Conor Brady of Critical Mass picks his Desert Island Ads

Conor Brady is CCO of Critical Mass, the global digital experience design agency with offices in Calgary, Chicago, Costa Rica, Nashville, London, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York. One of the pioneer digital agencies, it is now owned by Omnicom.

critical massBrady (left) has nearly a decade of experience as CCO at digital agencies Huge and Organic. Throughout his career he has worked with many of the world’s largest and most admired brands including Nike, Pepsi, Audi, Hilton, Citi and Samsung. He has won numerous awards and twice served as a judge on the Cannes Lions Design jury.

Born in Belfast, he began his career by helping create the first 100 book covers for Vintage Paperbacks at Random House in London and then moved into the music industry as a creative director at Universal Music/Polygram, designing record covers.




Desert Island Ads

Guinness – ‘The Surfer’

This one always hit the perfect balance between art and commerce for me. With inspiration from Walter Crane to Herman Melville, and a soundtrack by one of my favorite bands, Leftfield, it just has everything for me. I could put this Ad on loop and never get bored watching it.

Levi’s – ‘Flat Eric’

Anything from the Jon Henson Creature Shop is alright by me. If I was stuck on a desert island and wanted to watch a piece of advertising that makes me smile, this is it. I always wanted to be a fly on the wall when this idea was being sold in to Levi’s. There is a reason that this ad ranks on most creative’s favorites list – we all wanted to have done it. Try getting to this idea with artificial intelligence.

IBM – Smarter Cities

This one is for the designer in me. Pure beautiful graphics made functional and useful, all at the same time. Plus they communicated a bold new cleaned up art direction for IBM that had a very obvious reference to iconic advertising of the past. Simple and smart executions that just live up to the tag line really well.

Meth Project – Deep End

My team lead by Brad Mancuso did this one in 2011. I remember the day he said that he wanted Darren Aronofsky to direct it (who had just finished Black Swan) and thinking we would never get him. Well we did, and he made one of the hardest to look at pieces of film I have ever seen. It’s not really a problem that can or should be sugar coated, and we all felt strongly that real stories we were hearing through the project needed to be re-told and put out there. Its a serious reality check on a terrible problem.

VW – The Force
One of the best pieces of pure feature-based advertising I have seen. It’s a really hard brief to get and be original, especially in automotive where most things have been tried at least once. Where did they find that kid? His all gesture-based acting is priceless, he completely makes the ad. Another one that just makes me smile no matter how many times I see it.

Levi’s – ‘Laughing Heart’
This was a cut that was done for Europe (I think) that I loved much better than the US version. This cut has a slightly less “kids having fun” mood upfront, that feels a little more real and matches Bukowski’s reading really well. It creates a sense of abandon and “its all right out there for the taking” brilliantly. Great attitude through the whole piece.

IBM – ‘Smarter Planet’

Its gets harder and harder to make pieces of print stand out. Most brands especially the big ones have so many things they want to say through a single piece of communication that they often fail on them all, and end up with generic photography. I remember seeing these pieces for the first time walking through an airport and just wanting to phone up the agency and congratulate them. They made me want to make posters again. A really beautiful series that became advertising that you wanted to frame and put on your wall – how often does that happen?

Johnnie Walker – ‘Keep Walking’
Hadn’t looked at this for a while – but it still has it. To this day, its a six and a half minute product story that can still hold my attention. Flawlessly executed and a brilliant one take reading by Robert Carlyle. I still can’t believe it’s a single shot and every time I watch it I keep trying to spot the edit – nothing yet.

Paolo Nutini – ‘Iron Sky’

Bear with me on this one. I worked in the music industry for over a decade and always looked at promo videos as adverts for songs, so that is why this is here. Over time they have become an art form with some interesting collaborations. Daniele Wolfe does them best. This is one of the best I have seen. It’s a brilliant song and a statement about a slice of life in Ukraine that they’ve tried to sweep under the carpet. If you can’t bear the build up skip to 2:15, and stick it out to the people dancing at 6:25. Its bleak and about suffering, but it makes for addictive watching.

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