Rob Kottkamp — Senior Vice-President & Creative Director, Mullen Lowe Boston

Rob Kottkamp talks to TheNextGag about the cruise advertising business, on his live campaign on Periscope, having to learn how to shoot vertical and why Boston is not worse than New York for a creative.

Rob Kottkamp is the Senior Vice-President & Creative Director of Mullen Lowe Boston in the USA.

Rob, along MullenLowe U.S.’s Dustin Johnson and Royal Caribbean’s Kara Wallace, wee up on stage at the Cannes Lions 2016 to discuss their recent Periscope campaign, #ComeSeekLive. The discussion revolved around how they made this campaign so successful as well as the challenges they faced. The panel focused on the roles that trust and collaboration play in creating live experiences. Essentially, the panel told the #ComeSeekLive story in reverse, through the eyes of the people and talent who brought it to life.

THENEXTGAG: YOU JUST CAME FROM A SHOOT, RIGHT ?

ROB KOTTKAMP: Yes. For Royal Caribbean on the Harmony of the Seas. It is a brand new ship. It’s the largest cruise ship in the world. We were there shooting all the experiences on board. It’s a live cruise with people on board. But, it is a big ship. It’s not crowded at all. It feels very open. It’s hard to feel like you are on a ship. It is just so large and there is so much to do. It was a different experience. It was cool.

TNG: HAVE YOU BEEN ON A CRUISE BEFORE ?

RK: Yes, I have. They are interesting. I mean, I spent most of my time working on the cruises, in terms of shooting commercials there. It’s a different type of vacation. It gets you access to a lot more things. It’s nice having … Basically, you have an hotel room and you are travelling in all these different destinations. So, it makes it a lot easier to see what is it to see during the course of the week. And Royal, their ship is so nice — and they are just so different than the category — it is a really big spread, it is really fun. 85% of people absolutely love the experience, whether they had been on a cruise before or not. It’s a high-high quality product.

TNG: I BELIEVED THAT CRUISES WERE FOR OLD PEOPLE EVEN THOUGH WHAT’S OFFERED SEEMS NICE. I AM SURE I WOULD LOVE GOING ON A CRUISE IF IT WAS FULL OF YOUNGER FOLKS.

RK: Yes. What you just said is exactly what we are trying to do. It’s the perception. That’s what all of us are trying to do with Royal Caribbean. It’s the perception that you said “Oh, it’s probably like old people. It’s not for me. There’s nobody on there that I can relate to or have fun with”. And reality is, the experience is so for young people. That’s the perception that we are fighting all the time. Trying to show people that it’s a very cool vacation.

TNG: DO YOU ALSO DO WORK FOR CARNIVAL CRUISE ?

RK: No. I used to when I was in another agency. I used to be the creative director for Carnival Cruise.

TNG: AT ARNOLD ?

RK: When I was at Arnold, I was working on them.

TNG: SO, YOU ARE LIKE THE CRUISE GUY IN THE INDUSTRY ?

RK: No, I am not. It was an interesting thing because I helped win the pitch at Arnold for Carnival. I worked on the pitch as a creative and then they asked if I wanted to run it, when I got promoted as a creative director, and so I said yes. And I did that for a few years at Arnold then I left. Went to Mullen to run something different, try a new experience. And then Royal came up for review. I had the experience, so they had me and my partner, John Kearse, head up the pitch. And I decided that it was something I wanted to do, because Royal is so different than the category. It’s a very different brand. They are very innovative.

TNG: I MENTIONED CARNIVAL CRUISE BECAUSE OF ALL THE JOKES FROM LATE-NIGHT SHOWS ABOUT AN INCIDENT ON A SHIP.

RK: Yes. It’s the category. On Carnival, there has been a couple of incidents that obviously everybody knows about. Royal doesn’t really have that problem. But as they belong to the same industry, it can of makes it harder for people to separate things. But, they push the boundaries every day. Their ships are amazing. The ultimate Abyss is a 10 story slide. It starts at deck 16 and goes all the way to deck 6. They have robot-bartenders … It’s a really interesting experience.

