Vandal’s Work Reaches Super Bowl Audience
On Sunday, Feb 7, millions of American watched the first Taco Bell television ad to air during the Super Bowl since 2013.
What all those viewers didn’t know is that the man behind the 30-second spot for the “Quesalupa,” which Taco Bell claims is its biggest product launch to date, is a Vandal.
Brett Craig, executive creative director at Deutsch Inc. in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of Idaho in 1995 with a communications degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Media in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.
He’s held jobs at many levels in the advertising world: from copywriter to creative director to his current post, which he describes as being the “center of a wheel with a lot of spokes.”
But it all started in Moscow.
From L.A. to Idaho
Growing up in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Craig knew he wanted to venture from home and out of his comfort zone for college. Idaho seemed as good a place as any for him to do so. As a child, his family would vacation to a little cabin they owned near Sandpoint. The trip often took them through Moscow.
“We would drive by this university and my mom was always so impressed with how pretty it was. It looked like an Ivy League school in the panhandle of Idaho.”
“We would drive by this university and my mom was always so impressed with how pretty it was,” Craig said. “It looked like an Ivy League school in the panhandle of Idaho.”
As a communications major in the School of Journalism and Mass Media (JAMM), Craig started taking advertising classes from Mark Secrist. It was an acquaintance that developed into mentorship and helped mold the trajectory of Craig’s career.
“What Mark described about advertising and his passion for it made me sure it was what I wanted to do it,” Craig said. “He just had a passion for the business and what he was describing is what I wanted to do.”
Secrist’s love for advertising, his genuine interest in the work produced, in dissecting and debating it, sparked the fire in Craig.
The JAMM program afforded Craig a valuable interdisciplinary approach to the industry.
“We weren’t just learning about creative work, we were talking about media,” Craig said. “We were talking about strategy, about marketing and about advertising being the extension of that.”
Craig also acquired valuable hands-on experience as a member of JAMM’s Advertising Competition Team.
Students on Ad Team work together to prepare an integrated marketing communication campaign that addresses a real-world marketing or advertising problem put forward each year by a real company.
“We were put through a mock run of what we were going to be doing in an agency,” Craig said. “We were required to solve the problem through all the disciplines – media, strategy and creative - just like you would in the real world.”
In 1995 Craig’s team won the American Advertising Federation contest in their region and went on to place second in the national competition.
“I think it was confirmation in a lot of the team members’ minds that we could maybe do this,” Craig said. “That a bunch of kids from the Northern Idaho panhandle could compete with the best people in the country was a wind in everybody’s sail afterward.”
Creating and Collaborating
Craig’s experience at UI provided him a well-rounded view of the business, paving the way to his current role at Deutsch Inc., an advertising agency known for campaigns it has done for Volkswagen, Taco Bell, and Dr. Pepper.
One of his favorite campaigns revolves around the character Lil’ Sweet, a pint size man who appears with Diet Dr. Pepper in hand whenever anyone has a hankering for something sweet without all the calories.
“My favorite part of the job is seeing people love something I’ve made. At the end of the day it becomes about creating things and seeing people appreciate them.”
“My favorite part of the job is seeing people love something I’ve made.” Craig said. “At the end of the day it becomes about creating things and seeing people appreciate them.”
Craig has also written a book about the advertising industry. In “Collaborate or Die: How Being a Jerk Kills Ideas and Career,” Craig draws on his nearly 20 years of experience in the advertising world to talk about what he calls a disease in creative people.
“You see over and over again sort of narcissistic, ego driven people flame out in our business because they can’t get along with people and they don’t realize that their ideas are malleable, that they grow and gestate and evolve, which is good for them,” Craig said. “By collaborating with other smart people – through respect, empathy and listening – you can make your ideas great and ultimately ensure you have a really long career. And if you can’t collaborate well with others, then you won’t last long.”
What It Takes to Make a Super Bowl Ad
ABC News' Nick Watt interviewed Brett Craig for Nightline's feature on Super Bowl commercials and the approaches taken by the top ad agencies in the country.
Taco Bell's Commercial for Super Bowl 2016
Craig is as passionate about young advertisers as he is advertising. He has stayed in touch with his former mentor Secrist over the years and remains involved with UI’s Ad Team when he can. He visits Moscow fairly often, sometimes when Ad Team is gearing up for the competition. He will listen to run-throughs of the team’s presentations and provide constructive criticism. When not in Moscow, he shares stories via email of what he is doing, providing the team encouragement along the way.
“Ad Team helped me take a step forward in my career and, ultimately, in life,” Craig said. “Giving back to it in a small ways seems almost compulsory to me, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Article by Whitney Schroeder, Office of Alumni Relations
Vandals & Super Bowls
Brett Craig isn't the only Vandal in Super Bowl 50 limelight. Shiloh Keo donned navy and orange to join the Denver Broncos on the field -- just months after he recovered the onside kick that secured the AFC Championship and Super Bowl 50 berth for the team.