Director Brendan Gibbons of Station Film could hardly be accused of resting on his comedy laurels, which span such brands as ESPN, Nintendo, Snickers, Sprint, DirecTV, CNN and ongoing work for insurance company Progressive as well as notable endeavors that include the wry re-creation of the classic Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola commercial with Amy Sedaris for Downy, the lauded “What’s in your hot dog?” for Applegate (via agency Taxi New York), and the recent SOFY’s “BeFresh” for Unicharm and JWT Melbourne. Gibbons has also turned out short film fare, including “Dear Josh,” which was recognized at the AFI and No Spot festivals, and “Sheep Impact” for Carlton Dry Beer with Steven Seagal as a 26-year-old guy competing for the affection of a young Australian woman.
Gibbons made his initial mark in the ad arena as a creative, serving as writer and then associate creative director during an eight-and-a-half-year stretch at Ogilvy New York. A year into his Ogilvy tenure, he went out on his first commercial shoot—for IBM directed by Ted Demme and starring John McEnroe. “I had an epiphany then,” recollected Gibbons. “I had never seen the film world before until I stepped off that van in Forest Hills [New York]. Observing the director, I thought, ‘I’d like to do what that guy does.’”
So in his spare time, while serving as an Ogilvy creative producing a ton of IBM work, Gibbons began to direct on his own, turning out spec spots. “I slowly was building a reel and hustling all the time. As a creative, I told myself to never be the kind who sat in the video village all day. I was constantly observing filmmakers at work. I was getting my education in filmmaking.”
Gibbons proved to be an apt pupil when in 2001 he cut some of his directorial footage into a spec commercial for Miller Lite. He showed it to the creatives at Ogilvy who were working on Miller and they were favorably impressed—so much so that they showed the piece to the client who bought it and ran the spot nationally. However, the economy was hurting in 2001, necessitating a delay in Gibbons’ plans to join the directorial roster of a production house. Instead he continued his learning curve over the next three years, shooting whenever he got the chance.
Also gratifying has been the special bond he has forged with the creatives at Arnold Boston on the Progressive account. Over the past some three-and-a-half years, Gibbons has directed the Progressive campaign starring spokesperson Flo (portrayed by actress/comedian Stephanie Courtney). Flo had already been established when Gibbons began working on the campaign, but he has since helped take the work in different creative, visual and storytelling directions.
“To have a long run on a campaign is uncommon today,” said Gibbons. “But we’ve realized many benefits from all of us knowing each other over a period of time. I know Stephanie who plays Flo. We’re used to working together and know how to get the most out of each other. There’s a family relationship with the crew and the creatives. We had one spot where Flo plays different people, all the members of her family—all crazy distinct vibrant characters who are shot in an interesting filmic way. There’s a trust built over the years that enables us to stretch the campaign, the look and performances.”