The Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay announced that commercial director Joe Pytka will be the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for distinguished achievement in television direction at the 68th Annual DGA Awards on Feb. 6, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
“Since the debut of television, commercials have played a critical role in shaping the trajectory of the medium. And when it comes to commercials, there is no higher bar than the one set by the incomparable Joe Pytka,” said Barclay. “So many of his over 5,000 projects – which include more than 80 Super Bowl commercials – are part of the nation’s zeitgeist, from his iconic, generation-defining Pepsi ads to Nike’s ‘Bo Knows’ and Budweiser’s ‘Clydesdales’ to the unforgettable ‘Your Brain on Drugs’ PSA.”
Pytka has won three DGA commercial direction awards out of 14 nominations and a CLIO lifetime achievement award. He is the only director to be awarded the Cannes Lion of St. Marks, and admitted into the The One Club, which recognizes excellence in advertising. His John Hancock Insurance commercials earned him a Cannes Grand Prix.
Pytka has directed more than 80 Super Bowl ads, the most famous of which feature the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. Pytka also directed Pepsi’s “Make a Wish” spot featuring Madonna, which blended pop culture, music and controversy. It was the first-ever commercial to have a special global satellite premiere, and was seen by an estimated 250 million people worldwide.
Pytka is well-known for his commercials that have featured such A-list athletes and celebrities as The Beatles, Madonna, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Hanks, George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and President Obama. These spots represent such brands as UPS, State Farm, McDonald’s, Hallmark, IBM, Gatorade, Johnson & Johnson, NFL and American Express.
Also on his directorial resume are two feature films – the screwball comedy Let It Ride (1989), and the cult-classic half-animation/half-live action sports comedy Space Jam (1996), which was inspired by his Nike ad “Hare Jordan” featuring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan and McDonald’s “Nothing But Net” with Jordan and Larry Bird.
Pytka has also directed music videos including The Beatles’ “Free as a Bird,” as well as “Dirty Diana,” “Heal the World,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel” for Michael Jackson. More than 50 of his works are in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. In 2003, Pytka was awarded the DGA Honor for his distinguished contributions to the art and craft of commercials as well as his post-9/11 “New York City Miracle” spots featuring Woody Allen skating, Henry Kissinger sliding into home plate and Yogi Berra conducting the New York Philharmonic.