My mug in action
Photo credits: Mattieu Prêtre, Miles Guidetti, (Self), Rodrigo Landeros, Terry Brauer
Some of my highlights and work related subjects
Who Am I? A short and somewhat personal biography.
We only spent two years in Florida. And one day we drove the family Pontiac LeMans from South Florida to Boulder Colorado, dragging a U-Haul trailer behind us with all our belongings. There I attended Junior and High School, played trumpet in the school marching band and smoked my first joint. I had my own little black and white TV in my room and a new HiFi stereo where I could blast a new solitary diversion, rock & roll. But after five years, we moved to Seattle Washington. My mother and I, with my new 5 year old little brother, drove a tiny Honda Civic from Boulder to Seattle. By the age of 16, I had crossed continental America from Southeast Florida to the Pacific Northwest, one extreme to the other.
I finished High School in Bellevue Washington, part of the Seattle suburbs, then went to Art School in the city. I thought I would created album covers for the band Yes like Roger Dean, but after my first course in storyboarding, I quickly realized that if I went into advertising I could make commercials or mini-movies. It was then that MTV came out. The music video was the rage. All along I took photographs with an 35mm, and developed black and whites at the school’s lab. I had moved out of the suburbs and into Seattle, closer to school in an apartment with school roommates. Suddenly I was a young father.
On a sunny afternoon I went to buy groceries at the nearby supermarket called Lucky’s. Standing behind me at the cash register was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had big brown eyes, long brown hair and tight fitting summer clothes and the cutest little blond boy cocked on her hip. It was love at first sight, and within a few weeks we were living together. I got my first job after school working in the dark room at a typesetting shop. We rented a small house on Queen Anne hill, until one of our roommates left a candle burning and burnt the place to the ground. We barely escaped with our lives, with only the clothes on our backs and barefoot. It was time to make a move, the advertising scene in Seattle was pretty closed up. I went to one interview after the next and everyone said “You got to go to New York City”.
I made it to The Big Apple in the early 80s working on Madison Avenue as a junior art director. It wasn’t quite Madmen, but close. My boss, ad legend George Lois, was an older version of Don Draper. We moved ourselves to a “up and coming” Ft Greene Brooklyn, an area we could afford. We were part of the few whites in the neighborhoods, certainly the only white family. Our second son Sebastien was born there and he and his brother fell asleep to boom boxes blasting RunDMC and Grand Master Flash out in the streets. Spike Lee’s classic film, Do The Right Thing, is a pretty relevant portrayal of our Brooklyn experience.
Brooklyn New York was a tough place to raise two young boys and living a normal life. We did watch some TV and took the boys to see movies in Times Square, but the story of our life in New York could have been a popular TV series. I proposed to my girlfriend after our son was born. It was about time, we’d been together several years and now had a family of two. But a big wedding between our two families from two separate continents was impossible. So without out much romance and festivities, we went to City Hall in Lower Manhattan and got married with rubber “O” rings, made popular by Madonna. It took all of five minutes.
My family helped us pay for a short vacation to Switzerland, a sort of honeymoon. My wife had never been to Europe, let alone Switzerland. She immediately saw the potential for raising a family away from the big city in picturesque Switzerland. I was quickly hired and celebrated as a Swiss advertising cowboy from New York City. I became an art director and worked at Publicis in my hometown, Lausanne Switzerland. There I started drawing storyboards for my commercials. I did a few flops for Nestlé, a tough conservative client. Swiss advertising was not quite like what I’d learned in New York City. My little family learned some of their French by watching TV. We had the choice of 3 French speaking television stations.
I answered an ad for an art director at a Saatchi&Saatchi in Geneva. They specifically needed a English speaker. I fit the bill perfectly, got the job and was back working within an Anglo-Saxon environment. There I worked extensively in business to business advertising. But eventually we wanted to go back to America. We now had a third son, Miles, and decided it was time our Swiss boys became American. This time we landed in my wife’s’ hometown of Boston. It was an experience also deemed to be a movie or series. After doing a few freelance jobs, I eventually got a job at a small agency specializing in medical advertising. We spent three stormy years in Bean Town until I was recruited to work at an up and coming agency in Hartford Connecticut.
