult conversations with clients and all the tricky discussions with the creative teams. You have to make sure that you’re protecting both. You’re delivering to clients what they need, but at the same time pushing for the best work the agency can do. Sometimes that may not be that obvious or that easy to do, so you need to balance and make sure that it’s working.

IMG_3586 Jorge himself in his natural habitat.

You describe yourself as an illustration addict. How did this begin and where did you get in touch with different illustrations and find inspiration?

I come from a family of artists which includes filmmakers, painters, architects, musicians, etc,… so I feel a sensibility for art has always been in me. I love following the work of different artists, hence this illustration addiction. Names like Malika Favre, Ping Zhu, Guim Tio, Conrad Roset, Piet Parra, Alvaro Tapia, Paula Bonet or Maria Herreros show up on my daily feed.

Nowadays one can find inspiration in my places. Street graffitis, exhibitions, museums, artists’ blogs or… Instagram! The later one has made art more accessible to everyone. I use this media to keep track of different artists and what I love of it is having the chance to sneak peek into their creative process and WIP materials, not just the very final outputs. I find this really interesting. Plus there is a big artist community there which allows you to get daily fresh inspiration and keep on meeting new faces.

IMG_3583 The exquisite toy collection at Jorge’s desk.

What is the role of illustrations in the commissioned work at W+K?

All these forms of art have an influence in our creative work and are used as inspiration by our creative teams at W+K when crafting our campaigns. We have an art buying role as well – a person in charge of graphic and print production. Whenever we get a brief or a production where we want to work with an illustrator, an artist, or a photographer, we normally go through her. She’s the one looking for artists and photographers and presenting options to our the creatives so that when a project comes up, we’ve got to pick the right artist. At the same time, I think everyone in this office is into illustration and can suggest a couple of names. I like to be part of this process. Creatives may also have their own suggestions of the people they want to work with because they’re looking for references all the time as well. It’s good to be aware of the scene so that different illustrators can be brought up to the table. Many times we collaborate with them to create print, outdoor, web designs, installations or typographies which help us give a characteristic look & feel and personality to the work.

Could you describe a typical process of campaigns that work with illustrations?

Whenever we get a brief from our clients, it won’t necessarily dictate whether to use illustration in the project or not. That’s our creative decision if we want to use illustrations. But when we decide that we want to go for illustration, we’ll put out proposals like a creative document together with the idea, the look and feel.

For example, we had a Nike brief and it was for a social media campaign. They wanted to create some social media assets for all social media channels, and we came up with this idea to create posters of the NBA athletes using a sophisticated illustration. So we presented the idea to the client: this is the illustrator, this is the style we want to approach with the campaign, this will be the draft of the illustration, together with the explanation of what the idea and the visual would be, and the headline. Then we obviously had a couple of rounds of changes and feedback. It’s very rare that you present something and that’d be instantly bought. Most of the time you have to go through rounds and rounds of presentation to refine the work and make sure everything is in place. Sometimes that’s quick and we nail it in the first round. Other times it can drag for months with the creative development until we finally move into production. Then we contacted the illustrator and started briefing him and working with him. From our sketches, he’ll develop the artwork. Then we got the artwork and we’d give any feedback we needed to address, then we presented that to the client. They’d give feedback they wanted to address or discuss. And then we finished it.

Sometimes the clients don’t see the potential of the illustrator’s idea, and you need to convince them to go for it. And even when you’re presenting executions, you may get comments and feedback that the illustrator doesn’t agree with, so you need to push back on those things to protect the work. It’s a lot of managing personalities and expectations.

Since illustrations bear the style of the artists, is it hard to find the exact style to match with the voice and tone of a brand? Have you tried Kuvva?

You are right. The search for an illustration is quite specific and needs to match both the brand personality as well as the campaign’s tone and objectives. Some times we look for hyper photo realistic illustrations, others for more naive styles, etc.

We have not worked with Kuvaa directly yet, but we have collaborated with many of the amazing artists represented by you like Ricardo Cavolo, Laszlito Kovacs or Geoff McFetridge in the past.

Can you elaborate on the most challenging case in which the W+K team worked with illustrations? What was the reception from the client and the audience?

When it’s one small campaign, maybe one print ad, one execution or the social media assets, they’re all in the same style and it’s one illustrator that you’re briefing, it’s more manageable. The scale is small. But one of the latest projects I worked for HeinekenThe Legendary Posters – was huge. It was a very special project in which we partnered with the non-profit Reporters Without Borders to create unique posters that would tell incredible stories on their own. We ended up creating forty different posters and we’re sending the white papers to every corner in the world because the artists were in Hawaii, US, Spain, South Africa, everywhere!

IMG_3588 The white paper got sent to artists around the world.

We’re working with forty different guys at the same time and we’re filming some of them as well. There were two different kinds of posters – experience and illustration based. We filmed some journeys where we took the posters through experiences: kite surfing in Cape Verde or or flying to space attached to a ballon and a camera. But then there were the illustration-based posters that we sent to the illustrators to create the artwork and then they sent it back. Some of them filmed themselves while doing it, that’s how we got some footage. From the logistic point of view, it’s a lot more difficult to manage than working with just one guy and one email.

These one of a kind posters were then auctioned to raise awareness for the NGO after being exhibited in various galleries and the Stedelijk museum of modern art in Amsterdam. The artworks received an amazing response as people really enjoyed the singular styles of each of the artists that participated to create one amazing collection.

Yes I remember they’re so beautiful! The Legendary Posters were also exhibited at our Kuvva Gallery! So what do you like most when working with illustrations?

It’s always refreshing I think. When you’re working with illustrators, they bring in different styles and their personalities. I think that’s what makes it unique. If you have a shoe and different photographers take pictures, they’d look different but not that much from photograph to photograph. When you ask illustrators to do that, the results you get can be totally different. That’s also the richness of working with illustrators. They deliver very unique work, which will be very different from anything you’ve seen before.

It’s also the crafty technique and I like crafty stuff. It’s really nice to see and follow all the making process of a print or a drawing like inking and coloring. With films you can also deliver emotions, but they’ll be living on the internet, there’s nothing tangible in it. But when you have a print and you get it in your hands, there is something nice about having it – something magical.

And what advice do you have for young illustrators finding commercial work?

Because of the process of how we approach people and how we review people’s work, I think a good portfolio is something that’s always useful for us. We can quickly scroll through all the work and see their techniques and styles. That’s something every illustrator should have if they want to do commercial work because it’s the way to show their work. And I think most agencies have a graphic or print production department, and they’re always willing to review and meet new people.

Thank you very much Jorge!

After the talk, the gentleman showed me around the office of W+K – the dazzling fabulous lair where all the creative ideas (and practical jokes) happen. For more creative findings and new artists on the map, you can follow Jorge’s Instagram handle @mrfesser!

WKAMS_office_inside-1024x681 WKAMS_office_inside2-copy IMG_3574 IMG_3575 IMG_3579 IMG_3572 IMG_3589 IMG_3594 IMG_3599 IMG_3605

And yes, even doves have to work hard here.

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