Adobo Magazine Presents: Reinvention with Eric Cruz

             When In Manila, one has become witness to the emergence of new working classes over the past decade. There’s the ever-popular call center agent, the English tutor for Koreans, the blogger and social media marketer, the iPhone jailbreaker, the e-jeepney driver, just to name a few.



 British Ambassador Stephen Lilie explores an alternative career move as e-jeepney operator


             There is another class of worker that has been around longer than any of the above but is constantly reinventing itself: The ad man (or woman). Like the aforementioned call center agent, the advertising executive sleeps very little, subsists on mainly caffeine and/or nicotine, and has developed a love-hate relationship with their chosen field. That, however, is as far as the similarities go.



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             The advertising industry is composed of a broad variety of smartly-dressed, well spoken, and witty individuals called advertising executives or ‘creatives,’ as they’ve come to calling themselves. People who work in advertising have many designations and roles: client/accounts manager, strategist, production artist, business development, account manager, art director, copywriter, creative director,  executive creative director, chief creative director, and so on. All work towards a single goal: To creatively deliver a message for a client–which is either a company’s brand, organization, event, or service–to its audience. They collaborate with graphic designers, directors, film and animation studios, and more to produce the ad campaigns that proliferate the tri-media (print, radio, TV) and the Internet.  


           When in Manila, advertising is a constantly growing and evolving industry. Long gone are the glamorous days of Don Draper and Madison Avenue, and with the advent of the Internet the ad man has to work with traditional media as well as help the company with its online presence. Furthermore, thanks to globalization, local agencies as well as international firms service clients and vie for awards. Yes, like the movies, advertisements have their own awards, the most prestigious being the Cannes Lions. The local equivalents would be the Sparks and Adobo Design Awards.



BBDO Guerrero’s Liters of Light ad campaign for Pepsi and My Shelter won the Gold at the Clios and Silver at the Cannes Lion 



           And if you’re in the industry or interested in the work that they do, Adobo Magazine is the comprehensive chronicle of everything to do with advertising industry in Manila and abroad. Founded by Angel Guerrero, Adobo magazine is truly the word on advertising. One of its new initiatives called Adobo Main Course  is an annual series of talks aimed to inspire and impart knowledge to advertising, marketing, media, and design communities. Other events are the Adobo Design Awards, the Adobo Cup, and more recently, the Adobo Night Run.




 Adobo Magazine: The Word on Advertising


            Last September 28, from 0900 to 1800, Adobo Main Course brought Leo Burnett Malaysia executive creative director Eric Cruz back to Manila for Reinvention at the Mind Museum exhibition hall as part of the Adobo Main Course series. The event was well attended by various advertising agencies in Manila, including McCann-Erickson, DM9 JaymeSyfu, BBDO Guerrero, Ogilvy, Lowe, Ace Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Publicis, just to name some of the above the line agencies that turned up to learn from Eric Cruz. I wasn’t the only non-advertising person in the room as I was accompanied by Edber Mamisao, who is a photographer (see all the photos of the event here) and director at Revolver Studies, and there was also a representative from the Ayala Foundation and a student from the DLS-CSB School of Design and Art.



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  Adobo Main Course Presents: Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz


Eric Cruz started his talk with an autobiography. He was born in Manila his family emigrated to the Los Angeles when he was 12 years old in 1983. He was 17 and living in an air force base when he came across a magazine article in GQ on John Jay, the Chinese-American creative director of Bloomingdale’s. In the article, John said that his parents were against his going into art school, but after ten years with Bloomingdale’s he was designing and collaborating with artists, and basically a huge success. Even then, advertising held no attraction to Eric Cruz, but design did, and so he took up Fine Art at the Virginia Commonwealth University against his parent’s wishes, where he would shift to illustration and gravitate towards graphic design, which at the time was just an emerging field. He would later take a break from his professional career to enroll in a Masters in Fine Art program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan mainly to, as he says, “deproffesionalize.”



 Adobo Main Course Presents: Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz



Eric Cruz then spoke about his various reinventions as he moved around the world. He started out doing layouts for brochures, then packaging for companies like Macromedia and Microsoft, then learned about the incipient world of interactive websites in a company called Studio Archetype in San Francisco in 1996. He shifted to Imaginary Forces in Los Angeles where he learned to do motion graphics, commercials, even working on opening titles for such films as Se7en, Spider Man, The Mummy, and so on. He was able to fuse his passion for music and graphic design when he moved to Wieden+Kennedy  Tokyo in 2011, working under the John Jay, the very man he read about in that GQ article many years ago. Eric Cruz would take on the role of creative director for clients like Nike, Sony Playstation, and Google. Together with John Jay, he co-founded W+K Toyko Lab, the first record label of its kind that released video music CDs of underground Japanese Hip Hop and techno artists combined with graffiti, motion graphics and animation. It’s worth mentioning that when he was involved in this, the software and technology was nowhere near as sophisticated as it is today.



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 Adobo Main Course Presents: Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz Photo by Edber Mamisao



After the lunch (which included copious amounts of Manila Beer and Don Papa rum…ad people are reputed to have the ability to synthesize nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol into essential vitamins and minerals), we broke up into nine groups of seven for a creative problem-solving “thinkshop” guided by Eric Cruz. 



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Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz Photo by Edber Mamisao 


The challenge was to combine a social issue, such as poverty, corruption or traffic, with a local brand and come up with a creative solution driven by an ad campaign that utilized non-traditional media, such as apps and social networking sites. Utilizing the HumanKind philosophy of Leo Burnett of creating acts instead of ads, Eric used case studies as examples of how he used his creative problem solving process in order to come up with solutions for the client. For the next two to three hours, the room was abuzz with ideas as each group tried to work through the combination they drew at random (my group’s was promoting respect among Filipinos with Manila Beer as the client, not nearly as challenging as the group that got handling traffic with the client as Knorr). Eric Cruz went from table to table to consult and give his inputs.



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Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz Photo by Edber Mamisao 



Each group presented at the end, with the best pitch getting a prize. As the only non-advertising professional in my group it was quite an intimidating but nonetheless enjoyable and educational experience. As someone who has long held the naive preconceptions about advertising as simply lying to people so they’ll buy, I learned more about the creative challenges that face the ad business and it was a privilege to interact with these creative individuals who are working in the driven and ever-shifting world of advertising, and especially to learn from someone like Eric Cruz, who has been around the block many times, so to speak, and is constantly learning, unlearning, deconstructing, and reinventing himself.



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 Reinvention with Creative Director Eric Cruz Photo by Edber Mamisao




His current journey has taken Eric Cruz to Leo Burnett Malaysia where he is executive creative director for brands like McDonald’s, BMW, and Samsung. After working mostly in Europe and the Americas throughout his career, he ties this move to Asia with an interesting run down on how current powerhouses like Japan, China, and most recently, South Korea have reinvented themselves through the soft power of culture and branding. He also sees the Philippines, with its successful “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” ad campaign under former ad man and Department of Tourism undersecretary Mon Jimenez, and the entry of the Millenials into the workforce in 2017, as being poised at the brink of reinventing itself. 


Let’s prove him right.






Adobo magazine:

Eric Cruz works on vimeo: