Go Dryer, with Jeff Dryer
I love the mind of Jeff Dryer. Always thinking, always parceling out the big questions. He would tell me, â€œI hate irony,â€ and then the next day post a deliciously strange (and very ironic) image on his Instagram.Â
Of course I shouldnâ€™t be surprised as I saw his complex and searching brain at work when we shot together for Southern Comfort with Wieden + Kennedy NY (see the third image here). We were casting for the perfect outlier genius, the philosopher stoner from high school who actually fulfilled his potential and changed the world (or just made cool stuff). It was super fun and very satisfying to work alongside the man. (See much of his work here.)
Jeff Dryer is now an Associate Creative Director at Crispin Porter and Bogusky LA. We recently sat down in the hopes of moving our culture one step forward once again, with advertising as our weapon.
Chris Buck: I want to know what are you up to – you moved to Los Angeles!
Jeff Dryer: I got tired of New York, all there was to do was go to brunch or drink. Or drink and go to brunch, and then go to museums and go to brunch. And then drink. New York is great but after a while I need to go hiking or for a swim. And I hate brunch.
Donâ€™t get me wrong. New York is a wonderful city with so many varied cultural things to do but after a while you seem to stop doing them and get stuck in a rut. I guess that could happen anywhere though.
And if you are In LA you are also close to a lot of peripheral industries that you can still make your way into using your skill set. I donâ€™t think my end goal is advertising. Most advertising is terrible.
My next question for you was â€œWhy is advertising great?â€ But apparently it isnâ€™tâ€¦
Itâ€™s not, itâ€™s awful, and no one likes it. Thatâ€™s not true. No one likes bad advertising. And most of it is bad. Â I would say 99% of the ads on TV people dislike watching, they use DVR to skip them , or they canâ€™t wait for that little bar on the right hand corner on YouTube to press â€œskip.â€ It interrupts what they are interested in. So you have to be what they are interested in. And try to make things that donâ€™t feel like ads.
Then why did you get into advertising?
Because itâ€™s a chance to make something provocative, thatâ€™s smart or funny that millions and millions of people will see.
What were you into when you were young?
When I was little we didnâ€™t have iPads and iPhones, and we only had three TV channels. So when I wasnâ€™t getting in trouble outside my time was spent drawing, coming up with designs, and re-drawing comic books. Â At one point my parents figured out that I had ADD. The doctorâ€™s Â gave me Adderall to help me focus on my SATS but I had the exact opposite reaction – I got hyper-focused on drawing and painting. I pretty quickly got off that stuff but carried that focus into college and into my graphic design classes. I found something that I felt naturally good at.
What inspires you now?
I listen to music a lot when Iâ€™m writing or coming up with ads, it is an evocative form of art; it gets me into a good headspace. I am listening to a lot of Sammy Davis Jr. right now. I watch YouTube videos of him and he will just float across the stage in his bell bottoms. He will shuffle around like heâ€™s floating, itâ€™s so incredible.
Also Iâ€™ve been going to a shit load of stand-up comedy showâ€™s since Iâ€™ve moved to LA. Itâ€™s everywhere. Every night. The Largo has become sort of a second home. God that place is incredible.
You can be intensely contrarian, which I think is why we get a long well. We both like the cultural stuff but we both like best theâ€¦
â€¦the stuff on the fringe.
But not totally out there, not Avant Garde. The part of pop culture that is poking at the middle.
I think that itâ€™s more provocative than just being as crazy and extreme as you can be. Having restraint, and twisting things a bit, which makes it relatable and people can see themselves in what youâ€™re doing.
My attitude towards advertising is that I want 20% of the audience to get it. Most advertisers try for 80% of the audience, and thatâ€™s why ads are usually so flat. I want to speak to 20%, but have them fully engaged.
I am not sure I agree with that. I donâ€™t care who you are so long as I can evoke some kind of emotion from you. Whether itâ€™s â€œI hate thisâ€, or â€œI love this.â€ If youâ€™re crying, good. If youâ€™re laughing, awesome.
How do you deal with clients who donâ€™t buy into that?
You have to make them believe, and you have to keep trying until they do. I always think of that Marshall McLuhan quote, â€œArt is anything you can get away with.â€ Well, itâ€™s the same with advertising.
Sometimes a good client will see what you are trying to do and appreciate it and go along on the ride. And a bad client will fight you all the way on it and you just kind of have to judo move that stuff. The part of advertising that drains the shit out of me is working with bad clients. I didnâ€™t get into this business to sell and become a door-to-door salesman. I got into this business to create great stuff.
But selling to your client is part of your job.
It is, but it wears me out and drains me to sell hard. You shouldnâ€™t have to oversell your work. If it is good and different and scares you a little then it should sell itself. Unfortunately it rarely sells itself.
There is nothing I love more than sitting on a couch with somebody who is also funny and writing down ideas, laughing and drinking coffee. Bullshitting for 14 hours – itâ€™s awesome. And then you go and make that thing. As cliche as it may sound I do love the process. I think you have to because it takes up most of your life.