Pepsi, Michelob Ultra and More Highlights From Clio's 2023 Creative Summit

Plus views on mentorship and a Q+A with KAWS

The 2023 Clio Creative Summit, held at Powerhouse Arts in Brooklyn on Oct. 16, featured panel discussions with a bevy of brands and agencies—including Pepsi, Michelob Ultra, Twitch, FCB, R/GA and Mischief—plus a Q&A with artist KAWS, who received the 2023 Clio Visionary Award.

Here's a rundown of the event's most salient views and insights...

A creative conversation with Pepsi

Pepsi's Lou Arbetter, VP of creative and production, and Sofia Crnkovich, senior marketing analyst, discussed the brand's image overhaul and creative process.

"When we create work, we run through the typical three truths" pertaining to culture, consumer and brand, Arbetter said. "It's 101 shit, but it's amazing how many folks don't follow it. You better understand what's happening in culture. You better understand what consumers are thinking. And [seriously consider] what right your brand even has to play" in specific conversations.

The decision to revamp Pepsi's logo, a "massive undertaking," per Crnkovich, was paramount because "the previous packaging didn't represent the consumer—unapologetic enthusiasts."

"We introduced motion to our visual identity, a Pepsi-pulse energetic ripple that emanates from the logo. It allows us to better show up in different contexts." For example, the brand can use such imagery in displays at music festivals and holiday installations.

The pair also highlighted two pieces of long-form work, "Nicholas Brothers: Stormy Weather" and The Color of Cola, a documentary debuting in 2024 based on Stephanie Capparell's book, The Real Pepsi Challenge: How One Pioneering Company Broke Color Barriers in 1940s American Business.

Post-panel, Arbetter told Muse that PepsiCo is working on additional long-form content with Imagine Entertainment and Springhill Entertainment (the latter hyping Starry through the NBA).

"We're very excited about the opportunities that type of content provides, but it's one lever that the brand can pull," he said. "We don't overestimate what that one thing alone can do for us. But it is very much the most authentic way to show we understand the space, whatever the subject matter is that we're talking about. And to entertain, that's what people want—so if a brand can provide that authentically, then it's a win."

FCB Global on creating Dreamcaster for Michelob Ultra

Danilo Boer, global creative partner at FCB Global, walked attendees through the creation of Dreamcaster for Michelob Ultra. The technology makes basketball accessible to the visually impaired. The agency worked with Cameron Black, a blind man with a dream of being a sports broadcaster. Together, they developed spatial audio cues that indicate exactly what's taking place in a game.

"We sat with him week after week after week, giving him different sound cues," said Boer. "We were breaking down literally everything that could happen on a basketball court and working with him and audio people to develop sounds for each one of those events."

The agency also developed a Braille keyboard that can update Black with real-time data, allowing him to confidently comment on the action. 

The technology will be available in most NBA arenas, and Boer credits Michelob Ultra for being a trusting client throughout the year-long development process (which is documented in a 26-minute film called "Dreamcaster," now running in theaters).

"Things will go wrong when you try and do impossible things, but don't give up and keep going," Boer said.

Building mentorship and community

"I never really had a mentor, sadly, which has made me more focused on wanting to help talent get access to mentors," said Dionna Dorsey, co-founder of The Creative Ladder, when asked by Muse by Clio executive director Charell Star to name folks who helped shape her career.

A similar situation occurred for Mischief partner and ECD Bianca Guimaraes, who noted that "I didn't know I could ask for someone to be my mentor. Along the way I found people who took me under their wing. From CDs at my first job in New York to my husband, who is also in the industry."

Apple and Verizon vet Andrew McKechnie had many mentors, most of them female, because "they address issues in a more holistic way. Females tend to separate all the other baggage and give really good advice."

During the discussion, one term stood out: "moment mentors."

"A moment mentor is someone I need right now at this point in time, because they understand the circumstances, culture, people and dynamics" impacting a specific challenge, said McKechnie.

Dorsey recommended using social media to connect with pros on specific requests, like helping with cover letters or negotiating for promotions.

Also, placing an emphasis on personal wellbeing is vital when striking a solid work/life balance.

"Put yourself at the top of your list and put yourself at the bottom of your list, making sure you are consistently thinking about yourself, your wellbeing," said Dorsey. "As creatives, we experience the highs and lows differently than non-creatives, which feeds all that creativity."

A Q+A with 2023 Clio Visionary Award winner KAWS

Verizon VP Mike Wente sat down with KAWS to discuss the artist's creative process.

"What was I influenced by? I want to reach people in a candid way that's not just, 'Come stand in front of a picture,'" KAWS said. "I love painting, I love sculpting, but I also like the idea of someone falling asleep in a T-shirt."

KAWS' art has reached audiences on a global scale (his work with Uniqlo is one example), and in smaller, more personal ways, often through limited editions.

"Everything I do, I'm nervous, whether it's a little release on my website or a 45-meter sculpture. You gotta push through it, and the worse case scenario is that you fall on your face, get up and get into other stuff."

For up-and-comers in the art world, KAWS' advice is to be true to yourself and enjoy the process.

"Think about what do you want to be making and why. Stick to that. Everyone's trajectory is never straight. Appreciate your downtime, appreciate your uptime, and don't take either of them too seriously. For me, success is when I make the piece. How someone responds to it is a whole other thing."

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