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We've compiled a selection of promo royalty, clever advert creatives, and animation maniacs to talk about the work that - in their own opinion - helped make them the success they are today.

Andreas Nilsson 

I don’t really think there was a single breakthrough piece in the beginning. My career as a director started with me collaborating with some old friends who had a band called the Knife. It was all DIY and done with no labels involved, no production company and no crews. Hell, I hardly knew what a production company was. I made videos like this where my wife plays the person in the turd costume (she actually made it for me) and it was all shot in my 15 square meter studio on a pocket camera. I basically just went to the studio and improvised the video frame by frame. No treatment, no pitch meetings. My friends left me to do whatever.  

It was all DIY and done with no labels involved, no production company and no crews. Hell, I hardly knew what a production company was. 

There was some guys at Wieden & Kennedy in Portland who noticed what we were doing in Gothenburg. Mike Warzin, art director, and Brandon Pierce, copywriter, were as young and naive as I was and they had written a rap song for some basketball players that they managed to sell to Nike and they asked if I could do the video. At that time I had started to talk to a production company in the US and the EP Jason Botkin signed me when this opportunity came in. Hyperize was the final result. My favourite moment is probably halfway through the video when we cut to the tiny body-double of Kevin Durant doing the flip in the pool 

So, I guess my break into the ad world was a combination of freedom and luck.

Nike – Hyperize

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Ben Gregor

I shot Puma Hardchorus in two hours. We had cast real football fans and I quickly realised they would get bored and possibly violent if it was any longer. We had no time to overthink and just enough time to get the real guys being themselves.

The guys from Droga5 and I watched the monitors and asked ourselves... is this good enough?

Bryan Buckley 

It was 1993, I was co-directing with Frank Todaro. We were hired by Wieden&Kennedy to shoot an ESPN hockey promo up at the New York Rangers practice facility. That day we were supposed to shoot the team's famed captain, Mark Messier. The concept was really simple - using a doc crew and a handheld 16mm camera we would film Messier shooting pucks into an empty net. And at the end of the spot he would turn to us and say: "I feel like I'm playing the Flyers."

Mark Messier looked at his PR guy and said, "tell those guys to go fuck themselves." So it was onto Plan B.

So we waited until the end of the Rangers practice for Messier to be free. Then, with the team's PR guy we asked him if he was ready to do the spot. He looked at his PR guy and said "Tell those guys to go fuck themselves." So it was onto Plan B... We went desperately around the Ranger's locker room looking for a replacement to volunteer. We scored one right before he got into his street clothes - Adam Graves. And that's how it all started. We would go on to shoot 180 hockey spots over three seasons.

ESPN – Playing The Flyers

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Chris Palmer 

Probably the first; Men at Work- a Hugo Boss commercial for BBH, in their pomp. Tiger Savage and the late, great Paul Silburn

It was a tough challenge which required a football match in a packed stadium on a modest budget which stretched to – some turf; the dugouts; a handful of extras; pink carpet to make the running track; the West Ham youth team (including a young Frank Lampard). The solution was a Thomas Crown Affair arrangement of boxes with the right action in each one, to create the illusion of scale. With just two stock shots.

The Champions League nicked the track and use it to this day. Honest. After that everything was a relative stroll in the park. And it paved the way to more BBH commercials.

Hugo Boss – Men At Work

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Hamish Rothwell

The most striking moment for me early in my career was a commercial for Drumstick (The Australian version of a Cornetto) called Summer Rituals. It was the first time I’d done something that wasn’t overtly comedic - more like strange, artful, humorous pathos. It opened me up for more interesting and diverse projects that required a leap of faith and imagination. I learned that if you strike a chord and engage everyone, you can do something really outside of the box. I’ve taken that forward through my career and haven’t looked back.

Nestlé Drumstick – Summer Rituals

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Ian Pons Jewell

It's hard to give a particular job that "launched" me because each one is a crucial step in the chain. But the promo that really got me noticed was Jargon Ft Tinie Tempah - Disappoint You. It went on promo news and I then got contacted by a couple production companies. I didn't even know what production companies were, so it was all very surreal. But without the job before it, I wouldn't have gotten that one, all links in a chain. 

Then the commercial that really got me going was Hornbach's Your Project Only Belongs To You, my second ever commercial. I was able be totally free creatively, within the concept that Guido Heffels had created. It was eye-opening as to the potential commercials had under such strong vision from agency side, but the first commercial I did for Otelo, just prior to it, was also very creative and without it I wouldn't have gotten Hornbach.

