Portfolio Night All-Stars 2014: In Their Words

After the dust has cleared, All-Stars reflect on the week that was.

Earlier this month, the ADC Gallery was abuzz with international excitement as it played host to the second annual ADC Portfolio Night All-Stars. 24 young creatives from North America, Europe, Africa and Asia spent a week together, working on a real world brief for PUMA. And while the event is over and the All-Stars have traveled back to their corners of the globe, it’s evident that the All-Stars experience has impacted their lives.

Portfolio Night 12 Beirut

Portfolio Night All-Stars was like a river flowing with live energy, a feeling, a state of intense excitement and happiness. In a word it was euphoria. This New York experience was like a light that guided me to a hallway of opportunities. At All-Stars you are surrounded by people who understand your language. I am not talking about literal language, but the language of creativity and art, the language we all strive to master.

“This New York experience was like a light that guided me to a hallway of opportunities.”

Portfolio Night All-Stars didn’t just give us more knowledge and help us build warm friendships. It also left a revolutionary impact on each and every one of us. I am sure ADC’s traces will be felt back home, where we were all sad to be heading at the end of the week, yet happy to spread ADC’s revolution!

It can’t really be expressed with words. In short, Portfolio Night All-Stars helped me find myself. Now I know who “I” am.

Portfolio Night 12 Austin

I’m going to try to explain my Portfolio Night All-Stars experience without being too sentimental, but it was a moving experience so I can’t make any promises.

From the beginning I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know what we’d be working on or how it would all turn out, but I was in it for the excitement and the new experiences. I wasn’t sure how everyone would interact with one another; we have completely different lives and we all come from different places. I wasn’t sure if personalities would clash or if there would be egos to deal with. We were told that just being there meant we had already won, and that was so true. I never once had to deal with that alpha mentality that I so often encounter when meeting other creatives. That’s not to say that we always agreed. There were some frustrating times, but they were so few and so overshadowed by the great times.

“We were told that just being there meant we had already won, and that was so true.”

The crew at ADC did an amazing job setting up this event and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. The whole week was so organized down to every detail. For a few short days, the ADC and the 23 other All-Stars that I met were in our own small world together. There was nothing else outside of that, there was no time, and we were all in it together.

In the end, it would’ve been great for our team to win, but for me it was more about all of us getting to know one another. We started as a group of strangers, but by the end of the week I was talking about crashing on couches, flying overseas to places I had never expected to go, and now I’m just hoping to keep that connection.

I told [ADC Director of Education] Brendan Watson that All-Stars was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I hope that everyone else had at least a tenth of the fun that I had because if they did it was all worth it. By the end I don’t think I’ve ever been in more dire need of some sleep, but I feel glad that I didn’t waste a single minute.

Portfolio Night 12 Singapore

A week has passed since my unforgettable New York experience and for the past few days, all I could think of was why couldn’t it all be longer.

The experience and learnings during our week at Portfolio Night All Stars would play a huge role in our next creative journey, no matter where we are at now and where we will be in the future. Who knows? They could even help me in important decision making in the years to come.

Just yesterday for example, while I was doing some brainstorming for a creative brief, I remembered one of our breakfast session talks by Michael Ventura from Sub Rosa, who talked about one of his favorite projects with GE. His insights and thoughts behind the project sparked me to look at a brief differently and possibly tackle it from another angle. It didn’t hit me how a session like that could shape my thinking but it just did.

“His insights and thoughts behind the project sparked me to look at a brief differently and possibly tackle it from another angle.”

Of course it wasn’t just the breakfast sessions that were eye-opening to me. Everything from working with such a diverse group of people from around the world to the visits to our wonderful sponsors and agency JWT New York to all the people I’ve met along the way… I see it all shaping the way I think and my perspective on a lot of things.

The lifelong friends that I have made and everything that I’ve picked up are invaluable to me. Thank you ADC and all the sponsors for this wonderful wonderful week that I would never forget.

Portfolio Night 12 Johannesburg

I arrived in New York not really knowing how I was going to take it all in. On Sunday night we gathered at the gallery for an introduction and some good pizza and Ice cream. That’s where the real excitement kicked in, putting names to faces and seeing the different personalities.

