Ad Age 2020 Production Company Standouts
The industry lost a giant when Anonymous Content founder Steve Golin passed away in April 2019 from cancer. The producer is credited with celebrated films including “Spotight,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Being John Malkovich;” successful TV series “Mr. Robot” and “True Detective;” and groundbreaking campaigns such as BMW’s “The Hire” and Nike’s “Write the Future.” The shop lived up to its legacy of creative excellence with more standout stories. Tim Godsall delivered comedy fire on Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam’s surreal Amstel campaign—which turned actor Jeff Bridges into a giant bridge—and spots about a bank heist and party gone awry at the hands of bumbling dudes who could use “smoothness,” courtesy of Snickers. —Ann-Christine Diaz
Iconoclast lived up to its moniker by pushing the boundaries of filmic storytelling. Highlights included directing collective Megaforce’s stunning, VFX-laden love story for Lacoste about a couple who have an apocalyptic breakup that tears the world apart before they reunite. Vania & Muggia shepherded the return of the Evian babies in BETC’s ad that gave the tots a new, more environmentally friendly purpose as they frolicked to “Bare Necessities,” the classic tune from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” Matthew Frost again didn’t disappoint with his pitch-perfect performance work for Vogue—this time, in a film that uncovered Reese Witherspoon’s little-known talent for mind reading. Jonas Lindstroem captured Billie Eilish, Sean Mendes and Chika in their Calvins against stunning backdrops. —Ann-Christine Diaz
At the beginning of the year, Google tapped the company to take CES attendees on a ride with a full-scale theme park experience powered by Google Assistant. Nexus oversaw all the design and creative, and even pre-built it as a VR simulation to ensure each twist and turn felt right. The company’s animation talents also conceived a masterpiece in their delightful stop-motion extravaganza that explored Corona’s place in Mexican history. The shop was also on hand to help Volkswagen and Johannes Leonardo bid farewell to the Beetle in the poignant “The Last Mile.” —Ann-Christine Diaz
While Lance Acord’s “Dream Crazy” spot for Nike from Wieden+Kennedy featuring Colin Kaepernick won plaudits including a Cannes Grand Prix and an Emmy, the director went on to more blockbuster work. He brought E.T. back to life for Comcast and Goodby Silverstein & Partners in a spot that reunited Elliot (actor Henry Thomas) with the alien nearly 40 years after the beloved Spielberg film. Spielberg also appeared in “The Storytellers,” the launch film for Apple TV+, co-directed by Chris Wilcha and Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki. It gave us a glimpse of what it takes to get a story to screen, through the eyes of some of Hollywood’s biggest names.—Alexandra Jardine
Michel Gondry brought his talent for the fantastical to Goodby’s superb holiday spot for HP, which turned the “12 Days of Christmas” song into a little girl’s parable about how much time we spend on our screens over the holidays. The film encouraged families to “get real” and ditch screens for “printable” activities.
Elsewhere, Emma Westenberg was behind Michelob’s “The Pure Experience” for the Super Bowl, featuring Zoe Kravitz and combining ASMR with a love for beer. Warren Fu celebrated Taco Bell’s campaign to move “Taco Tuesdays” to every night with a fun spot in which taco-focused gangs—the Hard Shells, the Soft Shells and Los Locos—fight for supremacy in denim and roller skates. —Alexandra Jardine
Prettybird directors served up distinctly out-of-the box fare. Calmatic was the talent behind the weirdly wonderful music video for the hit song of 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” The story catapults Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus from a Western into a modern suburban scene to appeal to hip-hop and country fans of all ages. In Nike and W+K’s moving “Dream Further,” directed by Francois Rousselet for the FIFA women’s World Cup, a young player gets a taste of what it could be like to be a top female soccer star. The huge production involved 16 athletes shot across three countries, and proved women’s soccer ads could compete with men’s for scale and ambition.
One of the creative gems of Pulse’s reel—and 2019’s advertising altogether—was Apple’s gorgeous “Bounce” film, conceived out of TBWA\Media Arts Lab and directed by Oscar Hudson. The spot is magic, depicting a man springing across city streets as if immune to gravity. That it was captured entirely with practical effects, all in-camera, gave it an otherworldly feel. The company also delivered breathtaking performance work for ITV in a pair of spots from Uncommon starring actors Roger Allam and Brenda Blethyn portraying their iconic roles as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday and Detective Vera Stanhope, respectively, breaking the fourth wall to illustrate how the broadcaster delivers “More Than TV.” —Ann-Christine Diaz
Apple turned to Radical’s stellar bench to tell a range of interesting tales. Alexander Payne compiled a series of quirky vignettes of uncomfortable everyday intrusions to underscore how “privacy matters;” comic master Steve Miller captured parental cattiness in a spot promoting the iPhone’s “Bokeh”-bilities; and Derek Cianfrance visited programmers in late-night hours in a triumphant black-and-white film welcoming them to the brand’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Music video maven Dave Meyers was at the helm for 2019 breakout star Billie Eilish’s deliciously bizarre “Bad Guy” clip, while Agostina Galvez brought off- kilter photographic sensibilities to another Billie, the razor brand, for its “Movember” campaign. —Ann-Christine Diaz
Acclaimed director David Fincher and commercials production vet Dave Morrison opened their company in 2012 with the hope of “resetting” the model and abandoning the idea that you don’t have to be a big shop to succeed. With a team of just 14, the shop continues to break through with some of the industry’s most attention-getting work. Garth Davis shot Macy’s poignant “Santa Girl,” about a little lady with unexpected aspirations to be St. Nick, while Jonathan Glazer delivered a fantastical ad about a runner who takes flight with the help of her Apple Watch. Ian Pons Jewell applied his off-kilter sensibilities to Michelob Ultra’s ad that depicted office workers turning animal-like as they abandon their 9-to-5 lives to heed the call of nature, as well as the out-there spot depicting the freaky origins of yogurt-covered Skittles. —Ann-Christine Diaz
Our 2019 Production Company of the Year proved that no technology is off the table when it comes to creating a standout marketing message. These included Miller Lite’s “Cantroller” from DDB Chicago which turned the brew’s vessel into a game controller, and ASICS’ “Eternal Run” from Edelman. The race, designed to promote the brand’s Glideride shoe technology, leveraged smartwatches to challenge runners to maximize their performance. The company also ventured into “space” with Digitas' ambitious effort for the JFK Library, “JFK Moonshot,” which leveraged AR to recreate the moon landing for modern-day audiences on a variety of platforms. And it teamed with BBH London on Samsung’s “SpaceSelfie,” which captured people’s mugs via Galaxy phones sent into the stratosphere. —Ann-Christine Diaz