2 Minutes With ... Lou Arbetter, Head of PepsiCo's In-House Content Studio

His creative adventures, from Uncle Drew to Jeff Gordon to Cantera 5v5

Lou Arbetter leads PepsiCo's in-house content studio as the company's vp of content and production. The studio serves as a global creative, production and innovation resource for all branded content, including long- and short-form films and series, music and social content.

Lou and his teams have developed breakthrough branded entertainment including the groundbreaking Pepsi integration into the Fox show Empire, and the video sensations Uncle Drew starring Kyrie Irving and Test Drive starring Jeff Gordon. Lou also helped bring the Uncle Drew movie to life as executive producer—the first feature film based on a branded content series.

He also consults on messaging for political campaigns, including strategy, creative and production. His 2018 get-out-the-vote campaign received millions of dollars in media support and was among the most effective in that election cycle.

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

Lou, tell us ... 

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania—home of Jimmy Stewart and many Steeler fans. I now live in New Rochelle, New York, home of Thomas Paine and one Steeler fan.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

I wanted to be a marine biologist, or David Letterman.

How you discovered you were creative.

Everyone in my family was creative. My mom was an artist and an art teacher. In elementary school, my friends would come over to our house to see all her paintings and sculptures of naked people. "It's art, I swear!" Anyway, she taught us that everyone can be creative.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

When I was young, I was all about Mel Blanc. Bugs Bunny and Barney Rubble? Come on. Later on, I obsessed over John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python crew. "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

My dad passed away when I was a freshman in college. I took that as an excuse to try all manner of recreational self-medication. Had to take a few wrong turns before understanding the right path for me.

The first concert you saw.

Billy Joel at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. 

Your favorite visual artist.

Jack Kirby was my childhood. My mom will hate that answer.

Your favorite fictional character.

James Bond, followed closely by Black Panther and Silver Surfer.

The best book you've read lately.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

Your favorite movie.

That's an impossible question. A few include: From Russia with Love, The Blues Brothers, Raiders of the Lost Ark. More recently: Rogue One, JoJo Rabbit, Life of Pi, and of course, Black Panther.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

Pete Souza.

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally, in recent months.

I'm taking way more walks with my wife and kids and being present more with them.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.

The Uncle Drew series and movie were pretty awesome, but the Test Drive episodes with Jeff Gordon were an absolute blast. I am also very proud of a get-out-the-vote campaign we did in 2018.

Your favorite creative project from the past year.

Cantera 5v5 for Gatorade. Great episodic documentary directed by the incredible Jeff and Michael Zimbalist that was shot in multiple countries and tells some truly emotional stories about the players. It ran on ESPN and has been selected for several film festivals. 

Gatorade | Cantera 5v5 | Trailer
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

When the show Lost was on, they aired a commercial for a fictional company on the show. They had a phone number or website to check out. It deepened the whole fan experience, and I loved it. We did something similar with the show Empire.

Someone else's creative project that you've been impressed by lately.

Ryan Reynolds putting the Peloton Wife in an Aviation Gin ad.

The Gift That Doesn't Give Back
Your main strength as a creative person.

Being a champion for the real creative folks and their ideas.

Your weakness or blind spot.

Spending too much time rolling bad ideas in glitter.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Drinking coffee while reading a book.

One thing that always makes you sad.

My alarm clock.

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

Hosting a podcast about Star Wars. 

2 Minutes With is our weekly interview series where we chat with creatives 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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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