Ad Chat: Meet Josh Hurley & Andy Kohman who sold fitness fans beer during the Super Bowl

Over at FCB Chicago there's a creative team who is working on stepping up the Michelob ULTRA brand, so they returned to the Super Bowl this year with a fresh execution on their low-calorie beer sell. One half of the Creative Director team is Josh Hurley, who graduated from the University of Georgia and the Chicago Portfolio School. As he worked his way up around mid-sized and global agencies, he created the first campaign for the New Orleans Saints after Katrina, along with work for the US Open, Masterlock, Bob Evans Restaurants, Shedd Aquarium, and the AIDS Foundation. In 2008 he joined FCB where he has worked on Nestle, Michelob ULTRA, Kmart, Valspar, KFC, Hillshire Farms, Sharpie, Boeing, USPS, Hampton Inns, DOW, the Ad Council, and Cox Communications - and he has the Addys, Effies and One Show bling to prove it. Since he is native New Orleanian, there’s nothing Josh enjoys more than watching a Saints game with a bowl of gumbo and a Michelob ULTRA - he says with a wink - but this also shows why he is so proud to have made the New Orleans Saints campaign.

The other half of the team is Andy Kohman, Andy has been working as an Art Director and Creative Director for close to 15 years. He started as the first intern for a small Chicago boutique agency named Two By Four while attending Columbia College. He quickly gained experience and built his resume over the next nine years working on such brands as Wrangler, Chicago Bears, Chicago White Sox, Grainger, Four Winds Casino, Ariat boots, Bridgestone, the Parkways Foundation, Papermate, the Chicago Sun Times, and Navy Pier. It was in 2010 that Andy moved on to FCB where he has worked on Nestle, Dow, Michelob ULTRA, Hillshire Farms, KFC, Kmart, Valspar, Boeing, Hampton Inns, the Ad Council, and Cox Communications. He too has Graphis honors, Effies lined up and other ad bling on the shelves. He's born and raised in the lush suburbs of Chicago - Andy is a true Midwesterner. After working in the city for over 10 years, Andy has found his way back near the suburbs he grew up where he can be found spending time with his wife and 2 children, and I hear he occasionally has a Michelob ULTRA.

Michelob ULTRA, you don't pay these guys enough, I'm telling you right now.

Here's the commercial created for the Super Bowl 50, "Breathe". Continuing the campaign was "Get Up" released shortly after.

adland: First, congrats on having an ad in the super bowl this year. Is there a big difference in creating a "super bowl spot", over a "regular" spot?

Great question. Yes and no. We’ve worked on projects before that play with Super Bowl conventions, that acknowledge the game or media space in the ad, to achieve a perceived feeling of bigness or provocativeness specific to the Super Bowl. However, when the Michelob ULTRA spot was green lit for the game, and we found out it was going to be in the A1 slot, the pressure and excitement definitely went up. We were lucky to have such great partners in both the director, Antoine Fuqua, and in our Michelob ULTRA clients – allowing us to make something this big and powerful.

adland: You guys didn't match up as a team until Andy came to FCB, where Josh already was. How did you initially meet up, and did you know you'd be "a good fit" as a team at once?

Josh: Andy was working at a great boutique agency in Chicago, and I was between partners at FCB when a mutual friend who had worked with us both made the connection. Our first meeting was at a bar, and the topics ranged from advertising to the singularity theory, and finally to a debate over Modest Mouse’s best album. We basically knew it was gonna work after that.

adland: You've turned Michelob Ultra around from their previous super bowl efforts, where they relied more on celebrity and less on the insight that even those who work out might want a beer, albeit a lighter one. How do you feel about celebrity-driven advertising?

Both: We are all for it. The right celebrity in the right spot can really help it break though. Even something as simple as a celebrity voice over can give an ad a special more powerful element of surprise.

adland: What do you guys do to snap out of a creative rut?

Both: We try to keep things simple. When things get difficult we push ourselves to peel things away until it works or until we find out what’s not working. If we’re still in a rut after that… We’re lucky FCB has a free beer fridge.

(I'm guessing it has Michelob ULTRA in it - Dabitch's note)

adland: I studied in both the US and London, in England they're very into the idea of a team, and partners find their first jobs together. In the US it's not like that, but some people team up for longer periods when they get more experienced. How do keep good teamwork up? In managing teams, how can you tell when it's time to break a bad pair up? How do you find a good teammate?

