This Director Turned $5,000 Into an Outstanding Adidas Spec Ad

African heritage plays big role in Monty Marsh's work

An original take in spec work for Adidas. Monty Marsh

Adidas’ approach to creators has made the brand a darling of the creative set. The brand’s talent roster—including athletes and key influencers like Pharrell Williams and supermodel Karlie Kloss—cuts a compelling cloth because it’s not necessarily just about sports. A campaign at the end of last year, “Calling All Creatives,” showed just how much Adidas values this eclectic group with a spot featuring their views on the topic.

“We live at the intersection of sport and culture, and the people around the table represent that,” Adidas vice president, global brand communications Ryan Morlan told Adweek at the time. “Each person featured in this campaign are true creators in their own right and have shaped their industry in some way or another.”

In keeping with the spirit of creativity, a new spec spot for Adidas Originals from director Monty Marsh emerged this week—and it is a rich tapestry that fits the brand’s ethos and strategy. Produced with a $5,000 stipend from the Commercial Directing Diversity Program (CDDP), Marsh leans heavily on New York’s Randall’s Island Park and the entertaining stilt-dancing troupe Brooklyn Jumbies to tell the work’s story across three dimensions in time.

Hypnotic and dense, the goal of the 1:40 spot is to show the influence of African heritage in creativity, especially Afrofuturism which addresses themes of the African diaspora through the lens of technology, science fiction and pop culture, and from early civilization to today.

“Because this is a diversity program, I chose to create a film that focuses on African and black culture,” said Marsh. “I then wrapped the brand around that.”

The CDDP was created by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) and Directors Guild of America (DGA) to help usher more women and minority directors into the commercial directing business, and Marsh was one of six directors (chosen from 400) who took part in the CDDP Industry Showcase last week in Los Angeles.

“Monty’s unique voice and approach to visual storytelling stood out amongst the hundreds of candidates for CDDP Fellowship, earning him a well-deserved place in the program’s first season,” said CDDP committee chair Lisa Rich. “With the talents that he already brings to the table, the knowledge and experience gained from the CDDP’s mentoring and workshops, Monty has created a stylish and exciting spec spot.”

While directors like Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, Jordan Peele, Tyler Perry and John Singleton continue to accelerate the presence of black talent in Hollywood, there is still ample room for improvement.

“I could totally relate to Monty’s feeling of being a unicorn,” said close Marsh collaborator and cinematographer Rob Arnold, whose credits include HBO’s Big Little Lies, La La Land, Fast and Furious 7 and The Walking Dead collaborated closely with Marsh.

“I’m one of four black Steadicam operators. I was one of four black cinematographers when I graduated from AFI,” said Arnold. “His achievement hit home for me.”

“Most of us, on other sets, are the minorities in the severe sense, as the only black, Latino, or Asian person, for example,” Marsh added, noting that the commercial and brand worlds could use a healthy dose of perspectives across the landscape which can result in better work.

“When you take the combined culture, the experiences, good and bad, and the desire to operate on a level playing field, and put it together on one set, behind a single project, there is a certain kind of power and magic that happens. As the director, I feed off of this. I’m convinced brands, agencies and production companies will too,” he said. “If you consider culture as valuable as consumer analytics, for example, you can avoid those head-scratching ‘what were they thinking?’ moments where a campaign goes tone-deaf.”


Client: Adidas Originals (spec spot)
Title: “Original Is Never Finished”
Writer: Monty Marsh
Production Company:  Guerilla Filmworx
Executive Producers:  Monty Marsh and Robert E. Arnold
Producers:  Scott Lane and Chris Ritchie
Director:  Monty Marsh
Cinematographer:  Robert E. Arnold
Composer:  Michael Brian Stein
Music Supervisor/Recording Artist:  Dawn Richard
Editor:  Bill Marmor
Sound Design:  Eleven Sound
Color, VFX, Finishing:  The Mill
Post Producer:  Will Mok
Color Producer:  Evan Bauer
VFX Producer:  Ashley Goodwin
Camera Support:  Keslow Camera and Adorama Camera
G&E Support: MBS Equipment Co.
Collaborators:  Brooklyn Jumbies, Laura Anderson Barbata and Fotokem
Special Thanks: Big Sky Movie Ranch, Randall’s Island Park and MOME / Made In NY

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.