interview

In Orbit With... Karen Costello

TMU: What's the best part of your job? 


KC: The best part of my job is that I get to hang out with smart, creative and crazy interesting people all day and solve problems that are challenging, stimulating and fun.


TMU: How has the creative scene in advertising shifted in LA in the last few years?


KC: LA is a really energetic place creatively right now. The questions of what is content and what is marketing continue to blur the lines and open the playing field to a multitude of players in LA like talent agencies, studios, creators like YouTube and BuzzFeed, tech companies and agencies. We’re all swimming in the same pools and while it’s exciting and the upside is huge, it’s also fracturing communications even more for brands.


TMU: How has technology impacted the creative landscape?


KC: Technology has had a HUGE impact on the creative landscape. This is both from an industry perspective and from a consumer perspective. Technology, and mobile phone usage in particular, dominates people’s lives and has created what psychologists describe as “the distracted mind.” This obviously affects the way people consume and absorb any type of information, including advertising. It forces marketers to adjust in both good and bad ways. On the positive end, it forces advertisers to really assess whether they are adding value to a consumer’s life. Are we entertaining, helping or informing in a meaningful way? If not, we will be ignored and we deserve to be.


A great example of an inspiring use of technology to inform in a completely unexpected way is the wonderful and amazing Field Trip to Mars.

The creative use of technology can change peoples’ lives and this is an example of just that. On the negative end, the amount of time people spend with their phones and on social media, the less engaged they are with the actual world around them and the more obsessed they become with attention getting soundbyte headlines as opposed to real and nuanced information.


I think this creates a population of less truly informed and intellectually curious humans, which negatively affects creativity in a very significant way.


TMU: What makes a great agency Creative?


KC: I think it’s an alchemy of curiosity, ambition, and a real understanding of what makes humans tick.


TMU: How do you choose a Director when it comes to a competitive pitch?


KC: I choose a director based on creative vision, visual aesthetic and storytelling craft. I love to collaborate and love when directors want to do the same. I view them as creative partners and when I get the vibe they feel the same, it’s a match made in heaven.


TMU: How much does/should a Director add to a piece of moving image creative?


KC: A director is and should be a full creative partner in the art of bring something to life. A director’s input is HUGE.


TMU: How do you see your relationship with Production Companies - are they just vendors or strategic, creative partners?


KC: To me, production companies are and always have been true creative partners.


TMU: What are the three best pieces of moving image (TVC/branded content or VR) creative you’ve seen this year?


KC: My favorite pieces of the year so far are:

The Under Armour / Michael Phelps film

This is a beautiful example of the good old fashioned craft of great filmmaking. Stunning visuals. Great storytelling. Utterly compelling to watch.

The Sandy Hook “Evan” film

Unbelievably great storytelling craft. For a subject that could easily have defaulted into sensationalized drama, this film adeptly crafted a story that hit you in the gut and was impossible not to think about for days after.

“Da Da Ding” for Nike India

I was so inspired by the film direction of this piece. The song is great, but the filmmaking is so fucking cool and fierce. Every woman I know saw this and was like “fuck yeah” after they watched it and it has everything to do with the way this was filmed. Beautiful, in your face, inspiring and cool as shit.


TMU: Do you think brands are connecting with people in more genuine ways these days?


KC: I think they absolutely have to. Consumers both expect it and demand it. Some brands are doing it really well, but the majority are still figuring it out.


TMU: Tell us a bit about the convergence of content, advertising and entertainment in LA and how this is fuelling the work you do.


KC: The convergence of content, advertising and entertainment fuels everything I and everyone else at the agency does. The lines are blurred for marketers, and consumers don’t have delineations in their minds as they are consuming things so we shouldn’t either.


If it’s entertaining, they will reward you with their time. If it is genuinely helpful or informative to them, they will reward you with their engagement. Our challenge as advertisers is to make things that are worth their time and engagement.


TMU: What needs to happen for more women to get into senior agency roles - why is there such a big male skew?


KC: This is a huge issue and a very loaded question. Not sure I can address it all with one simple answer, but what I can say is this: Having women in senior creative roles is incredibly important. And by senior roles I mean with real decision-making power, not just the title.


On the reasons why there is such a male skew - there are so many … Giving just one reason is diminishing the importance and the complicated nature of the issue. But I will say this: advertising is not always a humane business on many levels. If the industry works harder to make the workplace more tolerant and diverse and work/ life balance a priority for both men AND women, we will be advancing in a very positive direction.


TMU: What’s most exciting about the next 12 months at Deutsch?


KC: I’m most excited by all the possibilities of what I don’t even know exists yet. The creative landscape is changing constantly and Deutsch is set up to be a part of all of it, whatever that may be.

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