Take a stroll down the streets of the Big Easy and you’ll be transported to a world of music, color, and flavor. Few places on earth can match the energy and vibrancy of New Orleans, making it the perfect destination for Harrah’s New Orleans marketing campaign, “We are NOLA.” Naoto Ono Creative was enlisted to capture the city’s essence in photography and videos for this campaign. The campaign constructs a visual narrative that captures the true spirit of NOLA while weaving in the brand’s touchpoints and featuring the work of local artists and musicians, including Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Roderick Paulin, Sport’s Brass Band, and the renowned Mardi Gras Indians Black Hatchet Tribe. Together, they created unforgettable moments that showcase the city’s unique culture and strong sense of community.
By: Naoto Ono
“There is nothing quite like roaming the streets of New Orleans with an appetite for exploration. I was thrilled when we landed the photography and commercial shoot for Harrah’s New Orleans ad campaign, aptly named ‘We are NOLA.’ The project was developed to showcase the energy and culture of the city, as well as Harrah’s 20+ years of residency in this infamous destination.
“Our task was to capture different elements of the experience that truly define what it means for the hotel to ‘be NOLA.’ With my background as a creative director for hospitality and lifestyle brands, as well as commercial photography and video experience, I had the know-how to construct and define the visual narrative in each moment while weaving brand touchpoints into the mix.
“Apart from the DP and myself, our entire team consisted of creatives and talent from the local area. Honoring the people who live, work, and create in NOLA was of utmost importance. To this end, we enlisted local artists Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Roderick Paulin, and Sport’s Brass Band, along with the renowned Mardi Gras Indians Black Hatchet Tribe, to be prominently featured in the marketing spots. The opportunity to work alongside these talented individuals and create these moments was incredible. Collectively, they brought to life the essence of NOLA, and I will forever be grateful for their involvement in this project.
“One of the highlights of the shoot was our time in the French Quarter on an iconic Spanish wrought-iron balcony overlooking the bustling street. Renowned jazz musicians performed live on set, and the warm sunset hitting at the perfect angle created an energy that was palpable to the entire crew.
“We created beautiful moments that I hope communicate all the city offers, with its rich culture and a strong sense of community. Everyone was determined to represent their city and create something special from the photo crew and video team to the stylists and producers. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this project. New Orleans is one of the most special places in the world, and I am honored to have captured such vivid and exciting moments.”
Naoto Ono works in two roles: a creative director, focusing on hospitality and lifestyle branding and design, and a photographer/director of commercial campaigns. Naoto Ono Creative was commissioned to capture the essence of NOLA through colorful photography and videos for a Harrah’s New Orleans marketing campaign. The resulting vibrant images nabbed a Graphis Photography 2023 Gold award.