TBT to 2010! Inspiration vs Duplication


Simplicity, Complexity & Mondrian Inspiration

By Randy Murray

Size Does Matter

The size of an organization seems to have an inverse relationship to its efficiency. Government gets criticized for its inefficiency, but we have also seen efficiency challenges in large corporations. The fact is, the bigger an organization gets, the more difficult it is to manage. Over the last twenty years that we have been working with United Way, we have witnessed incredible growth. The good news is that have also witnessed impressive management targeting the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. Looking back at the 2010 campaign video, I realized what a great tool this video was to talk about how lean and effective United Way is.

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Explain The How

In 2010, the economy was still in shock and, just as they did in 2009, the United Way marketing team wisely directed us to skew the creative for the campaign video and PSA toward the more pragmatic arguments for giving to United Way. During the creative development, we realized that many people really did not understand how United Way worked. The fact was that many supporters didn’t either. While this was a testament to the trust United Way had earned in our community, it also created an opportunity – an opportunity to trumpet what I think of as one of the most important attributes of United Way: how it works.

One of the challenges United Way faces is that, by necessity, it is a large and complex organization. A key challenge we faced in trying to explain this large and complex organization was that video does not do detail or complexity well. Video is good at emotion and big concepts. To add to our challenge, United Way wanted to return to the storytelling structure we last used in 2006 where we incorporated three human interest stories into the video.

So we decided to take a fun, upbeat approach that carried some of the themes from the ’09 campaign, then integrated graphics to help make some of the more complex elements and concepts more instantly comprehensible.

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Out Of Respect

In a nod to Piet Mondrian‘s masterful balance of complexity and simplicity, we used black horizontal and vertical lines over white with red, blue and yellow panels. Mondrian created something completely original in his time; almost 100 years later, we borrowed his creative branding to help visually balance our complexity of message with the simplicity of delivery. The result is fun and fresh while also being respectful of its roots.

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Original Delusions

Many people are not comfortable with the idea of borrowing from or being inspired by the work of other artists. (Some are too comfortable with the idea.) We have had many clients show us a spot or video and ask if we can make something exactly like it. The team at RMP can make anything happen on screen, but should we? There is a line artists have to walk between inspiration and duplication. But artists have to acknowledge inspiration, no matter how original they feel they are. I was on a panel discussion about creativity and I brought up the subject of being inspired by artists who came before us. A sculptor who will remain nameless said his work is completely original and without influence. The funny thing is, that delusion is not even original. The difference may be in the simple acknowledgment of the inspiration. Quentin Tarantino is a master at acknowledging the influences of filmmakers he respects and I appreciate that.

I really enjoyed bringing motion to Mondrian’s concepts. The boxes provided perfect borders to follow and cross. This type of production requires exacting preproduction, however, or moments like the high-five will whiff. If you haven’t yet watched the 2010 video, I encourage you to do so; that way you will be sure to get my high-five reference.

Mentors Matter

There are a couple of details in this video that go by all too quickly. One story that really captures the power United Way uses to affect the quality of our community is the story of Anna, a person who needed guidance and support as a girl. As a result, she gained the confidence to become an Arizona State Senator. In return of the gift she received, Anna is mentoring other young girls in need.

Anna

The Fewer, The Better

That is the “why.” It’s why United Way does what they do and why so many people support them in doing it. I love the fact that in this video, we also tackled the “how” – how United Way does what they do.

I hope you enjoyed how simply the complexity of United Way’s work is explained in this video. Stealing the idea from several brilliant people before him, Benjamin Franklin once said, “I have already made this paper too long… not having now time to make it shorter.” I love that quote because, in a humorous way, it communicates how hard it is to write something with fewer words, or in the case of video storytelling, how hard it is to communicate a complex story in a fun, watchable video. I am glad we took the time to do so.

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Randy is an award-winning director and producer with a passion for helping others through the power of storytelling. He’s also a political junkie, loves college football, and enjoys performing random magic tricks for children he meets in the street.