10 Feb Fresh Meat: Stratos Efstathiou
At the end of 2014 Stratos Efstathiou graduated from AAA School of Advertising with a BA in Creative Brand Communication, specialising in Art Direction. With an internship at Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong and a silver student Loerie for Outdoor and Collateral Media already on his resumé, he’s definitely one to watch. We chat to Stratos about connecting seemingly arbitrary things, his ‘schizo’ style, changing tone and wearing different hats.
When and why did you decide to pursue a career in advertising?
When I was younger, I never knew I wanted to go into advertising. I remember what I liked to do as a kid though. My first years in primary school I used to walk around the playground drawing pictures in a small book of mine. Instead of running around playing, I was that weird kid sitting on my own and drawing shit.
I always liked sketching and painting and drew my way into high school. It was in English class where I got interested in advertising. We had to analyse different ads as part of our curriculum. It was a controversial ad from United Colours of Benetton that got me interested. It was a photograph by Oliviero Toscani that showed two babies hugging. The ad depicted a white toddler as an angelic little girl with fair skin and golden locks and the other little black girl, with her hair as horns, as the devil. I liked how provocative and simple it was. I realized then if you could make a career from creating provocative statements commercially, that that was pretty cool.
What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about the work and the industry?
Yoh, there’re lots of reasons why I enjoy it. It’s cool how you have to change and adapt to the different briefs and wear different hats. One minute you’re trying to sell beer to broke students and the next brief you’re trying to sell tampons to menstruating moms. I like the challenge of having to think of things that haven’t been done yet. W.I.B. Beveridge (an animal pathologist, which is quite random) said: “Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected.” I enjoy trying to find these connections. I like how a good idea can come from anywhere. I like how you can be a mini-inventor, creating campaigns or products that could better someone’s life. I like that it’s fast and always changing. I like collaborating and being inspired by other people’s work. There’s so much talent out there! I dig working with my talented copywriter, Amy Thompson, who is my partner in crime, the salt to my tequila and the one who helps find method in my madness.
What don’t I like? I don’t like feeling uninspired. I don’t like it when I can’t find the reference(s) that I’m looking for. I don’t like it when my stapler runs out of staples. I’m fresh out of college so maybe I’m a bit naive, but so far it’s been good.
How would you describe your style, and what influences it?
I like to explore different styles. Depending on the brand we are working with, my direction would change and adapt to suit the brand in a chameleon-esque kinda way. Every pantone, typeface, photograph or illustration style has its own personality. It’s this schizo style and changing tone that I enjoy. The wearing of different hats that I mentioned earlier: one week it’s a sombrero, next week it’s a trilby.
Was doing a BA in Creative Brand Communication at AAA School of Advertising what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since you first started studying? – And if so, how?
When I finished high school I didn’t go straight into college. I went to study Business Science Marketing at UCT. I graduated in a couple of months (i.e. I dropped out) and took an unexpected gap year working in remote places around Iceland. Returning to civilisation, I started studying at AAA. It was what I expected – to be better than what I was previously doing. I was happy to have made that mistake of studying something that I didn’t enjoy first because it made me realize what I really wanted to do.
I learnt so much from first year to third year. Our lecturers were on point every step of the way. My classmates were great, we helped each other a lot but also competed against each other in sometimes passive aggressive ways, which I kinda liked. My perception of the field definitely broadened. There’s so much to still grasp and so much advertising out there, good and bad, that I still need to learn from.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
Riaan Swart (our Art Direction Lecturer) once said: “You can’t polish a turd”. The idea being that you can’t make a shit concept look good. If the concept isn’t strong, everything else falls apart.
Another thing that stuck was from an old ad. It was for Black Levi’s (the visual showing lots of white sheep walking in one direction and one black sheep walking in the opposite direction) with a line that said: “When the world zigs, zag.”.
Which of your creative projects are you most proud of?
Working with Amy for the first time, we had a brief for Beacon Liquorice Allsorts and the challenge was that we needed to remind South Africans that Allsorts is “the original playfood”. We spent days trying to think of ideas that weren’t lame. Finally we had a moment when we thought of putting the tiny Allsorts inside slightly bigger bubblewrap bubbles. We made a little mock up and it worked. This went on to win our first silver together at the Loeries last year. The whole experience was just fun.
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?
Last year November, Amy and I completed our internship at Ogilvy Hong Kong. They’ve called us back to go work there for a few months so that’s our plan for 2015 so far. We might land up working there permanently or returning back to Cape Town. We’re just going to take things as they come. We’re very keen to start working and getting work produced. I hope whoever is reading this can one day see or experience an ad we’ve conceptualised. But not just see it, enjoy it too.
Where can we stay updated with your work?
You can see my work on my Behance.
If you want to get hold of me for work or a drink or whatever just send me an email, email@example.com. Sweet.
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