Adam Padilla is the cofounder and president of BrandFire, a boutique Manhattan-based advertising agency that has worked with clients including Run DMC, the Manzo family (made famous from the reality series “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,”) Tom Brady, and coconut water brand Zico.
But aside from his day job, Padilla has also set himself the task of drawing a sketch every single day, which he posts to his Instagram account.
What started as out a one-year personal challenge too soothe a creative itch has turned into a long-running project. He went from having just a couple of hundred Instagram followers to more than 30,000 and now he encourages every member of his team to follow his lead and challenge themselves creatively outside of work every day too.
We spoke to Padilla about how the drawing-a-day idea came about and whether it has a positive effect on the business.
Padilla said his project started back in June 2014. He told us: 'I was getting frustrated that I was a person saying I'm actually an artist, but not actually creating something every day. I identify so closely with the artist and creative community, and I use computer graphics every day, but that's a service business, creating other people's ideas.'
Padilla's then-fiancée, now wife, told him to get a sketchbook and draw. He decided to stick to a daily routine of drawing sketches and posting them to Instagram, taking inspiration from his business partner -- the vice chairman of private jet card company Marquis Jet, Jesse Itzler -- who always says 'do something that makes you feel uncomfortable every day.'
Padilla said: 'I didn't do it for recognition, I did it to hold myself accountable.' The sketches began as 5-to-10-minute doodles, but as the weeks progressed, he started spending half an hour or longer on the drawings.
Padilla said: 'People always ask me: 'How do you find the time?' I run a business, I have an 8-month-old daughter who is the light of my life, I work out. But anyone can figure it out. You find the time -- between getting home and having dinner, rather than watching TV. It's more about doing it, getting the sketchpad out even if you have nothing in you.'
He continued: 'You could go home and have a terrible day. It's late, and you're irritable, and now you have to pick up these stupid pencils. But that's when it's most important to do it. Use the time, and when you're done you at least feel accomplished -- it's like a flower growing out of concrete.'
Padilla's experiment was ticking along nicely, with each sketch getting around 50 to 60 likes. But it really blew up when he posted a drawing of Robin Williams on the day of his death with the caption: 'Comedy is acting out optimism.' To date the image has received more than 650 likes and now his images collect at least 1,000 likes each time.
'That's when it became a shift from (being about) me, to becoming an inspiration for young artists. I write back to every comment I get. Then I look at their feeds and give them feedback on their pictures. Some of them I have formed really close relationships with,' Padilla said.
A week after Padilla finished his one-year-one-sketch-a-day project, his wife saw him getting angsty and said: 'I think you have to do it again!' Padilla compares the process to working out: 'You don't work out because you want to, you do it because it's one of these things you feel grounds you in your daily tasks.'
Padilla says his project has helped with his working life at his ad agency BrandFire too. 'Every day it's a focus group for me. I balance what the public wants with what I want to draw. It's a useful lesson for clients and helps them trust in the process.'
Once Padilla saw the results of his Instagram project, he started encouraging his staff to do the same. 'I became like these people who just start eating vegan. I was a preacher, coming in saying 'guys you have to do this!''
One of the first to take up the challenge was Bryan Black, BrandFire's executive creative director, who has more than 20 years of experience at agencies including Deutsch and BBDO. Padilla said: 'He's a learned man, and a writer. But like me, he wasn't actually writing. I said 'you have to make an account.'' Black began posting paragraphs of copy to his @iambryanblack account.
At first, each post would only pick up a handful of likes. But Padilla told him to keep at it. Bryan began using his account like a focus group and began noticing that people responded more to shorter tidbits of humour, rather than longer prose. He rebranded to @black_humorist and began creating daily memes. The account now has more than 9,000 likes and his memes are regularly re-grammed by other popular Instagrammers.
BrandFire account supervisor also followed Padilla and Black's lead. She is the owner of the @fettyhoch account, which posts fun memes from an 'edgy millennial' perspective. She has more than 1,600 followers.
Padilla has also set his team to other non-work-related creative tasks like helping him sculpt this chicken wing out of chicken wire and paper mache. Its sits in the office's reception. Padilla said: 'It's a great equaliser. Everyone from rock and roll (Run DMC,) a pro footballer (Tom Brady,) a reality show (the Manzo Family from 'Real Housewives',) and young entrepreneurs see it and go: 'Is that a chicken wing?' Their eyes get wide and childlike and they want to pick it up.'
Padilla said he doesn't lead with conversations about his and his colleagues Instagram accounts or their sculpting prowess when it comes to talking to clients, but he said it brings about a 'making spirit' that they soon pick up on. Combined, the team has tens of thousands of Instagram followers which keeps the agency 'immersed in culture' and spreads the word about the brand. Padilla's recent tribute to the victims and those affected by Paris terrorist attacks was featured by Instagram on its 'Peace for Paris' Discovery page and has picked up more than 18,000 likes.
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