I went to bed Sunday night very late as I was still getting into the swing of things and waking up very early for day one, I wished my body had been as awake as my mind was! We were split into our teams; which marked the start of the greatest experience of my life. One thing was clear from the get go; my teammates were awesome. Saki from Tokyo, Aya from Beirut and Kyle from San Fran, what a great mix of culture. These three teammates really made the week as amazing as it was.

“When Team ROMA was deservedly announced the winners, I was sad, not because we didn’t win, but because the week was finally coming to an end.”

For me there were three major highlights of the week: our feedback sessions, the time I spent with all of the All-Stars, and lastly becoming an ADC member. Nothing beats coming to such a big city and getting to know so many different talents from across the world on such a personal level. When the Friday came I’m pretty sure all the All-Stars were dreading leaving more than they were dreading the final presentation! When Team ROMA was deservedly announced the winners, I was sad, not because we didn’t win, but because the week was finally coming to an end. No longer was I going to hear Saki laughing as much as I was, no longer was Kyle going to make me laugh to the point of exhaustion. And Aya? Aya was the heart of the team, she really made this experience so much better because she brought us all together.

With the week now ended I feel like I my second family has left me, and that was the worst feeling in the world. ADC was able to bring together such a large group of people and create a feeling of belonging for so many different cultures in such a short space of time; for that I say Salud!

Portfolio Night 12 Toronto

Three months ago, I said “Hey, let’s try to attend Portfolio Night at the other side of the Atlantic!” One flight from Brussels later, I was at PN12 Toronto explaining my journey to David Daga, Chief Creative Officer of Cossette. The next day I was crying to Simon Creet, Chief Creative Officer of PN12 host The Hive, when he told me I was actually named the Portfolio Night All Star for Toronto!

Two months flew by, and I found myself sending a selfie and my shoe size to the ADC global team, with no clue what was going to happen in one week time.

“But wow, this week was the most concise, most intense and most inspirational week I’ve ever had in my life.”

So there I was, running though Brussels airport again. Eight hours and a coffee later, I was in New York. That’s where it all goes even faster. It was like a whole week played out in one day. From JWT’s PUMA brief, to getting lost in translation between Sony Cheng & Cheryl Chu, to punching through 4AM brainstorms. From waking up with pep talks and presentations by renowned creatives like Meagan Cignoli, Menno Kluin and Michael Ventura, to falling asleep on the homeward flight.

Before it hit me, it was over. But wow, this week was the most concise, most intense and most inspirational week I’ve ever had in my life. And the beautiful part is that I’ve been doing this with people from évery corner of the world, who have the balls and the spirit to create things no one has ever seen before.

Portfolio Night 12 Mumbai

All-Stars week was eight miles superior to my fantasies. That said, the anticipation of the event was nearly fatal. (A tad more so for the ones making going to New York for the very first time) Enter an authentic New York dinner — a pizza party — to the plot. Traditionally an ice-breaker, most of us tried hard to ease of our defences. Somebody tweeted a picture of my leftover pizza crusts with the copy ‘EAT YOUR CRUSTS’. I was intimidated. Another significant learning was that however strange the stranger might be, if he offers you ‘craft ice cream’ of exotic ingredients like rum, caramel, spices and whatnot, just forget what your mom taught you and take it! And do it again and again until you pass out. The beat goes on…and the week is yet to follow.

There were mentoring sessions throughout the week, coupled with hearty breakfasts. Diverse, engaging and truthful, these talks tuned us to the innovation-groove everyday. Creative masters from the world of PUMA, JWT, Vine, Twitter, Deutsch and more oiled our imagination. It would be too much to elaborate on how enriching their words had been to us; there was enough wisdom to collect, but again, gathering the most relevant bites is a talent in itself!

Cut to the brief. As declared, the client was PUMA, waiting for some fine brand-sorcery from us All-Stars. The All-Star challenge was gently transforming into the greatest game ever played. The epic battle between concept and execution, the disruptive clashes of art and copy and the eternal need to chill over beer and heartfelt conversations was taking over.

“The emotional upheaval of the week coming to an end totally dissolved our sense of victory and defeat.”

Anecdotally, the thing I’ll miss the most is the exceptional attitude of my fellow All-Stars during the toil. After bursts of hard work, all of us did stress-busting conversations periodically, outlining the developments of the day, something I personally appreciated. These were dazzling activity-infested organic creative breaks which kept us going through the pressures of the week.

