'Karma is a real thing': Beyond the Brief with Kiran Koshy, Innocean USA
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with 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)?
Kiran Koshy wears a lot of hats. He’s the art director, creative director and director for Innocean USA, an ad agency based out of Huntington Beach, California. He also serves as adjunct faculty at Texas A&M and has produced show-stopping work for brands that range from Hyundai to Chick-Fil-A to Metro PCS.
His career has led him to be a jack of all trades — however, he notes his Super Bowl campaigns, especially his work for Bridgestone, amongst his greatest accomplishments. He also nods to his work with the Thousand Dollar Shave Society (a parody of the Dollar Shave Club), where he created a 90-second film that was very high visual quality and was his first debut as director.
Koshy’s work in the advertising industry, plus his passion for creativity and his passion for teaching others shows he is living beyond the brief.
If you weren’t in advertising, what would you be doing?
I'd be a cartoonist...a political cartoonist/satirist at that. Or, a large installation sculptor like Claes Oldenburg.
What was your proudest career moment?
It's the moment the Board at Bridgestone Americas came back into the boardroom, after hearing The Richards Group creatives pitch 12 ideas for the Super Bowl, with a list of their top 3 picks and mine was on top of that list. I was the junior-most creative there, and the only non-American in the room. I had to ride on the 9th seat in the agency jet (i.e. the upholstered toilet) from Dallas to the Bridgestone headquarters in Nashville, as seats were assigned by tenure as per agency policy. I was really nervous when my turn to present came up, and thought I was going to throw up. I dropped all my props instead, accidentally, and that surprisingly calmed me. Phew! The spot went on to win AdBowl.
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If you won the lottery, would you still work in advertising?
Yes, I would. I'd start an agency that'd help struggling small businesses, for free, on the condition that we'd have creative carte blanche, I'd get right of first refusal to play Director, and we'd have a stake in future profits. I believe creativity can solve any business problem, and I'd be willing to put my money, talent, and time, where my mouth is.
If you went back to school to pick up a new skill, what would it be?
Film History, so I could spend a significant amount of time on my ass watching movies from around the world, whilst sipping cheap wine from Trader Joe's.
What non-advertising things do you draw inspiration from?
Fillmore concert posters created by acid soaked artists in the 60s.
Music of all kinds.
People-watching in crowded spaces and public transport anywhere.
What’s something you’ve learned, either personally or professionally, that has surprised you lately?
Karma is a real thing. I met a struggling businessman who was driving an Uber to augment his income. He was really laid back, optimistic, and super friendly, despite his struggles. We hit it off, and I felt a strong desire to help him. So, I made a bunch of spots for his struggling dog food company, for free. It took me numerous weekends, favors, and about a year to finish. He loved the spots, and teared up on seeing them for the first time. They've helped his business immensely, which is very gratifying. They also won me a CLIO in the process, and got me on multiple New Director Shortlists. I didn't expect any of it.
I've learned that having a positive outlook in this business, despite all the rejection one faces as a creative, is essential and will help you immensely in the long run. So, every time you're beat down, fret for a day or two...rant, rave, get it out of your system. But then, shake it off and jump right back in. Energy is contagious and it draws others to you, and to your seemingly harebrained schemes. You want that.
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