Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Think Outside My Box Goes Corporate: In a Good Way:-)

As a silhouette on screen I speak to an inconvenient truth.

The continued matriculation of the I Think Outside My Box (iTOMB) project finds me at as much of a surprise as those who see and experience it for the first time - and I am caused to reflect on its humble beginnings as just a cardboard box in a pile of cardboard at Occupy Wall street and think about how it has grown from a pretty good 'one line joke' activist vehicle (a man sitting in a box that says "I Think Outside My Box") to a full blown creative platform for thousands upon thousands of people to freely express themselves through just cardboard, acrylic paint and simple brushes.

On Tuesday, 12 June, I was proud to host the concept in Midtown Manhattan at what is arguably, "the largest worldwide advertising agency by global footprint",according to, and the subject of my talk was about "Starting from scratch". 

"What if you had to throw away, all the corporate crowns of creativity in the advertising business (the awards, the bonus', the corner office, etc.), and begin again? What would you do?", I was asked.

And my answer has already played out. I'd think outside my box. But on this particular day, my audience was a group of top agency creatives who's perch at the top of an industry could be in jeopardy if they don't rethink themselves and their approach to their businesses quite seriously. And who better to enlighten them, than a man who's been in their position before - and in some cases, in a better position than they.

For those who don't know, I didn't begin my creative career in a box. I began it as a sign painter and journalist as I worked my way through college in both trades finally graduating with a degree in Corporate Communications (concentration: Graphic Design) and a minor in Journalism. And then moving on to become a VP at a top 3 global agency and founder of the first 100% foreign invested agency in Korea.

But on this day, I needed to be just a man, a man stripped of most of what my audience might have considered valuable and brought to his bare credentials - the claim that he was indeed "creative".

To do this, I decided that the worst way would have been to walk into a room and talk about it. Because that's boring and these people wouldn't care. No, for this we needed a device, a suspension of disbelief, a bit of threatre - some mystery, a MacGuffin, if you will - decidedly not a trick, but a way to hold interest that would allow me to get through a seemingly complex story in an unencumbered and convincing way - wanting them to know in the end, who the real man behind the story was.

So thus came the silhouette. A backlit figure, actually behind a screen (with the projector behind me), that could speak with his audience in realtime, whilst controlling a Powerpoint presentation that carried all the visuals to illustrate the live narration and provide a foil I could interact with throughout the presentation. Example: As a live silhouette, I could actually point to pictures of on the screen or even look at myself on the screen, or other images, so bringing one's standard PPT alive in a way that even I hadn't seen before. And since there was no rehearsal, the toys I had provided myself by creation of the live silhouette on live screen, were only made apparent as I worked through the show.

And trust me, it was great fun. Great, great fun. By bringing iTOMB alive in this way I caused the participants to imagine, not only the career and frame of mind that caused me to conceive it, but what it might be like to participate, interactvely as painters, creators and protaganists in whatever the next chapter of iTOMB might be.

In summary, the Global Creative Director who had brought me in said this: "David, thank you - You touched us all and made us think. You made us think! And in the end isn't that what we are supposed to do." 

And so we did. We thought. And I am now caused to think about what propelled me to create the box, a box in which I would need to think my way out of - and the answer lies as such:

You don't go from being a Vice President at the largest advertising agency in the United States, as I was, to protesting at Occupy Wall Street because you screwed the whole situation up yourself - but when it comes to sorting oneself out of that situation, there is no one better than you to do the critical thinking, put pedal to metal (or brush to cardboard as I did), and make the solution so, so much bigger than the canvas one was given.

This I hope, is what we did, with a little smoke and mirrors, last Tuesday for a company and staff that needs, in many ways, to start from scratch. I did it with truth, and a simple, compelling execution of such. Where they go now, is simply up to them. 

I've been told my personal branding is spot on:-)

My best to those who welcomed me into their professional home for the afternoon:-) For more on corporate applications of iTOMB, please contact me.


  1. Fantastic to have a platform, to have a voice, and to have something to say. Many stumble through life with none of these, managing to somehow create the illusion of worth.

  2. Thanks John. No whether the audience listened, or comprehended, is another matter entirely.


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