Katia Kuethe sleighs Target Holiday

By Alixandra Rutnik Posted on Dec 19, 2022

One Club Member discusses her path from luxury to commercial branding


We love Target. Everyday I see a new comedic Instagram Reel or TikTok about all women’s obsession with Target– the latest– a boyfriend keeps his woman in check and only allows her to buy the single item on their list. Whether that is the greatest tragedy or most impressive feat of all time is up to you.

Katia Kuethe, Head of Art at Mother, was an Art Director for luxury brands for almost 20 years before she made the leap over to commercial advertising. She went from working for some of the world’s most beloved luxury fashion brands to creating campaigns for the equally adored Target brand.

We talked to Katia about her career path and her latest cheery Holiday Campaign for Target.


 

 

What motivated you to switch from 18 years of Creative Direction roles in fashion, beauty, and luxury over to commercial advertising at Mother in 2020?

 

I felt that I had done fashion, beauty, and luxury for a long time, in different lanes within that wider industry– agency side, doing editorial for monthly Condé Nast publications and working in-house as a creative/marketing lead for global brands.

I had freelanced for Mother once under Michael Ian Kaye in 2007, working on a Liz Claiborne rebranding project, and on another occasion a few years later, so there was already a bit of Mother history. When I interviewed for this brand new position at Mother with Corinna Falusi, the CCO at the time, I really liked her energy– quick, direct, (German!), and was intrigued to work for her. I also was conscious of my longevity as a Creative. I was eager to expand my skill set by exposing myself to more traditional commercial advertising and learn about other industries, as opposed to becoming a dinosaur in the field I was familiar with. Change is good!

"I was eager to expand my skill set by exposing myself to more traditional commercial advertising and learn about other industries, as opposed to becoming a dinosaur in the field I was familiar with. Change is good!"

When creating the Target 2022 Holiday campaign, what are the key factors you wanted to include in the Christmas ad?

One thing I love about Mother is our strategy department. They set the tone for where we, the creatives, want to be in the bigger picture. That gives us a really clear direction, and it’s all pretty logical from there. As far as seasonal visual brand architecture is concerned, I usually have a clear vision going into a project about some of the things I would love to achieve. The key factors for Target Holiday this year were strong brand attribution, visual simplicity, and strong seasonal recognizability. We usually start with the color palette, and then we develop the universal visual pillars/principles at the beginning of the season– I try to limit myself to four main pillars, ensuring that all of these elements are adaptable across the different platforms and channels. We shot for tv, social, and digital/banners, on three stages, and delivered a total of 164 assets.

"The key factors for Target Holiday this year were strong brand attribution, visual simplicity, and strong seasonal recognizability."

Tell me more about the team of people who worked with you on this year’s Target Holiday Campaign.

As far as the team is concerned, we were three CDs leading the work, two of them are fantastic writers, Craig Love and Karla Mileski. We all collaborated very closely. Target is a smart, visual, and design-forward brand, so we made good scripts to reflect the visual world. Each workstream ranging from TV to social to digital, had its designated creative team consisting of a writer and an AD. Except for TV, which had two ADs due to the volume of work.

Our three teams this year were truly incredible, I honestly don’t recall ever being on a team that was stacked with such talent! It is a joy to work with smart and talented people. I enjoyed working with Sarah Wasley, who led Holiday Design this year. She is so cool, so smart, so nice, and has that great ability to find the exact right threshold between form and function, and art and commerce. Our incredible director, Lacey, is a longtime Mother/Target collaborator. She and I have worked together a couple of times prior to this project, and we very much speak the same language. We agree on things, but also can comfortably disagree. I enjoy creative collaboration more than anything– discussing things and coming together creatively. Although there are official milestones, I see the process as a constant evolution, things change, get better, and priorities shift. It’s important to hold on to the big vision, yet remain flexible.

"I enjoy creative collaboration more than anything– discussing things and coming together creatively. Although there are official milestones, I see the process as a constant evolution, things change, get better, and priorities shift. It’s important to hold on to the big vision, yet remain flexible."

How is the construction of a seasonal visual brand architecture different from everyday branding?

My day-to-day at Mother consists of working on seasonal visual brand architecture and overseeing its production or developing visual codes for a product launch campaign and overseeing that production. What all the work has in common is the need for scalability.

The best part about working on Target holiday campaigns over the past three years is that I really like them as clients, and that’s already a huge plus. Big brand holiday campaigns get a lot of eyeballs on them, so that’s another incentive to bring and stay on your A game. Ultimately the pressure to succeed is elevated on holiday campaigns because there is just so much on the line for brands during that crucial season, but that brings us right back to the best part, visibility and ultimate creative collaboration! Can’t have one without the other.

The holidays can be enjoyable for some and really stressful for others, so how do you incorporate this knowledge into holiday campaigns?

Favorite question! I think by now, everyone has perceived the holidays at some point as a bit of a “stressor,” and that in and of itself is a great source of inspiration for creativity. It’s more about the “feel” in a “look & feel.” How can we visualize effortless ease? How can we visualize that a retailer offers assortment, affordability, and convenient services? How can we visualize the brand as a destination– a place where all of this is coming together in sync? How can we visualize all of these sentiments in our seasonal visual brand architecture, making our campaign look and feel delightful, and joyful, while also registering the brand very clearly? These considerations can translate into fluid camera work, fairly simple graphic compositions, inspiring choreography, and super importantly, a huge team effort. A killer track does so, so much musically, too.

What work can we look forward to seeing from you in the new year?

I don’t have any idea yet what I will be working on commercially next year, January is usually my “slow month,” but I do know I want to do a bit of R&D work on my imaginary fragrance, Existenzialist. I have neglected it for almost all of 2022, and it needs a bit of love. In any case, I am excited about 2023, 23 is my lucky number!

LI: KATIAKUETHE


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