ADCAN 2016: Meet the Charities

May 5, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

A client’s-eye view of the award competition with a conscience.

We see a lot of charity campaigns on TV and probably even more at advertising award shows. With a strong ethical core, they’re often the most compelling pieces of storytelling the ad industry turns out. But there are 160,000 charities registered in England and Wales alone, so inevitably only the tip of that iceberg can access the power of TV advertising.

That’s one reason the ADCAN Awards exist. Supported by a collective of the ad industry’s top professionals, it’s a free-to-enter film competition offering up-and-coming talent good opportunities to do good work for good causes.

Filmmakers answer live charity briefs and are rewarded with industry contacts and workshops. Charities get free promotional films to help spread their messages and the partnering production companies get to see up-and-coming talent.

In previous years we’ve spoken to the founders and the winning filmmakers. With entries for ADCAN 2016 now open, we asked the charity partners for their perspective.


 

Nordoff Robbins

Nordoff Robbins is the UK’s leading music therapy charity. It is a world leader for the training of music therapists working in schools, care homes and hospitals nationwide. Music therapy is about using music in a supportive or restorative way, for people who are suffering from dementia, neurological disability, terminal illnesses and other mental or physical issues.

Brief: Bring to life the therapeutic power of music, so more people understand music therapy and want to donate to Nordoff Robbins. Think about ways to express this with visual concepts, editing and storytelling techniques.

What they want to say: Music helps people come alive.

The Beak Street Bugle: What is the value of advertising for Nordoff Robbins?
Mark Frodsham, Head of Marketing and Communications:
The charity sector is a crowded marketplace. Anything we can do to raise the profile of the work we do is of huge importance. So as a means of getting the word out about Nordoff Robbins, about music therapy and the impact it has on people’s lives, advertising is fantastic.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising?
Mark:
We’re a very small charity with a small marketing resource. We’re very careful about how and where we spend our money. We work with agencies that support us on a pro bono basis. I’ve done that throughout my career at charities and agencies have been more than willing to help. Within the charity space part of the job is to reach out to people within the ad industry and just ask that question because there is a lot of goodwill.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Mark:
For me it’s a complete win-win. You get emerging creative talents who get a good project to work on a response to brief. And for charities it’s a means of producing really great content that can be used to market the stuff they do. Some stuff in charity advertising works to a very specific formula and I’d like to hope that what comes out of this is really exciting.

The GirlHood

In a creative industry that still employs more men than women and pays men more than their female counterparts, The GirlHood are an organisation on a mission to help young women profit personally, socially and financially from their creativity. They seek out creatively talented females, aged 11-24, from diverse backgrounds, and introduce them to learning programmes, content and resources to help them develop as resilient females with their own creative voice.

Brief: Make a rally cry to girls to be creative and stay creative. Encourage them to make brave creative choices in their education and in their careers. Communicate that creativity has the power to effect positive change in their own lives and in the lives of others. Because when girls make culture, they change culture.

What they want to say: Your creativity can fuel your future, with The GirlHood.

BSB: What is the value of advertising for The GirlHood?
Kati Russell, Co-Founder:
I worked in advertising and spent the last four and a half years at D&AD, so I’ve seen it from different perspectives. I left advertising in 2009 because I didn’t like it, but I’ve come around on that. I now believe that it really can be a force for good and can be used to activate positive change. We would love to be able to do it more.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Kati:
One line of advertising that we like is aimed at young people and particularly young women.

There is so little awareness of creativity as a career choice. Our mantra is we try and instil the value of creativity personally, socially and economically. And very often it’s seen as a hobby or a nice-to-do subject. But actually the creative industry contributes £77 billion to the UK economy. So there are jobs and it’s growing. And creativity is unlikely to be automated in terms, so there’s longevity there.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising and getting exposure?
Kati:
It’s certainly different when you’re a tiny social enterprise there’s two of us. At the moment we’re only interacting on a one-to-one basis, but if we could interact on a one-to-many basis we could spread our message wider. I’m meeting all the time with the network that I’ve established but that’s just me. Advertising would give us a much wider opportunity and also that gravitas that you get. If you can put together an amazing piece of communication people will take you seriously.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Kati:
As an industry we’re really good at communicating but not doing. We see a lot of discussions but the actual behaviour change doesn’t happen often. So that’s what was exciting about partnering with ADCAN.

