The Future of Advertising… In A Few Short Videos

February 25, 2016 / Features

By APA

The speakers from Monday's event summarise what they had to say about the future of advertising.

On Monday 22nd of February, BAFTA was bristling with some of the sharpest minds in the sphere of advertising for the APA's annual conference, The Future of Advertising... In One Afternoon.

The idea of the event was to concentrate all the best industry thinking from the year into just a few manageable hours, but if you couldn't manage that, here's an even shorter version - just a quick video of each speaker describing what they discussed.

 

Ian Leslie
Writer

 

Dan Wilks
Deputy Director, Credos

 

Dan Phillips
Head of Digital and Interactive, MPC

 

Tom Rainsford & Abi Pearl
giffgaff

 

Evan Boehm
Creative Director, Nexus Interactive Arts

 

Felix Morgan
Innovation Lead, Brave

 

Steve Davies
Chief Executive, APA

High Five: February

February 11, 2016 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

The best advertising this month featured some brilliant casting.

Talent in front of the camera is arguably just as important as the people behind it, and this month the best ads demonstrate that perfectly. Casting the best performers for the script has made each of these commercials shine just as much as the strategic insights behind them, their sharp writing, or the directors’ talents bringing the scripts to life.

Brand: Amazon
Title: Yoga
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Andy McLeod
Production Company Producer: Stu Bentham
Director of Photography: Stuart Graham
Ad Agency: Lucky Generals
Editor: Mark Endinoff
Sound Company: Wave
Sound Designer: Parv Thind
Post Production Companies: Big Buoy, MPC

Amazon - Yoga

No fancy interactive campaign or grand emotional story arc here. This is a 30-second TV commercial built on a simple product offering – you can shop whenever and wherever you’re reminded of that thing you need. It’s a single joke, but executed clearly through good casting, endearing performances and the sharp direction of Andy McLeod. What more do you need?

 

Brand: BBC
Title: Educate
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Max Weiland
Ad Agency: Sunshine
Creative Directors: Robin Temple, Tom Woodlington
Creatives: Nathalie Gordon, Selma Ahmed, Wren Graham
Agency Producer: Julia Methold
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Fouad Gaber
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound Designer: Munzie Thind
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts

BBC – Educate

Getting the tone right for a young audience like BBC Three’s is tough, but using the comedy talent the now totally online channel already has was clearly a good decision here. People Just Do Nothing’s Chabuddy G brings comedy to the simplest of lines or gestures. And with appearances from the likes Romesh Ranganathan and Stacey Dooley, director Max Weiland has proven that he has the chops to work with some of the country’s funniest performers.

Brand: Halls
Title: Tough Love / Soft Love
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Jeff Low
Production Company Producer: Maury Strong
Director of Photography: Marc Laliberté Else
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Carlos Alija, Laura Sampedro
Creatives: Christen Brestrup, Bertie Scrase
Agency Producer: James Laughton
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Saam Hodivala
Sound Designer: Will Cohen @ String and Tins
Music Composer: Andy Stewart @ String and Tins
Post Production Company: MPC

Halls – Tough Love / Soft Love

This double-sided campaign relies heavily on the acting talents of John C McGinley, delivering some quite amusing monologues about the two ways to approach your cough. They’re well written and for any Scrubs fans, very evocative of McGinley’s famous Dr Cox diatribes, particularly on the Tough Love side. We’ve seen the Wieden + Kennedy and Jeff Low combo work well on this kind of tone before, so it’s no surprise that they’ve turned out another genuinely funny campaign this time.

