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Talking Creativity with Paco Zepeda and Joaquin Illanes

January, 2020

The need for creative work grows with each passing year. Every business from startups to established power brands understand that in order to stand out, you need to get creative, especially when trying to reach consumers. Not only is this type of marketing output effective, but it is fun work for the teams involved.

Even though 121 continues to offer its popular services like adaptation and graphic design, we have recently taken the step to bring our clients creativity in the form of 121 Pill. Paco Zepeda, Creative Director, and Joaquin Illanes, Art Director, are leading the charge with this new tool. We spoke with the pair to talk about 121 Pill, and more about the topic of creativity.

121: Before we dive into what 121 Pill is, let’s talk about how the both of you got here, from the very beginning. What’s the earliest memory of creativity that you have?

PZ: Drawing. Drawing was the first thing I remember doing creatively. There is one drawing that I remember of a shark rising out of the water like the Jaws movie poster, although this was before the movie was released. I always liked to do it, and I remember when I was in elementary school, an uncle told me I should draw professionally. I never gave it much thought until much later.

JI: Same for me, I always loved to draw. My first creative memory actually starts with the old Batman TV series from the 60s with Adam West. I would always draw Adam West in my mother’s books.

121: It’s interesting seeing that common link for both of your creative starts, just expressed a little differently. Creativity can mean a lot to different people. How would you two define it?

JI: Creativity is hard to define. I would say that you can say creativity is saying or doing something in a way that’s fresh based on what you were told it had to be. At its core it’s about adaptability. How does one respond to challenges that are not part of our daily life? The answer always involves creativity, and can come from any source. You don’t have to work in an agency; you could be an accountant, a custodian, or an engineer. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that ability to adapt.

PZ: I’ve had distinct phases in my life that have had different answers for what is creativity. I remember I was interviewing for the Creative Director position at a different agency, and the first question they asked me was what creativity meant to me. My answer was that creativity meant solving problems, and I was hired on the spot.

I had another moment when I was still a student. A professor asked a class of mine what position we would like to have within an ad agency. At the time creativity to me was scary. It was something very complex, very difficult, like it was something of the gods. This definition led me to decide to go down the art path, which would later become the role of Art Director. Having this experience made me realize how difficult it is to have this position from a technical knowledge standpoint.

121: It’s interesting to hear how creativity can change and evolve to us personally and professionally.

JI: Creativity demands change and adaptation, as well as learning new things. But along with that need for us to learn comes the need for us to unlearn certain ideas and concepts. Right now we are going through a global evolution towards digital and e-commerce. We may have a good idea, but we cannot be 100 percent sure where this shift is leading us. As creatives we have to be flexible and be willing to let go of certain ways of doing things now to learn how to be more effective in the future.

121: Let’s talk about 121 Pill. I know that within the agency we have an understanding of what it is, but what should people outside of 121, especially clients, know about it?

PZ: Well, the thing about creativity is that it is very necessary, especially for clients. I mean, it isn’t needed to explain to a client why a creative proposal is better than one that isn’t. Do you want the car with a powerful engine, lots of accessories, and is visually appealing or the one that is uninspiring on every level and struggles going from Point A to Point B?

With 121 Pill, we are providing additional creativity, but it's a creativity that is indispensable. This is a creative department that works with our existing teams to add more than just adaptation and implementation. 121 Pill was born from listening to the needs of our clients.

JI: It’s a positive for our clients to be able to have creative options for the work they require. It’s something that’s memorable, valuable, and a differentiator on the market. And it’s not just that creativity helps our clients sell. It’s a tool that agencies use, and that we need to take advantage of to keep innovating.

It’s also about allowing our clients to build stronger relationships with their audiences through creative design. It’s not always about the hard sell. Attractive design shows consumers that brands are making an effort to relate to them visually.

PZ: Earlier we talked about how we define creativity, so what is it’s opposite? It’s destruction. The opposite of creation is destruction. But our job as creatives is to not let that happen, to not conform. What we are aiming to do with 121 Pill in the early stages is to show clients that we are nonconformists, that we are willing and able to be creative. It’s important to show that there are other paths to follow in addition to the safe route.

121: What has been the client reception so far?

PZ: It’s been good. So far our focus is to provide concepts of what we can do creatively along with the requested proposals. It’s like we’re giving out free samples. For now, it’s the best way to show our current and potential clients that, yes, we are creatives.

JI: The client reception has been just as great as the reception internally. It’s interesting to see the collaboration on creative projects. If an idea is proposed that the team can’t agree upon, it doesn’t leave the agency. But once the team is excited and happy about an idea, the idea gives birth to a better concept to deliver to the client, because that energy and excitement is reflected in the final product.

That excitement is felt around the agency, and grows with each passing day. As the years continue to roll on, we cannot wait to see how far 121 Pill will go with the help of our talented collaborators and incredible clients.

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Last Edited on May 25, 2018