Finding your voice


How do you find your voice in the din of the marketplace? How do you use your craft to tell a familiar story in new, unexpected ways? How do you reconcile the desire to be the best with the pull of fame? These are some of the questions asked and answered in a beautiful performance documentary, “American Voices,” created and hosted by Renée Fleming and featuring “vocal masters and industry titans” as they coach and mentor “emerging artists” in master classes that are as inspiring as they are instructive.

Some lessons that apply to creatives on any stage:

1. When choosing between excellence and success, make sure you have the confidence to tell the difference. Success is elusive, art endures.

2. Your voice (however you define it) transmits power. Put it at the service of your imagination.

3. Stop comparing yourself to how great you think somebody else is. Just express yourself as truthfully as you can. That’s how you grow.

4. The last thing you want to be is generic. (What we tell our clients applies to us.) Make the most of your individuality.

5. Observe and learn from others, but craft your own style, one that’s true to your own artistic vision.

6. Never be the accompanist to the accompanist. Control the moment and the message and lead your readers, viewers, listeners to where you want them to go.

Your voice is your instrument to move the world. However you use it, express yourself with art and skill.

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Under the tree


I want what they’re having. The irrepressible joie de vivre and inspired creativity that make these my favorite spots of the season.

– Target. It’s the toys that ask the question on every kid’s lips: “what d’ya get? What d’ya get? Dude, what d’ya get?”

– Apple. Our love is here to stay for the brand and the emotional power of its storytelling.

– Fitbit. If this doesn’t get you moving, nothing will.

– Wolff Olins takes the traditional agency Christmas card and turns it “sideways.”

Happy Holidays, everyone. Hope you get everything you wish for in 2015.



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Through the looking glass: what art and artists can reveal about our times

Hands up, don't shoot!

It didn’t start at Ferguson

If Francisco Goya were around today, what would he make of Ferguson? How would Henrik Ibsen, the playwright and champion of trapped women everywhere, get his head around personhood amendments? And what would Rembrandt, portraitist of satisfied Dutch burghers and bankers, think of the Koch brothers? Art has always been both a mirror and a fabulist, reflecting back in words, pictures or sound a bigger truth about us and the society we live in. The stories can be dangerous, soothing, transformative or transgressive, but whatever their form, their creators have all sought to reveal new ways to depict and respond to the events, large and small, that shape their world. But do artists have, by virtue of their creative gifts, a special responsibility to address social issues? Is “culture” a strong enough platform to withstand the heavy and emotional lifting that they provoke? Anguished by economic and social inequality and finding little solace or clarity from pundits or policy experts, NYT film critic A.O. Scott turned to the cultural community for enlightenment. In an admittedly unscientific survey, he asked nine artistic luminaries including documentarian Ken Burns, rapper J. Cole, poet Patricia Lockwood and writer-producer David Simon what “art has done and should do at this moment of political impasse, racial tension and economic crisis.” The responses were as varied as the artists themselves, but for me, Ken Burns had the right approach: “Perhaps outer circumstances seem different, but the essential challenges of the artist remain the same. It is always hard. As it should be. Complicated times are no excuse.” Read this thoughtful essay “Looking the Other Way” and all the artists’ commentaries here.

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