Marloes Pijfers

Illustration for ADCN. "Ballsy work almost always comes directly from the heart." - Zack McDonald


The heart of a human weighs about 310 grams and is roughly the size of your fist.

The heart of a brand is much smaller.

I say this not to diminish it, but rather to stress how difficult the damn thing is to locate.

It’s likely been buried by years of laziness, confusion and general fuckery.

That’s where you come in.

Or not.

If you’re producing work for a brand and you haven’t located the heart: my condolences.

The work will likely be ripped apart by your peers and fellow tastemakers.

Perhaps they’ll claim the words are a bit cliché.

Or the visuals are a hair too slick.

Or they’ve seen the idea before.

But peel back the layers of these critiques and you’ll undoubtedly find a more egregious error:

You failed to discover what makes your subject worth caring about.

You failed to locate the heart.

For my money, the best work has that elusive “are they even allowed to do that” quality.

I immediately picture tiny flags in dog shit.

A young girl driving a massive semi truck via remote control.

An unsuspecting passerby pressing a button to “add drama.”

An epic and inspiring sports documentary that also happens to be a commercial.

We applaud work like this for its balls.

And rightfully so.

KesselsKramer, Forsman & Bodenfors, Duval Guillaume and Anomaly have enormous balls.

That’s why we keep talking about them (over and over and over again).

But what’s all too often left out of the conversation is where that work begins.

And what makes it cut so deep.

Each example is powerful because each holds a truth.

The fact that the executions are so provocative and gripping tends to make us forget:

Ballsy work almost always comes directly from the heart.

When we locate the heart of a brand, we’re really locating the truth.

The essence.

And when we find it, we must open ourselves to it.

Let it shake us.

Let it surprise us.

Let it steer us.

And for fuck’s sake, let it show us something worth talking about.

It might not be pretty or perfect. (It rarely ever is.)

But real truth is never boring.

Use what you find as an honest excuse to make something unforgettable.

Something to be proud of.

Something that comes from the brand’s heart.

And, yes, your own.

Easier said than done.

But, hey, nobody said this fucking job was easy.

If you’re anything like me, your heart is a weird and wonder-filled place.

(The blood that pumps through mine is equal parts Maurizio Cattelan, Stanley Kubrick, Studio Ghibli and Tom Petty.)

The unique ingredients that you bring to the table is what makes the work really sing.

Don’t be shy.

Feel free to wield truth with emotion, irony, absurdity, style, wit and pure weirdness.

Heart doesn’t have to put a teardrop in your eye (though it certainly can).

It can also make you laugh.

Make you nervous.

Make you queasy.

Make you angry.

Make you jealous.

Make you question.

Make you hum a tune.

Or, most importantly, make you get off your ass.

And do something.

That, my friends, is what we get paid for.

When in doubt, just remember:

It doesn’t have to make sense to the head as long as it speaks to the heart.

That’s all.

Zack McDonald - Creative Director R/GA Portland, Oregon

Previously Copywriter KesselsKramer and CD Anomaly Amsterdam (from Kentucky)

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