Video director Eric Lerner’s Coke ad features the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing. His graduate project from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design was inspired by Tel Aviv. Even if an Israeli doesn’t take home the gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the country is already feeling like a winner. That’s thanks to Eric Lerner, 25, from Zichron Ya’acov, who has directed Coca Cola’s official Olympics ad, which debuted on US television during the games’ opening ceremony.

The ad features the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing and several cute animated birds who fly in from different corners of the world to the Olympics, carrying their own straws.

Initially Lerner was invited by a European producer to design some of the characters, but when the production house learned that Lerner had already signed on as a director for a French animation house, Partizan Lab, he was asked to direct the entire segment.

“I went to London for a few months in order to create the animated characters. For the shoot we went to three different continents. We filmed in Africa, Argentina, and China. It was a long and exciting shooting process that took two years,” said Lerner, who is now back in Israel and living in Tel Aviv.

In fact it was the city of Tel Aviv that initially inspired Lerner’s award-winning student graduate project, while studying at the Jerusalem-based Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design: “Tel Aviv made for a special background for the films. It helped,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

While at Bezalel, Lerner designed a series of five short animated videos about characters that live in Tel Aviv. Called Mr. CityMen, there is Mr. Happy, who is content wherever he goes, strumming his guitar on the streets of Tel Aviv; and Mr Déjà vu, whose life repeats day-in and day-out in a way that’s both dreary and frightening. These animated characters, although simple in design, have a powerful force onscreen, perpahs because they are set inside real-life footage of the city.

A number of influential web animation blogs and magazines including Motionographer and, raved about the Mr. CityMen shorts: “Coupled with an avant garde soundtrack, these animations work on a variety of levels and evoke various responses from the viewer. In a sense, it’s like a therapy session, only animated. The players are very simply constructed and radiate a slick design as they move across the screen. Cute, clever, clean,” wrote a reviewer on

“In a way, I think a person can identify with any of them,” Lerner says. His favorites change over time, but Mr. Happy – the character now used in a European cellular phone company ad – is one he’d choose now.

In the future, Lerner aspires to continue working on large-scale projects. While there are “no big offers yet,” Lerner would like to be hired on to direct more advertisements. That will give him the means to pursue other dreams more personal in nature: “I have loads of movies, series and short films ideas that hopefully will see the light someday,” he says.

Mr. CityMen video