Phil Rumbol

April 30, 2013 / ProFile

By John Hackney and Lewis More O'Ferrall

A Rumbol in the Jungle

Interview: John Hackney

Photography: Lewis More O'Ferrall

Editor: Julian Tranquille at Cut+Run

Illustrations: Zoe More O'Ferrall

Unsigned: Cyril Gfeller

April 30, 2013 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

A Swiss polymath with a formidable reel.

Cyril Gfeller is an intriguing talent. He has been working in motion graphics, animating, directing and editing for several years now. Originally trained as a plumber, bizarrely, and then later graphic designer in Bern, he honed his visual arts skills in Switzerland, where he became quite accomplished. But now we’re lucky enough to have him on these here shores, living in London.

With a passion for animating handmade objects but also a flair for the digital, he’s a versatile animator with experience all over the place – as well as arty music promos he’s worked with clients as big as McDonalds, Greenpeace and Microsoft.

Watch some of his work here:

The Future of Advertising… Is Not Advertising?

April 28, 2013 / Features

By Alex Reeves

AKQA Executive Creative Director talks futurism in Adland.

On Wednesday 8 May 2013 many of London’s advertising professionals will descend on BAFTA for the APA’s The Future of Advertising… In One Afternoon – a concentrated conference that will take the pulse of an industry in a constant state of flux. Speakers include luminaries from various cliff faces of advertising with specialisms in areas like production, creativity, technology and social media.

Duan Evans, Executive Creative Director at AKQA, will be one such figure taking to the soapbox with his thoughts on where the business of advertising is headed. His talk is titled (somewhat provocatively) The Future of Advertising… Is Not Advertising. We interviewed him about the future fetish the industry seems to foster and why it’s not necessarily a good thing.

 

Bugle: Why the paradoxical speech title?

Duan Evans: At AKQA we don’t necessarily look at the work we create as advertising and I don’t think it is. That’s debatable because we’re paid by our clients to make their brands famous and things like that. But we don’t believe in just broadcasting that brand and trying to sell things to the consumer.

We believe in connecting a brand to a consumer through some meaningful connection, where the consumer gets something good out of the relationship. We believe a brand has got a bigger role to play than just flogging biscuits or whatever; they can actually play a positive role in society and to the consumer.

What sort of brands have done this recently?

I think Oreo have done some amazing stuff lately [for example, their Daily Twist campaign]. That, to me, is quite traditional advertising – copy, image and post – but they’ve done it through the right channels with the right tone. They’ve talked to their audience, connected, used social issues and elevated all that to make something that’s potentially beyond the way advertising’s been done in the past.

Is the ad industry justified in its obsession with new technologies and innovations?

Everyone’s looking at the future. But I don’t think it’s [the most important thing] trying to figure out what’s next. I think it’s trying to figure out what’s right for the consumer. The landscape changes. So as long as you’re adapting to that landscape then you’re doing what’s right for the consumer. The idea and the consumer is still everything. I don’t think a great piece of work has ever come from saying “here’s a technology. How do we best create an experience around it?”

What do you think about that race to use a technology first for that buzz of novelty?

There’s no point. We have a saying here, which is: “It’s good to be first. It’s better to be best. It’s best to be both.” So if you can do an idea first that’s good, but if you can do it first and someone can do it second and better then it’s not good. You should create the best idea, do it to the best of your ability and then put all your chips on the table and back it.

It’s not about gimmickry. Consumers can see through that. You’ll get a spike, but we believe in creating things that are genuinely useful. You can’t do that by creating a first for the sake of it. It’s got no purpose.

So how important is the channel or format that advertising is delivered in?

Without great content you don’t have anything. More content’s downloaded in a year now than was played on all the channels in American history up to [the year] 2000. So it’s madness.

Will the 30 or 60-second format [continue to] be relevant? Probably not. There might be a use for it but I think you can see from online... We just created a great piece of content that’s half an hour long for the internet. It’s called The Chance: Undiscovered. It’s a documentary about eight young footballers and their search to go pro. It’s the highest rated piece of content we’ve done and it’s a story that connects. It’s the first time I’ve seen positive comments throughout about how inspiring the film is and how they wish Nike would create more long pieces of content and turn it into a series. That’s great to see. The perception of what people want from channels is changing. The internet’s not all about short pieces of content anymore.

How does that affect the way production companies have to work?

We work with many production companies for different projects. For me, they’re at the sharp point of that shift. I guess the question is will some production companies try to go a bit more digital?