Hopefully we’ll get a film that will excite and motivate the young girls it’s targeted at. It’s not about us; it’s about them. So something that can inspire them and have enough power behind it to help them make life choices to be more creative.

BSB: What do you hope to learn from your ADCAN experience?
Kati:
I’m super excited about the people behind it. I ran [D&AD] New Blood, and worked with similar cohorts for the last few years. They have the potential to have some of the most exciting ideas given the confidence because they’re unhindered by any of the realities you get once you get into the industry. You do forget as you get away from it. So that’s exciting.

Streetbank

Streetbank is an online platform, based on the sharing economy - a common sense street-level idea, that rather than buying everything we ever need, we buy less and borrow more. It is super easy to do; sign up, offer what you have to share or search for what you want to borrow. Streetbank leads to new friendships, connected neighbourhoods and united communities.

Brief: Your film can have a big impact. If you can inspire enough people to join Streetbank, you’ll create stronger communities and in turn make the world a friendlier place. We’re not looking for a literal story of someone lending their neighbour a lawn mower. We need more interesting or surprising ways of showing Streetbank’s greater benefit.

What they want to say: Share things, make friends and build community.

BSB: What have your past experiences with advertising been like?
Sam Stephens, Chief Executive:
In terms of getting word out, we’re limited by the fact that we don’t have a budget. We are reliant on donations from our members and from the odd newsletter where we promote another sharing economy or green business and get some money through that. There is no advertising budget. There’s barely a social media budget. So we have to be really creative about how we get word out and primarily it’s through word of mouth and mobilising our members to tell their neighbours about us.

The second way is media interest that this idea of sharing with our neighbours is both old fashioned but also of the moment, so there’s been a bit of media interest and some PR.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Sam:
The dream would be really geographically focused. When we get to a critical mass, which is two or three hundred members within a square mile, then StreetBank takes off and becomes really busy. That’s what really makes the difference, that density where people are posting things on a daily basis and others within a square mile are seeing it.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Sam:
Because of the way we don’t have the money to do advertising or to create visual content very easily and it’s so much in our sharing economy ethos – the idea that there’s latent talent that’s not being used and this is putting it to good use. And to be beneficiaries of that is super cool.

BSB: What do you hope to learn from your ADCAN experience?
Sam:
The exciting thing is there is a brief and we’re going to see multiple approaches to it, whereas normally you only see one outcome. So to have multiple minds and a sort of crowdsourced approach is going to be fun.

I’m really grateful to the ADCAN team because I think what they’ve done is truly creative and a great way of nurturing talent but also finding a way of everyone benefiting. I’m enjoying the energy that’s being unlocked through their creativity.

CALM

CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, seeks to prevent male suicide, today’s leading cause of death amongst men aged under 45. Their goal is to let men know that masculinity doesn’t depend on being unwaveringly strong, unemotional and silent, an image that leads men with depression to avoid seeking help. Through broadening limited views of masculinity and offering support CALM encourages men to reach out and gain the help they need when life is difficult.

Brief: Make a film which disrupts these expectations of masculinity, makes men feel proud of who they really are and open to admitting when they are feeling down. Challenge the stereotypes that say a man can’t be a stay-at-home dad or talk to someone about their emotions and get help.

What they want to say: Men should embrace a broader view of masculinity and have the freedom to define themselves without censure.

