Posted by: Date: August 4, 2010 In:

Tenacity is the hallmark of ad man’s work

By Liz Anderson ’10

Brian Ford ’95 began his creative work early during his college career, designing posters for clubs and organizations through ASPLU’s agency, known as Impact.

Now, as co-founder and creative director of the advertising agency Zambezi, his list of clients includes NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and, as it pertains to his endorsement deal with Vitaminwater, LeBron James.

Ad man Brian Ford’s list of clients includes NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James

Ad man Brian Ford’s list of clients includes NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

The agency’s first project was building Kobe Bryant’s Website,, and creating original content and films that are featured on it. Ford uses multiple formats to shoot campaign ads – even his Super-8 camera. “I fell in love with filmmaking at PLU. My friends and I would make videos and skits that led to more nuttiness,” says Ford.

Ford became a copywriter in 1999 and spent the next seven years writing ads for Wieden + Kennedy, a Portland Ore., ad agency. In 2006, he started to work mostly on Nike basketball projects, including the Kobe Bryant and LeBron James campaigns.

Regarding his work with Kobe Bryant, Ford said they became friends when he wrote and directed a TV spot for Bryant called “Love Me or Hate Me.”

“Kobe is really creative himself, and incredibly intelligent,” Ford said. “He challenges everyone to be their best.” Eventually, these campaigns led to the creation of Zambezi. Ford considers the company to be his biggest accomplishment. Zambezi’s growing list of clients has included Teva, Comcast, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trailblazers, and Vitaminwater.

“Creativity is so subjective, you have to be ready for a lot of rejection,” Ford said. “Luckily, that makes the successes that much more fun.”

Describing the creative process, Ford said that he just starts broad and looks for angles into an idea. His approach is to write and keep writing until he feels good about an idea.

“Sometimes it’s a process of elimination,” Ford said. “Dumb idea. Dumb idea. Dumb idea. Not a dumb idea.”

One of Ford’s favorite accomplishments started out small – as a headline. From there, it went big. Really big. It was the only writing on a 200-foot wall featuring a likeness of LeBron James, just across from where he played basketball in Cleveland. It read, “We are all witnesses.” It was there for seven years.

“It’s proven to have legs that make me smile,” Ford said. “LeBron James tattooed it on his leg. Crazy.”

To see more of Ford’s work, visit