Eric Cruz, Internationally Acclaimed and Multi-awarded Advertising Creative Director

In the world of advertising, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is key.

There are a lot of excellent copywriters and art directors in the industry, but the creative director strikes the balance — ensuring that the creative output meets the objectives of a client’s business strategy. The creative director is also the head of the creative team. He or she must be able to manage differing personalities and act as the mediator between the creatives, the accounts people and the executive/management committee.

Thus, outstanding creative directors are highly revered and are very much in demand. When a creative director is sought after by different advertising agencies from across continents in various parts of the globe, it speaks volumes of his worth.

Such is Filipino-American Eric Cruz.

Eric is a Creative Director, Designer, Director, Educator and “Trans National” who calls every place he gets assigned to, as home. He recently joined Leo Burnett Malaysia as Executive Creative Director, where he oversees the agencies entire creative output, helping brands like Petronas, Maxis, Proton, Samsung, Dutch Lady and McDonalds tell stories.

As Executive Creative Director of Leo Burnett in Kuala Lumpur, Eric heads a team of over a hundred people. In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, Eric talks about the challenges he faces.

“I feel quite fortunate to be working in the creative industry and making a living doing so. My current post in KL allows me to both practice my craft and teach a creative crew of about 125 art directors, writers, designers and creatives. Each day is an adventure because the daily challenges behind each project is different. But what I love most is the fact that I get to create things that touch and affect everyday people. That makes it worthwhile. So I’ve learned to look at every challenge, big or small, as opportunity in disguise. At least that’s what I try to convince myself daily to keep things sane. It’s an exciting industry and each day brings a new challenge.”

“My biggest challenge right now is turning around an office of 260 people half of which are creatives. I want to prove to myself that I can lead a creative studio of this size and still be able to create meaningful and outstanding work. The challenge behind ‘big’ ships, is how to act humble.

“I’m not sure if I’ve overcome this yet since the jury is still out. But our recent creative output is interesting and I feel like I’m contributing something new to the culture I exist in. So that keeps me going,” admitted Eric.


Prior to LBKL, Eric worked at Wieden+Kennedy in Tokyo, pursuing work that is culturally relevant to his Asian roots — collaborating with brands like Nike, Google, Honda, Aiwa, Kumon and Mori Building.

He co-founded W+K Tokyo Lab, W+K’s experimental music label and creative think tank, overseeing its entire visual output — from directing music videos, to art directing and designing its packaging, online experiences and live events which helped redefine and reinvent the music industry.

His work focuses on the intersection between art and design, moving images and digital narratives, exploring new frontiers in media hybrids. Eric also spent some time at W+K London as a CD on Nokia Mobile Computing and Nestea.

Before W+K, Eric worked at Imaginary Forces LA designing for film and television; Razorfish London where he concentrated on the merging of web and moving media; W+K Portland creating campaigns for Microsoft Office and Studio Archetype where he started off his career designing websites, packaging and identity systems. He taught Design and Moving Media at Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and Temple University, Tokyo.

Aside from his advertising career, Eric is also an avid educator. During his stint in Tokyo, he was an adjunct professor at the Temple University and Tyler School for the Arts. He has also lectured worldwide and advocating about Asian creativity, as well as judging award shows such as D&AD.

Eric’s outstanding work has been recognized and awarded by his peers in the industry. He has won prestigious awards from the likes of Cannes Lion, One Show Design and Interactive, Tokyo Interactive Awards and Annual Design Exhibition, to name a few.

Roots and education

Born in the Philippines, Eric immigrated to LA when he was young. He took up his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and earned his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan. He also studied at the Art Center in Switzerland, Europe in the summer of 1995 on a European exchange program; and at the Virginia Commonwealth University where he took up Graphic Design and Illustration.

The power of Filipinos

Asked to describe working in different countries, Eric said, “I’ve worked in LA, Portland OR, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul and KL. Each has its own unique character and way of working and I love the idiosyncratic intricacies of each city. I’ve actually never worked in the Philippines. But I’m actually heading there this weekend to give a lecture about my work and critique the latest work from our Leo Burnett Manila office this upcoming week in one of our regional “IPC” – Internal Product Committe sessions. I’m really looking forward to it since it’s my first professional connection with the Philippine creative community, sort of a homecoming for myself. ”

Talking more about his homeland, Eric continues, “The Philippines informs so much of my personal work, so I would love to one day return and teach other Flips what I know how to do. I wanna give back one day. I would love to have more of an ongoing interaction with the creative community in the Philippines. I also want to do some personal projects there sometime soon. Non-advertising or commercial work, but rather work that is personally informed by the place I came from.”

Eric has great hopes for the power of Filipinos. “We live in a time where education isn’t limited to geography anymore. One can learn everything from the Internet. So there’s in fact less boundaries and a whole word of possibilities for the brave ones who dare to venture. The Philippines main export is human power. And if we look at some of the most memorable things in the history of the web, the Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson was one of the pioneers of online content. The “love virus” was created by a Filipino. Clearly that tells me the Philippines has talent. What’s lacking is the infrastructure and knowhow of where and how to apply the talent and energy. The creative industry in the Philippines is picking up it seems, and the government could learn from other global economies, with regard to how countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and now China are turning to the creative industry to reinvent its economies,” he said.

The award-winning creative director has this advice to those who want to make it in the field: “Learn the craft and pump something original in the global broadcast. The rest will work itself out. People worldwide will find those who do something great. I’m a firm believer that everything exists, waiting to be discovered,” Eric said.


(LA Weekend May 12-15, 2012 Sec A pg. 10)

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