What Advertisers Should Know About Agency In-House Production Units

March 24, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Is this more ‘streamlined’ model for or against clients interests?

The rise of the in-house production unit at advertising agencies has been one of the more lively issues in the industry in the past few years, with passionate views on both sides. One session at Advertising Week Europe on Tuesday 21st March called What Advertisers Should Know About Agency In-House Production Units attempted to distil these arguments down for clients, and called on a relevant panel to discuss it.

Moderated by Dominic Mills, Columnist for Mediatel, the panel consisted of Steve Davies, CEO of the Advertising Producers Association, Sylvaine Mella, Bureau Member of the French Association des Producteurs de Films Publicitaires, Tina Fegent, Marketing Procurement Consultant and Chair of the CIPS Marketing Knowledge Group, Claire Randall, Creative Production Consultant and Philipp Schuster, Business Partner for Global Procurement Marketing Agencies at Bayer.

Dominic began by summarising the situation. “Some see these agency in-house units as just another way for agencies to make money,” he said. “Others that it is a free market and agencies can offer their services as viably as anyone else and, in some cases, perhaps offer services not only cheaper but maybe faster and perhaps even more user friendly. But on the other side we have those that believe agencies are acting dishonourably, seeking alternative bids from independents and then winning the work themselves. Judge and jury on their own bid, you might say.

“In the US this has taken a serious twist with a number of agencies under investigation by the Department of Justice for bid rigging. People could go to jail. They did 20 years ago in a previous Department of Justice investigation.“

With the stakes established, the panel were invited to describe the general pressures their respective parts of the industry are concerned by.

Steve and Sylvain stressed the increased quantity of content demanded by clients, paired with the same budgetary constraints and fast turnovers production has always wrestled with.

Tina explained clients’ demands for more streamlined and effective structures within agencies, while Claire noted one of the major motivators for agencies ramping up their production offerings – money. “We are seeing a move away from having an agency of record,” she said. “A lot of brands are working with a creative agency on a project-by-project basis, which is putting pressure on agency fees, which is why I think they’re looking for other ways to drive revenue.”

Philipp’s client perspective was that the decoupling and diverse business models that have hit the industry have increased choice for brands for how they buy advertising. “There are endless options,” he said. “To have choice is always good, but you have to pick the right option for you and that’s more and more difficult.”

The panel agreed that relationships are more opaque than they need to be and stressed that this needs to change. “It’s an oversupplied market,” said Tina. “Agencies haven’t been clear about what options are available. This lends itself to the role of procurement, making sure we understand the supply chain.”

But brands don’t question their supply chain often enough, suggested Claire, provided their agency is delivering quality, cost-effectiveness and on-time delivery.

Nobody is condemning the notion of in-house production outright. “It’s entirely up to a client how they spend their money and it’s up to an agency how they structure their business,” said Steve. “But the issue is whether they compete fairly. We don’t think they are when they bid themselves against independent companies. That is bad for clients because what appears to be an open competition in the open market isn’t.”

When asked whether he thought the bid rigging the US DOJ is investigating was happening in the UK, Steve said no, but that’s not required to make the system unfair. Agencies can withhold information from production companies or skip the negotiation phase and accept their first price. “There’s nothing illegal about that,” he said, “but you’re creating and environment where you are both player and referee There are so many ways in which agencies can favour themselves without doing anything as crass as entering into a criminal conspiracy with another organisation.”

He reiterated the APA’s public stance on the issue – that “an agency should be able to decide whether it’s going to do the work itself or whether it’s going to bid it out to the production community, but not both.”

This is unnecessary, as Claire saw it. She suggested that there are ways to fairly accept both in-house and external bids: “For example, different deadlines so that the agency has to make their bid prior to the external bids, or the bids go direct to the client, or to procurement, or to the production consultant, so that it’s an even playing field.”

Steve disagreed, arguing that if bids are judged by another party the value of judging a treatment and budget on its creative value to the idea is lost. That is a huge role of the creative agency that must not be bypassed.

Philipp expressed his concern for any possible unfairness. “That someone is judging their own bid doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We have to set up a process where this is not possible. Or bring in some independent body to make sure the referee is a referee, and not also a player. That’s critical.”

Some agencies feel insulted that their integrity is being questioned here. They claim they would never favour their own bid unfairly. Steve said he understood this. “But although I have faith in their personal integrity, I just don’t think that’s possible. Things have to not just be fair, but be seen to be fair. That’s why the chairman of the National Lottery can’t enter the lottery.”