 

Brand: Lynx
Title: Find Your Magic
Production Company: Division
Director: François Rousselet
Production Company Producer: Aurelie Bruneau
Director of Photography: Nicolas Loir
Ad Agency: 72andSunny Amsterdam
Creative Directors: Carlo Cavallone, Laura Visco, Emiliano Trierveiler
Agency Producer: Sanne van Hattum
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Amanda James
Music Company: Big Sync
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designers: Sam Ashwell, Mark Hellaby
Post Production Company: Framestore

Lynx – Find Your Magic

It’s been interesting to watch the Lynx brand grow up over the past decade or so, trying to balance its obvious focus on a teenage male audience with the more nuanced approach to masculinity and male sexuality that society now takes. Building on the unconventional heroes they’ve recently plumped for, this script is perhaps the ultimate realisation of their brand message that any man can be attractive if he’s comfortable in the kind of man that he is. It’s a poetic film, full of intriguing characters and youthful energy, an encouraging pat on the back for all the awkward teenage boys out there.

 

Brand: TravelSupermarket
Title: Towel Drop
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Production Company Producer: Kwok Yau
Director of Photography: Jallo Faber
Ad Agency: The Corner London
Creative Director: Tom Ewart
Creatives: Joe Stamp, Tom Prendergast
Agency Producer: Sam Holms
Editing Company: Cut + Run
Editor: Ben Campbell
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Robson
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

TravelSupermarket – Towel Drop

It’s got to be said the stereotype of Germans getting up early to reserve the sun loungers on holiday is a tired, lazy one. But why be snobs about it? It’s an idea that everyone can recognise and it’s funny. Turning that central European passion for organisation into a positive is a smart move for this travel price comparison site and with incredible casting, styling and a deft directorial touch from Andreas Nilsson, they’ve created a character that could run for years if they want him to.

Signed: Jono Hunter

February 10, 2016 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Mind’sEye sign a Canadian ad director raised on Super 8 and punk rock.

Growing up in on the postcard-worthy coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Jono Hunter was instilled with a sense of beauty from a young age. His youth was documented with 35mm stills and Super 8 shorts, devoting the remainder of his passions to playing in punk bands.

After an inevitable stint in film school, he served as a production assistant on assorted jobs while continuing to make music with bands he and his friends put together. One production manager was particularly supportive, scheduling him on PA gigs in and around his band touring exploits. Meanwhile he took maximum advantage of the gear his production contacts had access to, shooting speculative ads and weird short films on the weekend.

His work has paid off so far, leading to a raft of awards and festival selections for his various short films, as well as an impressive reel of award winning commercial work, including a Young Director Award and a Bronze Lion at Cannes, a Webby and a Bessie.

Now he’s represented in the UK by Mind’sEye, so look out for his name on pitches, credit lists and awards announcements soon.

Watch some of his work here:

Unsigned: Fernando Lazzari

February 10, 2016 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Trained in graphic design but obsessed with moving image, this director is worth watching.

Fernando Lazzari grew up in Buenos Aires watching tons of films from around the world. He didn’t set out to become a filmmaker but later on had the opportunity to use live action in some of the pieces he was creating, so jumped on it out of curiosity.

While studying graphic design, he started doing 3D animation and motion graphics, first working on TV idents and commercials. With a formal education in graphic design, he started with a strong foundation. He never took courses on animation or CGI, but learned by sitting down, watching tutorials and working hard on his craft.

He spent some time working at MTV Networks shooting a lot of live action in an environment that favoured experimentation, before he took several courses at film school as well.

Finishing the short piece Montserrat was quite big for Fernando’s career. It took him a while to fully develop a concept that married the live action, the type and the poetry, and articulate them on a two minute piece. But it was worth it. It ended up generating a lot of interest and was exhibited in many galleries and festivals. It was also the first project he did mixing 3D with live action, and since then he’s been exploring that path until recently finishing his music video for Reid Willis, The Slow Knife.

He plans to keep developing his style with a good balance between commercial and artistic projects. The constant advances in film, animation and VFX technology generate great tools to keep exploring new forms of narrative, whether for commercials, music videos, films or other exciting new formats. He’s interested in all of them.

Watch some of his work here:

The First and Final Questions

February 9, 2016 / Features

By James Mitchell

Have you ever had the dull ache that advertising is a bit wrong?

As a Planner, it’s hard to describe what you do to anyone who doesn’t know advertising - it either sounds like a difficult job, or a ridiculous one. The discussion came up again when I went home for Christmas. This year, my favourite description is, ‘planners ask lots of questions about a problem, until you understand it enough to solve it.’

It’s natural to get caught up in the questions, just as it’s natural for a copywriter to sweat the placement of a comma, or a grader to search for that mythical warm blue. But Christmas was strange - a proper ten days away from work, experiencing advertising not as a producer but as a consumer, you’re forced to look again at the process you’re part of. All year people like me are caught up in how to target sharper, use data better, play on an audience’s needs with a more niggling touch. All these questions to be asked. Once in a while, we get a rare glimpse of the only question that really matters: but should we?

Advertise, I mean. Discover and nurture desires, stalk people with our messages. Have you ever had the dull ache that says you might be being a bit wrong? I have. And as a planner, it’s tempting to kill two birds with one stone, and fold the responsibility question into the effectiveness question: if you could prove that people’s level of trust and ‘likingness’ of a brand were linked to a brand’s success, then you’d have sound fiscal reasons to fight the good fight with a brand, and as a brand, you’d be able to be a saint with the blessing of your CFO. Sadly, modern marketing theory doesn’t back it up - while studies like The Long And Short Of It (2012) emphasise the power of emotional advertising, the extensive work of Byron Sharp in How Brands Grow (2010) claims that’s only powerful in the way it creates memories - not because it causes affection. And scandals? Brands like VW are being briefly punished for their misdeeds but ultimately let off the hook by a public who, to be fair to them, have much better things to be angry about.

Which is all problematic, because it leaves us with the question: why NOT be bad, then? Why not advertise however we want, for whomever we can find to pay us? The only answer I can give is: go home for Christmas and try to talk about what you do - all of advertising, not just the cog that is your part - with a straight face, with your head up. If you find that you can’t, then it’s time to reaffirm your beliefs around the industry. What it is, what it should be.

The morality question is so good at not being thought of. But my brother’s halfway through an advertising course; it looks like he’ll become a strategist. And there was a five-month overlap where I simultaneously wrote posters for the Gatwick Airport expansion campaign, and lyrics for the Green Party Election broadcast. You gotta wonder sometimes - where do you draw the line?

I went to the ASA codes of conduct, and the DMA guidelines, but they felt too much like a checklist. It was possible to imagine an advert that ticked every regulatory box that was still patronising, insipid and regressive - and boring. These codes are important, but they’re focused on individual pieces of the puzzle. They’re not ideals we can take on personally, then share in common. Just like any good brand idea, we need something with less detail but more substance, something open-ended enough to be accessible for everyone who earns advertising money. Something you could swear by on day one, and judge your actions against on day one thousand. We need our very own sacred vows.

What would you put into them? The Hippocratic Oath, that famous code of best practice that medical professionals worldwide swear by, is brilliant because it covers not just what not to do, but why that matters (with great power comes great responsibility). Crucially, like any good advert, it mentions what’s in it for the user - the warm glow of doing right, the sense of comradeship that comes with holding values in common. So we’ll nick that, for a start.

But to me, the two big topics you’d want to address with your vows are how to advertise, and who to advertise for. We have a nice shorthand for the how - legal, decent, honest and truthful. But these need to be sharpened by an understanding of who our message will reach, and what something like decency means to that person. “Beach Body Ready?” is an unfair challenge to put in front of an unsuspecting public - it’s not right to prey on a weakness people don’t know they have:

...but you can see how it wouldn’t look out of place inside a Gymbox. Though knowing Gymbox, they’d pull such a message off with more wit and less brutality. It comes down to remembering your audience is made up of people, and asking yourself whether you’d be comfortable selling to a person you knew from that audience. Because, make no mistake - they’ll see what you make.

Who to advertise for? That’s a little trickier, and comes down to which businesses you think should be in business. What I do know is that we’re often too guilty of divorcing ourselves from the process with the thought, ‘just doing my job’. Directors can create a cosy dissonance by imagining that they’re not really selling a product, they’re just making a short film that happens to revolve around lip gloss for the under-5s. Same with planning: you can focus on the intellectual problem, and the consequences of solving it slip away. So we need a greater ownership of the entire process we sit in, we need to know what we do. In a perfect world, we’ll take that ownership further: when products aren’t good enough, we’ll stand together as an industry and tell our clients to make them better, in a better way.

So: would you sell like that to a person you knew? And would you be as comfortable making that product as you are advertising it? Like any morality, both these questions are personal. But I think we need a code that people can take personally, whoever they are. You might also complain that these aren’t answers, these are just more questions.

Well, just doing my job.

 

James Mitchell is a Senior Planner at mcgarrybowen, and short fiction author. Find him at @jamescmitchell.

Under the Influence: Max Weiland

February 8, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

It takes a combination of the funny, the creepy and the magical to inspire this director.

Creative people don’t hammer out their own unique style by sitting alone in silence. To become a successful in any creative role you need to immerse yourself in the amniotic gloop of culture until you’re fully nourished. That’s why in this series we ask people in advertising to tell us about five things that impact their work in some way, to examine the parts that make up their imaginations.

Max Weiland is still at the start of his directing career, but he’s already done some impressive filmmaking. Represented by Somesuch – a company he used to work for as a writer / researcher – he recently finished two funny ads for the BBC that have been warmly received by both the advertising community and the public. Take a look at what inspires him and you’ll be eager to see what he does next.

Hamlet Cigar Ads

“My dad’s a director as well [Paul Weiland] and he made a few Hamlet cigar ads and some other big ads in the 90s like Cinzano and all that – comedy. Those ads, for me, are the purest. The kind of comedy that I think commercials should go back to.

There was one joke and it was so nicely told in one or two shots. It was never trying to ram information down your throat. It was just a beautifully crafted end line -‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’, with such a great idea at its core it allowed them to be completely silly with everything.
The one in the photo booth is a classic. I think people remember these ads from those top 100 ads of all time lists, but I remember them because I was with my dad. When I was young I’d be on set with him a lot. He did all the Heineken ones as well – “the water in Majorca” – so that was a massive influence on me, growing up in that comedy world. He’s always driving home to me how can you tell it in the simplest way? What’s the core idea?

Nowadays you get a script and there’s so much stuff they’re trying to shoehorn into 30 or 60 seconds. People whack on an end line at the end. I was a creative as well for two years so did a lot of writing ads myself. I worked for a guy called Matt Keon at 18 Feet and Rising and he was always driving home ‘get a good end line and then work backwards’ or just find the simple idea and then go as silly as you want as long as you can bring it back.

The only people that do that sort of comedy nowadays – people like Tom Kuntz. I can see that simplicity of idea in his work. But also people like Tim Godsall, who never overcomplicates it. It’s just ‘what is the funny thing here? Now let’s turn that up to 1,000.’”

Otto Dix

“He was a German war painter and he used to paint these kind of caricature, satirist, mad paintings. His portraits are some of my favourites. He did a lot of disfigured war veterans and prostitutes. The colours are amazing and I try in my work to push colour a lot. I like getting that vibrancy and playing with this cartoonish feel. I think directors like Jean-Pierre Jeunet have that slightly grotesque, surreal character looming out of the frame too. His work is all like that. You want to know more about that character as soon as you see it. For me that’s what good casting is. If you get casting right, yes, they might look great but also you want that intensity and depth beneath that.

One of the fist things I shot was a little short for my sister who runs a fashion line called Shrimps. She’s definitely inspired by Otto Dix a lot in her colours. We tried to bring his work into the way we shot people, close-ups on wide angle lenses, their faces distorted in that cartoonish, Ren and Stimpy, creepy way.

He did this one painting called The Skat Players, that is a group of war veterans playing cards in a bar. They’ve got tubes going up into where they’ve been injured and they’re all disfigured. I made a video for The Vaccines where I tried to borrow from that language, strange nightmarish faces in this surreal casino.“

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

“It’s a novel about a Jewish boy growing up in America. I basically see it as all of our Jewish neuroses. It almost reads like stand-up comedy from someone like Larry David. I’m rewatching Curb Your Enthusiasm at the moment from season one to eight. You see so much of Philip Roth [in that].

Another one of my favourite films is The Coen Brothers’ Serious Man. The little boy in that film – you can feel Philip Roth worming his way in. He captures that growing up as a Jewish boy in America – all the rules. There’s this amazing chapter about when he first discovers wanking. The whole chapter is just about where he used to wank and what he would wank into. I’ve read a few of his other books, but Portnoy’s Complaint is just comedy. I’ve never laughed that much while reading a book, especially that one chapter.

There’s one scene where his mum goes to the butcher and she then leaves. He goes to the fridge and sees the liver and ends up wanking using the liver. And then the next scene is him watching his family eat the liver that night for dinner. It’s twisted but it felt so fresh reading it, even though it was written in 1969.

My dad’s Jewish, and my first short film was very heavily inspired by Portnoy’s Complaint. It’s about a young boy who’s mum never cut his umbilical cord, so he is still attached, a metaphor for the overbearing Jewish mother. A Jewish coming of age story and Philip Roth is the master of that.

I find it such an interesting community, the Jewish community. My nana is 92 and she lives in the same house she’s lived in since my dad was born. It’s in Southgate and it’s exactly the same. She’s got all these little Murano clowns and she goes and plays bridge with her local Jewish bridge club. And my short film completely ripped off everything in her house.”

Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers

“Do you remember those mini-DV players? My dad used to transfer VHS onto those things so we could watch stuff in the car. We basically only had Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, so every car journey we’d watch that.

David O’Russell recently said every time he shoots an action scene he watches it because that train scene is the perfect action sequence. For the rhythm and everything.

I love it because of the craft. One, because it’s Claymation so it’s another level of craft but also the fact that every shot is so considered in terms of telling the story. You can get lost nowadays and hide behind a lot of handheld and mop it all up. But the great storytellers are able to know which shot leads to which shot. I recently saw the storyboards. It’s amazing how pieced out it was and everything was completely crafted. It’s got everything – comedy, emotion, action. And it makes you laugh. The dialogue is so stripped back.

You can also see all the influences from films he’s watched, where he’s pastiching them slightly but the Claymation world it brings its own life to it. I love where you can see people’s influences where they’re giving a little nod to their predecessors. I love giving it layers, trying to create more subtext. For instance I just did a Sport Relief commercial and the fat guy pings his swimming trunks. I work with Kim [Gehrig] a lot and Kim did it in hers [Sport England, This Girl Can] and she called me afterwards like ‘you cheeky little shit.’ That’s what I love about Somesuch. Because I worked there before becoming a director I have relationships with all the bigger directors, so every time I get anything I send it to Daniel [Wolfe] or someone. I call up and they give me feedback and references. It’s a bit of a family. I definitely get my inspiration from there. And Tim and Sally are great. Everyone’s so helpful. You can go to production companies where the other directors there are your rivals, but Somesuch is very collaborative.”

This Kid’s Reaction to Maurice Sendak’s Drawing

“It’s from an interview with Maurice Sendak who wrote Where The Wild Things Are. It’s a slightly different one to the all the others because it inspires me as a thought.

He was being interviewed by this woman called Terry Gross and she asked him ‘Can you share some of your favourite comments from your readers that you’ve gotten over the years?’ And he said:

‘Oh, there’s so many. Can I give you just one that I really like? It was from a little boy. He sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters–sometimes very hastily–but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.”

That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.’

For me this made me think one day I hope I can make something that will provoke that sort of visceral reaction from someone. The way we live we consume entertainment so I think that’s quite a nice symbol. If you can get someone to want to eat your work – not in a literal way but watch it over and over again, that’s the dream. Great videos like Fatboy Slim, Weapon of Choice by Spike Jonze, you just want to watch it over and over again. It never gets boring.

MIA, Bad Girls, by Romain Gavras. I want to create work like that. A music video or a film or an ad that people want to watch and ‘eat’ over and over again. That is something that I always want to try and provoke.”