TNG: DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF DANGER WHEN YOU ARE CRUISING ON A SHIP THAT BIG ?

RK: No. I have never felt unsafe on any cruise that I have been on. Whether I was working or family vacation.

TNG: WHAT WILL THE SUBJECT OF YOUR SESSION AT CANNES WILL BE ?

RK: Specifically, the presentation is on “Come Seek Live”, the Periscope project that we did in the fall. But, we will be going over the main parts of the campaign behind the TV broadcast that launched it, and then we will move on to the digital innovation and really get into how we pulled that off.

TNG: HOW DID YOU PULL THAT OFF ?

RK: Well, it was a lot of people working together for a long time. I think the client collaboration with Tool, the production company, with media, with the creatives and account, everybody working together and trying to do this. And it had never been done before. So, there is a lot of planning, a lot of technology involved. The media vendors from the out-of-home company were accommodating the Wi-Fi signal that we needed to get to the billboards, so we could actually broadcast the Periscopes live. It was very challenging, but great work is not easy to do.

TNG: I NORMALLY READ ALL THE PRESS RELEASES THAT I RECEIVE IN A SINGLE SITTING AT THE END OF THE DAY, BUT FOR THIS CAMPAIGN I WENT STRAIGHT ON IT TO WATCH THE THINGS HAPPEN.

RK: Oh good, so you saw some of it ? Which ones did you see ?

TNG: I WATCHED IT WHEN IT LAUNCHED ON THE FIRST DAY. THEN, I SAW THE COVERAGE THE FOLLOWING DAYS. FOR A JOURNALIST, IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO EXPERIENCE A CAMPAIGN RATHER THAN RECEIVING A CASE STUDY THREE MONTHS AFTER THE OPERATION.

RK: Oh yes. That was interesting for us. It was the first campaign that I have done that was in progress when it got picked up. So, all the press that happened was on the second or the third day. And we still had almost another week on Periscope to get done. It was nice to see that everybody was liking it, but we still had tons of live broadcast to do.

And it is an interesting campaign, because once Periscope go up — they are only up for a finite period at the time — then they disappear. So, I am glad you got to see it because, for a lot of people, this thing doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s an interesting perspective. But, it was fun for us. Because Periscope is so new and with all of those platforms, we are trying to find a way to kind of leverage them. Especially with creativity: How can you use it in an interesting way ? And we were able to take Periscope, put them on billboards, just have them doing live events for ten days.

TNG: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON VERTICAL VIDEOS ?

RK: It’s the inevitable way everything is going. It’s interesting just to see people on their phones, that’s how people consume content. And you are always going to have the widescreen, because you need that for the big version. But we shot the whole campaign with an iPhone. On Periscope, if you tweak functionalities and you go sideways, you got a strip in the middle. We had to shoot horizontal, because we wanted to fit in on the billboards.

We do it increasingly on our shoots. Last week, we shot a lot of stuff vertical. There is a huge specific spot that we needed to hold in a vertical format too, so were were capturing the whole horizontal and vertical. It’s becoming more and more common. Because, you can’t send a widescreen anymore. It looks weird, because you are not framing it up properly.

TNG: AT FIRST, I WAS QUICK TO DISMISS VERTICAL VIDEOS, THINKING IT WAS ONLY FOR AMATEURS. BUT WHEN YOU SEE THE JEEP COMMERCIAL AT THE SUPERBOWL, YOU REALIZE THAT IT MAKES A DIFFERENT KIND OF IMPACT. DO YOU SEE IT AS A CONSTRAINT ?

RK: We thought it was a good thing. Because, one of the most powerful things we thought visually about the campaign, was it takes something you see on your phone, on a very small format, and blow it up and serve it up on another medium. Out-of-home is so large. You are very familiar with it, because obviously, you are messing with Periscope, you are dealing with it, it’s just in your hands. And walking down the streets and seeing all the hearts and everything come up, and all the comments popping up on a billboard was pretty interesting.

