522 Conversations: Creative Marketing Concepts with Chad Vossen and Kyle Finnegan

May 9, 2022

Creative Marketing Concepts and Where They Come From

Concepting – 0:00

Kyle: Have you ever wondered where great concepts come from? We’ve all been there. We watch the super bowl, sometimes just the ads, and wonder, “how the heck did someone think of something so cool?” Today we’ll dive into where good concepts come from and how you can find that inspiration in your day-to-day as a creative.

Kyle: I’m your host, Kyle Finnigan, creative director, coffee extraordinaire, and humble brag: this past week I was compared to Steven Spielberg. And this week, we’ll be collaborating with Chad Vossen, Chief Creative Officer at 522 Productions, to explain how you can bring creative concepting into your work.

Welcome Chad (what do you and CD’s do?) – 0:31

Kyle: Welcome Chad.

Chad: Hey Kyle, thanks for having me.

Kyle: Tell us a little bit about what you do at 522. 

Chad: Sure. I’m co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at 522. That means I’m in charge of our brand and I’m also working with the creative directors, helping them develop their concepts and visions for our clients. 

Kyle: And what does a creative director do?

Chad: So creative directors at 522, they work with our clients to help bring their ideas to life. They’re in charge of the vision of every project and they develop and flush out concepts for our clients. 

Where does the concepting process start? – 1:02

Kyle: Where does that concepting process start?

Chad: For us, it starts almost with that initial sales call. So, just listening to clients, understanding what their needs are, what they’re trying to accomplish, and who they’re trying to accomplish it for; just having those initial conversations with clients really helps start to crystallize what the concept could be.

What are some questions you ask for understanding clients’ needs? – 1:21

Kyle: What are some of those questions that you’re asking to understand what those clients’ needs are?

Chad: It starts immediately with who is this brand? Where are they in people’s perception of them? Is this a very well-known brand? Are they sort of under the radar, that kind of thing. And it’s really just taking an overall evaluation of who this brand is, where they are in their customer’s minds or their client’s minds, or where they are in their audience’s minds. So that always starts with just basic research, asking questions of the clients during those initial calls, going online, seeing who they are, how they’re perceived and things of that nature.

What things are you looking for when researching clients? – 1:53

Kyle: What are some of those things that you’re looking for when you’re doing research on these clients?

Chad: We’re looking for: how are they currently portraying themselves? Some of the questions we’ll ask is, you know, “tell us about your current marketing initiatives.” So we understand what direction they’re trying to go, but obviously, on their website is typically where most of their videos are going to be, on their YouTube channel or Vimeo, whatever it is they’re using, taking a peek at their social channels and just kind of getting a barometer of where they’re at at their current trajectory, how they are currently perceived; what are my assumptions of the brand and who they are and how they’re trying to communicate with their audience.


Chad: That’s always just a good way to get a baseline, if you will, of where they’re at. And then it’s understanding, hey, where are we trying to go with A, your brand, but B this particular initiative? And it really just depends upon what that is. Is this a recruitment video, or is this a fundraising video, or if it’s a mission video, that’s where we really dive into more of the brand itself.

Looking for a client’s subconscious problem – 2:48

Chad: So clients oftentimes come to us with a problem, right? And they’re like, “Hey, we need to communicate this particular message or we’re updating our brand” or whatever. But, what I’m trying to do is listen to the subconscious problem that they have, right? So oftentimes clients or potential clients may kind of make an offhanded remark.

Chad: We were working with the AIA and they said, “just make us a cool.” It was like deeper into the conversation, but at one point our client, Aaron was just like, “do you, just make us cool.” We were talking with another client who is the CEO of Savan group, a consulting firm. And he said, “we want to create a mission video that really captures our personality… makes us different and is fun and is vibrant and makes us stick out in a traditionally stodgy branding space.” 

Chad: So we created a video that was more upbeat and fun and just made it high energy and highlighted their people in the video. So that was a really fun project. One of my favorite projects, actually, that we worked on there to really just kind of give it a different spin.


Chad: And I remember we were working – we got a call from Pete Rico at the US Geological Survey. The goal of the video was to announce that they’re renaming their Geoscience Center after Florence Bascom, who literally nobody knew about. And we had no images, nothing really, too much to work with on that, but he wanted to make it fun and engaging and high energy, and we’re like, “okay, that’s an interesting challenge.” 

Chad: So the need was, yes, we need a video to describe, you know, who this person is, but we could tell by talking with him he’s like, “we want to make this fun and engaging. We have kids go there. We have adults go. It needs to be high energy, playful, and interesting.” And I think we did a really good job with that. And that could be backed by the fact that it actually won a couple of awards. 


