I intern at the Shanghai-based boutique creative agency NeochaEDGE. They design and create ads and commercials for some really big clients, including Nike, the GAP, and adidas. (Below is a shot from their most recent adidas collaboration: if you'd like to see more, just click here).
NeochaEDGE is a relatively small creative agency, with only fifteen or so people on payroll. In addition to this set of core staff, however, NeochaEDGE has have built a sizable network of young, freelance Chinese artists that they reach out to for any particularly suitable client work. Not only is Neocha at the forefront of marketing on the administrative side, but it is also directly involved in the creative process as well.
I've always been interested in the creative side of marketing – the side that comes up with the campaigns, the concepts and so on. I'm hoping that by working at Neocha I'll be able to experience firsthand this process, see and be a part of how ads are created, as well as be immersed in a creative and innovative artistic atmosphere. I want to see, for example, what happens behind the scenes when adidas wants to start a new campaign targeted at young people age 18–25. I know that as an intern I will only be allowed to participate so much, but I enter my internship knowing this and will try my best to involve myself as much as possible.
So far, my time at Neocha has been a refreshing and new work experience. The environment at Neocha is much more flexible and laid-back than at any place I've ever worked before. Everyone at Neocha knows their assignments and deadlines, but other than that, how they split up their time at the office is up to them. There is no punch-in or punch-out time, only the assignment that needs to be done and the occasional meeting now and then. There's a lot of freedom. Further, the office itself is just really, really cool. It's a ten-minute walk from Jing'an Temple, and sits at the corner of Changle Lu and Wulumuqi Lu. It’s on the third floor of a small building in the former French Concession, and about 6 full-time staff at Neocha take up an entire living room in one of an apartment, all working off of huge 15-inch Macs. Most of the employees at Neocha are fluent in Chinese and English, and about half of them are American-born Chinese. Each of the on-site full-time staff specializes in something; there is a main director, director of photography, digital artist, and so on.
Though Neocha does reach out to artists in its database (called the EDGE Creative Collective), it seems as if it primarily uses its full-time staff to create the ads/come up with the initial “vision.” The atmosphere in the office is usually pretty chill, unless there is a client presentation that afternoon, in which case everyone kicks it into high gear and tunes out everything unrelated to the work at hand. There are paintings and clothes everywhere in the office, framed ads and t-shirts galore. (Below are a few shots of the office, featured in a profile piece in Modern Weekly magazine).
It feels like a Brooklyn art studio inside; hardwood floors, red-brick tiles in the kitchen, a screen-printing room in the back. Really, never once have I worked in such a cool space before.
Work for me consists mostly of editing the English side of the company's website (edge.neocha.com, a WordPress blog), and helping out here and there carrying various things to or running errands from photo shoots. I spend the vast majority of my time working on the website, and only occasionally am I sent to photo shoots to lend a hand. For the site, I generally check and edit the current English-language posts and tune up the translations, tune up the content, and standardize the wording in post descriptions. All the posts on the site feature fresh work from Chinese artists, some collaborations with NeochaEDGE and others original work from affiliated artists. The work is always really interesting, and I get exposed to so much while editing. I often take a break from editing to just stop and admire the art! (Below is a piece titled OWL by Shanghai-based photographer Mang Mang, one of the first pieces I saw when I started work).
Sometimes the editing can get tiring, especially four to five hours in. However, all in all, I really enjoy doing it. Recently, there has been a problem with the Neocha WordPress bi-lingual function, and sometimes it loses the Chinese data when I edit the English. This has been the biggest hassle I have to deal with so far, and even then it's not unmanageable.
When I'm not working on the website, they send me to photo shoots with equipment that people at the shoot need, or make me run various errands for the photo shoot. So far, this has been my favorite activity. The photo studio itself is a huge white room with equipment everywhere; tripods, lights, a balcony, lighting equipment galore, and so on. The last two days Neocha has been working on a stop-motion ad for GAP, and sent me to the GAP store to pick up a ton of merchandise for the stop-motion video. I walked into the store and grabbed almost everything, having a team of GAP employees helping me carry all the stuff we needed for the shoot. I walked out of the store with over 10,000 yuan in merchandise, feeling like a high-roller. It was super fun. I love just being in the studio where the ads are shot and being there behind the scenes. For now, everything is still just getting set up, but I look forward to when the shooting starts!
Now, everyone at NeochaEDGE is really down to earth, and the staff are all really grateful and generous with the thank-you's whenever I get something done, and have even included me a few times in the creative process already. For the GAP shoot, the photographer/director Anthony had me help him find some music samples to fit the feeling they were trying to go for with the ad. Working conditions are not a problem at all. I'm allowed to take my time editing the website posts, and my boss, Adam, is very accommodating of my school schedule and flexible with my work hours. My coworkers are all approachable and friendly, and because of that I'm able to be productive and enjoy my time there.
So far, my time at NeochaEDGE and the environment there has been an incredible experience, unlike any place I've ever worked before. I've been enjoying my time in this refreshing and artistic creative atmosphere, and I always look forward to days I get to go into the office for just a few hours because I have no idea what's in store for me that day. I hope that as time goes on I'll be able to move on from just editing the posts on the website and being involved more and more in the creative process/process of coming up with an ad. I'll try to keep you all updated on how everything goes!