The minimalist: Beyond the Brief featuring Christopher Vega, BBDO

BBDO copywriter Christopher Vega's name is being heard a little more often, especially among groups of young and aspiring creatives. He’s just started year two of The Concepting Class, his free initiative that gears young underprivileged creatives towards better portfolios and an easier path to employment. This program circumvents the usual path for someone of color attempting to enter the industry—one that usually costs an additional two years and money spent in more traditional portfolio school training—and was one of the reasons he received the 2017 Young Innovator Award.

The insights that led to his program derived from industry involvement beginning with the Stanford grad’s time as a MAIP fellow in 2011. Vega’s also a product of the Multicultural Advertising Training program, and the ADCOLOR Futures program, before being part of BBDO New York’s inaugural Creative Residency. He and four others from less traditional backgrounds (others in that class included a DJ, a science fiction writer and an animator) spent a year immersing themselves in the agency’s culture before becoming fully integrated into different teams. The opportunity gave clients like FedEx, AT&T, Pedigree and Visa access to Vegas’ eclectic skillset. The greater results: over the next two years, BBDO NY brought on 7 more creative residents and is in works to expand the award-winning initiative to its other US offices. Vega’s work and know-how has been integral to the residency’s expansion.

Vega’s life is a model of consistency, creating more with less. Aside from training newer MAIP fellows in a yearly creative crash course, he also sits on Stanford University’s Young Alumni executive board and was previously a member of ADCOLOR’s advisory board. Somehow, he still finds time to get away, sit in front of a mixing board and put together his minimalist beats and work with up-and-coming recording artists. A multi-hyphenate who is shifting the way we think about training creative talent, Vega is living soundly beyond the brief.

If you weren’t in advertising, what would you be doing?

Trying to make a living by writing stuff. Maybe writing novels that would get rejected by publishers. Maybe writing for music sites around the internet. That or probably working at a music production company writing music for TV or commercials. Just making crappy jingles all the time.

If your boss sent you to a desert island for a week and could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?

I’m from a desert island and I’ve already spent 18 years on one so the correct answer is a boat so I can just leave instead of having to spend one more week on a desert island slowly dying of boredom.

Really though, I’d probably take a book from my reading list like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Book by Haruki Murakami, some camping equipment, and food so I could just hang out on the beach for the week.

What’s your passion outside of advertising?

I write and produce songs mostly by myself but occasionally with a few people I’ve forced to sing my songs.

I know it’s my passion because I’m essentially addicted to doing it. If I don’t finish a song every couple of weeks, I feel really unproductive.

I do it all on a crappy laptop that tends to get way too hot. I’ve got 100 mostly finished instrumentals waiting for vocals and another 30 songs with vocals in various states of finished on it. So hopefully the laptop never blows up because that would be sad and I would be sad.

What non-advertising things do you draw inspiration from?

Movies but mostly the writers and directors behind them. People like David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, and (recently) Jordan Peele, who synthesize all their influences into unique styles of visual storytelling really inspire me to do the best work that I can do regardless of what I’m working on.

I love books and have a list of about 100 different things I can't wait to read. I like weirder stuff so most of the list is either sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or something in between.

Pretty much anything that makes me jealous of how good it is inspires me to be better.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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Bennett Bennett

Bennett D. Bennett is a staff writer at The Drum covering agencies, the media landscape, creativity and innovation. An NYC native, MAIP alum and City College of New York grad, Bennett previously was an award-winning copywriter at BBDO New York and lends his unique perspective and voice to The Drum's editorial staff. Previously a member of the Adcolor Advisory Board, he currently sits on the AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee.

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