South African ECD Wes Phelan At Super Bowl LVI

Who is Wes Phelan?

Wes Phelan is a South African ECD currently working in San Francisco at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. His latest SuperBowl Spot starring Arnold Shwarzenneger and Salma Hayek Pinault, for BMW was voted #1 Forbes most effective SuperBowl commercial of 2022.

Before this Wes worked at Johannes Leonardo in NYC across a number of the agency’s accounts, most notably on Adidas Originals and TripAdvisor. His work on these brands resulted in significant business growth and impact as well as a successful international awards tally with multiple Cannes Lions, including the first Grand Prix awarded in the new Music Entertainment category in 2017 for the Adidas ‘Original is never finished’ campaign.

In Adweek’s “2017 top 100”, Wes was recognized as one of the top 22 creative directors “who is completely reimagining what’s possible”. Wes has been featured in the Cannes Game Changers book and exhibition, celebrating 60 years of advertising that has transformed the landscape of the creative industries.

What inspires you?

Advertising and creativity have allowed me to travel the world and experience a plethora of amazing things. My creativity is fueled by the adventures and people I have been lucky to work with along the way. The other day my creative partner Matt Edwards and I were looking back at the people we have worked with thus far and the list is extensive and made us realize how blessed we have been.

These include most recently Arnold Shwarzeneger, Salma Hayek, Chris Pine, Milo Ventimiglia before that  Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dogg, 21 Savage, Young Thugg, Playboi Carti, Pusha T, Stormzy, David Beckham, Rita Ora, Joey Badass, Damian Lillard, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Desiigner, Dua Lipa, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, A$ap Ferg, Brandon Ingram, Dev Hynes, James Harden Kendall & Kylie Jenner

How did your creative journey begin?

Honestly I had no idea I wanted to be in this industry, lucky for me my studious best friend Darren Cronje who is the creative Director for adidas running in Amsterdam told me I should join him for an entrance exam at the AAA school of advertising in Jozi. The rest is history.

What is your creative process? 

Research and more research. Clients know their business better than any creative , so it’s important to immerse the creative team in every avenue of the business so that the ideas are strategically aligned and can be measured for its effectiveness as well as creativity.

Which project – to date – has been your favorite to work on?

Winning the Cannes Grand Prix for adidas Originals “My Way” is probably still  one of the best moments and pieces of work. I have always loved the adidas Trefoil logo and when that commercial ends with that song and logo I always smile. It’s a great piece and we still see it referenced in a lot of work now, which is a great compliment.

How did you get to the Superbowl? 

Getting to the SuperBowl takes years of building a good relationship with a great client with an even better product. In BMW we forged this partnership that gave us the courage to step in front of the 100 million audience at the SuperBowl with the BMW iX

How was it working with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek on the BMW Superbowl ad?

An absolute pleasure to work with both Salma and Arnold, just before thanksgiving we had to jump on a video call with the “Terminator”  to walk through the script as he wasn’t completely convinced. He started right away and just said one word “go”. I rushed through the script,  in the end he loved it and we got to spend a few great days on set. You can watch the short making-of here.

What were some of your favorite on-set lessons (or experiences)? 

Shit I dunno If I can say this on here but I will never forget smoking the biggest blunt  in a trailer on set  with Snoop Dogg then having to rush back to set to deliver a gift to the legendary skater Gonz . I still have the audio recording of me asking Snoop to sing ‘My way”, as he speaks to the blunt he is passing me. That day my good friend and world renowned photographer Atiba Jefferson was there to capture the action.

If you could change anything about the experience, what would it be?

Funny story but Snoop was not actually scripted in the “my way spot” originally But Pharrel hated the idea when we presented it in person to him in LA. So we went back to the drawing board and reconceptualized a few scenes. It actually worked out better for it. So in the end the experience changed on its own.

What’s one thing that many people may not know about being a creative director/working in advertising? 

I guess I’ll say the same thing I always tell my teams –  I hope I guide their skills enough to take my position in the agency one day. It’s an amazing feeling seeing someone go from intern to on stage picking up gold. To be part of that process and growth is really what it’s like as a creative director in a top agency.

What advice – if any – do you have for upcoming creatives? 

Oh wow that could take a whole article but how about I leave behind this little cheat sheet that Matt Edwards and I wrote and like to share with our teams. It’s a good shortcut to some hurdles creatives might face along the way.

What can we look forward to in 2022? (please plug any projects you think our audience will enjoy)

We have this beautiful little gem currently flighting which we made with the incredible Director Ian Pons Jewel for Instacart.

The Story of Your Mom’s Homemade Short Ribs | Instacart

In 2022 we are looking at potential projects for Adobe to perhaps build on what we did a while ago which you can see here.

Adobe: Creativity For All

We are also exploring ways to keep the momentum on BMW post the Superbowl success – so keep an eye out for that.

Find Wes here;

Instagram @wes_phelan_ 

Linked In @ Wes Phelan

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