BSB: What is the value of advertising for CALM?
Jane Powell, CEO:
I launched CALM ten years ago as a charity. I think its turnover that year was just over £12,000. Year on year we’ve blagged and used creative people to come up with our ads and some of have been magnificent to grow the campaign. This year our turnover was £1.2 million. So we’ve grown 100-fold in ten years and that has been on the basis of the creative industry’s efforts to showcase and raise the issue about male suicide. So for us advertising has been absolutely essential to our growth, promoting the change we want to promote and making sure people know that the helpline is out there.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Jane:
Until now the space that we’ve had has been on billboards and magazines and stuff. If we could get onto TV that would be fantastic. But I think the key thing is to get people to look at what we’re expecting from guys in a way that wakes people up and makes them think again. What is this ‘strong and silent’ stereotype? What if we can crush that so nobody thinks that’s what they need to be anymore? That’s a battle of ideas in people’s minds and those images and words and that’s what the advertising industry can deliver.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising and getting exposure?
Jane:
What we try and do as a charity and when we go to brief an agency is to communicate that message but also say you need to bin all your stereotypes about what you’re expecting calm as a “mental health charity” because it’s unhelpful.

A lot of effort is given over to change the way they think they should approach the issue.

I remember once an agency came back with some advertising and effectively what it did was show a guy curled up in a foetal position in a big field and you think ‘that is probably how it feels, probably a lot darker but’, but if you were going to advertise a weight-loss product, would you put somebody on the front who is hugely obese? It’s not where they’re trying to get to.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Jane:
I think this offers an opportunity to take a more global view of the issue. We couldn’t afford to have a pot shot at the whole issue. We’re always focusing on a tight brief. On this occasion if we can allow people to look at what does it mean, what are the pressures? How do we show the world how difficult these expectations are? Stereotypes, injustices and inconsistencies are never visible until you’ve made a change. Until then you don’t see them and they’re not called into question.


Entries are now open for ADCAN 2016 until 28th July. Head to their website to find out how you can make a film for one of these charity briefs and possibly earn yourself a bright future career.

 


 

Some Lessons from Advertising Week Europe 2016

April 25, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Trying to draw some sense from the chaos of keynotes.

Trying and draw out any unifying themes from a conference as big as Advertising Week Europe is difficult. With six stages pumping out almost uninterrupted content over four days, no two ad nerds will come out at the end with the same insights.

I immersed myself in the festival last week, trying to absorb as much as I could, accepting that I missed vast more than I caught. Here are the nuggets of learning I managed to salvage from the storm of thought-leadership and buzzwords.

Diversity

I kicked off my week with the Wired Women session – a discussion of gender from a panel of some of the industry’s most successful women.

Cilla Snowball, Group Chairman and Group CEO of AMV BBDO had a problem with the "Where are the women in advertising?" message that’s been perpetuated over the years. She countered that to inspire women and girls to pursue careers in the industry the message should be "here are the women in advertising", providing role models to inspire coming generations of girls.

The consensus throughout the week seemed to emerge that the industry’s focus on diversity should start in schools and work all the way up to boardrooms and juries.

Quota systems were of course mentioned, and it was interesting that some former sceptics are coming round to the idea of imposing such guidelines to encourage progress on diversity faster than the current snail’s pace.

The Next Generation

The generation currently in their teens were a hot topic throughout the week, particularly with all its talk of Snapchat and other social platforms. In the Hunger Games-themed session From Dystopia to Utopia: How to Engage Generation K(atniss), Economist Noreena Hertz explained her research into people aged 14 to 21 - the next group demanding the attention of many brands.

Summarising her findings, she identified three forces that have shaped this generation:

  1. Growing up with smartphones
  2. Global economic downturn
  3. Existential threat of terrorism

She identified five traits that these forces have provoked in the generation:

  1. They are anxious about their future, which is not stable
  2. They are distrustful of institutions. Only 6 per cent trust corporations to do the right thing, where as around 60 per cent of adults do
  3. They take a lot of selfies but are not selfish. They are generous and compassionate, giving more of a proportion of their wealth to good causes than other generations
  4. Despite constant digital communication they are lonely and craving connection, particularly physical connection and off-screen moments
  5. They are makers, creators and inventors

Kate Burns of Buzzfeed mentioned a few of the insights they’d learned from the generation's online behaviour. Apparently they share content to affirm their identity much more, whereas older people tend to share online in order to show off.

