What does John Cleese know about creativity?

June 28, 2012 in Blog

Iconic actor John Cleese (the Monty Python films and series, BBC’s Fawlty Towers) spoke about the creative process to advertisers at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

What does John Cleese know about creativity? Apparently a lot. He’s been speaking on the subject for decades through his educational video company Video Arts. The key takeaway is the importance of letting the unconscious mind take the driver’s seat. Fast Company brought the bullet points to the masses by providing four notable stories from Cleese. Here we’ll give you the further abridged version.

Letting ideas percolate

Delay decision-making. If you can stick with a problem longer you can come up with a better solution. An unresolved problem creates anxiety in us. People don’t deal well with ambiguity. Taking the first idea that comes your way alleviates that stress, but the idea that comes the next hour or the next day may be even better. Cleese advocates for sticking by a decision, but also determining when the deadline for the decision is and not deciding before that deadline.


Separate yourself from the pressures of everyday life for a set amount of time. What Cleese calls “creating an oasis of quiet.” Allow at least an hour and half. Then take a break. Cleese says that a whole morning is too much time. Many experts in productivity back up his hour and a half claim. The most amount of time that you can be expected to focus without a break is generally accepted to be 90 minutes.

Here’s the 36-minute version of Cleese’s original lecture from 1991:

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The world’s most sustainable city is in the Middle East

June 27, 2012 in Blog

The Masdar City clean-tech hub proposed to be built in Abu Dhabi may provide a glimpse of the city of the future when completed. The goal of the Masdar company was to build an entirely carbon-neutral city including solar panels, wind towers and a series of driverless pods to be operated on a magnetic rail system.

The announcement of the $18 billion city investment was made in 2006 and six years later several buildings are completed including retail outlets, a library, restaurants and some structures of the Masdar Institute, a graduate school focused on alternative energy and sustainability.

Siemen’s is moving its Middle Eastern headquarters to the city, and by 2025 the city will accommodate 40,000 residents and be home to hundreds of businesses. While Masdar City is only partially realized, within the next five years it’s expected that 400,000 to 500,000 square meters of built out area will accommodate the university and other companies relocating to the city.

Just last year Masdar City was able to reduce electricity consumption, water consumption, and cooling requirements to half of the average consumption in the United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the managing director and chief executive officer of Masdar told Fast Company, “There isn’t an example, a model in the world to build on or capitalize on or learn from. We had to learn by doing.”

There may not be another completely sustainable city to model Masdar City after, but when the clean-tech hub was initially announced several other countries followed the example. City planners for Masdar City are collaborating with a few of these cities in China, Denmark and Sweden as part of the Global Sustainable Cities Network, which was created by the UAE.

Here at the OBI blog we’ve written about Intel creating smarter cities and even about a city built as an innovation laboratory, but none quite as ambitious as Masdar City.

At OBI Creative we’ve helped companies market sustainable technology like our work with OPPD to promote its readiness to handle electric vehicles. The Masdar City clean-tech hub is an impressive experiment that may help bring other cities towards sustainability.

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High speed video: cool images, beautiful commercials

June 26, 2012 in The Work

Maybe the best way to explain our recent fascination with high speed video is to just show you the commercial that sparked it. But it’s more than just one commercial. It’s probably the typical subject matter of commercials shot with high speed video that we find so attractive right now.

As we slip into the full embrace of summer and it smothers us in temperatures soon to reach triple digits, slow motion shots captured on high speed cameras of 7UP and Paulaner splashing about somehow seem to cool us even as they ignite our thirst.

There’s a certain beauty reflected in these live shots that are often mistaken for Computer Generated. These shots are meticulously engineered, but not entirely with computers. While some effects are added after the fact, high speed cameras are the workhorses of these productions.

Companies like The Marmalade (clients: 7UP, Pepsi, Audi, Nivea, Paulaner, KFC) build sometimes elaborate mechanical rigs to launch liquids, fruits, or debris to create just the right splash that can then be captured in absolute detail with high speed video. The Marmalade has even designed a high speed robot rig called SPIKE to make quick and precise camera moves that otherwise would have to be done through 3D animation.