They’ve adapted to understanding web content – not just understanding web content as cheaper content to post on Facebook or whatever but understanding the way we might filter it. I think there’s more thinking in the production companies. We still use those guys to help us solve a problem.

The question, really, is will they need to become fully digital or will they stay just making [video] content? And I think there might be a specialism in content. I don’t have the answer for that one because I can see it going both ways, really.

It’s down to the DNA of that production company. What do they want to do? Do they want to keep making content? Do they want to change, diversify, make longer content, documentaries or whatever their ambition is? But they can’t try and be all things to all men. I’ve seen that time and again – companies that say they want to be one thing but really you can see in their eyes what they want to do. They just wish they could keep doing that thing.

Do any changes or trends worry you?

I’ve seen a lot of brands that want to work directly with production companies because they’ve got the idea from their agency and they know how to make it. That’s scary for agencies. Agencies are thinking “hang on. That’s our concept, part of our big platform and we should be involved.”


But, equally, there’s lots more work being done in-house at agencies.
Absolutely. It’s breaking in every way. So there’s all sorts of content being produced directly. We’ve got a film team here. We’ve got really good motion graphics animators. So we produce a lot of that content – the lower-level content, you may call it – but that content is connecting and serves a real purpose.

Then we’re seeing brands like Red Bull. They create a lot of their own stuff, from a feature film to a blog post. Then some brands don’t want to go near it. There’s a whole range and that’s why I think the playing field’s exciting. There is room for everyone, but it’s all down to what you really want to do as a production company, agency or brand.

How do you hope the future of advertising will shape up?

In 30 or 40 years from now, if I make it that far, I don’t want to sit back and look back on advertising I’ve made. I want to look back on things I’ve created that were genuinely useful, had some meaning, and were liked. So what excites me is the opportunity to do more work that has a deeper connection. I know it sounds pretentious, but I truly believe that the most exciting thing is the opportunity to create more work that has some meaning, some impact on the world.

So advertisers can’t preach to consumers anymore?

They can’t do that. Brands that treat people like morons are becoming irrelevant. And it’s brands that don’t even see what they’re about that are becoming irrelevant. Look at Kodak. The founders of film, photo production, the image and they went out of business the year after Instagram sold for a billion because they didn’t realise that the industry they were in was actually capturing and sharing moments – not film. The same with production companies and agencies – it’s about understanding what you want to do, sticking to that vision, but being nimble and adapting.

You can still buy tickets for The Future of Advertising… In One Afternoon. Please email laura@a-p-a.net to reserve yours.

“No gays please, we’re advertising.”

April 24, 2013 / Features

By Jonny Watson

Are we really such an enlightened bunch?

Advertising is a pretty progressive industry. We like to think of ourselves as an enlightened bunch. Some of our best friends are gay. Hell – some people in advertising are actually gay. Seriously. And yet, we all seem reluctant or incapable of portraying same-sex lifestyles in our work.

There are gay creatives, planners, producers, directors, clients and actors. And yet in adland, it seems gays don’t need mortgages, don’t drive cars, brush their teeth, play bingo or use low-fat spreads as part of a calorie-controlled diet.

There’s no question we should include ethnic minorities in our advertising. Who would even dream of digging their heels in to preserve an all-Aryan cast? We’ll feature empowered women. Strong-willed kids. And moonwalking Shetlands. But where’s even the token homosexual? They can’t all be at G.A.Y. screaming for a Kylie encore – or in hiding, surreptitiously unpicking the very fabric of our society.

Did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s child-catcher change tack and start prowling the streets playing Barbara Streisand from a float pulled by French bulldogs, loaded with rainbows and glitterballs?

Dropping the G-Bomb

Benetton have deliberately courted controversy over the years – some executions playing ‘agent provocateur’ with same-sex relationships as their political football. But why can’t gays feature in ads because they’re normal consumers who just happen not to be heterosexual?

Look, it wouldn’t take much to stand out a mile in the UK straight-acting ad-scene. Feature gays. Leading normal lives. Arguing over dog food, trying out sofas, comparing their car insurance, living out their later years with a private pension.

Ikea ran the first gay commercial ever aired on US television in 1994. It ran for a few weeks until there was a bomb threat at one of their stores and was subsequently pulled. Have we moved on since then?

