Smuggler balanced standout work from established directors while bringing exciting new talent into the fold as the company celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2022.
Smuggler showed class and craft from veteran directors while nurturing new talent
Its work touched on topical issues ranging from toxic social media to the Great Resignation; entertained with comedy, musicals and incredible storytelling; and netted the company accolades including its fourth Palme d’Or at Cannes and an Emmy. And while living up to its legacy, Smuggler has also endeavored to make both its roster and its body of work more inclusive and diverse.
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Mark Molloy directed one of the year’s most entertaining and well-crafted pieces of branded entertainment, Apple’s “Escape From the Office.” The Great Resignation-inspired video, which saw the “Underdogs” crew break away from their boss to form a startup, won the Grand Prix for Film at Cannes Lions. It also brought Molloy to the attention of Hollywood; he’s currently directing "Beverly Hills Cop 4," having been personally tapped by Jerry Bruckheimer and approved by Eddie Murphy, in large part thanks to his Apple work.
Another entertaining spot came from veteran director Ivan Zachariáš, who returned to commercials last year with Upwork’s “This Is How We Work Now,” a musical number in which a zombie boss returns from the grave to warn employees that the old ways of working are dead.
Henry-Alex Rubin’s efforts included Dove’s “Toxic Influence,” an experimental documentary-style film about the harmful effects of social media on young girls that tapped into a topical issue in shocking fashion. Using deepfake technology, the words of beauty influencers were put in the mouths of real-life moms, opening mothers' and daughters' eyes to how damaging this content can be.
Rubin also won his second Emmy for Outstanding Commercial for his 2021 Sandy Hook Promise film “Teenage Dream.”
Other highlights included Björn Rühmann’s “Those Guys” for Volkswagen, the story of a man so absorbed with his smartphone that he has no consideration for those around him. Rubberband’s work included a stylish set of films for Nike’s Jordan Brand celebrating Parisian basketball culture. The duo, aka Jason Sondock and Simon Davis, also helmed “Dry” for Zara, a surrealist fashion piece set in a NYC laundromat.
Nina Holmgren’s work included a campaign for Beats by Dre as well as the Adidas World Cup ad “Family Reunion,” which featured a number of players coming together along with British artist and fan Stormzy. And Tom Hooper continued to prove himself the king of emotive storytelling with a cinematic holiday ad for the U.K.’s National Lottery, an inspired tale of love and lottery tickets lost and found.
Smuggler signed exciting new talent, too, including Aoife McArdle, known for her work on Apple TV+’s “Severance.” One of the first women ever to direct a Super Bowl ad back in 2017, she was also responsible for 2023’s Big Game spot for Squarespace featuring Adam Driver.
Another new addition, Fiona Jane Burgess, helmed a new music video for Christina Aguilera’s "Beautiful," re-imagined for present-day audiences to commemorate the song’s 20th anniversary. And more music video success came from Ebeneza Blanche, whose video for Little Simz’s "Point and Kill" netted several best director awards and was the first music video chosen as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.