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The Work That Made Me: Teddy Brown


Planet Propaganda's group creative director tells LBB about his obsession with Nintendo games, his neon orange Vertigo poster and his dream of pulling the wool over Mr. Furley’s eyes

The Work That Made Me: Teddy Brown
Teddy Brown has spent the last 16 years at FCB Global, most recently as an EVP / executive creative director, leading the creative vision for over 15 brands, including Coca-Cola, Bud Light, GE Appliances, HP, Goodyear and Comcast - across FCB/RED and FCB Chicago. He oversaw a 70+ person creative group working across disciplines and has won several Effie Awards over the course of his career. Prior to joining FCB Global, he was a senior art director at Leo Burnett. 

Now group creative director at Planet Propaganda, Teddy opens up on the work that got him where his is today.


The ad / music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Teddy Brown > The advertising of my childhood isn’t necessarily a distinct memory for me, but I was a TV head from a very early age. I watched a lot of Three Stooges reruns in the morning before school. Different Strokes, Facts Of Life, Chips, Dukes Of Hazzard, Happy Days, Batman reruns, WWF, HR Puff N Stuff, etc. I watched it all. I longed for a life like Jack Tripper on Three’s Company, pulling the wool over Mr. Furley’s eyes on a daily basis.

The ad / music video / game / web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

Teddy > I grew up with an Atari, but bought a Nintendo and got obsessed with Super Mario Bros, Kung Fu, and Super Contra, like everyone else. I still find dudes today that remember the cheat code for Super Contra. I even remember hooking up my friends VCR to the TV so we could record how to get through levels. Old school.

The creative work (film / album / game / ad / album / book / poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

Teddy > I was always interested in the creative careers of Paul Rand and Saul Bass. Their design discipline and the visual ingenuity made them pioneers in advertising and design. I still seethe with jealousy when I look at their stuff and they’ve been a go-to source for inspiration my entire career. I have a neon orange Vertigo poster in my office that’s been kissed by so much sun it’s more peach-coloured now, but still awesome.

My first professional project…

Teddy > The first thing I worked on as a legit junior art director was a Pepsi counter card for Villa Pizza. Everything was done by sketch and faxed over to clients for approval. I remember thinking: “These screened-back oversized ingredients are gonna look hot on this countercard, wait till the folks at Villa Pizza see this..”

The piece of work (ad / music video / platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

Teddy > UNtuck bothers me a great deal. I barely know the work, but I know the brand and who could miss their unique selling proposition? Even though I’m the target, and collared shirts that you can’t wear untucked kill me, I have a strong dislike for this brand name. Being different can be applaudable, but there’s just nothing even close to aspirational about this fashion brand. I used to walk by their store in Chicago and wonder what kind of guy would be comfortable admitting he was wearing an UNtuck shirt.

The piece of work (ad / music video / platform…) that still makes me jealous…

Teddy > The Cadbury Gorilla spot from the mid-90’s is one of my all-time favourites. The brand linkage never made much sense to me at all, but the execution is one that I can still watch over and over again.

The creative project that changed my career…

Teddy > It was my first year in the business and there must have been 20 creatives all competing for this one regional Pepsi commercial. All our work was ignored at the initial share-out and I remember going back in and asking the ECD what wasn’t working. The persistence paid off, we eventually got work into the meeting and made our first spot. Bryan Cranston tried out for the role of the security guard. We passed. That project made my book better and we got into Leo Burnett, where I spent the next seven years becoming a better art director and storyteller.

The work that I’m proudest of…

Teddy > I’m still most proud of my work on Taco Bell. We had an incredible relationship with some great clients and we were cranking out a ton of work. We made hundreds of spots for Think Outside the Bun, created Fourthmeal, Super Delicious Ingredient Force, fought off an illegitimate beef scare, launched hundreds of new products including the best-selling Taco Bell products of all time. Leading the team through the transition toward a new brand purpose and a whole new campaign was an awesome experience. “Live Mas” is a legacy building tagline and it’s still going strong.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

Teddy > I’ve definitely participated in work that made me cringe. With the constant at-bats on Taco Bell, it was inevitable that the machine would eat our homework once in a while. When we were launching the Doritos Locos Tacos, everyone knew the product would be a gangbuster. All of the clients were expecting God’s greatest commercial as a solve for this mega hit. Nothing seemed big enough, and the pressure was immense. Our Will Ferrell dreams died with his seven figure ask, so we pivoted and rewrote our idea for Aziz Ansari, who also eventually declined.

For some reason, we thought Raquel Welch, the '70s icon and sex symbol was the perfect unexpected choice for the launch spot. After witnessing the scene of the 73 year old icon being carried on a litter by some muscular pool boys and holding a Doritos Locos Taco, I think I realised this wasn’t good. At all. Fortunately, we buried the work and it never ran. To this day, I don’t know of anyone who even has a copy of it.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

Teddy > I recently joined Planet Propaganda. They’ve helped Duluth Trading Company become the standout brand in their category. From the famous men’s brand to the women’s launch to Alaskan Hard Gear to 40 Grit, it’s all great stuff. Right now, the brand is going through a transformation as it continues to mature. The men’s creative campaign we’ve known for a decade is evolving. It’s a high creative bar to try to top, but nothing’s more exciting than being part of the next big thing...

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Planet Propaganda, Fri, 12 Feb 2021 18:06:59 GMT