It must seem alien for gays to see themselves represented in TV shows and films but have their very existence given the cold shoulder when the ad break arrives. The few examples I’ve seen just use homosexuality as the rug-pull, the reveal, the joke. “Oh I get it, she’s actually a lesbian.” Gag, packshot, endline. Cheap.

JC Penney vs One Million Moms

JC Penney in the US used Ellen deGeneres to front their campaign which led to a storm of protest spearheaded by a Christian group calling themselves One Million Moms. They wrote, “By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”

So far, so predictable. But two silver linings emerged:

1: One Million turned to be a tiny fraction of that figure.
2: The backlash spawned its own backlash. The #StandUpForEllen campaign gained 50,000 signatures almost overnight and helped prompt JC Penney to er… ‘come out’ and say Ellen was their perfect brand ambassador.

In that distant land called real life, gay marriage is here. The Prime Minister – a Tory – is pushing for more rights for gays. And who’s to say he’s wrong?

Guinness made an infamous commercial portraying a gay couple back in 1995. It was ready to run, word got out, people were up in arms, the world was clearly going to end and the client lost their nerve. And in so doing, they compounded the very problem they set out to address.

Is it time for another try?

Papas and Papas

One recent exception is a Mamas and Papas campaign for their Urbo buggies, featuring heterosexual mums and dads, single-parents and a genuine gay couple and their little boy, Blu.

The press release states, “How We Roll celebrates the diversity and individualism that forms the makeup of the modern family, for whom parenting has simply become a positive extension of their current lifestyle.”

There have been mixed reactions. On Netmums, some are highly supportive – “The world is changing and it’s about time all loving parents are catered for in adverts” – while others chime in with not wanting to have this sort of thing “shoved in my face.” Freud would have a field day.

Even the gay community was sceptical. Were they being used simply as a PR stunt? Were the ads really running? It seems there are pitfalls and suspicion whatever your intentions.

Creatives want to create. We want to invent brand new stuff, never before seen. And yet there’s this vast expanse of unexplored territory: overlooked at best, taboo at worst.

It’s a rich, emotive area, surely. Love against all odds. Unconventional is cool, right? Overcoming prejudice, defying conventions, being true to yourself. You could have this space all to yourself. Column inches galore and plaudits for being progressive and well… real.

It doesn’t have to be gratuitous. No need to shock. In a way, the most shocking thing is that one of the most enlightened industries in the land is lagging so far behind the real world.

 

Jonny Watson is Digital Creative Director at DLKW Lowe, working across accounts including Cif, Alton Towers, Persil and Morrisons. He is married with one wife and two children.

This column was originally posted on the DLKW Lowe Blog.

High Five: April

April 24, 2013 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Our monthly exhibition of the maddest skills in Adland.

Some brands are easier to advertise than others. But just because a product is mundane doesn’t mean its advertising has to be. This is just one of the lessons that our selection of the past month’s best commercials has taught us. Watch and learn. You might even enjoy yourself in the process.

Product: Le Trèfle
Title: Emma
Production Company: Henry de Czar
Director: Bart Timmer
Production Company Producer: Jean-Luc Bergeron
Ad Agency: Leo Burnett
Creative Director: Xavier Beauregard
Art Director: Jérôme Gonfond
Copywriter: Hadi Hassan-Helou
Agency Producer: Elisabeth Boitte

Le Trèfle, Emma
Directed by Bart Timmer, Henry de Czar

There’s something about this pushy dad that we instantly dislike. It’s probably the fact that we all know someone like this, looking down on us for using technology that’s been around for longer than five minutes. Bog roll doesn’t have a glorious history in advertising, but thanks to this clever piece of comic sadism, the French might now have a toilet paper ad that they remember, which is quite something, really.

Product: Vigorsol
Title: Captain Ice
Production Company: Stink
Director: Rafael Lopez Saubidet
Production Company Producer: Debbie Ninnis
Director of Photography: Ray Coates
Ad Agency: BBH
Creative Director: Marc Hatfield
Creatives: Felipe Guimaraes, Lambros Charalambous
Agency Producer: Natalie Parish
Editing Company: Stitch
Editor: Andy McGraw
Sound Company: 750MPH
Post Production House: MPC

Vigorsol, Captain Ice
Directed by Rafael Lopez Saubidet, Stink

This gum makes your breath fresh – it’s a message we’re quite familiar with, thank you. This commercial recognises that they don’t need to ram the idea down our throats and instead focuses on telling a short story that we’ll find entertaining. The idea could have fallen flat without good execution, but the over-the-top Hollywood action here is as familiar as the well-observed social awkwardness in the supermarket. It achieves that rare sweet spot between funny and well polished.

