What it's Like to Work on the Best Commercial of the Year
When you're sitting on the couch enjoying chips and dips galore and watching the best commercials of the year during the Super Bowl, it can be hard to remember the people who were hard at work to make those ads into a reality—the people who devote their careers to coming up with amazing advertising.
To help you learn more about what the world behind the commercials is actually like, we caught up with one of the creative geniuses behind what has been voted the most successful (and, um, cutest) commercial of the year. You know, this one:
Hear from Johnny Dantonio, a copywriter and creative for a company called Anomaly who worked on Budweiser's "Puppy Love" campaign, on what it's like making an amazing commercial—and how to chart your own successful advertising career.
Can you tell us about the work that went into the Super Bowl commercial?
It all starts with Budweiser. They're seasoned veterans when it comes to a stage as big as the Super Bowl. They give us a clear briefing of what they want to communicate as a brand and succinctly outline their goals.
My partner, Mark Sarosi, along with our Global CCO Mike Byrne, then go and concept around the most effective, creative, and entertaining ways to reach the goal that the Budweiser team has set forth. It starts with ideating in a room and coming to a handful of creative directions and narratives to follow. As a copywriter, I then go and write down those ideas into a story or script form, while Mark, an art director, starts to create mood boards, photographs, and visual examples to help the client understand the visual aesthetic that we have in mind. Then, the three of us, along with our account team, go back to Budweiser and try to sell them on the ideas. In this case, from top to bottom, the team was all in agreement that we should definitely chase down this idea of "Puppy Love."
From there, all of us from both Budweiser and Anomaly work really closely to refine and refine and refine, whittling down the idea until it's at the simplest and most effective state possible. It was an awesome collaborative effort.
Where do you find your creative inspiration when you're working on a campaign like this?
Mark, Mike, and myself all trust each other. We're really good friends outside of just being co-workers, so we're tough on each other's ideas and make sure that they can be as bulletproof as possible, in terms of being creative, effective, and universal enough.
I think all three of us would put heavy emphasis on that last word, "universal." Cheesy as it sounds, the living, breathing world around us is the inspiration for most of our creativity. I think we push ourselves to constantly learn from people. There's a set of emotions and experiences that are relatable to all of us, and so we seek for tropes and themes that can evoke something with which we're all familiar.
In this particular case, we became entrenched with the idea of doing whatever it takes when you want something badly enough, and then personified it in the most adorable thing on Earth, a puppy who will do absolutely anything to be with his best bud, a Budweiser Clydesdale.
Did you always know you wanted to get into advertising? How many years have you been in the industry?
I've been in the industry almost three years. I didn't know this is where I'd end up, though. I was an English and creative writing major at the University of Tennessee and went on to work at a business paper in Nashville, which didn't fit what I was looking for creatively.
On a lark one weekend, I escaped to New York, where I met a friend of a friend who told me he wrote the billboard we were standing under. I thought that was amazing and inquired how to get into that profession, and he steered me toward a creative portfolio school called The Creative Circus. I took a leap of faith, and it changed my life. After two years in Atlanta at the school, I was off to Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon, before moving back east to New York and starting at Anomaly.
When did you get your first "big break?"
My first "big break" was after moving to New York to work at Anomaly. While freelancing, I had the opportunity to help on the Dick's Sporting Goods pitch. Winning that business was integral to becoming a full-time employee. Within the next three months, I had produced back-to-back national broadcast spots to help rebrand the country's biggest sports retailer. It's a brand that I'm very passionate about, and I'm very lucky to say that I still am a part of a larger team that works on Dick's Sporting Goods.
What's your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing about this job is spending each and every day using creativity to solve real business problems. It might seem surprising, but the creative teams at Anomaly put the business success of the brands we work on first.
Any advice for others wanting to make it big in the advertising world?
For future creatives, I have a few pieces of advice. First, be decisive. This can be a very, very subjective industry, and you're always going to have to sell an idea up the ladder, no matter your title. Since there's infinite ways to execute an idea, you will be called upon to give the best recommendation. Be ready to answer.
Developing your instincts and own self awareness outside of advertising will in turn help you become more decisive. Be as knowledgeable as possible about people, about the world around you, about culture. The more perceptive you are outside of advertising, the more real life can help inspire you to make something memorable.
Finally, work your ass off. There's always going to be someone smarter, faster, and more creative than you are. You control how much effort you're going to exert until the work is right.
Can you give us any hints to what's next?
You never know what's next. In this industry, those who are on the mountain top on Tuesday might be back at basecamp by Wednesday. But I think you can expect the people at Anomaly to keep our heads down and keep collaborating with our clients to do whatever it takes to continue elevating the international equity of all of our brands.
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