Finding the right teammate involves a little serendipity and a lot of luck. It’s relatively easy to spot a bad pair. They are unproductive, unhappy, and unfocused. And when it’s not working out, you need to help find something for each person that does.

Sometimes it happens at once, sometimes it takes some trial and error. Teammates spend a lot of time together. I mean, A LOT. And like any successful relationship, it takes patience and respect to make it work in the long run.

adland: You're at very different stages in life, and have very different outside influences, like Andy is a dad in the suburbs, Josh is still in the city. With such different perspectives, what are your outside influences?

I think Andy and I are good at complimenting each other’s outside interests. Andy is a proud comic book, super hero, futurist, science fanatic. He finds inspiration of technology, and is constantly combing for new trends and thinking. While also a fan of science and technology, Josh doesn’t have a TV and tends to find, many of his influences by looking into the past. He collects classic jazz, country and funk records – and finds that most of his favorite authors wrote their final works before he was even born.

However – we are both students of advertising. Consuming any annual, blog, or magazine featuring new work. We believe that this is a job that also needs to be your passion and your hobby.

adland: What is the super bowl ad that made a big impression on you?

The first time I remember really becoming truly aware of an ad was Jordan vs. Bird. I mean, it was Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. In an ad. Together! And it wasn’t just me. Basically the next day on the playground everyone was trying to up their HORSE game. “Nothing but net” was more than huge.

McDonald's - Larry Bird / Michael Jordan - The Showdown / Nothing but net (1993)

adland: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?

Always keep perspective of what’s really, actually important.

Previous super bowl related ad chats:
Super Bowl Ad Chat: Vinny Warren, on Wassup humor & preachy advertising
Ad Chat Super Bowl: John Kritch creator of "My Bold Dad" Toyota

Regular ad chat:

Priya Singh on going to "the dark side" being a creative on the client side.
Sunset Sealy a creative eye in the Islands
Keith Ruggiero Synth loving composer and sound designer at "Sounds Red"
Jill Spradley Associate Creative Director at 160over90
Brian Bronaugh President at Mullen, Pittsburgh, PA
Bo Hellberg, Swedish ECD in France, at Brave and Billington Cartmell, Paris
Jane Goldman Creative Director/Copywriter & Strategist, Boston, MA
Jonah Otieno - Executive Creative Director 5ive Ltd, Nairobi
Anne-Cécile Tauleigne ECD at JWT Paris
Esther Clerehan, Headhunter, Sydney, Australia
Ad chat: Manuel Bordé Creative copy at BBDO Dubai
Rance Randle Art Director at TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA
Åsk 'Dabitch' Wäppling the force behind Adland
Dave Trott creative mischief chief
Arnie DiGeorge Executive Creative Director of RR Partners
Andy Kinsella Innovation Director at Glue Isobar
Koert Bakker Director of Strategy at Victor & Spoils
Evan Brown, Sr. Copywriter at TBWA\Chiat\Day
Dena Walker, Digital Strategist at Irish International in Dublin, Ireland
Bernie Watt, copywriter at Make, in Sydney, Australia
Ron Smrczek, Executive Creative Director of TAXI Europe
Vincent Vella, Creative Director - Grey Paris, Euro RSCG and Publicis.
Gideon Amichay, Creative Chairman of Shalmor Avnon Amichay Y&R Tel Aviv
Richard Tseng, Freelance Copywriter at CP+B
Claudiu Florea, Managing Partner - Wunderkid, Romania
Snorre Martinsen creative at Saatchi & Saatchi Oslo
Laura Jordan Bambach, Executive Creative Director LBi
Simon White Creative Lead from Rapp, London
Richard Gorodecky Executive Creative Director at Amsterdam Worldwide
Ray Page Creative Director at Tribal DDB
Adam Pierno of Off Madison Ave.
Edward Boches of Mullen
Dirk Singer of Rabbit, UK
Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners
Tim Brunelle of Hello Viking
Rob Schwartz of TBWA\Chiat\Day

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Pete's picture

Great article on two of the industry's best. Pretty much the only team doing big work in a dying ad town