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Dream Teams: Breaking the Mould with Jordan Hamer and Spencer Ryan



Broken Heart Love Affair creative directors Jordan Hamer and Spencer Ryan on building their creative partnership, the power of knife fights, and how a writer and an art director ended up directing campaigns, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Dream Teams: Breaking the Mould with Jordan Hamer and Spencer Ryan

Crafting top-tier campaigns is tricky business. Throughout the process, there must be engagement from all teams - from art to writing, to of course, the director of the shoot. But what happens when the art director and the writer are also in charge of directing? If Jordan Hamer and Spencer Ryan (or as they're named - 'Fugitives') are anything to go off of, the answer is success. 

Despite this arrangement not being something seen everyday in the industry, for the Broken Heart Love Affair creative directors, calling the shots is, as of late, just a normal day at the office. As Spencer puts it, “[Jordan and I] have gotten more into directing our own work to have better control over the creative vision from beginning to end, while making sure our clients get what they need. And so far it’s working out well, and clients are trusting us with that.”

It's been 11 years since Jordan and Spencer first met. The fateful incident which led to them meeting? Being forced to collaborate for some class projects while attending George Brown College. “We’d never even spoken until our last semester when we were put in groups together in two separate classes,” Jordan says. “We realised we had the same dumb sense of humour and just kept working together.

While Spencer admits that the outcome of that class project - a brief for Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail - was tremendously bad, the experience of collaborating was so fun that they had to pursue further adventures in the industry. This would take the form of partaking in ad competitions like Young Ones and D&AD New Blood, which according to Jordan, really taught the pair how to brainstorm together. “It was also great that with things like that, there were no grades or client pressure, so we could just do whatever we wanted - which teaches you a lot about someone.”

In the years since then, Fugitives have found themselves collaborating on projects for the likes of the Royal Ontario Museum, Doordash, and Nike. However, among their favourites is their work for McDonald’s and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. In the case of the former, due to his background as a writer, Jordan found himself particularly drawn to the great writing of the ‘Is it still a Big Mac?’ campaign. “We had multiple people tell us that they knew we made it as soon as they saw it, because it just sounded exactly like a dumb conversation the two of us would have,” he says. “It’s cool that we were able to put a bit of ourselves out into the world and have it be well-received.”

Spencer’s experience as an art director, meanwhile, makes him very passionate about the visually surreal and subversive nature of the Banff film. “It was a pretty wild dream project,” he says. “It had a man playing another man with a piano built into his back! The more time that passes, the more I realise how rare and special that project was.” 

With regard to recent work, the Fugitives team found the experience of directing a campaign for Cheestrings to be incredibly memorable. Representing their second time working as both directors and members of the creative team, the pair agree that putting everything together was a huge effort, but one of which they are immensely proud. “It was definitely a grind, but it was fun as hell,” Spencer says. “One challenge was that we originally wrote it where an enormous Cthulhu monster breaks through an office wall, but our budget didn’t really allow for that. Instead, we created just one giant eye of Cthulhu and had it appear in the window. This was a compromise, but I think it ended up being funnier in the end.” 

With such a history of strong collaborative work, it must be noted that the driving factor behind it can be attributed to the pair’s strong team dynamic. According to Jordan, both he and Spencer bring unique outlooks to the table. “The biggest one that sticks out to me is that Spencer thinks very ‘blue sky’, and is always taking things somewhere crazy. I’m the more practical one, so I try to find ways to make those crazy ideas more possible/buyable/understandable/legal.”

Continuing, he adds that the top benefit of having a strong creative partner like Spencer is that they’ll never judge you for your ideas (followed closely by the fact that they’ll cover for you when you’re hung over - “It’s the little things.”)

Spencer shares Jordan’s appreciation for unconditional trust. “Our ideas are always better when we come up with them together,” he adds. “Most of our best work comes from us just trying to make each other laugh. And plus, Jordan is right. Most of my ideas are crazy and illegal!”

This strong bond does not mean, however, that the pair always see eye to eye. While Jordan says that they tend to agree on almost everything, he also believes that the way in which he and Spencer compliment each other can be a double-edged sword. “I know sometimes Spencer feels like I’m killing ideas out of practicality, and sometimes I think Spencer’s lost his mind with some ideas,” he says. “But, that’s why it works too. If we do have disagreements, it’s usually one person who’s much more passionate about the point, and the other tends to respect that and let them see things through their way out of trust.”

And, if all else fails, Spencer jokes that all creative disagreements can be sorted out with a good old-fashioned knife fight. 

Another fundamental aspect of the Fugitives’ dynamic is their consistent desire to be inspired by the work of others. For Jordan, there are two groups he looks to. The first is Craig McIntosh and Jaimes Zentil, two of Broken Heart Love Affair’s CCOs. “We’ve worked closely with them for most of our careers - across three different agencies,” he says. “Their ideas make us work harder to be better creatives.” 

The other group is the duo of Carlos Moreno and Peter Ignazi (both former Cossette global CCOs). While Jordan laments that Carlos and Peter no longer work together, he’s still incredibly appreciative of all that Carlos and Peter have done for them. “They gave us almost every opportunity we’ve had, and we’d follow them into battle.”

For Spencer, despite his love of advertising, he finds that his strongest influences have come from the art and film world. “Some amazing photographers I’m obsessed with at the moment are Todd Hido, Brooke Didonato, and everyone at Magnum photos,” he says. “We’re actually working with Magnum on a project right now, which is a dream come true. Also, I really love innovative filmmakers like Robert Eggers, Spike Jonze, Ari Aster, and Daniels, who prove you can still make something that feels new.”

Rounding off the subject of influential people, both Jordan and Spencer agree that there is a consistent source of inspiration which both find equally meaningful. And that is, of course, each other. According to Spencer, he’s learned “most things” from Jordan, and Jordan has learned to be confident in his abilities as a creative through Spencer. “Because of the way we complement each other, I don’t have to try to be everything all at once,” Jordan adds. “That lets me focus on honing the (admittedly few) skills that I have.”

With all that said, the Fugitives duo agree that while they’ve changed in many ways, the first impressions they’ve held since that college group project have held up fairly well. ”We were just a couple of bright-eyed, pimple-faced kids lookin’ for some sense of purpose in this mixed-up world,” Spencer says. “This hasn’t changed.” On Jordan’s end however, he admits that his initial read was slightly off. “At first I thought Spencer was an idiot, and over the last 11 years I’ve realised he’s a much bigger idiot than I thought. Thankfully, so am I.”

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Broken Heart Love Affair, Tue, 27 Sep 2022 16:21:26 GMT