Finally the big day arrived and the presentations turned out to be more than just creative-gaga. With mock press conferences, integrated dramatics, late night talk show oomph and whatnot, the event turned out to be more a last comic standing. My team (after that week-long phantasmagoria we experienced) was one of the two finalists. While on the stage and during the moment of judgment, I think I heard Simon and Garfunkel playing in the back. The emotional upheaval of the week coming to an end totally dissolved our sense of victory and defeat. I made more confidants than friends who I am proud of. Not just the All-Stars, but everybody at ADC are icons in what they do. At the parting hour and in the quiet corners of the gallery, somebody told me ‘may stories never end’. It ain’t right to end this one too.

Thank You ADC!. Once again, there are 24 All-Stars breathing right now in 24 cool places of the world. I am just one of them, the sweet voice in your ears.

Portfolio Night 12 San Francisco

Take four creatives from around the world, a translator from New York City, five days and two presentations, and what do you get? A family.

This journey for me started several months ago when I was just a naive creative hoping to get a few seconds of some prominent creative director’s attention. Little did I know what that night would have in store for me, let alone what the next few months would entail.

Smash cut to July 28th, one week before Portfolio Night All-Stars was to commence. My once impenetrable nerves of steel became a mere house of cards crumbling under the weight of uncertainty. With fear strewn across my face and sweat dripping my brow, a bystander may of come to the conclusion that I was hiding something. As the days wound down symptoms got worse, and by the time I hopped Virgin America it might as well have been a rendition flight for selling state secrets.

With no clue as to whom I was about to room with, speculation began to fill my head. Did he snore? Did he speak English? Did he like the air-conditioning on at night? And the question that came up the most: “is he a serial killer?”

As we walked into the ADC Gallery, all fear and panic seemed to vanish, and a sense of greatness and opportunity washed over me. As I walked about the gallery, I could feel the true importance of ADC. Before me were 23 of the most talented creatives just chowing down on some ‘za. I was met with surprise and delight by everyone’s introduction, which, to me, was an indication of a great week to come!

The opportunity to work with talented creatives from all over the world made this experience so unique. As we scoured the depths of each other’s brains, it was clear that everyone would bring an individual perspective to the team. It started slow and messy. We stumbled on more than one occasion, but then our creative sessions grew into expeditions that forged a bond among us. Good or bad we wrote every idea down, making sure that we didn’t censor ourselves or kill any potential idea.

We took three rough ideas to JWT, trying not to get attached to any of them as we knew in some way or another we’d have to sacrifice that baby. Our first presentation was very raw, very green, and very intimidating. It was at this point that the week started to feel like a real live version of The Advertising Hunger Games. After presentations, JWT put on “The Party.” After a draining two days, a much-needed socializing event took place where everyone was able to let their hair down… and WE DID!

“Language barriers and cultural differences became focal points and advantages. It felt like family and that is something I’ll cherish forever.”

The Thursday breathed new life into us. Ideas were flowing, work was being flushed out, and we knew we had something special. The work was amazing, but we created bonds and friendships that would outlast any piece of work. After only a few days of working together we became more than teammates. Language barriers and cultural differences became focal points and advantages. It felt like family and that is something I’ll cherish forever.

Our ideas were finalized, work was just about done, and all that remained was a 10-minute presentation. We came from all around the world to be a part of All-Stars and we weren’t going to leave anything on the table. We got up to the stage and we put on something special, something memorable, something we could be proud of. We left it all out there and I could not be more proud of Team SLIPSTREAM.

Take four creatives from around the world, one translator from New York City, four days and two presentations, and what do you get? Something magical.

Portfolio Night 12 Minneapolis

Two days after my birthday, a weird number appears on my phone. It turns out to be former Portfolio Night veteran and Miami Ad School instructor Matt Pruett, who called to say that I’ve been chosen to be Minneapolis’ Portfolio Night All-Star. I almost mistook him for a credit card marketer!

Fast forward to August and I’m eating and drinking beers with what once was “profile pictures” on my Facebook turned friends. We talked about our journeys to get here, our home customs and cultures, and even took time to see art with peoples genitals at the MoMA. It all culminated with an all-nighter and a coffee-fueled presentation that we practiced like actors would for an audition.

I was never part of a college fraternity but I imagine Portfolio Night All-Stars is what it would be like… just without the hazing and ass paddles.