Aaron Adler

Aaron has worked as an advertising art director in New York and London since 2001. In 2013, Aaron published his first book with Simon and Schuster, entitled "Extinct For A Reason: A Field Guide to Failimals and Evolosers.”
Aaron studied visual communication at the University of Arizona, graphic design at Fabrica in Treviso, Italy, and art direction at the Creative Circus in Atlanta, GA. His work has been recognized by Cannes, AICP, the Art Directors Club, Clios, Communication Arts, and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Interview sponsored by Warpaint Films

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is renowned for having his finger on the pulse of the documentary world. When Spurlock created Warpaint with commercial EP Shannon Lords, he sought to break new ground in branded filmmaking. Empowering a select cadre of notable directors, the company has worked for major national brands to create advertising and entertainment experiences across every platform.

What was your first position in advertising?

My first job was at DiMassimo in New York. Six weeks into DiMassimo, my writer Ari and I got a call from Arthur Bijur at Cliff Freeman. I remember Ari and I at the DiMassimo office, on the phone with Arthur, trying to be stealthy about it. He asked us if we’d like to take a pay cut to come over to Cliff. We felt jewish guilt about leaving so quickly. But it was our dream job.

How was that experience?

Cliff Freeman was amazing. They had just won Grand Prix for Fox Sports. The agency was filled with creatives who went on to become fantastic creative directors: Eric Silver, William Gelner, Ian Reichenthal, Scott Vitrone, Jason Gaboriau, Richard Bullock, Adam Chasnow, Dan Kelleher. We were in awe of the agency, the people and the work.

What was your first shoot as a creative director?

I’ll tell you my first shoot as a creative. It was three spots for Fox Sports. Ari and I hadn’t even produced a print ad yet. Much less a tv campaign. We had no idea what we were doing. Eric [Silver] was surprisingly hands-off; he let us make creative calls but steered us before we made mistakes. It was a great learning experience.

What was the deciding factor to go with the director and production company?

We were less than a year out of school so we spent hours, entire days, watching reels on those enormous three-quarter videotapes. We shot the campaign with Baker Smith at Harvest. The agency had a relationship with Baker and he was a great guy.

What was the best and worst part?

The best part of the shoot was walking onto the first location of the first day for a spot called “Hail.” Seeing the production crew milling around.  An enormous crane being moved into position. All for a script we wrote.

The worst parts of that time were about being young and broke in New York. I had a rat-infested ground-floor apartment. They’d climb into my garbage can and I’d pull the can over to the door and let them scurry out. But even those days I sort of look back on fondly.

Was there anything you learned early on that you still carry with you today?

I learned early on from talented people to try as many things as possible. Try a lot of different performances on a shoot. Try a lot of different cuts in an edit. The best way to find the best option is to explore them all. The creative genius who knows the One Best Way doesn’t exist.

Has the role of a creative director changed from when you first started?

My perception of the role has changed dramatically. When you’re starting out, you think it’s about picking the best ideas. But it turns out being a cd is about assembling the right idea, the right strategy, the right way to sell it to a client, and the right way to execute it. Over and over again. It’s hard. I’m still learning.

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The Weather Channel "Noah" Commercial

What are your thoughts on the current state of the advertising industry?

Advertising is a great business. I’ve always felt grateful to get to do this. Spending entire days coming up with ideas to sell a cracker is a privileged existence. Social media is keeping creatives busy these days. Clients want content for every platform. It’s a flood of work. But it’s also a flood of creative opportunities that didn’t exist before. A tweet has as much of a chance to create a moment as a million dollar film.

You made the transition from art director to creative director. Who gave you your first shot as a creative director?

When I was at AMV BBDO London, the Economist began working on their U.S. launch. I was the only American creative at the agency. Paul Brazier let me manage the U.S. part. I had my first solo client presentation. I sold a handful of billboard ads. I was nervous; it has taken me years to feel comfortable presenting in meetings. It was business as usual for the agency but for me it was a growing experience.

Where do you personally look to find fresh directing talent?

I’ve found some of my favorite film work surfing YouTube from one linked video to another. I could spend hours on YouTube completely unguided. I like to go to Partizan, Stink and Reset to see what their directors are making. Vevo is good for the pulse of pop music videos. Motionographer posts great visual work.

Has there been a director who always stood out for you?

I’ve always been impressed by writers who direct. Paul Thomas Anderson. Woody Allen. Wes Anderson. Mike Judge. Tarantino. Nolan. Gondry. Writing and directing are such different skill sets; pulling off both reveals a lot of talent.

What’s your favorite commercial of all time?

I have dozens of favorite commercials. Thierry Poiraud’s “Escape” for Airbus. Glazer’s “Ride” for Wrangler.  Zacharias’ “Stunt City” for Rexona. Smith and Foulkes’ “Hands” for Honda last year. There are too many to name.

What’s your latest project?

I’m currently at Droga5 in New York. I’m a cd on Diet Coke. The agency has promised to pile on a few other accounts as well. I enjoy the team I’m working with. David and Ted seem to have mastered the art of being involved with the work while also giving their cds autonomy. The creatives at D5 work their asses off. We’re all finding out exactly how hard we can push ourselves.

Name

Aaron Adler

Place of Birth

Phoenix, AZ

Occupation

Creative Director / Droga 5