All Things Creative

Date: 12 May, 2020

What I’ve learned as a creative and how it’s helped keep me sane in lockdown

Stephen Rogers

By Stephen Rogers

Creative Director

My name is Stephen Rogers and I’ve been a corona parent for six weeks now. I have two small people that I’m legally obliged to look after, Evan (5) and Maggie Rose (1), and my wife and I both work full-time jobs from home. Home schooling is a real hot topic at the moment, but for me, the only people I see getting home schooled are us parents. Being around my kids 24/7 is opening a much wider window into my two kids as tiny balls of raw emotion and constant hunger.

Being a Creative Director in Rothco, I have the enviable pleasure of getting to work with some immensely talented creatives, helping them craft their amazing ideas to make them fully fit for impact. And to my surprise, the skills I’ve learnt during my 20-odd year career as a creative have transferred seamlessly to my new role as a reluctant, yet resilient, stay at home working dad.

Location. Location. Location.

For example, location scouting has always been a vital part of the pre-production process and now I find choosing the perfect location for my video calls equally as vital. The brief for me (and I’m sure for you too) is to be as far away from the kids as possible to ensure a seamless, uninterrupted and successful meeting.

But I also have a second key objective… to try and look somewhat interesting to my work colleagues. My advice, if you want to avoid being forgotten on your marketing catch ups, is to apply the same expectations you have on your marketing comms on yourself. Gain cut-through and be interesting. Try to steer clear of flat, undecorated and uninteresting beige walls. You may as well start your call by saying “Hi, I have absolutely no personality. How are you?”. Bathrooms should also be avoided for obvious reasons. Master bedrooms will, no matter what time it is, make you look like you’ve just gotten up. I did find the front seat of our family car nailed the ‘getting away from the kids’ brief, but unfortunately it also made me look like a creepy taxi driver on calls. So, I finally settled on my son’s bedroom due to it having a ‘quirky’ wallpaper that makes me look more aspirational, and satisfyingly projects me as a work colleague and father who’s fun, exciting and edgy. So, a very successful misdirect.

Taking stock.

As a keen photographer, I’ve also tried to pass the time in isolation by taking photos of my family. Every aching art director bone in my body wants to craft a beautiful stand out image where the lighting setup is considered (shooting near windows gives you a perfect modelling light for your subjects), and where the rule of thirds is successfully applied (this rule is the best advice I‘ve ever received about taking better photos).

I also keep a keen eye on the background and its level of clutter, and ensure the range of expressions captured covers me for any tricky client feedback (from my wife). Unfortunately, the family shots I’m capturing right now are far from reaching Getty Stock Image levels, and even if they did make it onto the well-known stock site, I know deep down they’d have tag words applied to them like ‘Unhappy’, ‘Confused’, ‘Bored Looking’, ‘Not Aspirational Enough’, ‘Gritty’, and ‘Feral’.

Setting the right tone.

As we all know, music is so important in helping brands set the right tone and elicit the right emotional reaction from their audience in their film, radio ad or social content. Funnily enough, the same rules apply to my kitchen and I would recommend the power of music to help set or change the tone of your home when it hits a bump along the way. Our kids are dealing with a lot of emotions at the minute and it’s hard for them not to get bouts of sadness and confusion.

Marco Bertozzi, a vice-president at Spotify said recently in Campaign magazine: “Every day is like Sunday. We’re starting to see a shift in subject matter”, in terms of listening habits as users seek out ‘feel-good’ music content and podcasts. So, our running brief is to do anything to stop the kids feeling down, and rather than reaching out to music search companies or briefing awe-inspiring composers to create the perfect track for us, we’re going with our gut when picking the soundtrack to our long days with the kids. It’s amazing how a track like ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, or ‘Blinding Lights’ by the Weeknd, can charge its way into a sad moment and help blow the roof of our little kitchen, lifting everyone’s spirits up out of self-isolation and high into the stratosphere.

So as you continue to work from home, I advise you approach every day like a true marketeer. Laying out specific hard to reach KPIs for yourself, your family or your housemates and use creativity and guile to cut through the lockdown and have a real impact on the tiny world around you.