Jason Zada Leaves EVB

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After eight years spent building and establishing San Francisco-based EVB, co-founder/ECD Jason Zada has left the digital agency to focus on directing, writing and producing.

During his tenure, Zada spearheaded web initiatives for Old Spice and 2K Sports along with Adidas' "Basketball is Brotherhood" campaign and Microsoft's "Live Derby" game. Under Zada's lead, EVB has collected a host of industry awards including three Gold Lions and an ad:tech 2008 Best of Show prize for its OfficeMax "Elf Yourself" viral effort.

Considering that he directed "Elf Yourself" and other recent EVB projects, Zada's transition to working behind the camera seems fairly natural. Now agency-free, he recently spoke with Creativity about why he left his post, the opportunities that await and how he's had the filmmaking bug since childhood.

How did the decision to leave EVB come about?

For me, it was a long time coming. Omnicom purchased a majority stake in [EVB] about two years ago, and over the last six months, I've been figuring out that the whole content world is changing massively. Television production is changing. I've loved some of the recent success stories, like [Joss Whedon's] "Dr. Horrible" [with Neil Patrick Harris]. It was awesome that Hollywood and that whole business model was starting to get some traction online and brands have been dabbling in content. I've been part of that world for a bunch of years. But right now, having creative directed up until about a month ago and switching over just to direct all the projects that we had in-house, I realized that it was just the world I loved living in and I wanted to live more in the production/direction world.

Was it an amicable departure?

It's definitely amicable. I'm really proud of leaving the agency at where it is and what it's doing. I feel I've accomplished something major but I just see this massive opportunity out there for directing, producing and writing in this new realm of content. I haven't been able to sleep lately because I've just been up writing a lot and just feeling really passionate in trying to figure it all out. Everybody's trying to figure out what's the future. There are all these great people thinking of what to do next.

Can you specify what the "massive" opportunity is?

I'm less interested these days in creating a big idea and more interested in producing and directing a big idea that has a lot of different pieces to it. Coming from the world of storytelling and directing campaigns that have tons of little pieces to them that end up on everything from mobile phones to XBox, I'm more excited now about problem-solving, creating and working with agencies from the production side to develop these campaigns.

You guys covered the Big Spaceship/HBO "Voyeur" [issue]. What [Big Spaceship CEO] Michael [Lebowitz] said is what all interactive shops [face]. When we were developing stuff for Goodby in 2001 and 2002, the nugget of an idea was there, but it was really the interactive agency that filled in all the blanks and made it bigger and better. But there's another step to this, which is production. Interactive agencies can't do the level of production that broadcast does—at least not many of them. So, there's still this void. The big traditional agency goes to the interactive agency; they partner together and make something. But they still have to go to production companies and a director to really make whatever they're going to do what it is. The director and production company usually makes that nugget of an idea better.

That's where, having played so long on the agency side, I just wanted to switch over to the other side. I'm in development now of a unique interactive TV show that I'm pitching to a couple of networks. There's a huge opportunity there in potentially finding the right brand or agency to say this brand would be great for this idea.

zWhat's your preferred discipline in terms of directing, producing or writing?

Directing. I've wanted to do it since I was eight-years-old. I used to save up my allowance to buy Super 8 film and I'd make these horrible little Westerns. I also made a music video for Twisted Sister using tennis racquets for guitars. It was probably a higher-priced video than most of the stuff that I've done these days.
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