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Jargon V.A. featuring Tinie Tempah – Disappoint You

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Hornbach – Your Project Only Belongs To You

Jim Jenkins

I had only been directing for three years when I shot Martin Scorsese for American Express, and that one spot changed things dramatically for me. I think it helped pave for the way for the long run of FedEx spots I shot for BBDO, which in turn led to the “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign for Snickers. People asked me at the time if it was intimidating to work with Scorsese, and I said to them then what I say to people now who ask me the same thing about working with Bill Murray recently for Jeep: the only intimidating thing was that if the spot didn’t turn out well then people certainly wouldn’t blame them, only me. 

Fortunately, when I got to work with Scorsese on a second spot he told me that he loved the AmEx commercial, which is a good thing because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten to work with Scorsese on a second spot.

American Express – Scorsese

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Karni & Saul 

Beneath The Rose was our third music video. We had no clue what we were doing really, but had a lot of instinct and love for the making process. this we believe is still the secret, blind passion. When we told our then rep we wanted to make a video with garden snails!!! needless to say, she was horrified.

We look back fondly on that innocent snail time, where we made things for the love of art, and take it as our constant trajectory, 

The snails were under our noses in the wet London garden… we didn’t know what else to shoot and grew to like them and be inspired by them. so over a couple of weeks, we slowly constructed a fantasy tale of snails taking over the house. Physically, but really as a metaphor for darkness, nature, art, pain, and love taking over your world. strangely suited to todays situation. It's all in the storytelling, the emotion, the eye really. Your take on something, your point of view.

We also established a lot of the things we do to this day in music video; stills to music, time-lapse with light, fast forward with nature, breathers for mood, body and movement, narrative that is loose but strong on emotion, casual fantasy, imperfections and glitches to keep it real and intimate, hand made, small details, art direction, soft light, a photographic style. Of course, we realised all this much later in hindsight. We look back fondly on that innocent snail time, where we made things for the love of art, and take it as our constant trajectory. We still turn to our passion and heart when choosing and producing our projects. as much as we possibly can. always follow the heart.

We had no clue what we were doing really, but had a lot of instinct and love for the making process. this we believe is still the secret, blind passion

In the end, Saul, who was a green finger kind of guy, and wanted to grow some veg, buried the snails in the garden. When I found out I cried and made him dig them out. No snails were thereafter harmed in the making of the film!!

Micah P. Hinson – Beneath the Rose

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Kyra & Constantin 

In our case, the Rollin' Wild clips we created during our studies launched our career...In retrospect, we think it was the mix of short gags and a little-used animal documentary concept that made the clips go viral at that time.

And as usual, this is something that resonates well in advertising. So it was our great luck to find a gap here that put us on the map of animated short films. Looking back, we are also very happy that our film school (the Film Academy in Baden-Württemberg) gave us the freedom and technology to implement this difficult to explain concept, for which we are still very grateful to this day.

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Rollin' Wild – Rollin' Wild (Giraffe)

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Rollin' Wild – Rollin' Wild France

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Rollin' Wild – Safari: What If Animals Were Round?

Lena Beug 

I’ve been directing things for 15 years. There has yet to be a project where I haven’t learned something, which is why it’s so fun and why I keep doing it.

The first job I ever shot – Intro Guy at MTV - was Chapter One. That was special because there was no agency, no interference, it was my vision. It got harder after that. Chapter Two, the next breakthrough, was Chunky Pam, a collaboration with a great friend, born from hours of conversation about why there wasn’t a fat female rapper. It got noticed and was voted Rolling Stones’ funniest video of the year when people still read magazines. If I do say so myself it was ahead of its time. I could not be more delighted to report that the world has changed since, and for the better, hello Lizzo!

I’d say that if you read a script and it jumps off the page for you, if you can see it come to life, find a way to get it made.

Chapter 3 was a couple of years ago, before people noticed that there weren’t enough women directors. Having two young children of my own my career went through a bit of a major lull - and I know it’s not the done thing to talk about those ups and downs, but we all go through them. I had a moment, on set - and no offense to cat food, but I was shooting a cat food commercial and I thought to myself, this is a low point. Six months and no jobs later I signed with Station Film and this eBay script came in. 

Truthfully it was earmarked for another director, but it was exactly the kind of job I had been waiting for: the story of a girl, a girl who collects stuff, odd stuff. She was kind of like me, kind of like my daughter, kind of like us all. I was the right person to tell this story - and by some fluke or twist of fate or combination of pure luck and divine intervention they gave me the job. It was the start of a new chapter for me. Emma was one of those jobs that allowed me to share my point of view.

She was kind of like me, kind of like my daughter, kind of like us all. 

I don’t know if we ever know which jobs will turn out to change our careers, for me it’s almost always been the personal projects, the freebies, the PSAs but then also sometimes not. I’d say that if you read a script and it jumps off the page for you, if you can see it come to life, find a way to get it made.

Sara Dunlop

I was shooting another commercial in Sao Paulo. It was all in a studio and I felt frustrated that I couldn’t go into the city, so full of texture and life. So I rang up some creatives in London and told them to write me something to shoot. They googled the city and saw that the new mayor had just banned advertising on billboards…and that’s how they got the idea. 

We couldn’t afford a Russian arm, so it was all shot handheld from the back of a pick up truck and stabilised in post. (Plus a few helicopter shots.)  All the cast we just found as we were shooting. The most expensive part of Billboards was the music….which I had in my head from the beginning, and it was touch and go for a while whether we would get it. We even had to get Gene Wilder’s permission to use his voice in the film!

Sky Movies – Billboards

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Shynola 

The piece that kickstarted everything for us was a piece commissioned by Mo'Wax for the NME awards, for the track Guns Blazin'. Unkle had been nominated and wanted something to represent them, beyond a turgid talking head. By sheer coincidence I had written to Mo' Wax that summer with a VHS tape of animation, stating a desire to make something for them. For reasons unknown they took a chance on us, for which we'll forever be grateful. We made it from our bedrooms in the evenings because we had menial day jobs or, like me, were still at college. I recall we spent the budget on a scanner. That short piece snowballed from one job to another until we quit our day jobs and here we are twenty years later. We don't have the scanner any more.

Unkle – Guns Blazing (Drums Of Death Part 1)

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Todd + Kylie 

Zooming way way out from the current state of the world and considering our directorial work however, we would need to say that our first Coke Happiness Factory spot. I remember the moment we cracked the creative puzzle. Kylie and I were talking about what would make this spot amazing, what could we do to make this something completely bonkers, something that would be really fun to make. 

A spark was triggered by the need for a 'no-holds-barred' creative solution we were after. So we just thought, what if there was this crazy fantasy world filled with outrageous characters inside the vending machine? Then the question became "how crazy could we make this world inside the machine?" To which the answer was "a whole lot of crazy"! Once the spot broke and caught people's attention we started getting a lot more inquiries. 

I remember the moment we cracked the creative puzzle. Kylie and I were talking about what would make this spot amazing, what could we do to make this something completely bonkers. 

A high point for me was when we were at a W&K Amsterdam for a founders day party. I was hanging out with Dan Wieden and he said it was one of his absolute favorite pieces that had come out of his company. High praise indeed! Of course sense then we have done a lot of work we're extremely proud of. I'm actually returning back to my roots of sculpture and designing an installation piece for JPL, which i'm super excited about. Space Nerd!

Coca Cola – Happiness Factory (Alt. Version)

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Vaughan Arnell

It all started with Levis Creek that was a tough shoot with the schedule cut from three days to one and a half due to bad weather. I remember really having to dig deep from the gorilla tactics of music videos to ride that wave. I think we picked up nearly every award going with Creek.

The next milestone was The Spice Girls Say You’ll Be There again having my shooting time cut down to a very short day due to technical reasons, that was one of the biggest wave rides in the Mojave Desert, picking up my first Best Music Video Brit award.

 I remember really having to dig deep from the gorilla tactics of music videos to ride that wave.

The second and third Brit awards with Robbie Williams' Rock DJ and Millennium really put me on the map, they were more like ram raids than breakthroughs. It's not until years later and you're still in the top 5 videos of all time, you think fuck! The moment I felt could take on anything was after shooting Aviva's Name Change with Bruce Willis, Ringo, and Alice Cooper to name a few. That was a real turning point, a monster of a wave that didn’t crush and drown me.

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Levi Strauss – Levi Strauss: Creek

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Spice Girls – Say You'll Be There

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Rock DJ

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Robbie Williams – Millennium

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Aviva – Aviva: Name Change

Vellas 

For me, for sure was the Leica - Soul. It was shot in Cuba in 2012, and it was a film that got many awards, such as Cannes, 2 D7AD yellow Pencils, Clio, Ciclope etc. It cost only 30 thousand dollars and we had lots of trouble shooting it. But it was worth it. After that one, things changed because I started to get much bigger scripts, more focused on stories, cinematography and post production.

Leica – Soul

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