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The Work That Made Me: Gary Greenberg



Brownstein Group ECD on Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking 'Thriller' music video and why he keeps coming back to watch The Dark Knight

The Work That Made Me: Gary Greenberg

Gary Greenberg is executive creative director at Brownstein Group. He likes to describe himself as an RNR memorabilia blogger, bagel junkie, Keith Richards wannabe, and hack drummer. Former EVP/CCO of Allen & Gerritsen, Gary managed creative departments in both Boston and Philly from 2002-2015, working with clients such as The Boston Celtics, Hannaford Supermarket, Staples, the LA Zoo, Zildjian Cymbals, Converse, Sunoco, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. In 2015, he moved on to become the Director of Creative at Primal A&G, the agency’s B2B advisory arm. Prior to A&G, Gary founded and ran his own agency, Greenberg, Seronick, O'Leary and Partners, and serviced clients such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Hasbro, and Ben Hogan Golf before being sold to A&G in 2002.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

As a young art director, all I wanted to do was direct a music video. I recognized that music videos are tiny movies — little stories and narratives that bands are telling. Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller' was a breakthrough moment and MTV created a platform for young filmmakers and new artists to share their creative visions of who they are and put them on film. So a lot of my early work was inspired by not only music, but the way that music videos were created. 

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

The Rolling Stone campaign “Perception. Reality.” from Fallon McElligott (now Fallon), which at the time was a small shop in Minneapolis. Everybody wanted to be like Fallon, including me. 

The creative work (film/album/game/ad /book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

I go back to music from classic bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors for inspiration. Oddly enough, I’m still discovering artists and bands from that time that I didn’t listen to growing up. 

For film, I love Tarantino, Scorsese, Spielberg. And I will always rewatch The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s character, The Joker, is one of the most powerful characters ever created on film. It is the performances, and the overall beauty of a film, that I connect with. I go back to those rich films and find a new aspect of the movie each time I watch it — be it a new sequence of shots or a different way they used to film it. 

My first professional project…

A regional spot for the McDonald’s business in Boston. The Celtics’ Larry Bird was filming a commercial, and he was exactly what you would think. He sat with his co-star, a 9-year-old boy who was a basketball junkie, trading stats and talking about the sport. 

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

In this business, we are highly critical of ourselves, and of others; it’s very competitive. But I try not to go there, because the reality is, why agencies and clients produce the work that they do is behind the scenes. We don’t know the background, the client, their appetite for creating good work or bad work, or the dynamic between the client and the agency. 

We are all critics in our own way. But I do get jealous when someone sells something great. 

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes me jealous…

The Mac 1984 Super Bowl commercial. To me, that remains one of the most powerful pieces of advertising. People still talk about it today as one of the greatest commercials of all time. 


The creative project that changed my career…

Slash and Betty White at the LA Zoo. Crazy pairing, right? 

I was moving my daughter into college and we had dinner with her new roommate and her mom, who happened to work at the LA Zoo. Knowing I was a big music fan, she mentioned her close friendship with Slash from Guns N’ Roses. The Zoo was considering asking Slash and Betty White, who was on the Zoo’s board, to get involved in a new exhibit opening. When she asked if I was interested in collaborating on the project, it was a no-brainer. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Los Angeles, I met the director of the Zoo and we won the project. About two weeks later, I was sitting across the table from Slash presenting TV ideas. It was a crazy pairing, but they were great friends and worked great together.


The work that I’m proudest of…

Brownstein’s work for NJM Insurance. The insurance business is an absolute dog fight. And for a brand like NJM to carve out this whitespace that they can own in this category, and stand out, is not an easy task. Kudos to our client, because they jumped into this campaign and it’s generated some incredible results. 

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

I can’t think of a piece of work that I can truthfully say was “cringeworthy.” This is a tough business and we always go into our work trying to do our best, and we fall short sometimes. But I try and learn from those moments — if something doesn’t turn out the way I want, I apply those learnings to the next project. 

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

NJM Insurance — I am just excited to continue this campaign. We’re in its second year and it has such great traction, with more spots in the works. Keep an eye out for those soon!

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Brownstein, Mon, 21 Mar 2022 08:51:58 GMT