Chad: It won a Shoemaker Product Excellence Award, which Pete, our client actually submitted on his own, which was super exciting. We just found out about that last week. And then it also was nominated for the Best in Show in the TIVA Peer Awards, which was really cool. So yeah, I mean it was highly successful, really fun and just a really cool project.

Kyle: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s great when great work gets recognition.

Chad: Yes. And we actually did a whole – there was an interview with Ray and Adelina on that one too, with Danny. 

Kyle: Well, if you want to check that out, you can head over to our website 522productions.com.

What are some sources of inspiration used to build concepts? – 5:06

Kyle: And so what are some of the sources of inspiration that you’re using to help build these concepts?

Chad: Well, one of the things we’re looking at is what’s the competition doing? What is the general awareness of this industry? How are they typically presenting themselves in the video space? What’s the messaging? What’s the feel? What’s the pace, like getting just an overall product awareness. What is Savan Group’s competition doing to position themselves within the consulting space? So that’s really a good way to just get an understanding of what is the industry norm. 

Chad: And then talking with the client about their audience, like, who are you trying to attract? What are the key messages that’s going to resonate with them? And then understanding through conversations and asking just a ton of questions of our clients. Like, what is it that they care about? What is it about your company that they’re going to find interesting and either want to find out more or apply or whatever the end goal is there.

When researching for the Savan Group video, what did you notice about the competition’s marketing strategies? – 5:57

Kyle: So when you were doing research to find inspiration for this Savan Group video, what were you seeing out there from competition or otherwise that you liked, that you didn’t like, that you wanted to borrow from, or definitely not want to do?

Chad: Yeah. I mean, I feel like when we started researching the Savan Group stuff, it was… cliche. Everybody was saying the same thing: “We care about our client.” You know, it was a very, just traditional slow music and inspiring visuals and, you know, things like that. But just listening to our client, who’s like, “make us fun, make us energetic, make people want to work with us.” 

Chad: And there were two sort of inspirations that we had that were totally outside of that space. One was Chevron’s “Doers” campaign where it’s, you know, high energy, a lot of personality in it, fun use of graphics, just a really cool and compelling, fast paced video that we used, you know, to inspire the pacing and the graphic style for that. The other source of inspiration we had was the Dodge Dart spot.


Chad: And that really kind of broke a mold for the traditional automotive campaigns, where it was just high energy, in your face attitude, “No Church in the Wild” underscore, just took a unique tact and got into the like, well, how do you create a car that breaks the mold, so to speak. And that was a really fun high energy spot that we used as another source of inspiration.

Chad: And so it was really just listening to our clients, understanding how they want it to be perceived in the space, understanding what their audience was looking for, and then using that sort of, hey, there’s this high energy style that we’re going for and trying to blend all those ideas together. And that’s where the Savan Group spot came from.

Was it hard to get Savan onboard with the unique approach? – 7:32

Kyle: And with these two video examples being so far outside of Savan’s industry, was it difficult to get them on board with these concepts?

Chad: Thank goodness, no. Now we have clients often come to us and say, “make us look cool. We want to be different.” And it’s really up to the client themselves to allow them to get there. Luckily, Veeral and Brandi were super onboard with “we want to take a different tack to what’s traditional in our space.” And they gave us the freedom and space to do that. And they were super collaborative and easy to work with to allow us to push the mold and try different things. 

Chad: And if something didn’t work, they were  like, “Hmm, dial that back.” Or they just wanted to kind of lean into stuff as well. And the two of them became champions for us. It’s helpful when you have the CEO on board, but Brandi was also instrumental in getting the team on board. For example, there was one quick two-second shot, and I think we had about 40 people in it and they just kind of do a fist-pump into the air. That’s a lot of coordination, but was done within 15 minutes. She had this entire room filled and it worked out really well. 

Are there any sources of inspiration outside of marketing? – 8:36

Kyle: You mentioned looking at a lot of other advertisements for inspiration. Are there any sources outside of marketing that you’re looking at to inspire the look of the videos? 

Chad: Yeah. I mean, any type of video medium really is a source of inspiration for me. Like that could be music videos and kind of seeing cool tricks and things that they’re always doing there, could be just, you know, regular film or cinema and watching how they light or approach a particular shot, or it could be something as simple as a safety video for airlines and just kind of seeing how different brands are doing their things there.

When developing concepts for videos, keep your eyes open for inspiration everywhere – 9:08

Chad: I think when developing concepts, or if you’re in a role where developing concepts is part of your job description, if you will. The biggest thing you could do is just keep your eyes open, and that’s everywhere. That’s, you know, just in life, but specifically if you’re developing concepts for videos. It’s just always kind of being tuned into what people are doing.

Chad: I watch the Superbowl. I could care less. The Jets have been so bad for so long. I know they’re not going to be in the Superbowl, but I watch it anyway, because I love the spots. One of my favorite Superbowl spots that really just kind of stood out to me was the Eminem “Imported from Detroit” or “Born of Fire” campaign.

