Finally, a Nice Surprise in 2020: Rian Johnson Just Directed an Ad for Pokémon Go

The Star Wars and Knives Out director helmed a spot for Pokémon GO Fest 2020

The ad, timed for Pokémon Go Fest 2020, highlights how the game has grown since its 2016 launch. Niantic
Headshot of David Griner

Hollywood A-list directors are no strangers to advertising, but they tend to surface only for big-budget, long-form cinematic spots.

So it was a nice surprise to see that the newest ad for mobile game Pokémon Go was, despite being relatively modest in its ambitions, helmed remotely by star director Rian Johnson, who’s apparently a fan of the game—especially while keeping social distance from his friends.

“Pokémon Go has kept me engaged with my friends remotely as I’ve been practicing physical distancing these past few months,” Johnson said in a statement about the campaign. “As a longtime Pokémon trainer, it was a real pleasure working with Niantic on this spot.”

The ad, from agency Muh-Tay-Zik / Hof-Fer for software developer Niantic and The Pokémon Company, is timed to promote the annual Pokémon Go Fest, taking place July 25 and 26.

Because of quarantine restrictions in many countries, the spot was filmed with talent in New Zealand, where Covid-19 has been contained (the country currently lists 22 active cases, with only one being treated in a hospital.)

“It was a new experience for me to direct a production remotely,” Johnson said, “and I enjoyed the highly collaborative process and think we put together a fun and upbeat commercial that fans will enjoy.”

Johnson, based in Los Angeles, directed the New Zealand talent remotely. Initially known for critically acclaimed films like Brick and Looper, Johnson’s career skyrocketed in recent years. In 2017, he directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and his 2019 mystery Knives Out was a critical and box-office success, netting $309 million on a $40 million budget.


The Pokémon Company International
Andrew Schnorr, Product Marketing Manager
David Cheung, Product Marketing Manager – Digital and Mobile

Niantic Labs
Mike Quigley, CMO
Kento Suga, Director of Marketing
Veronica Saron, Product Marketing Manager
Philip Marz, Product Marketing Manager EMEA

Muh-Tay-Zik / Hof-Fer
John Matejczyk, CCO/Co-Founder
Matt Hofherr, CSO/Co-Founder
Greggy Adriano, Art Director
Johann Lopez, Copywriter
Brendan Robertson, CSO/SF
Jessica Bedussi, Associate Social Strategy Director
Tanya LeSieur, Head of Production/Assoc. Ptr.
Austin Kim, Executive Producer
Meghan Cermack, Account Director
Jane Han, Account Supervisor
Cara Orlowski, Director of Business Affairs
Katy Aquino, Director of Creative Operations

Production Company: Caviar
Rian Johnson, Director
Steve Yedlin, ASC
Stephan Mohammed, Producer
Michael Sagol, Executive Producer / Managing Director
Kim Dellera, Executive Producer / Partner
Casey Wooden, Executive Producer / Head of Production

Big Picture Co – NZ Service Company
William Grieve, Executive Producer
Luke Robinson, 1st Assistant Director
Nigel Bluck, NZ Director of Photography
Adrian Dentice, Casting

Color Grading: Rows of Numbers
Steve Yedlin, ASC

Postproduction: Exile
Conor O’Neill/Editor
CL Weaver/EP
Michael Miller/Sr Producer
Jennifer Locke/HOP
Rex Lowry/Assistant Editor

VFX & Animation & Finish: Alt
Jay Hawkins, VFX Supervisor
Chris Fieldhouse, Executive Producer
Jayce Attewell, VFX Producer
Jordan McInnes, CG Supervisor
Matt Chance, 2D Supervisor
Chris Gardner, FX TD
Martin Kindl, Lookdev/Lighting Artist
Murray Smallwood, Senior Compositor
Mitchell Kehn, Compositor
Kerrie Moss, Animator
Josh Kell, Flame Artist
Harry Gale, VFX Assistant

Music and SFX: Beacon Street Studios
Andrew Feltenstein, Composer
John Nau, Composer
Danny Dunlap, Composer
Leslie DiLullo, EP/Head of Production
Rommel Molina, Sound Designer
Kate Vadnais, Senior Mix/Sound Design Producer

Sound/Mix: Eleven
Jeff Payne, Sound Mixer
Jordan Meltzer, Assistant Sound Mixer
Melissa Elston, Executive Producer

Don't miss the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience Nov. 16-19. Gain insights from leading sports figures on how they navigated a year of upsets and transformation and what's in store for the coming year. Register

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."