TNG: WHAT IS COMING UP NEXT ?

RK: We are working on a ton of different things. There is a lot of stuff. The nice thing about “Come Seek Live” is how you are able to just execute it pretty much live. It gave us a lot of time working with the client. And that was our first production with the client after we won the business. That was the first time out. It’s was a new relationship, doing something that has never been done in a way that is not really traditional. And I think the collaborative nature of how that all came together. And the clients were there the entire time. It was a very tight production.

TNG: I AM WONDERING WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR WHEN CAMPAIGNS ARE BEING BROADCAST IN REAL-TIME AND YOU CANNOT EDIT.

RK: Well, I think if you look at it from a transparency standpoint, people’s awareness of brands and how they operate. And there are so much more ability for people to abuse them. And basically kind of hold brands accountable for flaws and things that are untrue. And how it forces your hand as an advertiser that if you want to create a situation where you are showing something that happens in a very real, transparent format, these types of platforms allow for that. But you can’t edit. You really can’t. And it transforms the experience. I think that helps give brands a lot more credibility if you leverage it the right way. So, the people can see what the experience actually is.

The role of the creative director ? Andrea Mileskiewicz was the copywriter on the project and Blake Winfree was the art director. My role was to help support the production and be a liaison to the team, in terms of staying a little bit higher level to give them more room to move in their job. And just making sure that the production company is planning things out and all the things like media coverage, holding the client’s hand through it and just giving them the space so they can get in and execute, block, plan, prepare and do their jobs. And basically, helping out when everything goes live.

It was a very unique experience. It’s no different than I think a creative director’s role on a traditional shoot. The only thing that made it a little bit improvised is we provide coverage. Really having confidence in the teams that needed to execute. But when you think of it there is a difference: when the cameras were on, there is no second take.

TNG: ABSOLUTELY. IT’S ALL LIVE. IF THERE IS CURSING OR ANYTHING, IT’S THERE.

RK: We did have ability — and it got easier as the week went on — to filter spammers. we had people watching. We were able to edit the comments. All the videos were real, there was nothing pre-shot. From a comment standpoint, knowing that they were going live, we did have the ability to remove specific comments on the fly. Dan Moore, who was one of our lead Periscopers, actually, as the week went on, and people started to come on Periscope and comment, he would just pop it off and block it instantly. So, it kind of helped us though our jobs, which was nice.

But the other thing when you think about doing it live is that there is interactivity, which is the most interesting part, where consumers who were actually tuning into the Periscope could influence the activity. So, in a lot of stories that we had, whether that was ziplining or eating experience, they could actually pick what the people would eat or they could pick how they went down the zipline. We got them to skydive and they could chose whether there is a flip or a roll. So, that gave the viewers a lot of control. And people influenced the people on the set, which was pretty funny.

TNG: MULLEN LOWE IS PROBABLY THE ONLY BIG CREATIVE AGENCY THAT IS LOCATED IN BOSTON. DO YOU FIND THAT THE CITY IS A GOOD PLACE FOR A CREATIVE ?

RK: I moved to Boston twelve years ago to work at Arnold. Arnold was, I think, the second most awarded agency in the world at the time, because we had Volkswagen and Truth. I was fortunate enough to do a lot of different work there. I worked on the Truth campaign a lot with my current partner John Kearse. He was the creative director on Truth at the time.

And agencies have cycles you know, things happen, they go through changes. Everyone of them. And Mullen in the last five years has just had a national rise in terms of the creative quality of the work, and in terms of the consistency of it. Also, it is indicative of how much there is always something that is going on in Boston.

I think it is one of the most creative shops that I have worked at. But is Boston creative ? I would say yes, because we are sitting here talking about it right now.

Rob Kottkamp

Mullen Lowe Boston

Senior Vice-President & Creative Director

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