Of course the pressure to move more production in-house is a revenue-driven one, not a creative decision. Steve noted that these demands usually come from agencies’ financial leadership, but while responding to business challenges by taking on new work is a good way to grow, clients should see the inevitable risk that an agency will decide who does a production based on its own interests, rather than their clients.

Ultimately the market will deliver the best value for the client, Steve argued. There are too many companies competing for this work and production companies have to fight on two fronts: with their treatments, in order to demonstrate the most compelling creative solutions their directors can envisage, as well as on price. “In any over-competitive market you can cannot put your prices up,” he said. “You have to put them bid as low as you can just to win the work. That’s what clients should take confidence from.”

Sylvaine added that production companies are uniquely positioned to support emerging directing talent. “That’s something that may be difficult,” she said. “You might not find it in an in-house production company at an advertising agency. It has been our role forever and I think we’ve done it pretty well. It’s really important to keep that love for the craft that we have as the producer. Most of the time we’re also able to invest in music videos that are not bringing in any money, but are bringing new talent that the advertising world is eager to use.”

That may be less of a hardheaded business argument, but we’re not talking about buying pig iron here – this is the creative industry. Tina noted that “the right procurement person” should take that into account.

It’s ironic that the session was hosted on the IPA Centenary Stage. The British agency and production associations haven’t been able to get on the same page on this issue since the APA called for the IPA to issue a best practice statement suggesting agencies should not bit themselves against the independent sector. Some agencies have vowed never to do this, but others insist there’s nothing wrong with it, and the IPA have so far refused to take a stand either way. APA member companies have decided not to bid against in-house production units, “so in a sense it doesn’t matter whether there is third-party approval,” said Steve.

But he does feel agencies should do their bit to reassure their clients of their integrity. “I would like to publicly ask WPP and Omnicom to say that their agencies won’t bid themselves or their own network in-house companies against independent companies,” he said.

The “spectre at the feast,” as Dominic put it, was the in-house production units that clients have now begun setting up. “There are new models popping up every other month,” said Philipp, the client voice here. “So there will always be a debate about it. We’re in a vibrant and lively exchange all the time. And we need to figure out the best way.”

What is Good Casting?

March 15, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

We ask a few of the industry’s best what it takes to find the right talent.

I’ve said “the casting is good” in many a High Five review. But what do I actually mean by that? I hadn’t really thought about it until recently.

Apparently I’m not alone here. Casting directors are used to being overlooked and misunderstood. There is still no Academy Award for casting, making it the only main title of credit without an Oscar category. And the BAFTAs are equally guilty of this oversight.

The inaugural Casting Directors Association Awards will announce its winners on Friday 17th March. The CDA Casting Awards 2017 are the first awards in Europe to celebrate this underappreciated art. With winners in each category judged by an independent panel of expert, industry judges, the awards hope to pave the way forward for appreciating this undervalued craft. The ceremony is taking place in Farringdon, London and will be hosted by comic actress and writer Sally Phillips, whose credits include Miranda, Smack the Pony, Radio 4’s Clare in the Community and the Bridget Jones films.

I decided to speak to some of the nominated casting directors to understand what makes good casting directors and why they should be celebrated.

Tree Petts is nominated for Best Casting of a UK Commercial (Worcester Bosch - The Long Day) and Best Casting of an International Commericial (Seat - Imaginary Friend). Also Chairperson of the CDA, she feels everyone can appreciate good casting because it’s so noticeable on film. “When you watch something as a lay person, you’re not looking at the background, the art department,” she says. “That infuses the feel. You’re looking at the casting. That’s what you immediately see – the actors.” No matter your technical knowledge of film, you can recognise good acting when you see it. And it’s casting directors who make sure the right actors get cast.

Shakyra Dowling, who is nominated in both the Short Film (The Nest) and Feature Film (Spaceship) categories, describes the magic of the moment when great casting happens. “The excitement is when magic happens in the casting suite,” she says. “You lock eyes with the director and you know that that this the right person. You know that you’ve found what you’ve been looking for.”

There’s a certain degree of intuition to casting that’s hard to explain, it seems. “A good casting director will read a script and have inspiration about who they’re going to talk about with the director,” says Shakyra. “It’s your job to ‘have a good eye.’ It’s talent spotting, I suppose – understanding who will work in a film.”

‘The eye’ is definitely a phrase casting directors like to use. “It’s basically seeing something in somebody that they may not even see themselves at the point and thinking ‘this person’s got something that we can work with,’” explains Tree. “Various people have ‘the eye’ in various walks of the entertainment industry. It’s about seeing something in somebody that can be developed.”

