Agents of boom: Advertising alumni Melissa Thomas and Jack-Anthony Collier

by April 23rd, 2014

Creative duo Jack-Anthony Collier and Melissa Thomas star in their zine "Birdscouts"

Creative duo Jack-Anthony Collier and Melissa Thomas as featured in their zine Birdscouts.

She’s a copywriter at Deutsch. He’s a copywriter for Mullen. Together, they’ve worked on campaigns for companies like Taco Bell, AT&T, Carls Jr., Kia and JetBlue.

But Art Center Advertising alumni Melissa Thomas (BFA 12) and Jack-Anthony Collier recently put their professional interests aside to tackle one of today’s most pressing issues: the dreaded boom mic mistake. Their solution? CATBOOM.

Okay, on a more serious note, today these creative partners are preparing to channel their creative energy in a different direction. This summer, they’ll be teaching at Art Center’s continuing education program, Art Center at Night, helping students get their advertising portfolios in shape in Advertising Portfolio Workshop.

“We’ll be going through the students’ books, and offering suggestions on how to improve and tighten them up,” says Collier. “We’ll be reviewing their work from an agency’s perspective before they head out into the big wide world.”

And of course, there will be fun.

“There’s plenty of time to be completely miserable at work,” says Thomas with a laugh. “We want this class to be fun. It’s a short class, just seven weeks, which is the perfect length for a portfolio review.”

Indeed, something they both describe seeing in the workplace are people who take their work way too seriously. “Advertising is an industry where you can actually have fun,” says Collier. “And it pays off because it’s the crazy ideas that that get you noticed.”

One crazy campaign Collier worked on was “Election Protection” campaign for JetBlue. During the 2012 Presidential campaign, when citizens were threatening emigration if their candidate lost the election, JetBlue threw a contest—cast a vote against your candidate to win a one-way ticket out of the country.

“‘Election Protection’ manifested itself in a number of ways with PR buzz, street teams, television commercials, radio ads and a website with live election coverage,” says Collier. “It was fun and it worked across the board.”

In order for a campaign to succeed like that, Thomas says it needs to start with a strong concept, something she learned as a student. “At school we always worked from an idea onward,” says Thomas. “That really stands out in the professional world. You can always tell the Art Center graduates by their strategic grounding.”

Collier agrees. “So many people try to do something that may look cool, but that doesn’t have a solid insight you can sell to a client,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing you need to learn coming out of Art Center: if your work doesn’t have a strategy, it’s not worth much.”

The origins of Collier and Thomas’ creative collaborations date back to their college days, when they were paired together in a class taught by Patrick Almageur and Blake Kidder. While at Art Center, they both interned and eventually began working for Almaguer and Kidder, who at the time were with David & Goliath.

Still from Jack-Anthony Collier's and Melissa Thomas' "CATBOOM."

Still from CATBOOM by Jack-Anthony Collier and Melissa Thomas.

“We share a similar sense of humor,” says Jack, explaining why the two immediately clicked. “We’re always trying to make each other laugh when we’re doing projects.”

Though Collier and Thomas work at separate companies today, the two still collaborate via Thomas’ Peg Leg Deer moniker on projects that stray decidedly off the advertising world’s beaten path. Case in point? CATBOOM.

Another recent collaboration is their absurdist illustration-filled zine titled Birdscouts, in which the creative duo travel to Misery Island off the coast of Massachusetts to uncover the islet’s mystery and to spot rare birds like the Low-Res Sea Falcon.

Thomas, whose pre-advertising background includes fine art and stop-motion animation, says these types of collaborations are important not only because they’re fun, but because they allow them to explore concepts that are more subjective. “In advertising, your work needs to be very clear,” says Thomas. “If you’ve done it successfully, there’s one emotion you’re trying to get from the audience.”

Thomas says it’s also important as an advertising professional to work on projects unrelated to advertising: “You need to be a person and have likes outside of building an ad portfolio.”

“We try to work on projects that have nothing to do with advertising because that’s what being a creative is about,” agrees Collier, but then adds that his career and his Peg Leg Deer work aren’t completely unrelated. “Side projects are where you can show others your interests, and that can very well lead you to doing something you really like in advertising.”

Register for Art Center at Night today. Summer term classes start May 12.

The cover of the first issue of "Birdscouts," by Jack-Anthony Collier and Melissa Thomas.

The cover of the first issue of Birdscouts, by Jack-Anthony Collier and Melissa Thomas.

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