The creative field has its weeds along with its roses and in some cases it also has land mines and booby traps. For unpredictable reasons (or maybe because the creative team thinks they're being helpful) things can quickly go wrong. It can be because of something subtle like a client changing their position or values halfway through a project or because of an important email was trapped in SPAM. All I know is that it happens and it never feels great. Here are a few examples. They could be called failures or adventuresome near-misses.
One of the most interesting failures I've experienced, it could be its own indie film.
We were approached by Gensler and Orange22 to help wrangle a charismatic Las Vegas entrepreneur who had big dreams and big plans for the Harmon, a Foster + Partners building with no casino! What was great about this project was the developer's hunger for creativity. We were given tremendous freedom and at one point pitched an investment book where the writing on the cover was hand-stitched on white leather. The client loved it. Orange22 was busy designing a remarkable (crazy) video delivery device to create a private viewing experience for investors. It came with a set of red silk blindfolds.
Things kept getting better. We had developed short-hand with Andrew, the project's fearless promoter and leader, and were given more and more responsibilities by Gensler and Orange22. We soon became the ad/creative agency for the Harmon and started writing spots. (As it goes in Vegas, we then got approached by Miracle Mile Shops for the same.) When the shooting boards for the Harmon's first commercial were approved and a director selected, the phone lines went silent and it would not be many years, nearly 8 years later, until the situation became totally clear.
Inside those 8 years the assistant to Andrew (who had himself started becoming prominent) mysteriously died in a hotel room. And on a recent visit to Las Vegas I found out what the final fate of the Harmon was. Opening the windows to the balcony at the Cosmopolitan, the grave of The Harmon laid directly underneath me, being enthusiastically jack hammered by a dismantling team. The builders had made an error reinforcing the concrete with rebar and had been locked in a dispute with the developers on how to resolve it. It was realized that an earthquake would flatten the building so The Harmon was to never exist.
A ton of exciting creative work (here's a link) along with a few careers and lives in ruins, Vegas style.
Almost every year the entire team would catch a cold around January. It was because of the Detroit Auto Show. We did a lot of the design and animation for Infiniti and it meant all-nighters during the holidays. One year I decided to book a trip to Hawaii well in advance and flew right after the deadline. While on the trip, and shortly after creating the new corporation, my accountant called me to ask for the DBA. "Homunculus," I said. "Actually, spell it with all letter U's. It looks better." And so started one of the biggest naming failures of my career. The Humunculus (sic), maybe besides the Golem was probably one of the first Frankensteinian characters in literature. Faust sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and then created the Homunculus in a test tube, a fiery being that had to unite itself with water in order to become whole. The Homunculus was also "the little man that drove the body" and so on. The ID.
There was even a guy born on the same day as my birthday who when peering at sperm through a microscope thought he saw a perfectly formed man that would simply grown into a human (vs genetic material that would combine with the egg's). That thing was the Homunculus as well. The tiny pre-formed man...
It was a perfect name. Our clients loved it. Except no one could pronounce it, especially the people who had to pronounced it every day like the bank and the messenger and the UPS guy. And so Humunculus transformed into bGiant.
Herb Alpert's people saw some work Gadget School had done and approached Mark and I to write a treatment for Herb's new track, titled "Beba." We were thrilled when our treatment won. The idea was simple enough- the boys find a map, they jump in a convertible VW bus (which we had bought for cheap and modified for the project). They then head towards the treasure (the naked woman covered in whipped cream from the cover of Herb's 1965 album entitled "Whipped Cream") while taking breaks to jam on a Caribbean beach.
Stylistically, the treatment called for filming Herb and the band against rear projection and requiring them to react to passing cars and such much like an old Herbie movie. We had just met a woman who would be the ideal stand-in for the whipped-cream cover girl, and my father would play Herb's double in the outdoor driving b-roll (except he had just broken his thumb so he was playing trumpet with a cast).
The project had a substantial budget. We worked hard at it and it was an incredible amount of fun to make. Despite our best efforts and intention the final never got traction. The ultimate measure of success is seeing if you can find your video on YouTube, right? Well, this video was nowhere to be found. I finally found it on Herb's Facebook page with 6 likes and 3 shares. Well, 50% share rate is pretty good! Learned a lot.
Well, that was fun.