Brooks Brothers Made an Ad Star Out of an Instagrammer and His Great Looping Selfies

Inside Mike Mellia's striking outdoor ads in NYC

Headshot of Tim Nudd

You remember Mike Mellia. In early 2016, we wrote about the New York City fashion photogapher’s wonderful “selfie a day” project on Instagram, in which he posed for cinemagraph-style looping videos with wry captions—set pieces from a luxurious if fictional existence, featuring a character caught, in Mellia’s words, between “unbridled megalomania” and “the everyday doldrums.”

The videos were impeccably styled. And not surprisingly, fashion advertisers took note. Mellia has since crafted digital ad campaigns for a number of fashion brands, from Gap to Mes Chausettes Rouges Paris.

Now, he’s created his most self-referential advertising yet—a campaign of looping ads for Brooks Brothers that he not only designed by also stars in. Filmed with a live sheep at the Brooks Brothers store on 44th and Madison, the videos are appearing on 12-foot digital screens around New York City—on newsstands and large in-store digital displays. (They’re also running online.)

In the eye-catching videos, Mellia is seen wearing Brooks Brothers’ merino wool sweaters in various scenes that demonstrate how the product is soft, washable, breathable, packable and versatile.

We spoke to Mellia about the new work.

“I think the campaign is successful because it is so surreal and whimsical that it makes you look twice, especially when seeing it that big in person. For the storyboard, I was thinking of JFK meets Steve McQueen mixed in with my own offbeat New York style,” he says.

Brooks Brothers approached Mellia because he’d been wearing the brand for years in his Instagram video self-portraits. “I have so many fond memories of the brand as a young child, as a native New Yorker and going to prep school on the Upper East Side,” he says. “Right away i had a lot of creative ideas because everyone from U.S. presidents to avant-garde artists wore Brooks Brothers.”

The billboards work brilliantly outdoors because they’re so unexpected. The cinemagraph style, with mostly still images animated only in small areas of the pictures, is always striking to behold—and outdoors it may be even more so.

“The giant digital billboards were such a great idea. Freezing a moment in time but then looping forever, [it] really makes you stop on the street and wonder,” he says.

The Brooks Brothers campaign comes at a creatively interesting time for Mellia. He recently deleted his old Instagram account, along with all the video selfies he’d posted, and started a new account, @mikemelliastudio, from scratch. He was inspired to do so after watching the short film “Andy Warhol Eats a Hamburger.”

“It’s a film where Warhol is filming himself in silence eating a hamburger for four minutes,” Mellia says. “I wanted to keep pushing myself creatively to do bigger and stronger works, and expand what I had already built with all my other ‘selfie’ videos over the years.”

The art for the Brooks Brothers campaign is drawn from Mellia’s new Instagram series, “where I’m filming myself in surreal, whimsical, awkward or even voyeuristic scenarios that loop forever,” he says. “It’s a strange combination of performance art and acting, while compositing really complicated special effects on video at the same time.”

Filming himself for brands “adds another layer of surrealness,” Mellia says, “because I always insist that I can tell my own story and also the brand’s story simultaneously.” Many of the big fashion brands he’s worked with lately are interested in “this trend of having a really strong sense of personality” in the creative, he adds.

The campaign has been a hit, not least with Mellia’s family.

“I think my mom is probably the proudest of anyone; she took my relatives on a tour around Times Square, Grand Central and Penn Station to see me 12 feet tall,” he says. His 3-year-old daughter Aria, meanwhile, “really liked the campaign, but now she thinks I work with sheep every day.”

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.