My career in 5 executions: Zambezi's Josh DiMarcantonio

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The LA agency's ECD says honesty is the only policy.

Name: Josh DiMarcantonio
Title: Executive Creative Director, Zambezi
Years in ad industry: 13
First job in ad industry: Junior Copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy

Josh DiMarcantonio cut his teeth at Wieden+Kennedy on sports-oriented brands like Nike and ESPN. After stints at TBWA\Chiat\Day and Deutsch LA, he joined LA-based Zambezi in 2015.

DiMarcantonio prefers a more realistic approach to marketing, particularly to younger people who have spent their entire lives awash in targeted messaging. "We have no choice but to be honest and transparent," he says. "They quickly see and reject being manipulated. They know we’re trying to sell them stuff, so as soon as we can get that out of the way without pretense, they’ll be more open to considering the product."

Soaring rhetoric, he says, needs to be supported by appeals that are actually relevant to the audience. "Brilliant, imaginative narratives are always important, but we also have to clearly define and demonstrate how products fit into our lives."

Here are the 5 executions DiMarcantonio says have meant the most to his career.

Brand: NBA on ESPN
Client: ESPN
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
Work: "Your NBA Destination"
Year: 2005

NBA on ESPN - Shrizzable from Josh DiMarcantonio on Vimeo.

This was DiMarcantonio’s first campaign at Wieden. "I was thrown into the fire, shooting with some of the world's greatest athletes," he says, and he quickly learned how to interact with the large personalities of both the players and the broadcast announcers who appeared in the spots.

At the same time, DiMarcantonio watched director David Shane craft better comedic moments in the quick, quirky ads. "He improved every spot we shot."

Brand: Jordan
Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
Work: "Leroy Smith"
Year: 2009

DiMarcantonio honed his long-form comedic chops on this farcical campaign, "the most fun I've ever had working on a project." The team worked with a post-"Chappelle’s Show" Charlie Murphy to create a character loosely based on one of Michael Jordan’s high school rivals. "It was true content creation and storytelling at work," he says.

The 360 campaign included "news" interviews and a fake infomercial, an iPhone app video game and even a custom pair of Leroy Smith Jordans. "The sheer volume of pieces created for this campaign was astronomical."

Brand: Planters
Client: Planters
Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day
Work: "The Reintroduction of Mr. Peanut"
Year: 2010

Planters - Holiday Party from Josh DiMarcantonio on Vimeo.

Giving a voice to Mr. Peanut after 100 years of debonair silence was a lesson in patience, DiMarcantonio says. Besides getting Robert Downey Jr. to speak for him, the character received a full redesign in stop motion from Laika Studios, which worked on "Coraline" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."

"It’s a particularly challenging medium to develop content in," DiMarcantonio says. "We had to make clear, distinct creative choices, especially when dealing with a celebrity talent on a tight timeline."

Brand: Taco Bell Breakfast
Client: Taco Bell
Agency: Deutsch L.A.
Work: "Ronald McDonald’s Love Taco Bell Breakfast"
Year: 2014

Taco Bell Ronald McDonald Film from Josh DiMarcantonio on Vimeo.

When Taco Bell introduced its breakfast menu, the Deutsch team realized they would have to take on the biggest name in the market. "So we started a breakfast war," DiMarcantonio says.

It was a frightening moment and he considered the many things that could have gone wrong: "Would we get sued by McDonald’s? Would we lose the account? Would I get fired? Would it work?" But it taught him to embrace the unexpected, and the campaign won seven Lions at Cannes.

Brand: Stance Socks
Client: Stance
Agency: Zambezi
Work: "Shop With the Force"
Year: 2015

Stance_"Star Wars"_Case Study from Zambezi on Vimeo.

Just a few weeks before the debut of "The Force Awakens," Star Wars hype was at its apex, and it seemed like every brand and agency had their own tie-in. Stance had socks.

Fortunately, DiMarcantonio says, Stance was "a young, brave client who truly understood the power of digital." The small budget ruled out a typical TV commercial, but a targeted influencer campaign was followed up with social media content and an e-commerce activation that broke new ground and let audiences become a part of the Star Wars experience even as they shopped online.

"It was proof for me that money does not equal better work," DiMarcantonio says, and the campaign won accolades at Cannes and the One Show.

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