Behind the Cover: Adman Adrian Elton cashes in on the world of gaming and esports

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 3 June 2020

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The creative contingent of adland is the beating heart of the industry. To fully embrace this, and with a mission to create awesome and inspiring covers, each month AdNews hand-picks an agency to work its magic.

This month we called on the brilliant mind of creative Adrian Elton to dream up our cover on the lucrative world of gaming and esports.

What were your initial thoughts on the gaming brief at hand?
My initial reaction was one of complete trepidation as I know close to nothing about the gaming and online sporting sector. And that being the case, I felt profoundly unqualified to sum it up from a creative point of view.

Post first brief chat, what went through your mind and what were the next steps you took?
It was more of an internal monologue, which went something like, “holy-shizen-balls”. But then I took a deep breath and reflected on the fact that advertising is all about the art of contemplating complexity and translating those distilled insights into creative expression. Or put another way, I didn’t need to know about the inner machinations of ‘Fortnite' to glean that the industry is becoming a massively lucrative cash cow. The next step from there was to let the brief marinade over night.

How did you know you’d landed on the best concept?
As it often the way, I started with a blank sheet of A4 and then scrawled out a bunch of fledgling ideas as they occurred to me. I then mocked those up in Adobe Photoshop before cobbling them together in a Keynote document that was sent through to AdNews as a PDF.

Rather than trying to determine the ‘best’ idea from the get-go, I find that the mock-up process is an incredibly valuable way of getting a clearer sense about which of the various thumbnail concepts has the fundamentals to be taken further. I also find it quite hard to get too objective about the work when I’m in the midst of mocking it up. Everything’s a bit of a blur when you’re working at warp speed.

But it was quite interesting that the concept AdNews chose was my very first thought and probably my favourite one too. I guess a cash register/joystick really dramatised the brief in the most simple and iconic of terms. And paired together with my headline, ‘Ker-ching!’, it really amplified that sense of shooting fish in a barrel.


AdNews May/June cover

Who from the team was largely involved and what were their roles?
While I’d like to say that the Adrian Elton Creative team is extensive and brings together decades of formidable experience, the truth is far more singular than that, as it's just me. And while I certainly have a vibrant network of creatives that I love to collaborate with, in this case it really was just me, flying solo, in my good pyjamas.

What were the biggest hurdles to making this a reality? Any challenges?
Given that this was created in the context of the Covid-19 lockdown, it meant that the selected concept needed to be produced without being able to shoot for purpose. Indeed, before the ‘new normal’ I would have tracked down an old school Atari joystick and cash register so everything could be shot properly with consistent lighting and so forth. But as that wasn’t really practical given our current circumstances, I had to work with purchased stock imagery, using all of my retouching ‘skillz’ to make it look as convincing as possible. And while I think it succeeds for the main part, the perspective of the coins in the coin drawer isn’t quite right. But hey, what you gonna do in a pandemic?

Tell us about the actual creation techniques. How did it come together?
Armed with one regulation BIC pen, one piece of Reflex A4 paper, and one Stabilo marker, I brewed up my morning stovetop triple-shot espresso and scrawled up my thumbnail concepts.

And while they’re pretty terrible drawings by any measure - they were good enough to capture the essence of the ideas for the purpose of moving the process forward to the next stage.

From there the concepts were mocked up in Photoshop. And once the selected concept was given the green light - I purchased the hi-res stock shots and stripped the images together into one coherent whole. This involved trying to match the perspective and lighting. And then tying it all together with consistent colour-grading and so forth. The final artwork was then sharpened for maximum clarity.

It's also worth noting what a thrill and inspiration it is to be working from my home office which also doubles as a recording studio. With so many beautiful vintage guitars on hand, it's the perfect distraction when the best next step to vanquishing writer’s block, is to look away from the task at hand.

Biggest challenges with the whole process? Did anything keep you up at night?
The biggest challenge was definitely creating something that I’d normally shoot, using only stock imagery. But other than that, nothing kept me up at night. Indeed, it was all smooth sailing with a delightfully pleasant sea breeze.

Best bit about the process?
The best bit about the process is the satisfaction that I get from being able to replicate all of the roles that usually require the expertise of an entire team. And with zero agency politics - what’s not to like? 

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