Creative inspiration: Emanuela Denti helps to drive Viacom’s European trailer output for MTV and other brands

On a couple of occasions over recent years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Viacom team in Milan which creates promos for world-famous brands such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. As part of a new series of 108th Street interviews, I caught up with producer and art director Emanuela Denti who has a wealth of experience in conjuring up the trailers that keep us tuned to the TV. It was a chance to talk telly and to get her perspective on the creative process.

We’ve all grown up with TV promos and idents, which in many ways act as the glue that holds our favourite programming together. It’s easy to see how we can so often take them for granted. They’re an ever-present feature of televisual life, but they’re difficult to categorise. Not an integral part of the shows we enjoy, but not really part of the commercial breaks either.

Emanuela Denti was someone who actually took notice of the promos as a child and was impressed by just how creative they could be. Following a period in production at MTV, in which she worked on fashion and music shows, she’s now right at the heart of a busy creative team, producing a wide variety of trailers to tight deadlines for Italy and the wider European marketplace.

“I was always struck by the way in which promos successfully combined music, words and images,” recalls Denti. “The catchier the promo was, the more my curiosity was aroused. Today, I’m trying to do very much the same thing: make more and more people curious.”

Creating this sense of curiosity isn’t always easy when you’re dealing with a show that’s already been around quite a while. The parallel here is perhaps with ad agencies trying to reinvent a familiar brand and give it a new twist, but time pressures, budgetary restrictions and copyright issues can often be more intense in the world of TV trailers.

“We’re still waiting for a 72-hour day,” Denti jokes, “but we always try to do the best we can. When you’re thinking of ideas, you always need time to work in teams because, in my view, the best ideas always have more than one parent. When the time scales get too tight and people don’t have the opportunity to work together, it can be very frustrating. The danger is that the creative solutions are less powerful and innovative.”

Denti is particularly proud of her work for the MTV Gold Rock Legends strand, as she was able to apply a creative solution to what she felt was a pretty tough and predictable brief. With little money to play with and legal red tape meaning that she couldn’t feature actual video footage of musical artists for promotional purposes, she produced a visually striking piece in which the ‘legends’ were transformed into the kings of a card pack. It’s the kind of clever side-step and lateral thinking that’s often needed in her line of work.

But what about the challenges of working across Europe for multinational audiences? International marketing communications is a notoriously perilous business. Could it be that brands such as MTV transcend national boundaries?

“We live in a very connected world,” agrees Denti, “but the tastes and habits of MTV viewers are still very different, so the main challenge is always to create products that have a quality and an international effectiveness and, at the same time, give that wink to the local flavour.”