When it comes to brands it’s clear that Generation K (or D, or whatever they end up being called) demand absolute authenticity. They know when brands’ claims are backed up by action and will not tolerate deception, but they appreciate honesty, such as Chipotle clearly labelling which of their products use GM ingredients while they transition to GM-free sources.

Ad Blocking

Ad blocking raised its head throughout the week, although the arguments on the subject are all getting very well rehearsed now. Firstly, the trend seems to make it clear that people find bad, intrusive and irrelevant ads annoying. Surprise surprise. But most speakers seemed keen to take this as an incentive to do better work and make sure it’s appropriately placed.

The other positive that may come of it is a reminder to consumers that quality content is never truly free. As some media outlets are pointing out, if you don’t want advertisers to pay for this content, maybe you’d like to consider paying for it yourself.

TV Advertising is Still not Dead

As if we needed reminding, practically every discussion of the many screens where advertising can now appear made sure to note that TV is still unrivalled in terms of building fame for brands. But the more prophetic speakers such as Tracey Follows of The Future Lab alluded to a future where all video will be equal, no matter which screen it appears on.

Creativity

Notable creatives like CP+B’s Dave Buonaguidi were honest enough to admit that creative advertising had been getting gradually worse for years. Dave suggested that agencies have begun to care too much about what their peers and award ceremonies think of the work, rather than the public they are advertising to. Not all advertising has to be transcendent, said Paul Feldwick – sometimes "good enough" will do the job.

Procurement’s drive towards efficiency was also bemoaned by various speakers, including Ogilvy's Rory Sutherland. Perhaps unsurprisingly several creatives defended creativity as something that shouldn't be commoditised. Rory compared expensive advertising to a peacock’s tail, which informs potential mates that he’s doing so well he can divert resources towards a big, purely decorative show.

Rory and Paul’s rambling session, You’re Not Paranoid, They Really Are Out To Get You was one of the most fruitful and entertaining I attended. The main focus was on the fact that nobody’s ever really discovered a formula or theory for creating good advertising. It’s often made on the basis of a gut feeling or hunch and then post-rationalised with various intellectual models in order to sell it to a client. Building on the idea that animals usually do a good job in advertising, Rory suggested “we can’t possibly charge a lot of money by saying ‘put a duck in it,’ but that would probably be good advice.”

Changing Clients’ Businesses

Bravery is a concept agencies love to throw around and Heide Cohu from Bacardi, formerly of Red Bull, did well to remind us of how brave Red Bull’s move to drop Felix Baumgartner from 130,000 feet was – an endeavour she was instrumental in. Diverting huge reserves of time and money into a project that dragged on for several years, with the potential of failing and ending in tragedy, was a massive risk for the brand, but it paid off and ultimately gained them a place in history that has yet to be surpassed by a brand.

There are many lessons to be learnt from that kind of marketing, but one that was stressed is the power of an agency working with a brand to change the way it does business.

Brexit

Naturally the EU referendum came up all over the place, but aside from Bernie Ecclestone’s bizarre ramblings about Vladimir Putin and immigrants, the majority of the industry seemed in general agreement that a remain vote would be better for business. If nothing else, it’s better the devil you know.

Virtual Reality

VR has proliferated to such a degree in advertising that I didn’t get to try all of the experiences on offer throughout the week. But what I did experience was tantalising, and demonstrated vast potential for storytelling, education and entertainment. The technology is not as clunky as it was recently and, while it still has a way to go, many companies have managed to do compelling things with it. Dismiss it as a passing gimmick at your peril.