While high speed video has been used to examine things impossible to see with the naked eye such as how hummingbirds drink nectar or mosquitoes fly in the rain, they’ve also been used to develop breathtaking images and some memorable commercials.

Here’s the recent commercial for the BMW M5 “Bullet” that caught our attention:

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Nike’s ‘Voices’ spotlights women in sports

June 25, 2012 in Be Brave

This June 23 marked the 40th Anniversary of Title IX – the landmark legislation that opened the door for female athletes in sports. To commemorate Title IX, Nike released a short spot entitled “Voices.”

The minimalist approach features four athletes from three generations telling their stories in close-up to the camera. The athletes: Joan Benoit Samuelson (distance runner, gold medalist 1984), Lisa Leslie (four-time gold medalist, WNBA player), Marlen Esparza (six-time national champion USA Boxing, 2012 USA Women’s Boxing team) and Diana Tuarasi (two-time gold medalist, former WNBA MVP).

As the film progresses, the voices of Samuelson, Leslie, Esparza and Tuarasi are are dubbed over with the words of girls who stand defiantly by their sport. The words of the legendary female athletes become those of girls who are the future of women in sports.

Maybe it’s partially because right now the 2012 Olympic Swim Trials are underway in Omaha, the city that OBI Creative calls home, but we found this immensely inspirational. It took a lot of bravery for these women and others to overcome gender stereotypes to pursue their passion in sports. Today OBI applies a similar passion in our “Be Brave” advertising philosophy.

“Voices” launched on the Nike Women Facebook and discussions of the film can be found on Twitter #MAKETHERULES.

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The People: Jeff Price

June 22, 2012 in The People

Jeff Price got his introduction to OBI Creative right out of college directly from OBI’s CEO Mary Ann O’Brien. Jeff’s initial meeting with Mary Ann O’Brien in turn led to a second interview — one that he was not aware was even an interview.

Price says, “I’ve always appreciated art and creativity and I have always been pretty good with numbers.” It’s these interests and abilities that make Price perfect in his position as a Business Development Coordinator at OBI. In his position Price assists the Business Development Manager and also provides a bit of account coordination and project management.

At the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, Jeff Price finds an art print of OBI client Miller Electric's iconic sign

After pioneering a 10-minute closed-circuit news broadcast in his senior year of high school, Price was inspired to earn his bachelor’s in journalism in college. Throughout his college career he worked as a manager at Starbucks Coffee Company, which he describes as “the second greatest company in the world.”

“Working at Starbucks opened my eyes to ground level marketing initiatives that were taking shape. I believe that Starbucks could be described as a role model in the social realm,” Price says. It’s true that Starbucks has been ahead of the curve on a number of social initiatives such as crowd sourcing with its Website My Starbucks and other great marketing strategies.

It’s no wonder that Price says, “[Starbucks] is where my passion for marketing and advertising comes from.”

In college Price was also involved in an entrepreneurship program that connected and put the spotlight on local entrepreneurs. The program was designed to open student’s eyes to the entrepreneurial option. He helped bring in local entrepreneurs and put them in front of students and others interested and allowed an open dialogue about the struggles and successes of being your own boss.

One of the things that Price loves about OBI is the camaraderie that the team shares when working on projects. He says, “I have been lucky enough to work on a couple of major pitches and projects, and I think there is a sense of pride when the team comes together. Whether we’re given the opportunity to work on the account or not, it builds morale and brings the team closer.” Recently, OBI spent some time in the retail arena observing new trends in shopping, preference and consumer-behavior. OBI continues to help their partners gain relevant insight that allows them to become closer to their customers’ experience.

It’s that same kind of foreword thinking that allows OBI to create visionary marketing campaigns for the rest of its clients. It’s also this type of thinking that allowed OBI to see the potential in Price to become an up-and-comer in the marketing industry.