Casting directors pride themselves on finding talent that goes on to do great things. “Oh, God, I really love that,” says Tree. She remembers watching  a production of Othello many years ago. “There was a relative unknown on the stage who I felt blew Ewan McGregor off the stage. And his name was Tom Hiddleston. The person that cast him, I guess new out of drama school at that point, had seen something in him and that’s ‘the eye.’”

Shakyra demonstrated her ‘eye’ with the short she was nominated for, The Nest, for which she cast Amy Bowden. She saw something in her. “And it wasn’t just me,” she says, “because now she’s with one of the biggest agencies in the UK and is working constantly. That’s when you know.”

One of the other intuitive arts of a good casting director is providing the director with options he or she may not have considered. Like so many heads of department, their job is to provide the director with creative expertise. “A good casting director will put in a wildcard that doesn’t exactly fit the director’s brief, but actually from reading the treatment and script we think this person is really good,” says Tree. “And quite often they get the part. So even though the parameters are around what the director wants, you can open it up a bit.”

Diversity and representation are delicate issues among casting directors. They’re understandably wary of crowbarring diversity into a cast that feels unrealistic, but sometimes it can be an inspiration. Shakyra remembers reading a script with 36 male and only two female characters. “When I read it I said to the director ‘it’s not great on diversity. What do you think of changing this male character to a female?’ He found it so inspiring. He hadn’t even thought about it but loved the idea. So you have quite a lot of influence in making important decisions.”

The CDA will, in fact, be presenting a special Diversity Award, sponsored by Casting Networks, on Friday. Judging this special award will be a panel from UK Equity headed by their Equalities and Diversity Organiser, Hamida Ali.

But a casting director can only rely on his or her intuition so far. It has to be underpinned by knowledge. Amanda Tabak, who is nominated in the Best Street Casting Commercial (The Co-Op – Ask) and Short Film (Balcony) categories, remembers once having to cast a Chinese man in his 80s who plays drums. That’s quite a specific brief, but she managed to meet it by speaking to all the Chinese communities in London. Knowing where to look is key.

“When I started I was amassing knowledge,” says Amanda.  Now she has a huge reservoir of experience on where to find certain types of talent. “Someone will just intuitively spring to mind from the library of people in my brain that I’m sure is going to be right for it and, invariably, they are.”

Of course, there are go-to agencies with the best actors, but Tree insists that good casting is about unearthing those hidden gems. “I think it’s about keeping an open mind,” she says. “There are really good people that aren’t represented by the top agents. I think really good casting directors have to keep their eyes open. If I have to go through 2,000 suggestions to find 20 people to come into a casting, I will give myself that extra work just to open the field up.”

It’s also important to understand the director, too. No mean feat, as Shakyra knows. “They might say ‘a bit like Cillian Murphy but not. If you mixed him with Harrison Ford. That’s how I see this character.’ And I know exactly what they’re talking about,” she says. “We have to find that person.”

“I think it’s a combination of knowledge, gut feeling and organisation,” says Amanda. “You have to be super organised. If someone calls me up on Tuesday and wants to do a casting on Thursday, where I need to get 30 people to come in, and they’ve all got to bring something to the table.”

Casting directors are one of the many kinds of specialists a film director relies upon to make the best film possible. They aren’t technical specialists with an arcane piece of equipment that nobody else understands. Casting a subtle art, combining instinct, knowledge and a good helping of common sense. That’s probably why they’ve been somewhat overlooked by the filmmaking establishment. But this wrong will be righted and on Friday London will appreciate the greatest talents within the craft.

Unsigned: Tobias Ross-Southall

March 15, 2017 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

This director never stops experimenting and learning.

Tobias Ross-Southall was always messing around with a mini DV camera in school. He enjoyed experimenting with recording techniques. One day while cycling down a busy street at night, one handed whilst filming, he had the epiphany that this was what he wanted to do with his life.

A lot of his mates were in bands and he had access to a camera, so began shooting stuff for their music videos. His first music video was shot and edited in one night in order to get it live for the next day as the band at the time were due to go on a BBC show. It got over a million views on YouTube – not a bad start.

Since then he’s kept shooting, experimenting and learning. He’s created films for Coca-Cola, New Balance, Nike, Universal, Paddy Power, Vivienne Westwood and The Orient-Express, among others. He was nominated in the Best New Director category at the UK Music Video Awards and in 2010 co-directed Perfecting Fee, which won the Smoke & Mirrors 48 Hour Film Competition.

One particularly ambitious project was Eleanor, starring Ruth Wilson – a three-screen immersive installation, which exists both as an exhibition piece and a conventional short film.

He’s interested in pursuing more art installation-style work in the future and is also in the process of developing a live-action / animation feature film.

Watch some of his work here:

High Five: March

March 10, 2017 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Good advertising doing good.

Sometimes people who make advertising get the chance to use their talents for more than just selling more soap powder. Our pick of this month’s best advertising is a pretty clear demonstration of the social change advertising can exert. It’s all strong communication. Hopefully people listen.

Brand: Be Gamble Aware
Title: Online
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Tom Tagholm
Production Company Producers: Nick Goldsmith, Sophie Hubble
Director of Photography: Mauro Chiarello
Ad Agency: 18 Feet & Rising
Creative Director: Will Thacker
Creative: Louis Jopling
Agency Producer: Russell Taylor
Editing Company: Stitch
Editor: Leo King
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore
VFX Company: MPC

Be Gamble Aware - Online

It feels like awareness of gambling addiction is a few steps behind other similar conditions, but with communication like this that gap could very well soon be closing. The writing is phenomenally effective at demonstrating the rationalisation of an addict’s brain. It seems well researched, at least to somebody with no direct experience of addiction, as if the creatives spoke extensively to addicts and councillors to understand the nuances of the condition. And that performance. It would be hard to ignore this even while you’re trying to make a cup of tea in the other room.

 

Brand: Honda
Title: Up
Production Company: Colonel Blimp
Director: Pedro Martin-Calero
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese
Director of Photography: Éric Gautier
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Director: Scott Dungate 
Creatives: Joris Philippart, Jason Scott
Agency Producers: Michelle Brough, Samara Zagnoiev
Editing Company: Speade
Editor: Sacha Szwarc
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designers: Anthony Moore, Jack Hallett, Neil Johnson
Music Company: Siren
VFX Company: MPC
Creative Director, MPC: Bill McNamara
Grade: MPC
Colourist: George K

Honda – Up

We’re suckers for minimalist advertising here at Bugle Towers. And this ad definitely falls into that category. With almost no music and a relaxed voiceover of only 17 words, the epic visuals are given room to shine. Of course, much of the stunning scenery comes courtesy of the CG sorcerers at MPC rather than Mother Nature herself, but it’s still an arresting picture, masterfully envisioned by director Pedro Martin-Calero at Colonel Blimp.

 

Brand: Nike
Title: Equality
Production Company: Prettybird
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Production Company Producer: Jonathan Wang
Director of Photography: Malik Sayeed
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Chris Groom, Antony Goldstein
Creatives: Kervins Chauvet, Nate Nowinowski
Agency Producer: Julie Gursha
Editing Company: Joint Editorial
Editor: Peter Wiedensmith
Music Company: Walker
Sound Company: Barking Owl
Sound Designer: Morgan Johnson
VFX Company: The Mission

Nike – Equality

We like to think Nike went to Melina Matsoukas and asked her, “could you do us a Formation?” In many ways that’s what they’ve got here. Granted, no sportswear ad could ever measure up to one of the definitive cultural events of a generation, but the imagery she’s presenting here in monochrome is bold and poignant. It makes a fair point - the struggle for equality in sports is far more advanced than in other spheres of American society. Nike are justified in demanding that’s extended. After all, people don’t just wear their clothes on basketball courts or football fields. In Trump’s angry White America they stand to lose custom with this strategy. They should be respected for positioning themselves on the right side of history, even if it is only posturing.

 

Brand: Sport England
Title: This Girl Can – Phenomenal Women
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Kim Gehrig
Production Company Producer: Lee Groombridge
Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan
Ad Agency: FCB Inferno
Creatives: Martin McAllister, Ben Edwards, Alex Gill, Sarah Lefkowith
Agency Producer: Hanna Davis
Editing Company: Trim Editing
Editor: Tom Lindsay
Music Company: Soundtree
Sound Company: Soundtree
VFX Company: Framestore

Sport England – Phenomenal Women

Sport England were never going to fully match the punching-the-air perfection of their original This Girl Can film, but this is an admirable follow-up. With Kim Gehrig once again helming, the tone is similar to 2015’s breakthrough debut, with a broad range of real women kicking ass and sweating. This time they’ve managed to get late legendary poet Maya Angelou’s voice to narrate the spot. Quite the coup, considering she’s every intersectional feminist’s go-to inspirational quote source.

 

Brand: Time to Change
Title: Be in Your Mate’s Corner
Production Company: Agile Films
Director: Ben Whitehouse
Production Company Producer: Nick Fewtrell
Director of Photography: Daniel Bronks
Ad Agency: Ogilvy & Mather London
Creative Director: Mick Mahoney
Creatives: Liam Butler, Mark Harrison
Agency Producer: Louise Mumford
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Anne Perri
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Jack Hallett
VFX Company: Absolute Post

Time to Change – Be In Your Mate’s Corner

Redefining masculinity is vital to combating mental health and this film is a step in the right direction. It makes an important statistic clear and memorable and challenges the taboo men face when owning up to feeling anything less than fine. Hopefully it will change enough people’s opinions to save lives.

More Empty Platitudes About Branded Content

March 6, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Why are we still having conferences about this vague subject?

What’s left to say about branded content? On Thursday 2nd March the Branded Content Marketing Association hosted One Extraordinary Day in Branded Content – a conference that promised “a unique opportunity to hear from and connect with the leaders of the Branded Content business.” And it left me thinking we’ve genuinely heard it all now.

Nestled into a modest, grey room on the periphery of the ExCel centre while BVE, the giant media conference, raged on in the main exhibition space, the BCMA’s event did deliver on part of its promise. The line-up was promising, including two knights – Sir John Hegarty, British advertising’s most prolific rent-a-quote luminary, and Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman of ITV – as well as senior professionals from respectable creative agencies, media agencies, research companies and even a few clients.

The BCMA’s CEO Andrew Canter introduced the day’s proceedings, encouraging us to use the event’s hashtag #lovebrandedcontent. Not a sentiment many people want to be associating themselves with, as one attendee identified early on.

First up, a “breakfast table chat” with Sir Peter Bazelgette, interviewed by Gary Knight, Commercial Content Director of ITV. ‘Baz’ was a laugh, inexplicably blessing us with a rendition of late 1950s advertising jingles at one point. Ultimately, the conversation was irrelevant though. Two commercial TV grandees spouting clichés about how important the creative industries are, how great the media landscape is with all these hip young things like Netflix and Amazon Prime entering the game (they stressed that TV’s not dead though!) and how good old-fashioned TVCs are branded content too. Most of it was hard to argue with, but no great revelations.

Next up was Neil Boorman, Content Director at Mother London, who chose to focus on branded content’s problems. Fair enough. It’s got a few.

He reminded us that everyone is making content these days. YouTubers, for example. He went on to extol the virtues of arch-gamer and YouTuber Pewdiepie, who was recently disgraced for including the message “death to all Jews” in one of his videos. Paired with his passion for Reddit and his Richard Spencer haircut, he should be careful people don’t mistake him for one of the ‘alt-right’. That might be a bit too edgy for his East London agency.

So everyone makes good content these days, he argued, except brands. As we’ve heard at a good few conferences, people don’t want to talk about brands or use their hashtags, they definitely don’t want to delve into the rich heritage of a brand on an expensive website.

One of Neil’s points resonated with the whole day. Red Bull and their Stratos stunt are still wheeled out as the best example of good branded content. It happened in 2012.

Neil did try to end on a positive though, which boiled down to: there are gaps for people to make great content; why shouldn’t brands provide it?

Sir John Hegarty, BBH Founder and Chairman of Electric Glue, leapt to the stage next to talk creativity. Everyone in this industry has heard him make speeches like this before. The amazing thing is that he always finds a new combination of words to do it. You know the drill. He told some anecdotes , settling on six semi-random abstract nouns as the “pillars of creativity”:
Strategy
Truth
Difference
Culture
Irreverence
Juxtaposition.

An all-encompassing formula to creativity. Nailed it.

The day’s first panel session was moderated by Andy Gulliman, Ex-Worldwide Film and Content Director for Saatchi & Saatchi and now Founder of Gulliman Films. He was joined by James Hayr, Head of Commercial Partnerships for the Endemol Shine Group, Andy Holland, Head of Production & Talent at Drum and Alastair Humphreys, adventurer and author. Their discussion was broad. They had a good ruck about whether Fosters bringing Alan Partridge back for the web series Mid Morning Matters was a good piece of branded content, agreed that different kinds of agencies need to cooperate rather than chase the same parts of a client’s marketing budget, and asserted that branded content works best for long-term brand building.

Barbara Matijasic’s presentation was baffling. She’s Marketing Manager at Edition Digital and spoke about the power of a “content hub” and why you should make sure you put all your content on as many social media platforms as possible. It felt a little patronising. I think she was trying to sell us something, but I could be wrong.

The afternoon promised to be L’Oreal section - “here comes the science bit!” It kicked off with Jane Christian, Head of Business Science at MediaCom and Tom Curtis, Managing Partner and Head of MediaCom Beyond Advertising to address ROI. As we’ve heard ad nauseum, nobody knows which half of their marketing budget is working. Jane and Tom admitted they had no “holy grail” and they didn’t. They spoke about the educated guesses MediaCom make to work out how much money their branded content makes for their clients. Surprise, surprise! Profits are more important to clients than “impressions”.

The media owners were up next. In a panel chaired by Clare O’Brien, Head of Industry Programmes at IAB UK, consisting of Tim Bleakley, CEO at Ocean Outdoor, Karen Stacey, CEO at Digital Cinema Media, Abby Carvosso, Group MD, Advertising at Bauer Media, Adam Harris, Director of Custom Solutions, Europe at Twitch and Tim Mines (AKA Spamfish), a gamer with over 130,000 dedicated followers on the live streaming platform. The debate mostly consisted of each panellist flying the flag for their medium of choice as the number-one branded content platform, punctuated by more clichés: content needs to be great and authentic and relevant to its audience.

One worrying side note: Adam remarked that out of a room of apparently serious marketing professionals, he had spent the day repeatedly explaining what Twitch was. The live streaming platform was bought by Amazon in 2014 for almost $1 billion. Its audience is undeniably on the young side, but you’d think that business story alone would be enough to earn it some recognition.

Eleanor Thornton-Firkin, Head of Content and Creative Development at Ipsos Connect provided the outsider’s perspective, backed up by research, which turned out to reinforce what everyone else has been saying for years: most branded content is crap, there’s too much of it, it tends to be an afterthought for CMOs and it’s difficult to know what works. She did have some insightful case studies to hand though – For example, Lexus’ hoverboard stunt changed 51% of people’s brand expectations and 71% were into it. Why? It was “super cool” and not too heavily branded.

Finally, the clients took to the stage with Tom Curtis courageously reprising as moderator. Leah Davis, Head of Marketing for Team GB and the British Olympic Association and Scott Wilkinson, Head of VOOM, Brand, Acquisitions and Digital at Virgin Media Business, were here to predict the future of branded content in a 20-minute “fireside chat”. Expectations set, they got stuck in, ready, as Tom put it, to “think, drink and breathe branded content.” After a spirited back-and-forth they landed on some conclusions: everything marketeers do is branded content, don’t fall into “the crap trap”, it must be as good as non-branded content, platforms and mediums will change, but the creative idea must come first.

I suppose part of me knew that was the kind of insight a conference like this would deliver. I think everyone knows, broadly, how brands should be approaching content. And when you’ve been to a couple of events like this you’ve heard it all. There really is no silver bullet, but I’m sure marketing professionals will continue to pay £499 (not including VAT) to reassure themselves that’s still the case. Even if it means inevitably hearing the same old guff for the umpteenth time.

Under the Influence: Chris Goulder

February 14, 2017 /

By Alex Reeves

This ex-pro-snowboarder lays his directing inspirations Bare.

One of six kids in a rowdy Catholic family, Chris Goulder’s influences were different from day one. While most of his friends were watching Star Wars he was watching things like Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon and directing his siblings in plays he’d written.

After the hugely successful branded content spot Deliveries Before Dawn Chris Goulder and the Bare Films team travelled across the country making 24 films over 8 weeks with Fallon. These films made up the 2016 Christmas campaign for Cadbury’s #Cadvent - an online advent calendar with the concept involving bringing children’s Christmas wishes to life, with one film being released each day in the run up to Christmas.

At the end of last year Chris was named best new director at the British Arrows Craft Awards. With that in mind, we asked the Bare Films director to talk us through five of his biggest influences.

The Robot Food Trilogy

I always knew I wanted to work in the creative industries, but at 13 I discovered snowboarding and became completely obsessed with it. At the end of my first year at Central St. Martins - when I felt like I was running out of time to do the snowboarding thing - I deferred and went to live in France for four years to snowboard.

The Robot Food films came out during my first season in France. It’s a trilogy by a group of snowboarders, headed up by a guy called David Benedek. They revolutionised what snowboarding films could be. They just stopped taking themselves so seriously and showed that snowboarding was about having fun with your friends. Before that snowboarding films had just been about showing the ‘gnarliest’ clips of people snowboarding to a backdrop of thrash metal. There wasn’t much stylisation or tone of voice, they all followed a pretty similar formula. Robot Food’s irreverence to a pretty generic formula felt so new at the time and it really struck a chord with me.

By the third film in the trilogy they had a playful, ironic take on the whole scene. And they managed to capture what it was really to live that snowboarding life, rather than just showing the best tricks of the season.

At the same time we started making our own British snowboard films. I was involved in this film called Hungerpain. I had a video camera at the time so we’d go out and film ourselves building jumps and riding kickers.

With snowboarding there are so many down days that you don’t see. When the lifts were shut I would be back in my tiny little apartment with time to mess around with footage. I was also stating to experiment with stop-frame animation and making lots of little shorts, usually about some inanimate object coming to life and taking over the world.

 

Jan Svankmajer

After I’d done everything I could with snowboarding, and taken as much time as possible from St Martins, I went back to finish my degree. By this point I’d formed in my mind the idea that there was an opportunity for me to be in this industry that I loved – filmmaking. I hadn’t worked out exactly what it was, but I already had advertising in my sights having done work experience at AMV and having studied design.

I went back to CSM and was introduced to a load of filmmakers. Two that stand out are Jacques Tati, in particular Playtime and his surreal physical comedy, which also tied in with films I’d loved as a kid by Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin etc.

But the director that I was most interested in was Jan Svankmajer and particularly his film Food. It was something I hadn’t seen before – black comedy, the grotesque, surrealism and stop-frame animation combined.

Having already started playing with stop-frame his work showed me the huge possibilities that animation gives you. Like his mix of animating inanimate objects and humans. It was his work that showed me the importance of sound design to bring meaning to an action, and that re-recording sounds using alternative objects can add another layer of humour or depth to a scene.

 

My First Job

I graduated from CSM and got my first job as a runner at Partizan. I’d seen Michel Gondry’s work and was aware of a few other directors, so getting a job in 2007 felt like an incredible time to be there.

The energy was phenomenal. The directors, the work they were doing. Michel Gondry, Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, Traktor, Michael Gracey, Chris Cairns, Saam Farahmand, Nima Nourizadeh and a whole load more. It was an amazing place to be for your first job and I learnt tonnes from everyone there.

One video that encapsulates this was Gondry’s video for Let Forever Be by The Chemical Brothers. When I saw it, I remember just thinking how? How much planning must have gone into creating those intricate transitions?` It just showed me how technical filmmaking could be.

Antoine Bardou-Jacquet did a load of ads that I found super inspiring; Visa - Life Flows, which I loved for the editing. There’s this other really lovely ad for Orange - Open, which was so simple and poetic. And of course there Honda - Cog.

There were a whole host of us runners, who are still some of my best friends. We were a really tight group who worked incredibly hard but did anything that was required. I loved it. No request was too outrageous. And it was in a period where directors would make some pretty unexpected requests. (People could be slightly more diva-ish than they are today.)

 

Dark British Comedy

On the down days – if I wasn’t making stop-frame films – I would watch hours of The League of Gentlemen. Their use of simple prosthetics to give their characters an identity and create visual gags is something I’ve drawn on, especially in my film Deliveries Before Dawn. The subtlety of a few prosthetic teeth in someone’s mouth can have a huge effect when you place them in the real world.

I’m also a massive fan of Nighty Night by Julia Davis. The comedy is less visual but the characters that she manages to write are brilliantly sick. Whereas The League of Gentlemen is absurd and the characters are much bigger, in Nighty Night the performances are much more naturalistic, which I love. Julia Davis and the cast would often improvise allowing foibles and unscripted moments that occur to remain in the final edit. When I work with actors I’m often trying to get that from them. It gives that subtlety in a performance that makes you wonder, “Fuck, should I be laughing at this?”

Podcasts

A lot of my favourite directors had been creative directors first so after spending a few years in production companies I went and did the Watford Ad course. While I was there I got turned onto podcasts. A podcast lives or dies by the strength of its narrative, so listening to them is a wonderful way of understanding what makes a really good story. And since they are so cheap to make, they have opened the door to a whole raft of storytellers to bring more unusual stories to a wider audience.  

I really love this one called Heavyweight. It’s hysterical. The host Jonathan Goldstein goes back into the lives of people that he’s connected to and tries to right certain wrongs of the past. It’s a brilliant premise for a series and it’s delivered with such dry wit. He’s got a really wry sense of humour and sometimes you can doubt whether the whole series is set-up or not. It’s brilliant.

Signed: Rodrigo Garcia Saiz

February 14, 2017 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

MindsEye's newest signing is a disciple of Alejandro Iñárritu who's been making films since he was tiny.

Rodrigo had an early start in filmmaking. Thanks to his father’s career in photography, he had a camera in his hands from an early age. He studied film at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in the University Center for Film Studies CUEC; later, he studied at the New York University NYU, and San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, so he’s got a solid education.

He began his film career working at Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s production company as a commercial AD, before forming his own Mexico City production company, Central Films.

His ability to seamlessly switch from comedy to emotional storytelling is testament to the perfect, nuanced performances he gets from his cast. And this has been recognised with him picking up Cannes Lions for five consecutive years. Most recently, in 2016, his spot for Tecate beer - Domestic Violence won Rodrigo a silver Lion.

Joining MindsEye marks Rodrigo’s first representation in the UK.

Watch some of his work here:

High Five: February

February 13, 2017 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Big budgets and small budgets, put to work in the best way.

It’s been a good month for advertising. The Super Bowl is a huge deal, of course, and even though we’re based in the UK, the big budgets often end up having their impact on this side of the pond, too. Not all of the good ads this month were big blockbusters, though. Some of them were just great ideas using modest resources cleverly.

Brand: Audi
Title: Daughter
Production Company: Somesuch + Anonymous Content
Director: Aoife McArdle
Production Company Producer: Grace Bodie
Ad Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Creative Director: Justin Moore
Associate Creative Director: Allison Hayes
Creatives: Mike Mcguire, Kathy Hepinstall
Agency Producer: Matt Flaker
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Stewart Reeves
Music Company: Human
Sound Company: Lime Studios
Sound Designer: Matt Miller
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Audi – Daughter

There were a number of Super Bowl commercials this year that directly challenged the worrying values of Trump’s America. You know something’s wrong when big business is espousing more progressive views than the “leader of the free world.” Audi’s contribution was particularly remarkable, bluntly condemning the gender wage gap that persists to this day. The film’s up to Aoife McArdle’s usual standards – dynamic, beautiful and empowering. And if you look at the comment section, it really wound up the misogynists, which is always satisfying.

 

Brand: Great Ormond Street Hospital
Title: Welcome to Ordinary World
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Andy McLeod
Production Company Producer: Stuart Bentham
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Director: Tim Riley
Creatives: Charlotte Adorjan, Michael Jones
Agency Producer: Verity Elvin
Editing Company: Assembly Rooms
Editor: Eve Ashwell
Music Company: SIREN
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Parv Thind
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Great Ormond Street Hospital – Welcome to Ordinary World

This is a very smart and unique idea. It manages to convey exactly how miserable it can be for a child to be stuck in hospital and just how appealing normality is to a sick kid. It’s not the most fun-filled of messages, but AndyMcLeod has managed to put it across in a remarkably upbeat. It’s undeniably British. It’s not a glossy, high-budget production, but a great example of how a powerful idea and talented craftspeople is all you need.

 

Brand: Ikea
Title: Win at Sleeping
Production Company: Stink
Directors: Jones & Tino
Production Company Producer: Simon Eakhurst
Director of Photography: Tom Townend
Ad Agency: Mother London
Editing Company: Stitch
Editor: Leo King
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: MPC

Ikea – Win at Sleeping

The combination of Ikea and Mother rarely fails to deliver. The tone of their advertising just always seems spot on. This is no exception. Great casting, funny performances, poetic writing and general slickness combine to make an ad for beds feel epic. Furniture shouldn’t be this exciting, but when you’re firing on all cylinders you can make the most mundane products feel exhilarating.

 

Brand: Nike
Title: Do You Believe In More?
Production Company: Academy / A+
Director: FKA twigs
Production Company Producer: Dominic Thomas
Director of Photography: Rina Yang
Editing Company: RPS LA
Editor: Jamie Foord
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designers: Anthony Moore, Neil Johnson
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Nike - Do You Believe In More?

“I need you to trust in me,” repeats FKA twigs in the song accompanying this film, and it’s clearly advice that Nike have taken. Nothing about this multi-sensory experience suggests the client interfered with the artist’s vision. She and the cast are wearing Nike, but otherwise it is a totally twigs’ film. And it’s attention grabbing. As a singer, songwriter, artist, designer, creative director and filmmaker, the title “polymath” doesn’t seem unjustified. She’s totally weird and incredibly cool. The sportswear giants were wise to put their marketing budget in her hands.

 

Brand: Sainsbury’s
Title: Food Dancing
Production Company: Knucklehead
Director: Siri Bunford
Production Company Producer: Matthew Brown
Director of Photography: Jim Joliffe
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Scott Dungate, Sophie Bodoh
Creatives: Philippa Beaumont, Andrew Bevan, Freddy Taylor
Agency Producer: Michelle Brough
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Adam Rudd
Music Company: Wake the Town
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts

Sainsbury’s – Food Dancing

We’ve been curious to see what Wieden + Kennedy would do with the Sainsbury’s account ever since they won it, ending AMV BBDO’s nearly 40-year-long relationship back in the summer. This approach is everything we’d hoped for. It’s mainstream and family-friendly enough for the supermarket’s broad audience, but feels relevant to the Britain of 2017. A music video for a rap about dancing while cooking does sound crap on paper, but in practice it’s loads of fun. The song is great and Siri Bunford’s casting is spot on. Orange supermarket takes the lead early in 2017. How will its rivals react?