Unsigned: William Kennedy

April 23, 2016 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

A passionate filmmaker fuelled by the hunger of youth.

William Kennedy’s love for storytelling started while he was in school, writing play scripts with other young writers at London’s Soho Theatre. At university he splurged his student loan on a DSLR and started making short films from these scripts, all totally DIY projects with his friends. He was lucky enough to be studying English Literature at UCL, surrounded by a thriving community of creative people. He started making music videos for his friends there, experimenting with narrative form. He continues to collaborate with a lot of the filmmakers he met there.

After graduating a couple of years ago William started working more and more on music videos, enjoying the challenge of telling stories within the restrictions of the format, often working with Black Dog films. He’s continued working on personal projects too, introspective experimental short films mostly. Along the way he’s surrounded himself by a very small group of talented people, a creative collective called Messrs London.

He’s currently in America, shooting a couple of video projects. When he gets back to London he’s most excited about trying to get his feature script into development, having lived with it for over a year now.

Watch some of his work here:

Under the Influence: Smith & Foulkes

April 13, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

The shared passions behind a winning creative partnership.

Ever since they started directing, Nexus duo Smith & Foulkes have been trying to work out why they do things the way they do; where their instinctive answers to each creative question come from. When we asked them to be part of this series they realised it’s tricky identifying your influences as a double act. When there are two of you it’s not a purely personal journey. But when they listed their individual inspirations they found that half are identical to each other’s and half wildly different. “That’s a pretty good average for any successful partnership,” they suggest. “It’s probably why we can still put up with each other.” Here’s a few that they could agree on.

 

Silent Comedy

Adam Foulkes: “Ever since watching Harold Lloyd hanging from a big clock on the side of a skyscraper in his opening titles I was hooked. The construction of the visual gags in Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films are fantastic. The choreography and structure is complex and sophisticated but feels effortless. There's also a real charm to it. In the current climate of ‘the story being king’ it’s great to watch character being fully explored.”

Alan Smith: “There is such an art to the choreography and comic timing of the action scenes that has never really been bettered. With no dialogue to tell the story every look and gesture is critical. We took a lot from the era of silent movies for our short This Way Up. It is really a simple character study where we examined the relationship between a father and son by putting them in ever more demanding situations. We liked the idea that they almost found themselves in a silent comedy because of their own self-imposed respect for the deceased and because of the breakdown in their ability to communicate with each other as father and son.

“We are always looking at choreography as an art form, although we’re more likely to be found watching 1970s ITV wrestling than hanging out at Sadler’s Wells. We love the instinctive interplay of great comedy double acts like Morecambe & Wise, the inventive staging of Busby Berkeley, or the unexpected patterns of human movement discovered in Koyaanisqatsi. A great example is the amazingly crafted REM Imitation of Life promo directed by Hammer & Tongs. A real ‘wish I’d done that’ moment.”

 

Hayao Miyazaki / Michael Dudok de Wit

Adam:
“I get a bit lost watching Miyazaki’s Spirited Away but it really doesn’t matter. It has a magical, surreal atmosphere to it that is completely engaging and unique to Miyakazi. It is also beautifully animated.

“Another animation director who gets mentioned a lot at S&F HQ is Michael Dudok De Wit. He manages to convey so much character and emotion with a beautiful, sparse style. It just goes to show that even with all the technology at your fingertips often simple is best.”

Alan: “Dudok de Wit creates the most evocative atmospheres from the simplest of settings. He captures the most powerful emotions from the merest of gestures. He allows you to appreciate what isn’t there as much as what is. And every time we refer to his work as we discuss a pitch with a client it is met with universal acclaim. Then we lose the job. The curse of Dudok de Wit! But we’ll keep trying…

“As fellow devotees of the dialogue-less cinematic tradition, we can’t wait for his feature The Red Turtle. The last time we saw an animated feature film so artfully portray the human condition in epically atmospheric landscapes was the first half of Wall-E. Second half… not so much.”

