Creative All Star: Arthur Ceria, Executive Creative Director, OgilvyOne
Yet it is his current role as executive creative director at OgilvyOne that will most likely define his career, not to mention dominate a sizable percentage of his waking hours, over the next few years. Ceria's based in the agency's San Francisco office, which opened late last year after OgilvyOne snared Yahoo!'s online business.
Ceria, who received both an undergraduate and a master's degree from Yale, worked at his own design studio in his native France and spent four years presiding over integrated communications at Euro RSCG Worldwide, New York, before accepting the OgilvyOne post. What appeals to Ceria, not surprisingly, is the job's entrepreneurial bent. While the hysteria of Silicon Valley has become yesterday's news to the mainstream media world, the area remains a hotbed of technological innovation. "The world's most important companies in recent history have all been created within a 50-mile radius: Apple, eBay, Oracle, Electronic Arts, Google," Ceria notes. "There's a level of excitement and enthusiasm here that you don't see in too many other places. Nobody is afraid to take risks."
Translation: If you have online/multimedia aspirations but are not based in or around San Francisco, you're out of the loop.
Ceria seems to be a deeper thinker than many of his peers. While others continue to fall over themselves to praise Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" campaign, Ceria cites the work of MIT artist/technologist John Maeda, fervently discussing the way in which he draws people into his "poetic realm." That's not to say that Ceria is purely philosophical in his approach: He is finely attuned to the bottom-line concerns of his post.
His main focus: the battle between Yahoo! and Google for online domination. The former was recently named the fastest-growing company in the United States by Fortune -- a designation that didn't sit so well with the latter. Thus, the pressure on the OgilvyOne/Yahoo! team to remain on top has been ratcheted up in recent months, as the two tech titans continue to one-up each other with what seems like daily product and service announcements.
Ceria likens the current climate to being in "the eye of the storm" and notes with pride the determination of his team to help Yahoo! remain victorious. "Creatively, Yahoo! sees the bigger mission, and that's what keeps us all motivated," he says. OgilvyOne has aped the dizzying production pace of its flagship client, launching somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 Yahoo!-related campaigns in the last nine months.
The work is a canny amalgam of wit and artistry; few, if any, of the efforts flaunt technology for its own sake. The approach harkens back to a dinner Ceria had with Cammie Dunaway, chief marketing officer of Yahoo!, some time ago. "She told me, 'If we're going out and selling advertising to other brands, our own ads should be the best out there,'" he recalls.
To this end, Ceria has made it a priority to include sound with every interactive unit, and he strives to make every ad iconic. OgilvyOne's most ambitious effort to date may be the dazzling pixilated ads featuring Green Day and Missy Elliot, designed to hype Yahoo!'s subscription-based digital-music service. Quirky and meticulously attentive to detail (yes, that's a groupie running onto the stage to reattach the head of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong), the spots give Apple's iTunes silhouettes a run for their creative cachet.
"We discovered the work of Craig Robinson, a digital artist who does incredibly funny and smart things with pixilation. Right away we thought, 'How cool would it be for Yahoo! to own that for its music,'" Ceria says. Online audiences can maneuver Missy Elliot through a series of dance moves or reposition Green Day's drums around the stage. The concept will extend to Yahoo! Music's tv, radio, and guerrilla marketing efforts.
"Arthur's one of the few people who has the creativity and enthusiasm to push clients to do more adventurous work," says Jan Leth, OgilvyOne's executive creative director. "But he also has the leadership you need in that kind of role."
Ceria is surprised at the number of traditional media and creative types attempting to make a mid-career change of venue. "We're seeing more and better portfolios," he says. "Plus, companies are finally starting to devote money not just to the media side [of the Internet], but to the production side."