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antoni’s Damon Aval: “I Hope I’m Still a Kid Today. Who’d Want to Grow Up?!”

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The Berlin-based creative director on learning the power of creativity, what makes his home city so special, and how he graduated from student to teacher…
antoni’s Damon Aval: “I Hope I’m Still a Kid Today. Who’d Want to Grow Up?!”

REKORDER, the Berlin-based film and photography creative production studio, is proud to support LBB. Over the upcoming months as part of our sponsorship of the German Edition, we will celebrate creativity and introduce some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry. 

In this conversation, we chat with Damon Aval, creative director at antoni Berlin. Here, Damon reflects on his most significant work so far, why he understood the importance of creativity from a young age, and how memes have kept him going through a turbulent year.


Q> What were you like as a kid? And, growing up, when did it first dawn on you that you were 'a creative'?

Damon> Honestly, I hope that I’m still a kid today. Who wants to grow up? But to answer your question: I was the one kid that was always wondering why my friends complained about feeling tired during a sleepover, while I was the last man standing.

I think the moment when the power of creativity really dawned on me was on my 7th birthday. My uncle used to visit quite often and would always bring me a present - I mean literally always. But for my parents that was too much, I still don’t understand why, but whatever. 

So, my mom told my uncle that he was not allowed to give me any presents on my birthday. If he would, she would kick him out. Pretty mean, right?! I was obviously not happy with that, but I found a creative solution. I pitched my Uncle the idea that he could still buy me a present, but only give it to me on the day that he would leave. That way, my mom didn’t have enough time left to kick him out! So yeah, creative solutions had an appeal for me from a young age… 


Q> You've been based in Berlin throughout your career, save for a spell in Dusseldorf & Hamburg. What is it about the city which has kept you around?

Damon> It’s Berlin. What I love about this city is the fact that it doesn’t represent Germany at all. It’s international, super open-minded and people stand for their rights. Berlin is the place for all the misfits, #DavidBowie RIP, who were judged for being different. Not to mention people from overseas who enjoy the nightlife, from sundown on Friday till sunrise on a Sunday. And the best part is that all of these different people live respectfully alongside each other.


Q> And, creatively speaking, how do you find Berlin compares to other 'creative capitals' like New York or London?

Damon> I think, especially for young creatives, Berlin is the city which offers you a creative job with international clients together with an affordable lifestyle. 

Isn't it nice to live in a city where pubs don’t close at 10pm, where you can get a proper flat for your money, and on top of that you get 26 days’ vacation set by law?


Q> More broadly, what's your impression of where German creativity is at right now? What's exciting you?

Damon> The world is still getting closer, not least when it comes to creativity. Ideas aren’t centralised anymore. They spread fast to London, overseas and back here again. So what really is ‘German creativity’, anyway? 

What really excites me is that we as antoni have the opportunity with our international clients to create international campaigns hand-in-hand with international creatives. 


Q> And what about at antoni in particular? Do you have a distinctive creative culture, and if so how would you define it?

Damon> When André Kemper and Tonio Kröger opened the agency they had a simple but powerful idea: the concept at antoni is a tailor-made agency dedicated to one client. That means that each client gets his very own agency, as the teams are 100% focused on that one client. No other clients, and no pitches. That is working out really well since the clients get real experts and the creatives don’t have to do night shifts. If you were to stroll through the agency around 7pm, you would only find empty chairs and tumbleweed. 

And besides that, I think what makes the difference is that we challenge ourselves, the client and the production to get the best out of each job. We question the briefing, we only present one or two ideas that we strongly believe, and we keep improving the idea, even while executing it. Sometimes, that’s really tough for our clients and partners on the production side - so sorry for that, but we never stop thinking. I think that’s the antoni way. 


Q> Looking back at your own career, are there any projects or pieces of work which stand out as especially significant for you?

Damon> I think the one I am most proud of is the Katjes Campaign that I did with Martin Pross. It was the first campaign for Muslims living in Germany. As soon as we released the campaign the German far-right party immediately started boycotting it, which sparked a huge discussion in Germany.   



Above: antoni's campaign for vegan confectionary brand Katjes


Katjes is a very progressive candy brand that produces candies without gelatin from animals, which makes them vegan. But the most interesting fact is that normally the gelatin used in candies come from pigs. So, having a candy without gelatin means that’s also kosher or halal, that way we decided to do a campaign for our Muslim society in Germany.


Q> You’ve also spent a couple of years as a teacher at Miami Ad School. What motivated you to take the position, and what's the secret to being a great teacher? 

Damon> When I started studying Communication Design at Designkrefeld, I was lucky to meet Thorsten Kraus und Richard Jung. They’re both very well known in German Advertising, and were my mentors. They taught me so much, stuff that I still use to this day. I was interested to learn, so they were interested to teach. 

Later on, for me it came naturally, I started sharing what I’ve learned, passing it to the next generation. The secret to be a good teacher is to get the best creative version out of the students. How? Be nice. Be patient. And show them the right path to go, they have to find their very own creative way. Not mine. Not the one of others. 


Q> Finally, the past year has been a difficult one for many. How have you stayed creatively inspired throughout it all? 

Damon> If I'm being honest, that's easy to answer - memes! Thanks for the interview.  

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REKORDER, Tue, 27 Apr 2021 14:45:00 GMT