 

Abstract Expressionism vs The Simpsons

Adam: “At college we spent our days making experimental animation and our evenings talking about how great The Simpsons was. It wasn’t just the visual gags and wordplay that we loved but also the moments of real emotion, usually between Homer and Bart. We quickly realised that to actually engage an audience it helps to have characters you could root for and identify with, so we started to move away from doing solely abstract work.”

Alan: “When I was at college my tiny mind was blown wide open by the freeform visual riffing of film-makers like Robert Breer, Len Lye, Norman McLaren, and Oskar Fischinger. The limitations of graphic design and photography were left for dust as I watched these masters endlessly play with abstract patterns cut in perfect harmony with equally inventive scores. Who knew the choreography of shapes and colours could be so liberating? They also showed me how a Director could embrace a whole range of visual techniques, and how you could employ any or all of them to tell your story.

“But when I first met Adam it wasn’t these titans’ work that fired our collective imagination. It was the Simpsons. I guess at heart we just love a bit of silliness. But what was really great about it was how it evolved from a fairly hit-or-miss slapstick kids TV show into one of the greatest commentaries on the absurdities of modern life. I would spend a year making a visually elaborate film about the perils of gambling dependency then Homer comes along and sums up the whole debate with one killer line. And it was funny. It really taught us the importance of writing, character development and storyboarding to get our ideas across.”

 

Britishness (whatever that is)

Adam: “Martin Parr’s photography has always resonated with us, especially his curated Boring Postcards books, and we are endlessly fascinated by the idea of Britishness. Jeremy Deller’s Folk Archive exhibition covered a vast selection of contemporary popular British culture, providing an opportunity for the whole community to have their work shown in an art gallery. Not only drawing and painting but pursuits and pastimes, everything from cheese rolling and gurning to pipe smoking and wrestling, all in one exhibition. A huge celebration of Britishness.”

Alan: “We might not know exactly what it is but we know it’s there, in practically everything we do.
Maybe because we’re a couple of small town boys from the deepest darkest provinces. It’s in the richness of our history and culture, the naffness of Crap Towns, the wonder and variety of our landscape, and the astute tomfoolery of the Pythons. Our characters and stories are somehow unconsciously imbued with the peculiarities of how us Brits do things and how we interact with the wider world.”

 

Small…..Far Away…..

Alan: “Not just a seminal Father Ted moment but more an enjoyment in the illogical disparity of scale. When I was a kid I always entered the ‘creating a miniature garden in a potting tray’ competition at the annual village fete. It was the highlight of the year, the one all the local kids desperately wanted to win (see above). Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, we didn’t have the Internet back then. One year I pulled out all the stops, water features, stepping stones, gazebo, it was a one foot by two foot Kew Gardens. I came third. But it was the start of an appreciation of the surreal comic potential of making big things small and small things big.


“This could be the visual spectacle of Busby Berkeley’s human typewriter. The architectural oddness of Oldenberg’s site specific sculptures. The historical tradition of giant hot dogs, enormous tomatoes and other American roadside attractions. The pompous majesty of the Spinal Tap tiny Stonehenge scene. Or the guy who rides his own backyard rollercoaster while precariously strapped into a car seat. It has provided many a fun visual solution in our work as we searched for a more inventive way to transition from scene to scene.”

High Five: April

April 11, 2016 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Deep thinking and pretty pictures in this month’s best advertising.

It’s amazing how philosophical advertising is, considering it’s basically just trying to flog stuff people don’t want to people who can’t afford it. The best advertising, as evidenced in our pick of the past month, can draw on the deepest insights on human existence in order to get you reaching for your wallet. Quite remarkable, really.

