Ross DelConte, head of automotive (Americas) at Taylor James, on leading the creative production studio’s team of specialists and delivering dynamic content solutions
LBB> Where did your interest in automotive begin and how did you get into the industry?
Ross DelConte> I have always had a passion for cars. Throughout college, I apprenticed with a local graphic design studio specializing in the design and installation of custom logos, graphics, vehicle wraps, and more for small to medium sized businesses. Each vehicle that came into our studio was another blank canvas to create something amazing for our clients. After a stint freelancing in NYC as a graphic designer and running my own business straight out of college, I got a call from a friend needing help on a project. He got me an interview to join a small internal team within Mercedes-Benz USA. Within a few short years, I was able to branch out to start my own team with a focus on content creation and visualization. We went from designing simple packages and training manuals for their internal Training and Education Department to creating a fully-fledged internal creative production studio responsible for the strategy, creative direction, and production of all visual content and vehicle configurators for MBUSA.com, SprinterUSA.com, and smartusa.com.
As much as I loved working with such an iconic brand, I left MBUSA to join Mackevision for the opportunity to start and run their NYC location. As Managing Director and Creative Lead for more than six years, I had the pleasure of working with over 20 global automotive brands and their agency partners, as well as numerous well-known luxury, technology, electronics, and CPG brands, agencies, and retailers.
LBB> What drew you to make the move to Taylor James?
Ross> My previous roles exposed me to a number of competitive creative production studios over the years. Countless hours of competitive analysis research and creative pitches gave me insights into what many of the competitive studios excelled in. Before joining the team back in February, I had always known of Taylor James for their high-quality, photorealistic content creation approach using a blend of CGI and creative retouching. Their unique approach always impressed me. When I met with founder and CEO Glen Taylor, I knew immediately that Taylor James was much more than I had ever imagined (or researched).
LBB> Can you tell us a bit about your role as Head of Automotive - Americas?
Ross> It has been an amazing experience so far. We have an incredibly talented team of automotive specialists. What makes them unique is that they have a diverse set of backgrounds ranging from engineering, design, photography, brand marketing, and more – but most importantly, we are all obsessively obsessed with cars. I was brought in to specifically help focus attention and drive growth within the automotive segment by introducing new technology solutions and strategic workflows while challenging the traditional approach. Today, about 75% of our automotive projects are high-end still content productions – with the remaining 25% spread between TVC/motion/vfx, and real-time/interactive experiences. Since joining, we have pitched for some really exciting projects and our goal is to increase our win-rate within those production verticals by delivering creative solutions that exceed expectations.
LBB> What are you most passionate about achieving with the team?
Ross> Taylor James has always been known for creating high-quality photorealistic still images. Our team is the epitome of pixel perfectionists. However, the industry is changing at a rapid pace and the need for dynamic content creation is greater than ever before. We have set some lofty goals for ourselves over the next 12-18-months and in order to achieve them, we will need to continue to challenge the ordinary and push the limits of what is possible. We all share an outside-the-box approach to our creative problem-solving and solutioning which creates a really fun and energetic environment for our brainstorming sessions. At the moment, we have some really exciting projects in the works that are going to turn some heads and take photoreal content creation to the next-level.
LBB> In your opinion, what are some of the key elements that make for a great automotive ad?
Ross> When you think about what drives consumers to buy cars, the key selling points of each can vary tremendously. Ads in general need to be visceral. Ads are created to make you feel – inspired, empowered, excited, exhilarated, empathetic, relatable – basically anything to leave a lasting impression of the brand on their audience and make consumers want to buy their products. The brands that do it well make an emotional connection and consistently elevate that connection through every touchpoint their consumers engage with. They put as much emphasis on the customer journey and overall experience.
LBB> How do you stay on top of the ever-growing variety of media channels available? And how do you tailor your approach across print, digital and motion?
Ross> In all honesty, my approach hasn’t varied much over the years. While the media landscape continues to grow at a rapid pace, I have always tried to keep my approach to three simple steps: Listen. Learn. Create.
LBB> You recently worked on a new spot for the Mercedes-Benz GLA, what are your personal highlights from this project and what were the challenges you needed to overcome?
The Mercedes-Benz GLA ‘Make an Entrance’ campaign spot was a really fun project to work on and it definitely took me back to my roots. MBUSA had the challenge of launching the newly styled 2021 GLA in the heart of COVID with no ability to shoot new content. Our timeline was very challenging, so from start-to-finish, this production was all about creative solutioning. Using a mix of full CGI, advanced VFX integration, and live action, our end result is eye-catching and bold. Our approach brought the wow - allowing us to deliver a launch film that gave the GLA the perfect platform to 'Make an Entrance.' The spot describes the All-New 2021 GLA-Class as a brilliant new design that allows you to enter a bigger world. We developed an approach that carries elements from this concept and makes use of available assets. We loved the idea of transforming the existing environment surroundings into something larger and more colorful as the hero car zips through each scene. We used advanced CGI and VFX techniques to bring these scenes to life and weaved this idea throughout the film, with each vignette calling out key features of the bold new 2021 GLA-Class. You can check out exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from our production and read more about the work at taylorjames.com/mercedes-benz.
LBB> You’ve been using Unreal Engine to help brands pre-visualize content and create customer experiences using real-time game engine technology, like you did with Hyundai. How has this elevated the process and what new things do you think Unreal 5 will enable?
Ross> We are very excited about the future of real-time technology, specifically the upcoming release of Unreal Engine 5. We feel it will unlock potential for deeper engagement in customer experience. It will enable our team of highly skilled, photoreal-driven artists to flourish and create some next-level content for our brand and agency partners. In all honesty, excited is definitely an understatement.
LBB> Which other campaigns are you most proud of in your career so far?
Ross> During my 10 years at Mercedes-Benz USA, I helped introduce a lot of amazing new vehicles into the market and produced numerous well-received campaigns. While proud of all those and the countless others produced for the 21+ brands I worked on during my tenure at Mackevision, the campaign I am most proud of is one that no one other than my team saw while at MBUSA. It was more of an internal mantra or rallying cry we lovingly called Never Settle and launched with the rebrand of Mercedes-Benz changing its tagline to ‘The Best. Or Nothing.’ As creatives within an internal creative production studio within the brand marketing department, we always had to prove ourselves and outpitch competing agencies for new work. It taught us to never rest on our laurels – so when we launched ‘Never Settle’ we challenged each other to never settle for good enough and to always put in the extra effort to go above and beyond to live up to the expectations of the prestigious brand we were blessed with creating content for.
LBB> What sort of skills and experience does your automotive team at Taylor James hold?
Ross> We have been collecting a team of unicorns within our automotive group. From engineers to photographers, brand marketing to design and production, our team has extremely diverse industry expertise. We all have a passion for the details, understand automotive photography and lighting, are obsessively obsessed with cars, and most importantly – know what it takes to make a car look perfect.
LBB> What new skills or technology are you currently developing in the department?
Ross> We are putting a lot of emphasis on real-time and film/VFX at the moment. We want to broaden our skillsets to better suit the needs of our clients and the changing creative production landscape.
LBB> How do you hope to grow and develop the automotive portfolio at Taylor James? Who are some of the dream brands you’d love to collaborate with?
Ross> I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing brands throughout my career. I would say it's less about the brands and more about the dream collaboration. As a racing enthusiast at heart, I always enjoy working with brands creating fast-paced, road-gripping, bad-ass, performance-oriented content. It’s the type of stuff that inspires your audience to want to get behind the wheel and drive.