It wasn’t a difficult choice to leave a big city for the Connecticut countryside. The agency, Cronin & Co. did lots of TV work for the Connecticut Lottery and other clients, and quality of life for families was a definite plus. A suburban house with a big yard for our Swiss Bernese mountain dog, a basketball hoop on the driveway and the yellow school bus picking up the kids was ideal. My job was fulfilling, I was finally seeing my creations come to life producing our commercials in New York and Los Angeles. It was at this little agency I did one of my life’s best work.
We recreated the film with the original men. We considered casting actors, but after we had gone to meet and interview the men, it was evident there was no other way but to use real people. The film was shot on a crisp autumn day, pure luck as the weather was rotten the days before and after. The men were wonderful, real and honest. They did not need to act. This was their story. The film ended up being incredibly successful gathering millions of dollars from donors. It also won numerous awards, one being and AICP award which is rewarded by being archived in The Museum Of Modern Art in New York. That is still my proudest moment in my career. To have created a beautiful and touching film that was effective and rewarded.
But all good things must come to an end. My wife and I wanted to move again, out of the suburbs and back to a city. I went to New York and Chicago in search of another job, then one fateful September 11, 2001 the world changed. We decided to go back to Switzerland and embrace neutrality. America was at war, and we wanted no part of it. We arrived in Montreux Switzerland in December 2001 after selling our house in six short weeks. Again I began freelancing, and within six months, I was hired by another up and coming shop called Simko in Geneva. We grew the little agency to a local creative powerhouse. Again good things came to an end as I was let go just before the agency was purchased by Saatchi&Saatchi. This is where my filming and editing career started! I not only created and supervised commercial productions and ads, but began filming and editing agency presentation videos on iMovie. When my boss let me go, he offered me the agency camera, and wished me good luck.
So with a simple Handycam I gradually built a portfolio and client list, as well as renovating an office with my wife’s help. Year after year my client list grew and grew until we created Cuckoo Advertising. We had nine full time employees as well as interns and freelancers. In 2011 we had our most successful year with nearly 1M in billings. We did not have to look for new business as it was pouring in. We worked for the Swiss Lottery, DuPont, P&G, Swisscom, even Saatchi&Saatchi. But again all things came to an end with another global finical crisis. We suffered a crushing blow, marketing budgets are the first to go and clients stopped spending but the employee costs had to be covered. We had a two month reserve which we were forced to use when we let everyone go. Cost cutting measures had to be taken, and I found myself working alone as I had first started. Eventually under the weight of obligatory high social insurance costs, Cuckoo Advertising was terminated in April 2013.
Today I am back as The Swiss Syndicate, a lean smart machine that continues to do great work for clients and special projects. Productions are handled in the most cost effective manner possible, by putting high value in creativity while working with low budgets. This new entity, headed by experience and creativity landed me many high value clients such as, Swiss Deluxe Hotel, Ralph Lauren, The Lausanne Palace while retaining loyal clients such as Swisscom and Swiss Education Group.
True to form, I have worked on very special projects independently with such people as Nile Rodgers, Quincy Jones, The Mercury Phoenix Trust, and AOS° aka Sebastien Moore. Also, I have published articles and photography in books, magazines as well as exposed as a Fine Art Photographer. And for the past 3 years, Nile Rodgers and I have been working together on unique documentary film about concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival which retraces his massive career and colorful life in dance music. I also completely re-looked and re-designed Swiss travel magazine Animan with a new logo and art direction. Having been a contributing writer/photographer, and took over the artistic direction of the first two issues setting the example for the continuation in the look and style of this special projects. Animan Magazine has been an iconic publication in Switzerland, dedicated to deliver issue after issue of stunning photography and writing about the beauty of the world, it’s people and cultures. A true Swiss Made high end product looking better than thanks to my Suizo-Americano touch!
As the Swiss Syndicate, I have embraced the new challenges and opportunities of the future with innovative tools such as GoPros, photovideo cameras, WordPress blogs and social platforms. The Swiss Syndicate (and myself included, ha ha) is proud of the legacy created and more enthusiastic than ever to use my vast rich experience to create and produce more, faster and even better creations. To put it simply, “Imagined, shot and just done by Alexandre Guidetti” tells it all. Bring it on!