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Capturing errant ideas in an innovative office

June 21, 2012 in Blog

Creativity can be shy, but your environment can help tease it out of its hole. At OBI we know that our own inspiring office space is a vital piece of our creative process (you can find a few photos of where we love to work on our Facebook page). That being so, here are some recent office innovations that we’ve spotted that could power-up your creativity if it needs a recharge.

Post-It note desks







These gems were brought to our attention by an article from Businessweek. If you find yourself aimlessly doodling on papers as you sit at your desk brainstorming you can be fairly certain that you won’t run out of canvas with this product. The concept is simple. Instead of posting separate notes to your desk, your desk becomes the note. We’re pretty sure these desks are less forgiving of coffee spills than normal desks, but you have to take risks to come up with great ideas.

Wood everything







Coudamay Design developed this office idea called the Bears Cave. It’s undoubtedly a creative concept: create a wood cave working environment. While somewhat inspiring we see two potential drawbacks. 1) Fire? 2) Disgruntled employees letting loose termites. It could also use a log-splitting station and some flannel somewhere. Anywhere. Be careful. If you fall asleep at the office you might awake with the idea that you’re in a Michel Gondry film.

Continuing the outdoor theme







Coudamay Design sparked a tangent that led us to these crafty USB devices. Combining old and new, they nestle a USB drive into a tiny log. Paul Bunyan would not have known what to make of these and neither will a casual onlooker. Your creative secrets can rest safe.

Creative calendars









What led us to Bored Panda’s description of these creative calendars was an apple calendar we saw. That’s right. When working on a deadline it’s easy for creative types to forget small things like the date, or to eat — especially to eat healthy. Here’s a way to remember both at the same time. And making sure your body is fueled properly is the best way to get your brain working.

Write on walls





Ideapaint has one-upped whoever decided to make dry-erase paint. Their clear coating goes over existing surfaces without changing the surface’s look. Want to turn your desk into a giant doodle pad without buying a special desk? This is probably a worthwhile option. Love your red walls, but want to slap some ideas on them? Slather on some of Ideapaint’s “Clear” and soak up some ideas onto your wall.

The League of Extraordinary Women

June 20, 2012 in Be Brave

There is a network of powerful women that are changing the future for girls in impoverished countries. A recent article written by Ellen McGirt for Fast Company is well reported and extensive, and does a tremendous job of spotlighting the challenges that women face in under-developed nations and the initiatives that are being structured to create better futures for these women.

Fast Company calls these women, who are influencing changes in the lives of girls worldwide, the League of Extraordinary Women. The article starts with the story of how Maria Eitel, CEO of the Nike Foundation, came to found The Girl Effect for the foundation. The Girl Effect was started after Eitel traveled to Kenya and met a bright, hardworking 13-year-old girl who wanted to be a doctor. Unfortunately, that dream would never come true because she was being sold into marriage in exchange for a cow. Eitel pitched the Nike board on a concept to alleviate poverty by focusing on girls and ending child marriage. It was a tough sell, being that the regions that Eitel was focusing on had no Nike factories or businesses.

The Girl Effect can make a difference in world poverty according to several studies in the past decade. These studies show that if a woman is trained in a skill and given a microloan or some means to build savings that she is more likely than a man to educate and care for her family and reinvest in the community. Also of note is that in areas such as rural Africa and India, one year of secondary schooling can raise a girl’s future wages by 10 to 20 percent. The article goes on to state that in Kenya “the cost of early pregnancies and limited schooling of girls is an estimated $3.4 billion in gross income — equivalent to that country’s entire construction sector.”

Eitel’s strategy was not to tug on donors’ heartstrings, but rather to emphasize that saving girls from early arranged marriages could lessen poverty in these communities and subsequently worldwide. There are too many causes to name coming from the 60 women spotlighted by McGirt in her article, but their many divergent ideas are overlapping. The small ripples each is creating are coming together in a large wave of change for women in the world.



