If you've been to the website of a buzzy new tech startup in the last few years — Groupon, Airbnb, Square — chances are you've seen the work of Adam Lisagor. Not just his short videos, which are passed around the Internet to promote and teach you how to use these products, but also Lisagor himself, the 34-year-old creative director who stars in them. He's the guy in the thick-rimmed glasses and frizzy beard, an uber-accessible Everyman who walks you through a complicated idea with refreshingly deadpan yet thoroughly earnest delivery.
“The purpose of the videos is to make the information exciting,” he says. The result is somewhere between a Michel Gondry movie and an OK Go music video: highly visual, rich with metaphor, giddily clever.
A video for a new app called Mixel, for example, features a multicultural cast sitting on a brownstone stoop, building and sharing iPad collages, as their primary-colored creations interact in the air over their heads.
It often looks a lot like good children's television — which he takes as a compliment. “What is Sesame Street if not simple but respectful of kids' intelligence?” he asks.
Lisagor grew up in Camarillo and spent Thanksgivings with relatives such as David and Jerry Zucker of Airplane! fame. He was most influenced by their Kentucky Fried Movie. “I used to watch it pretty much nightly,” he says. “It's sketch-based, but each sketch is a short film in itself, whether it's an educational film or a kung fu movie or commercials.”
After Lisagor graduated from film school at New York University, he worked in commercial production and visual effects. He had given up on his dream of becoming a director, when, in 2009, he created his own iPhone app — Birdhouse, which lets you compose and save ideas before posting them to Twitter — and made a video to promote it, in his Silver Lake backyard. It was surreal, goofy, smart — like nothing else online. Tech companies started calling.
Now, from his Arts District studio, Lisagor hand-picks clients, who range from the fledgling, L.A.-based Small Demons, which catalogs cultural references in books, to at least one big-box retailer (which can't be revealed until the deal is inked). He also produces his own content: the falling-down-funny podcast You Look Nice Today, and the men's fashion web series Put This On. And he has 34,000 followers on Twitter, where he can lob one-liners: “Flying on an airline without Wi-Fi is like sleeping over at a friend's house that doesn't have Nintendo.”
While Lisagor's personality adds an authenticity that a slick agency can't provide, there's another reason for his success: He makes videos only for what he believes to be truly great products. (Those glasses? The Warby Parker frames he pitches.)
“I try to work with clients who have the right motivations,” he says. How does he know? “You get a feeling,” but Lisagor also has another indicator: “It's always disappointing when they use the word viral. It crushes my dreams.”