2 Minutes With ... Andrew Irving, CCO and Founder of Rhubarb

On Narcos Mexico, A.I. generated art and Akiko Stehrenberger

Andrew Irving has been a creative director for over 20 years, developing marketing campaigns, movie posters and key art for major entertainment brands. He is the chief creative officer and founding partner of Rhubarb, a Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing agency. 

We spent two minutes with Andrew to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Andrew, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Diamond Bar, a suburb outside of Los Angeles. In the 1800s it was a massive cattle ranch, and in the 1950s, it was developed into one of the first master-planned communities in the U.S. I currently live in Frogtown, which is a weird and wonderful community along the L.A. River that hosts a lot of artists and art spaces. 

Why you pursued a career in entertainment.

I fell into entertainment advertising accidentally—I didn't pursue it. I was working in a graphic design studio, and there was a guy, Mark Shoolery, who rented a space in the office who was designing key art for Disney. He approached me to design some title treatments for him, and I enjoyed it and was good at it. Eventually he asked me to work for him, and the rest is history. 

Three movies/TV shows you couldn't do without.

The Wiz: A visual feast where the singers, dancers, costumes and sets are all over the top. The legendary talent involved in making this film was staggering, and the colors, choreography and cinematography never fail to mesmerize and inspire me.

All About Eve: I'm a huge Bette Davis fan, and she is at her best in this movie. The storyline and supporting cast are amazing, but the real star is the bitchy and witty dialogue.

Strangers With Candy: This series is a cult comedy classic—featuring a young Steven Colbert and Amy Sedaris, among other great comedians. It has biting social commentary alongside the dumbest shit you'll ever see on TV. I love how it transports me back to my childhood and puts a twisted spin on TV after school specials.

Your favorite movie trailer or poster.

This is the hardest question. There are so many movie posters that I love—it's impossible to choose only one. But some of the very favorites that come to mind are "Bonjour Tristesse" by Saul Bass, "The Favourite" by Vasilis Marmatakis, "Downhill Racer" by Philip Gips, "Putney Swope"  and anything by Akiko Stehrenberger (seriously, anything).

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on.

After working on all three seasons of Narcos (Colombia) at another agency, I was already in love with the franchise. When Rhubarb started five years ago, Kevin Bjelajac from Netflix called and gave us our first job: Narcos Mexico. We created the campaign for the first season and the two subsequent ones as well. For each season, we commissioned a different fine artist, all of Mexican heritage and each with a very different style. Because of the trust and vision from our Netflix collaborators, we were able to create real works of art that were hand painted and collaged, not created on a computer. It's such a rare treat to be able to create analog art for entertainment advertising.

A recent project you're proud of.

I hope this answer doesn't sound like pandering but I'm really proud of the campaign we did for Clio Entertainment. It was fun to be able to shift gears from key art and create something that was more lifestyle and fashion oriented. I especially love the passionate way our team came together to create many different vignettes for each phase of the campaign. 

One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.

A.I. generated art is exciting and scary at the same time. One thing for sure is that A.I. will be a big part of life in the near future, and we have to learn how to use it in a way that works in tandem with human creativity and imagination, and uses ethically sourced material. I'm excited about the possibilities that A.I. has to take entertainment marketing to the next level.

Someone else's work, in entertainment or beyond, that you admired lately.

There's an exhibit of Ai Weiwei's work in London this spring, and I'm hoping to go see it. He's such an inspiration to me—a true artist who isn't afraid to express things that could get him in trouble, in jail, or even get him killed. His thought process is fascinating and pushes me to open my mind to infinitely possibilities when it comes to art.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

A podcast that I listen to every week is "Huberman Lab," hosted by a very cool, down to earth neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman. Some episodes of the podcast include practical tools to access your creativity, to be more productive, and even how to be happier. I was surprised to learn that there are physical, tangible things one can do to help generate creative ideas—as opposed to waiting around for inspiration to strike.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I recently saw Grace Jones perform at the Hollywood Bowl. She's a great singer and cultural icon: everything she does, everything she wears, every move she makes, is art itself. She's been the muse of photographer Jean-Paul Goode for decades, her body has been painted by Keith Haring, and she's been photographed by too many legendary photographers to mention here. 

Your favorite fictional character.

Bojack Horseman. Despite the fact that he's a cartoon horse, he's one of the most real, relatable and wonderfully complex characters in TV and movies.

Someone worth following in social media.

@timtadder is an artist and photographer and is creating amazing images using A.I. technology. His recent posts, and the comment sections, have intriguing dialogue about how A.I. will affect artists.

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

My strength is seeing other people's talents, and helping them to channel their art through the medium of advertising.

Your biggest weakness.

I fall into rabbit holes that I can't seem to dig myself out of, even when I'm facing deadlines.

Something people would find surprising about you.

I hate musical theater. (Surprising, because I'm a gay man.)

One thing that always makes you happy.

Cuddling and playing with my dog Erwin makes all my worries melt away.

One thing that always makes you sad.

I don't want to think about this question—it will make me sad.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in entertainment.

I'd be unemployed and living on the street.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives and marketers about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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