Product: Cuprinol
Title: Whimpering Garden
Production Company: TWC Films
Director: Suthon Petchsuwan
Production Company Producer: Hugh Bacher
Ad Agency: 18 Feet & Rising
Creative Director: Anna Carpen
Creatives: Anna Carpen, Stephen de Wolf
Agency Producers: Julia Methol, Emily Hodgson
Post Production House: Mum Films

Cuprinol, Whimpering Garden
Directed by Suthon Petchsuwan, TWC Films

Fence- and shed-care ads don’t usually stimulate much creativity, but this one takes a bit of a leftfield approach. Comparing your neglected shed to a needy infant isn’t the most obvious link to make, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. While most commercials in this category work just fine by listing facts, this one takes a leap of faith into a surrealist narrative. We think it pays off.

Product: Somersby
Title: The Somersby Store
Production Company: RSA
Director: Mat Kirkby
Production Company Producer: Garfield Kempton
Director of Photography: Magni Agustsson
Ad Agency: Fold7
Creative Director: Ryan Newey
Creatives: Rob Porteous, Dave Askwith
Agency Producer: Sam Balderstone
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Sound Company: 750MPH
Post Production House: Big Buoy

Somersby, The Somersby Store
Directed by Mat Kirkby, RSA


Conditions are perfect for this jokey ad. With the Church of Jobs at a zenith, its devotees are ripe for ridicule. Samsung gave it a good effort a few months back, but it was only a matter of time before an apple-based product seized this opportunity. It’s been seized with gusto, though, without a single pun wasted. They must have had a great laugh writing this script and the result is an ad as warm as the summer sun they hope will eventually arrive to sell the product.

Product: Samsung
Title: Charge
Production Company: Somesuch & Co.
Director: Romain Gavras
Production Company Producer: Nick Goldsmith
Director of Photography: Benoit Debie
Ad Agency: CHI & Partners
Creative Director: Jonathan Burley, Rick Brim
Art Director: Jay Phillips
Copywriter: Neil Clarke
Agency Producer: Caroline Angell
Editing Company: Hagon
Editor: Jono Griffith
Sound Company: 750MPH
Post Production House: MPC

Samsung, Charge
Directed by Romain Gavras, Somesuch & Co.

This is a big spectacular for a brand in the ascendant. While the Korean tech giant gobbles up markets, they must make sure their commercials don’t go unnoticed. This won’t. Anyone familiar with Romain Gavras’s music videos will recognise why he’s just right for this – like a lot of his work, it’s obnoxiously cinematic, combining speeding cars, galloping horses and stampeding crowds. He’d never done all three at once until now, but we’re so glad he did.

Weird Ad of the Month

April 17, 2013 / Humour

By The Beak Street Bugle

This Japanese ad is from another dimension.

Not many commercials justify hackneyed critical shorthand such as "like the Andrex puppy on acid," but it's hard to imagine how this one came into existence without the involvement of psychotropic chemicals.

It's so mind-bending it's even become an internet meme.

Signed: handheldcineclub

April 17, 2013 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

These northern lads know how to tell a story.

Directors’ biographies can be quite formulaic. Generally they mention a film school, followed by a list of accolades to justify their credibility, and then a few big clients/bands they’ve worked with.

This pair of brothers from the North of England, who just signed to Agile’s roster, didn’t go to film school and they haven’t won any awards (yet). That’s not important though, because they’ve built up a body of music videos that range from charming comedy to grim, moody material.

What ties all their work together is a knack for engaging narrative – stories that you find yourself getting pretty wrapped up in.

Watch some of their work here:

Unsigned: WeWereMonkeys

April 2, 2013 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Meet the duo behind an internet sensation.

Since it was uploaded just over a year ago, the video for Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men has been viewed over 50 million times. Not half bad for an obscure Icelandic indie-folk band.

That video was directed by Canadian duo WeWereMonkeys – Mihai Wilson and Marcella Moser – and while it's a hugely catchy song, some of the credit for those hits has to go to the stylish mythical narrative the pair created for the track. The rest of their reel is impressive too.

WeWereMonkeys use a massive range of techniques to create thier sumptuous videos, combining live action, 3D rendering, illustration and photography. Look out for more of their orthcoming sci-fi short film – OVO – it looks like it'll be a visual feast.

Watch some of their work here: