Entry no.: 130
4 May 2007, 6:19 PM
The greatest account in Romanian advertising
If CONNEX was still alive, it would have turned 10 years old earlier a few days ago, in april. Looking back now, I’m sure that CONNEX was the greatest account in Romanian advertising, bar none. It attracted the best people and the best agencies into a Bermuda Triangle of überpower ecstasy and free-falling nightmare, somewhere in between a tango dance floor of swift seduction and a fight club basement of bone breaking clashes.
When I say it was the greatest I say the most challenging and spectacular, the most influent and visible. Many were brought into the spotlight by this crusadeous account (people as well as agencies) and quite a few were wiped out — some tasted both. This is why the stories about it come in only two colors: exalted reality-distorted white and still-in-denial traumatic black.
As seen from outside, in its final period the account seemed to collapse eroded by confusion and drifted blindly — like a ghost-ship — until it finally disappeared.
I’m a lucky bastard: I was blessed with the privilege to be one of those who could afford getting addicted to this life-changing (for me, at least) drug twice: once briefly at the very beginning (1997) while working for BBDO, and then again during 2001–2002 period, while working for D’Arcy DMB&B.
Out of the (probably) hundreds of projects I was part of — from every conceivable position: art director, copywriter, designer, photographer, director, group creative director etc — I will only write here about three dear ones.
Connex Play campaign
CONNEX "Play" campaign had a life of its own, first shot for presentation purposes almost like a pieces of entertainment meant for setting the tone of the meeting, rejected, then surprisingly approved and re-shot on Betamax. There were many TVCs, some too weird to be aired — we laughed hysterically while shooting all of them, Liviu David, Vali Suciu and myself. Click to play the videos.
This was the only time I "acted" in commercials. Seeing myself and my colleagues on TV and in cinema theaters felt weird yet tickling cool.
I designed many identities during the years, but this one was my first major encounter with serious branding, a vast corporate identity program and massive deployment. Frankly, this project was THE prequel to Brandient — the timeframe when both Aneta Bogdan (my tough client at the time, my business partner, team colleague and dearest friend nowadays—a professional with a track record that remains unmatched in Romanian marcom) and I realized in awe that we could leave the advertising world without looking back and incorporate together the first branding consultancy firm in Romania.
Updating CONNEX identity was a difficult in-flight overhaul job and it took a long time to complete, but it was badly needed mainly because of the functional problems the old logo raised but also because of the increasingly dated visual language the brand was using at the time. The main difficulty of the project was redesigning the logo without alienating the target — preferably with the whole facelifting passing unnoticed.
I changed not only the logo, but also the color palette, the typography and the visual language used in marketing communication with minimum impact on brand indicators — for instance no drop in awareness whatsoever. The funniest thing was seeing that not even the CEO — Ted Lattimore at the time — remembered that the logo was blue only a few months ago.
The CONNEX ID book was an enormous undertaking for one designer (actually the livery chapter was done by Costin "Pilă" Popescu at "CAP" while I was entirely overwhelmed and Diana Căpățână stood by my side all the way and helped me with the copy) so for many months I designed day and night and tested the designs in real-life conditions.
Connex Dare campaign
Probably the largest advertising project I’ve been part of, Dare campaign was shot by the American Director & DOP Richard Reens in Budapest and Bucharest with an international team comprising local and foreign production studios conducted by Dan Ford, a Canadian Producer and was transfered, edited and graded in Munich at ARRI facilities by german professionals. The creative team was massive (almost whole D'Arcy contributed one way or another), but at the core we were the same Liviu David, Vali Suciu and myself. Here is the CONNEX "Dare" TVC in 60' cut, click to play the video:
As trivia, the commercial was actually shot on color stock (for fall-back reasons) and then graded to black and white — a procedure by no means easier than grading color footage. Also, beside the official version there is a very special director’s cut seen only by few people until now (thank you, Richard), click to play and tell me if you have ever seen something so beautiful:
And a "behind the scenes" edit that I completely forgot about, click to play:
Photo sessions took place in Budapest and Bucharest with german photographer Johann Sebastian Hanel producing over 2000 shots. Here are some original uncropped scans of Sebastian's slides used in the campaign:
This is my side — a bit of my CONNEX story. How do you remember CONNEX? What was CONNEX to you?