Seymour grad takes part in producing upcoming Super Bowl commercial


Brian Culp never thought after seeing a Nike commercial during his college days and wanting to pursue a job in the advertising industry that he would later wind up working with some of the world’s most iconic stars, including The Terminator himself.

“I didn’t know what to expect from Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said. “He has been in so many iconic movies and definitely the biggest star I have worked with.”

The 2002 Seymour High School graduate is a group creative director with Highdive, an independently owned Chicago, Illinois-based advertising agency. The agency was lucky enough to land a 60-second commercial spot teaming up with Schwarzenegger and State Farm to bring a twist on the insurance company’s famous jingle.

The commercial will air just before the second quarter begins on Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers battle in Super Bowl LVIII.

Culp said art was always part of his life growing up as he took art classes in high school and majored in studio art at DePauw University. After being inspired by a certain Nike commercial, he began to research and found some alumni who brought him onto the right path.

After graduating from college in 2006, he went to art portfolio school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to refine his talents.

“Truthfully, I grew up thinking I would stay in Seymour forever, and I think I definitely had to get out of my comfort zone,” he said. “The move to Minneapolis by myself gave me some confidence, and I started to meet people within the ad industry.”

Culp didn’t just stop in Minneapolis but traveled to different ad agencies in Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, before winding up in Chicago, where he has now lived for 10 years.

Working in a smaller ad agency, Culp said as a group creative director, he often mentors young talent while also taking part in the production process, such as writing scripts and art directing. Culp said it’s a career that always poses new challenges with problems to solve.

“It’s fun because there’s a lot of different components and roles you play,” he said. “Sometimes during the year, I am writing scripts, pitching to clients, and sometimes, those ideas sell and I get to travel and go to production.”

Culp said the job definitely keeps him on his toes.

“It’s always a little nerve-racking when you are faced with a blank piece of paper and start from scratch,” he said. “But you just have to start throwing every idea you have, and eventually, you might have one that will stick.”

Back in July, Culp and his team received a creative brief from State Farm that boiled down to “Make the tagline famous in culture.”

With every idea the team brought, the goal was to have people saying “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” come Monday after the big game.

Culp said the first idea they had for the commercial was nothing like the finished product.

“At first, Arnold was a spy and had to open a voice-activated safe by saying the State Farm jingle, but he kept getting it wrong because of his accent,” he said. “The script was a little confusing, but we always kept laughing at Arnold saying, ‘Like a good neighbaaa.’”

As brands such as Barbie and Nike began to venture into the film industry, Culp and his team thought it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for State Farm to announce a film of theirs, as well.

“The idea was what if we say we are going to make a movie and hire Arnold, but it all goes wrong because he does the Arnold version of the jingle, that’s where the comedy comes in,” he said.

Culp and his team pitched the idea to State Farm in August and went into production in Los Angles, California, in early December. The shoot in LA lasted for a couple of weeks. After massive amounts of editing and visual effects, Culp said the commercial wasn’t completely finished until a little over a week ago.

A teaser trailer has been released and is attracting genuine excitement from movie fans.

“We then had Arnold go on Jimmy Fallon, and we got to see live audience reaction to the jokes once they realized that the ‘movie’ was only going to be 60 seconds long,” Culp said.

He said they are saving a surprise for the game itself that he hopes will have people talking for a long time.

“I’m hopeful that it will be one of people’s favorite spots during the game,” he said.

Culp said the process of pitching a commercial idea usually moves quicker, but because of the Super Bowl, everything is on the line, and it has to be perfect.

“You definitely feel the pressure a little more because it’s such a big moment,” he said. “It’s also a unique time of year because it’s the one time of year people actually want to see ads. It feels different when you are shooting something you know millions of people are going to see.”

Culp has had some major success not just with this Super Bowl commercial but also working with celebrities, such as Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Caitlin Clark, Jimmy Butler and Reggie Miller, for various other State Farm commercials.

He said while selling an idea is a great success, a part of the industry he has had to get used to over the years is a lot of failure.

“There are so many layers of approval you have to get through before an idea is actually bought and goes into production,” he said. “You do have to get used to the grind of some ideas just aren’t going to make the cut and that’s part of it.”

When working with new and seasoned celebrities, Culp said everyone is different based on where they are in their career.

“With Patrick, it was only his first or second year in the league, so I think the commercial world was a little new to him, but Rodgers had been doing this for years,” he said. “Caitlin was also new to the scene and did amazing on set, and Reggie, who has been in front of the camera quite often, was just having a good time out there.”

Even though Culp didn’t know what to expect from Schwarzenegger, he said the iconic movie star was a complete professional.

“He was incredible,” he said. “He worked really long hours and did whatever we asked of him. You could tell he was having fun with it, as well.”

Culp said when the directors call “cut” is when you can catch a glimpse of who people really are behind a camera. He said Schwarzenegger showed nothing but appreciation to the cast and crew.

“I remember when we called wrap, he gave a speech and said thank you to the cast and crew for all that we do,” he said. “It’s nice to see that after all the success he’s had, he knows that it’s a group effort and gives credit to those around him.”

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Schwarzenegger said when he first started as an actor, many people told him he would never be in movies because of his Austrian accent. The accent later became an asset and one of the most recognizable voices in movie history.

“We wanted to use that accent idea to bring Arnold in on the comedy for this commercial, and hopefully, people will being saying, ‘Like a good neighbaaa’ for a long time,” Culp said.

While this isn’t the first Super Bowl spot of his career, Culp said this one feels a little more special.

“This is a big moment for my industry and definitely a big moment career-wise, I’d say,” he said. “It just feels more like ours.”

Culp said he has been grateful for the people who have been in his life growing up and the hometown lessons he still carries with him today.

“I think Seymour was a really great place to grow up in, and I am where I am today because of the lessons and support I had from my parents, teachers and coaches growing up in Seymour,” he said.

Culp, the son of Jeff and Martha Culp, played competitively in football and basketball at Seymour High School throughout his four years, participating in many magical winning years for the school.

In 2002 in his senior year, Culp and Ross Wiethoff set a combined record for longest passing play of 89 yards against Floyd Central, landing them a touchdown.

Also, as a senior at DePauw, Culp was one of 325 athletes selected to participate in the NCAA Leadership Conference.

“Lessons like teamwork and accountability are things I learned growing up playing sports in Seymour, and I still apply those skills to my job today,” he said.

For those interested in learning more or have questions about a career in the ad industry, Culp can be reached at [email protected].

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