Chad: That was a three-minute by Chrysler and really just, it broke the mold for me. They just did everything right. They rebranded Chrysler, they rebranded Detroit. It was Eminem, the choir was from Detroit, the voiceover artists who just had one of the richest, most gravelly VO artists you could get He was also from Detroit and that entire campaign was just fire.

If you (Chad) could go back ten years and give yourself advice, what would it be? – 10:10

Chad, it seems like, you know, a lot about concepting and the process of working with clients. I’m sure that knowledge didn’t come easy. If you could go back and impart some of this wisdom 10 years ago to yourself, what’s something you’ve learned in that time that you would pass on?

Chad: Don’t take it personally. I think that that’s the hardest lesson that I’ve learned throughout the 20 years that I’ve been concepting. It’s okay if the client doesn’t like it. It’s okay if you have to adapt it because it is a collaboration and it’s not just a collaboration on the creative side, it’s a collaboration with the client.


Chad: And it’s really understanding that some clients understand the video production process. Some clients are just like, “here you go, you do you,” whatever. But it’s about finding that medium with your clients and not taking things personally. And everybody’s ultimately trying to achieve the same goal. Again, whether that’s more applications, sales, more donations, whatever it is. 

Chad: And it’s really important as the creative director, as the person developing a concept, to be as inclusive and as collaborative as possible and understanding that nuance of when and which battles there are to fight. And that only comes through experience and how to defend your position and when to relinquish – really comes through trial by fire. 

Kyle shares a CD’s perspective on concepting – 11:34

Chad: I’m curious for your perspective about concepting – how you work with clients and collaborate and come up with your own concepts as a creative director.

Kyle: I really try to set aside for myself sometime to intentionally look for inspiration. I like to tell anybody that all creative work is inspiration applied. So you have to be constantly looking for inspiration, but also looking for those new tools to apply it. I just had a really great interaction with. Two weeks ago where I really don’t think that they thought they could have a good video.


Kyle: It’s a tour of a warehouse, which on its face sounds really boring, but we found some really cinematic looking shots that there’s no reason we couldn’t apply that to their warehouse too. And they just seemed like totally blown away by that. They were like, “we really need a four minute video of somebody like talking and walking through this warehouse.” And we showed them these two, two-minute clips and they’re like, “oh, this is great. We can do this in 90 seconds probably.”

Chad: Yeah. And that to me is a, as a creative gets me excited when you have clients that are willing to listen and apply what you’re suggesting to them. 

Kyle: Yeah. 

Chad: And I remember another, like one of your first concepts that you developed was in collaboration with Andrews Federal. And the approach that you took there, and do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Andrews Federal Credit Union Video – 12:35

Kyle: Yeah. Yeah. So our client Andrews Federal Credit Union was building a new bank branch and they were one of those clients that came to us and said, “we really need something to grab people’s attention. We don’t, we don’t want just boring video.” I can’t remember now if they use the term themselves like a “trailer” for this bank opening, but that was the word that triggered for me that this can be a really cinematic trailer for the construction of this new bank that they’re really excited about. 

Kyle: So yeah, same kind of thing where we showed really cinematic high contrast images from movies, from other construction videos that really just got them to trust us, like, they know what they’re looking for; we’ve seen their past work; we know that they can get it done. And that’s something else that won a TIVA Peer Award.

Kyle caught onto subtext from the client and got creative – 13:27

Chad: There you go. Look at that. Awards everywhere. 

Kyle: Yeah.

Chad: It’s not necessarily the client who comes to you and says, “okay, here’s the thing, we need to make a brand video about this new branch that we’re opening.” But you caught on to the sort of subtext there where the word trailer got into your mind and that’s sort of where the concept comes from. 

Kyle: Yeah, it is those little triggers in there. Cause obviously you’re meeting with them of course, because they need a video. You wouldn’t be in the same room together, but it’s figuring out what that looks like is the crux of the job and, and finding those little clues in there. It’s a really fun part of the process too. 

Listening to the client is key – 13:52

Chad: Yeah. I love that part. It just comes out of nowhere sometimes, but it just goes to the fact that you really need to just listen. And I feel that, oh, I mean, one of the hacks or tricks that I used to do now it’s easy with Zoom, but I used to record a lot of the creative conversations that we would have with clients.

Chad: And it’s funny that I would literally, like, I would be like, “what do you want this video to achieve?” And they would spurt out in just a couple sentences: they’d be like “oh we really wanted to do this, this, that,” and then, you know, a week would go by and I’d present the concept. And all I would do is basically take their own words and tweak them a little bit, present it back to them and they’d be like, “it’s like, you’re reading my mind. Like, how did you know we wanted to do that?” And it’s still a hack I use today, but it’s literally just listening. And that I think is like one of the more underrated roles of a creative director.

