Halloween’s sister celebration, “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), has become part of American mainstream culture. But beyond the meticulous skull makeup, Mexican food and tequila shots that most people associate with this event, many are still trying to understand what exactly is it that we’re supposed to celebrate. Leading multicultural agency Orcí wants you to know that, besides the traditional observance, “Día de los Muertos” could also be all that—a celebration that can be taken with a side of sugar.
The Santa Monica-based agency released a handful of satirical and ingenious videos to this effect, fictitious infomercials selling a Party Animal Altar Kit and a Pet Lover Altar Kit. For Luiz Salles, SVP and Head of Strategic Planning at Orcí, the idea behind these videos was “to show how the holiday is a mash-up of cultures and a celebration of life—not death. So, in contrast with the macabre or scary tonality of Halloween, we made these fun, colorful and vibrant.”
With roots in Mexican indigenous cultures, the celebration changed over the centuries after Spanish colonization, adopting some elements of All Souls' Day and becoming a holiday to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. And although some of the traditional aspects of “Día de los Muertos” may not be as popular in the U.S. as they are in Mexico—like the colorful altars with offerings—many of the other festive motives have been fully embraced in America.
Tell us about your role in the creation of this work.
Día de los Muertos (DDLM) is a great opportunity for us to generate interest and buzz for Orcí and our annual party which ties into the holiday. Our role as creatives was simply to use the spirit and iconography of DDLM to show the fun side of our agency and stretch our creative abilities in ways that we don’t always have the opportunity to. There are fewer limits on what we can and can’t do or say than there are when we work with brands, so producing work like this holds a special place in our creatives’ hearts. While the creatives are responsible for the concept and how it is executed, it’s truly a collaborative effort, with people from multiple departments contributing, even some that aren’t typically involved in the creation of content.
Give us an overview of the project, what is it about?
There are lots of Hispanic agencies in America and it’s difficult for them to differentiate from others, especially in LA where there are dozens of agencies of all sizes. Orcí has used a unique theme featuring DDLM for years to celebrate the holiday and throw an annual party. But ultimately, this project is about showcasing the culture of the agency and informing people about the holiday in a unique and fun way.
Tell us about the details creative brief, what did it ask?
This year, the brief was to create videos that were to be pushed out primarily on social channels, but that could evolve next year. Our objective is to create buzz for the agency among prospective employees, brand managers, CMOs, prospective clients, current clients, media reps, and people in the Hispanic marketing industry. The idea was to evolve our theme believing that DDLM is “the original mashup” because of its Aztec and Catholic origins. We wanted to do it in a fun, thoughtful and smart way that also shows people that we have our fingers on-the-pulse of popular culture. The primary challenge that we had was to evolve the idea uniquely and avoid stereotypes.
Which insight led to the creation of these videos?
The insight is that DDLM is the Original Mashup because it uses Aztec rituals combined with the Catholic faith brought to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors. The mashup resulted in a celebration of life – not death. That’s why Day of the Dead festivities are colorful, lively celebrations, not macabre or scary like Halloween. So to us, it was about bringing that fun to life and showing how that original mashup has evolved in America.
Can you share with us any alternative ideas (if any) for this project? Why was this idea chosen?
We had another idea about fun facts about the celebration, using an awkward puppet to delivered. It was an interesting creative exercise starting with developing the character and then writing his lines. The puppet was killed in the process :) The final idea was chosen because it brings together two disparate worlds: infomercials and the DDLM holiday. DDLM is the constant, but with the idea of the “original mashup” and bringing in elements of American culture, we had a lot to work with.
What was the greatest challenge that you and your team faced during development.
The challenge is really in keeping the ideas fresh, but luckily, the holiday itself is so fun and meaningful to a lot of people. So there’s always something new to say about it. The iconography of the holiday is also vibrant and arresting that it gives us a lot to work with and the art directors have enjoyed evolving it and pushing its limits in terms of what we can do with it. At the end these kinds of projects are great when it comes to bringing people from different departments together.
What did you enjoy most about seeing these videos through? Did you learn anything new from the experience?
This project isn’t something we just do because we feel like we have to or because we’ve done it in the past. The holiday and these videos are now part of Orcí’s DNA and it’s been really fun to see the whole agency get into it. From the talent in the films to feedback on final edits, many people at our agency have been involved and it’s a true labor of love. It also allows us to stretch our talents and think beyond the brands we service (though we love those, too). It’s great to see that the response and engagement has been really positive.
Where do you see this project going in the future?
We would say that the only thing that will be a constant is our celebration of Día de los Muertos; anything goes when it comes to creative content and how we push it out. If someone from our team has a great idea that involves an innovative use of a platform, we will definitely consider it – in fact, we’d prefer it. In today’s media landscape, especially in social, things change almost overnight. What matters to us is that we keep things fresh and fun while reflecting the spirit of the holiday.