The Recommendation Engine is Campaign US' weekly feature in which we learn about the media that young people in the ad industry are currently consuming. This week, we get to know Ashley Banks, director of digital strategy and media at ICED Media.
What I’m watching
I’ve been super into Netflix food documentaries, from the epic "Cooked" that examines food on an elemental level (in particular the "Fire and Air" episode) to deep dives into what inspires and motivates some of my favorite chefs on "Mind of a Chef" or "Chef’s Table." And I just watched "Heston's Dinner in Space" on business flight to Paris. It was fascinating to see a gourmet chef explore and innovate space cuisine beyond freeze-dried ice cream. Constraints often inspire creativity, and this was a great example of that.
For creative inspiration, I watch Netflix’s "Abstract," a documentary series on the art of design. The episode on stage designer Es Devlin was a favorite. She creates stunning, immersive work, often overlaying digital projection on massive constructions to stun and inspire. I also love the range of her work, from Met Opera and Shakespeare to Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Kanye concerts. All of them are streamed through the Xbox One on my living room TV: I don’t think I’ve ever had cable.
What I’m listening to
When I need to focus and feel motivated, my go to is Phillip Glass—I’ve built out a whole Spotify playlist. An artist I admire on Instagram recently joked about the "Phillip Glass rule"—that you shouldn’t create art while listening to his work because the epic sweeping nature of his arpeggios makes anything you produce feel like genius. I break this rule all the time. It’s super motivating to feel like my media plans and communication strategies have this aura of major creative breakthroughs. I get a similar burst of energy from movie and TV soundtracks. I’ve built a lot of decks to Ramin Djawadi ("Game of Thrones") and Hans Zimmer.
I was a Pandora gal for a while, appreciating the predictable randomness of their playlists, but Spotify allows for multi-movement string quartets to be played sequentially, which is clutch. But I’ll still return to my Balkan Beat Box or Slavic Soul Party Pandora stations to dance in my kitchen while cooking dinner.
What I’m reading
I started recently "The Monsters of Templeton" by Lauren Groff because I loved her most recent novel "Fates and Furies," where she explored philosophical questions of identity and existence through the lens of a scope of a marriage narrative. "The Monsters of Templeton" takes a fictional look at a small historic American town, with a hint of magical realism to deepen some of the novel’s metaphors. I’ve been thinking a lot about contemporary American identity in this political climate, and the book is making me explore the myths of the American town in literature. It reminds me both of a recent read, "North American Lake Monsters" by Nathan Ballingrud, a taut, striking collection of short stories that all play with the intersection of the fantastic and the mundane, and one of my favorite books, "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides, where environmental decay metaphorically mirrors both inner and societal turmoil.
I’ll read on the Kindle and on the New York Public Library app on my phone, but also love the tangible paperback, both for a break on the eyes and a nice talking point on the bookshelf when people are over. Finding thriftbooks.com was amazing—I burn through books, so a cheap and plentiful resource like that has been amazing.
I've hacked my procrastination by filling my Facebook feed with advertising trade publications, and more, so my attempt to zone out with cat and baby photos is productively sidetracked into keeping up with industry news. I'm also an inbox zero person, so I challenge myself with daily newsletters of all kinds.
Who I’m following
I’m an avid home chef who loves visual art, so I deeply enjoy curating my Instagram feed to match. Food loves include @Food52, @foodgays, plus Dining with Skler (@nycdining) and Mimi Thorrison (@mimithor) two foodie influencers I’ve worked with on projects. Skyler eats around NYC and the world and serves crave-able food porn from cheesy noodles to succulent dumplings all presented in a social-first way (a lot of nom boomerangs), while Mimi’s life is an idyllic fairytale, foraging and cooking in the South of France, her feed is like the glossy pages of a magazine.
I nourish my desire for visual art with @hyperallergic @hifructosemag @juxtapozmag @avant.arte, and am always on the lookout for new street artists and street art accounts to follow. I fuel my longing for the unusual with the incredible places and spaces featured in @atlasobscura and @abandonedafterdark, as well as the intriguingly bizarre feeds of taxidermist @alllis and physical special effects maven @sarahsitkin.
What I’m ignoring
I’m lucky that my talented strategy team keeps their fingers on the pulse of all things trendy and trending, so I can ignore the latest Kardashian news, real housewife escapades, pop culture gossip, and hip slang.
I’m also ignoring the poor gal standing in front of a shop on Spring Street, always wanting to tell me the secret behind what looks like a tray of cupcakes next to her. See, I already know they are soap.