Meet Michael Dunlap, our new Creative Director

Our creative department has been growing and growing, more than doubling in size during 2016. We also shifted strategies to better serve our growing client base of digital brands – not just startups, but digital companies of all sizes – and created positions for Executive Director and Head of Production (the fabulous Katrin Kolossa and Vanessa Zimmermann, respectively).

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The newest addition to our creative leadership is Michael Dunlap, an ad industry expert of 15 years with experience at agencies like BBDO Proximity, fischerAppelt, Scholz & Friends and Heimat, not to mention a laundry list of awards from the advertising industry including multiple medals from ADC, Eurobest, Ame and Montreux, and finalist placements at Clio and Cannes just to name a few. We sat down with Michael to get to know him and see what’s in store for the DCMN creative team.

Welcome Michael! We’re thrilled to have you on board.

What made you decide to join DCMN?

Over the last couple years, I’ve mostly focused on civic clients like ministries, non-profits or banks. But through my career, it’s been pretty much anything and everything – from startups to Mercedes.

At DCMN, you’re focused on digital brands only – Matthias (CGO) likes to talk about “working for the Coca Colas of tomorrow.” New businesses and startups are very exciting, they’re fast moving, quick in deciding and open for suggestions. For them it’s not just about the spot itself – they really value what great strategic expertise can bring to the table.

But a bigger reason is how different the DCMN approach is – in how you handle client relationships and daily business, and the whole philosophy on employee satisfaction. One of the things I’ve really liked, and I’ve already seen that in my first couple days here and through the interview process, is that people seem to truly enjoy being here.

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Vanessa Zimmermann, Katrin Kolossa and Michael Dunlap

What do you think makes fast-growing, digital clients different than bigger, more established brands?

With digital brands, the first thing you need to understand is the importance of KPIs – they have very clear goals in terms of performance, meaning they also have concrete targets and expectations on which they’ll measure our success as a service provider. They’re also really clear about what they expect from media and creative, and are much more hands-on during the whole process.

From a creative standpoint, I think that differentiation is always key, and that goes double for disruptive brands. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do something that’s totally off the wall. There’s this one quote I like from the Pixar movie The Incredibles, ‘If everyone is super, then no one will be’. You need to find what differentiates you from the rest and bring that out as much as you can. It’s not always crazy and it’s not always loud, but you have to find a way to cut through the noise and be heard.

In your experience, what’s the most crucial aspect of good creative
direction? What do you hope to give the team?

Setting your own ego aside is one big thing. You’ve got to allow other people to have good ideas. As a Creative Director, your role is to steer what’s on the table, give the team direction. But at the same time, recognize that sometimes you don’t have to do much because most of the concept is already there. Also, making people feel appreciated is crucial, not just for creatives. They should feel like what they’ve worked on is valid and respected, so acknowledge a good job when you see it.

Creativity tends to be impulsive. It’s risky, because you might open a weak spot. But you have to be willing to take that risk – to fall on your face – to make
something really spectacular. For the client there’s also a boatload of rewards, taking the risk gives you the chance to stand out miles above the rest and really build the brand image. Especially now that infectious ideas can take over on
social media and be shared organically.

What’s your favorite ad of all time and why?  

If we’re just talking about the ad itself, there’s one that I always show in presentations. It’s a really old Audi spot from the 90’s. It was the first time I recognized the communicative power that advertising can have. I remember seeing that and for the first time – I might have been 15 years old at this point – I felt what the creative wanted to portray.

The spot goes like this: there’s a guy, he has OCD and cleans everything he touches with disinfectant. He’s not very likeable, he even sprays a guy who’s trying to shake his hand. And when he goes to open the Audi, he sprays himself – essentially devaluing himself in comparison to this amazing car. And even as a young guy, I understood that.

My favorite all-around campaign is definitely Old Spice, “The man your man could smell like”. If you follow what happened on social media next to the spot that aired on TV, it’s just amazing what kind of resonance happened. It had superb dialogue and copywriting, and even better production value. It was just one of those ads that I could still watch today. I’m still in awe of how all the creative aspects came together – it was all done in one shot, they had a fantastic sense of humor, and of course great casting. It was just masterful.

Lastly, do you have a favorite media?

Not really. Whichever media helps me tell the best story.

 

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