Kyle: Definitely. I really feel like we are professional listeners in those meetings too.

One of the best ways to highlight an organization is through employee interviews – 14:43

Kyle: And then, you know, one of the best ways to highlight an organization, it seems like is to interview people that work there. And then you’re also really listening in those interviews about what makes the organization – what gives it its identity. And that’s kind of like informing the edit, too, after you’ve already sold the concept. So that’s a nice part of the process too. 

Chad: Yeah. Another part you just triggered for me too, is a lot of times, especially if it’s recruiting or mission, when you are talking to those people who actually work at the company, it’s funny how often it’s a top down approach. You know, where it’s: the C suite is making the decisions as to how we want to position this role.


Chad: But, how often they overlook, well, let’s talk to the person on that role. What do they think? Oftentimes, especially during recruitment videos, we’ll interview that person for the role and they’ll totally come up with a different response as to why they applied or why they love the job then what maybe their own team, especially in larger organizations.

Chad: And I find that fascinating. It’s an important, under-utilized or like, you know, it really depends upon the video you’re producing, but just talking to people who actually are doing the thing that you’re trying to promote. I find that just fascinating how often, “well look, did anybody ask the guy who actually does this thing… why he applied or what’s kept him here for 15 years?” Like that kind of thing. I find that stuff fascinating. 

Kyle: Yeah. Absolutely.

What does understanding clients’ audience look like? – 16:09

Kyle: It seems like audience is a big factor on what the video actually looks like. What does understanding your client’s audience look like for you? 

Chad: A lot of times we’ll try to take a few different perspectives and blend them together. So for me, it’s understanding like what is the audience’s perception of your brand? Generally speaking. And then, what problem are we trying to solve for your audience? So if that’s recruitment, you know, you’re talking to a recruit or a potential new hire, and you’re trying to attract them. They’re trying to find a new job or looking to change careers or whatever that issue might be. 

Chad: And then it’s really trying to understand that audience’s challenge, and we’re trying to solve that for their audience. So it’s kind of like an inception, double layer down, if you will. 

Making videos for a company’s internal vs external audiences – 16:48

Kyle: I could see how somebody that already works at the company, this video is for them. They’re an internal audience. How does that change the video versus someone who’s not even aware of the company yet as an external audience?

Chad: We’ve actually worked on a few projects where like, okay, “we’re making a mission video, we’re changing our mission. This is going to be for an internal audience and this is going to be for our external audience.” That’s happened a few times, but generally speaking, an internal audience, you already have that sort of built in brand awareness. So you don’t have to explain, this is who we are and what we do to the level of detail that you do with an external audience.

Chad: So there’s a lot of advantages to that. Assuming this is folks who have been within your organization for a few months, and it’s not new hires. They’re aware of your brand at the very least. They’re more than likely aware of what it is that you do. So it’s really understanding what message are we trying to communicate to this internal audience?


Chad: Are we changing a policy? Are we updating our brand, you know, and really kind of understanding what challenges that audience might have and being able to develop a concept that is interesting, is engaging, is something they may not expect and try to come up with concepts that with any video for me, it’s, you know, well, I’m going to have to watch this a bunch. 

Chad: I’m going to have to shoot it. Proof it, concept it, et cetera. So I want to create a concept that’s interesting to me. And then putting that on the audience. You want them to feel engaged. You want them to be interested. You want them to pay attention. Somebody at the end of the day is going to have to watch this. You might as well make it entertaining for them. 

Think about what you want the audience to do after watching the video – 18:18

Chad: Another important thing to think about with concepting is what do you want your audience to do after watching this? Like, what is that call to action? It’s crazy how often that gets overlooked. We’ll be in conversations with clients and we’ll be like, “okay, well, what do you want them to do? They watch this video and then what?”

Chad: And it’s kind of freakish how often they’re like, “I don’t, I don’t know, like what do we want them to do?” That’s almost the entire reason why you’re making this video. Right? So it’s like, where am I going? What action do you want them to take? And that’s oftentimes how you define, “is this video successful?”


Chad: Are people taking that action that you want them to do? Are they writing a check and giving you the donations? Are they applying for the course? Are they attending the event? Are they buying your product? You know, those are all important things. And I think that the concept overall needs to sort of push the viewer down that decision path and down the funnel to the point where you’re trying to inspire them or engage them to take that action, whatever it might be.

Outro – 19:19

Kyle: Well Chad, it’s been great talking with you today. Appreciate you coming on the show. 

Chad: Sure thing 

Kyle: We at the show want to thank Chad for taking the time to speak with us on his favorite day of the year 522, that’s May 22nd. To learn a little bit more about concepting, visit 522productions.com. Our podcasts come out on the 22nd of each month. Until next time I’m Kyle Finnegan, signing off.

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