Mary Ann O’Brien on her ‘Be Brave’ philosophy

June 19, 2012 in Be Brave, The People

Mary Ann O’Brien is the CEO of OBI Creative and is a nationally recognized branding and marketing thought leader. She has helped steer the strategic direction for some of the most successful brands in the world. Her “Be Brave” advertising philosophy was introduced to a number of rising entrepreneurs at the 2012 Nebraska Entrepreneur Summit.

Here are a list of key points from her keynote speech:

  • Creative engineers solve problems through the lens of marketing.
  • OBI’s mantra is “Be Brave.”
  • Push yourself in areas that you’re not comfortable with.
  • Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place.
  • Success isn’t forever. Failure isn’t fatal.
  • “If it is to be then it’s up to me.”
  • Fear is the thing that holds us all back from greatness.
  • Fear holds us back from being our remarkable selves.
  • There’s nothing holding you back from your goals but yourself.
  • You have to have people around to help you.
  • Don’t settle. If you want more, go get more.
  • Make no excuses.
  • You have to take risks.
  • If you’re all in, pursue your dreams no matter what anyone else says.

Watch Mary Ann O’Brien on her “Be Brave” philosophy

Social marketing leader Starbucks dedicated to digital

June 18, 2012 in The Work

Last month Starbucks announced the creation of its first chief digital officer position. The CDO position is in charge of all of Starbuck’s digital projects — Web, mobile, social media, digital marketing, Starbucks Card and loyalty, e-commerce, Wi-Fi, Starbucks Digital Network and emerging in-store technologies.

The move to consolidate these digital initiatives into one category was significant, according to Venture Beat, because it signaled that Starbucks was “turning itself into a tech company.” This statement was a bit misleading, but Starbucks is considered by many to be a leader in social media marketing initiatives.

It launched My Starbucks Idea, essentially a crowd-sourcing Website, to allow customers to come up with new ideas for the company. That was in 2008, making Starbucks the second major company to implement such an initiative — the first was Dell’s IdeaStorm launched in 2007.

An early adopter of new social media platforms, Starbucks was on Twitter before it had even taken off in popularity. Today, Starbucks has 2.5 million followers on Twitter and 30 million likes on Facebook. The company was also quick to use Instagram and has posted 173 photos. Fans of Starbucks have posted 600,000 photos to Instagram with the hashtag #starbucks.

Starbucks currently has 18,000 stores in 58 countries and is relying on digital channels to help create even more growth for the company.

Starbucks’ first ever CDO Adam Brotman told Venture Beat, “Digital has to help our store partners and help the company be the way we can tell our story, build our brand, and have a relationship with our customers.”

OBI Creative’s Business Development Coordinator Jeff Price worked as a manager at Starbucks throughout college, and cited his experience there as having a large impact on his wanting to pursue a job in marketing. There’s a good reason why.

How a little design firm developed a light that lasts 50 years

June 15, 2012 in The Work

If you’re not familiar with the name James Dyson, you’re probably familiar with his invention — the Dyson vacuum. Now his son Jake may be bringing more attention to the family name with the invention of a longer lasting light. By longer lasting, we’re not talking about a few additional months. We’re talking about a light that will last half a century.

James Dyson, who says he worked through 5,127 prototypes of the Dyson vacuum before settling on his first finalized product, has spoken about his disdain for lazy engineering and his belief that it results in fake efficiency. Apparently, he instilled the same engineering ethic in his son.

Fast Company recently gave an in-depth look into the engineering behind Jake Dyson’s revolutionary LED lamp, the CSYS LED task light. Most surprising is that the desk lamp designed by Dyson works with LED light bulbs currently on the market, but utilized in a way that prolongs their life.

The discovery that Dyson made from examining current LED desk lamps was that the greatest hindrance to an LED’s lifetime was overheating. All Dyson had to do was eliminate the heating issue and he’d be on his way to a longer lasting light bulb. Through innovation, design and research Dyson was able to do something that large companies like Phillips have failed to do.  The CSYS LED lamp currently retails for $899, but future applications to other lighting systems for increased efficiency is priceless.

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