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Silvia Leyva Wins Two ADDY Awards

The INMA Newspaper Marketing Awards were announced recently, and the Academy's own Silvia Leyva has added two first place prizes to her already impressive resume. Silvia is currently an Art Director with the Sacramento Bee. Her ad campaign, titled "Seeds of Doubt," took the award for "Promotion of Newspaper Readership," despite heavy competition from the New York Times (the third place winner) and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (second place).

Silvia's campaign was used to promote an important news feature: genetic modification in produce. The campaign presented technical information and placed it within a social and ecological context. The emphasis of the campaign was communicating the relevance of this information to readers. Silvia used the skills she developed at the Academy to show this story in the best possible light.

We contacted Silvia to congratulate her on her award, and to talk to her about her time at the Academy:

How did you find your way to The Sacramento Bee? How did you achieve your current position within the Bee?

I found an ad and just applied! Even though the ad specified three years experience, I applied anyway. I sent my portfolio from the Academy and was granted an interview. Because of my lack of professional experience, the Bee was reluctant to offer me a job right away. However, they were so impressed by my portfolio that they gave me freelance work for about six months. After that, I was hired full time as a production artist. Two years later, I was promoted to Art Director.

During my time at the Bee, I have worked just as hard as I did at the Academy — but now I get paid for it!

Had you received any awards before the success of your current pieces?

My production work won one ADDY in 2003. I also received an award from my peers at the Bee in 2002, and Publisher awards in 2003 and 2004. Each year, nominations are accepted and a panel of past winners decides who the winner is based on testimonials by co-workers. The Publisher award is an award given to the best team members on big, successful projects.

Describe the genesis of the "Seeds of Doubt" campaign.

When I was assigned to the project, it was a much smaller job then what it became. The original specifications for the ad were a quarter page, black and white. I met with the copywriter for the project and as we talked about it we realized that one quarter page was not going to do justice to the hard work the writers and editors had put into the story. The copy writer, Kim Wideman, the account manager, Becky Ripka and I arranged a series of individual meetings with our creative director, the vice president of marketing, the editors and writer of the story and the publisher.

During these meetings, it became clear that the story, which was to run in a special section of the Bee during five consecutive days, was one of the biggest investigative stories the Bee was to publish to that date. After we realized this, we had to convince the vice president of marketing and the publisher that the "Bio-Tech" story deserved more than a quarter page promotion.

We also realized that the "Bio-Tech" name would have to change to something to which a reader could relate. Kim, the copywriter, after much research, came up with the headline "Seeds of Doubt." The editor loved this headline so much that she renamed the series from "Bio-Tech" to "Seeds of Doubt." We were able to convince the VP of marketing that we needed more ad space in the paper and the "Seeds of Doubt" campaign was born.

Once the project became a campaign, I had much more creative freedom. During my meetings with the photo editor of the story, I was shown beautiful, vibrant photos from all around the world. These photos really inspired my ads. When I saw these photos, I realized that the photos actually told the story; I wanted to use my ads to showcase these photographs. I wanted to show the contrast of the different aspects of the story. For instance, on day two of the campaign, I contrasted corn grown naturally in Mexico and corn grown at the UC Davis biotech laboratories.

Using the photography was tricky since I have very strict guidelines regarding how I can use the photographs. I can't resize them or manipulate them in any way. I had to review over three hundred photos and pick ten. I wanted each add to have two photos that showcased the section of the story that was to run the following day. I tried many layouts but nothing was really working until I thought about using what looked like a ripped piece of the paper. I made the ripped piece look as if the reader had ripped the piece in order to get to the story behind the picture.

After that, the ad just came together. The campaign consisted of five full color page ads, five different rack stackers, five different rack strips, five different mini rack cards, one rack card, and one radio spot. The campaign turned out to be one of the Bee's biggest editorial stories and promotional campaigns, and both the story and the campaign won many awards. For my work on the campaign, I won an International Newspaper Association Award and my first ADDY for Art Direction.

What are your recollections of your time at the Academy? Are there any classes or teachers that were especially influential on you?

I had a great experience at the Academy. I had excellent teachers that not only taught but were professionals in their field in the "real world" of advertising. The most influential teachers I had at the Academy were Peter Degaza and Melinda Metler. Both these teachers challenged me to do my best. At the time, I thought I could not get through it but I tried harder and I made it. The helped to push my portfolio from ordinary to extraordinary.

Where do you plan to go from here?

Currently I'm working on several projects for the Bee. My goal for the future is to improve every day by learning from all the talented people around me. I hope to become one of the best art directors in the country. I would like to one day become a creative director, and perhaps start my own agency.

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