Brand: Finish
Title: Heartbreak
Production Companies: CANADA London, Riff Raff
Director: CANADA
Production Company Producer: Cathy Hood
Director of Photography: Oscar Faura
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Sophie Bodoh, Carlos Alija, Laura Sampedro
Agency Producer: Michelle Brough
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Dominic Leung
Music Company: Siren
Composer: Alex Baranowski
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Jon Clarke
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts

Finish – Heartbreak

According to Finish’s brutal reminder, there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and dirty dishes. And the latter usually gets forgotten but is perhaps the most daunting. Snappy, hyper realistic and stylish, directors CANADA have brought their considerable talents to bear to make sure this ad drives the terror into our hearts that it should. Even at our lowest ebbs, the dishes will need doing. Thankfully, Finish Powerball tablets are here to save us, so we can get back to worrying about our broken hearts.

 

Brand: Guinness
Title: Alive Inside
Production Company: Nexus
Director: Kibwe Tavares
Production Company Producers: Jeremy Smith, Clare Van Zyl (Monkey Films)
Director of Photography: Jamie Ramsay
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Director: Mike Schalit
Creatives: Sonny Adorjan, Milo Campbell
Agency Producer: Greg Kates
Editing Company: The Whitehouse
Editor: Adam Marshall
Sound Company: GCRS
Post Production Company: The Mill

Guinness – Alive Inside

Less than two years on from winning at the Young Director Award and Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase in Cannes, Kibwe Tavares is directing Guinness ads. That’s a pretty good career trajectory. Anyone who's seen his short film Jonah will know he’s more than capable of this kind of film. It fits well with the vibrant, electric atmosphere the brand has been focusing on for years. It’s almost exhausting just to watch. But this time it’s more explicitly about Africa than ever. Since Nigeria overtook Ireland as the biggest market for the famous stout about five years ago, that makes sense.

 

Brand: Lloyds Bank
Title: For Your Next Step
Production Company: Rogue
Director: Sam Brown
Production Company Producer: Jess Wylie
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Ad Agency: adam&eveDDB
Creative Directors: James Gillham, Graham Cappi
Agency Producer: Victoria Bennett
Editing Company: The Quarry
Editor: Pall Watts
Music Company: Platinum Rye
Sound Company: Wave
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Post Production Company: The Mill

Lloyds Bank – For Your Next Step

Sam Brown delivers another ad that’s polished to within an inch of its life. The idea of banks being there through the good times and the bad is a narrative we’re all familiar with, but there are couple of things that make this commercial stand out. The technical excellence on show here is one of them. How did they do that slow motion at two different speeds? The other thing is the bold move to depict a gay couple getting engaged. It shouldn’t be a bold move, but sadly it’s rare to see LGBT couples depicted in advertising full stop, let alone for a conservative, mainstream client like Lloyds Bank.

 

Brand: Persil
Title: Free the Kids
Production Company: RSA
Director: Toby Dye
Production Company Producer: Ben Porter
Ad Agency: MullenLowe London
Creative Director: Alex Okada
Creatives: Bruno Ribeiro, Luiz Filipin, Juan Chrismann, Jack Patrick
Agency Producer: Mays Al-Ali
Editor: Julian Equiguren
Music Company: Big Sync Music
Composer: Rupert Pope
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound Designer: Ben Leeves
Post Production Company: MPC

Persil – Free the Kids

This is extremely confident advertising. A cinematic mini-doc about American prison inmates speaking about their values and dreams, with no mention of the brand until the last three seconds? That takes balls for a big client to approve. But Persil are part of Unilever, a group of brands that are focusing on proving they have a greater purpose than simply turning a profit. Persil’s aim here is smart – get children to spend more time outdoors, getting their clothes dirty. It’s elegant, even if you’re cynical about their goals.

 

Brand: Stella Artois
Title: Be Legacy
Production Company: Riff Raff
Director: François Rousselet
Production Company Producer: Jane Tredget
Director of Photography: Martin Ruhe
Ad Agency: Mother
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: MPC

Stella Artois – Be Legacy

It’s amazing that Stella have never done an origin story ad before. What’s more amazing is that now they have got round to it with François Rousselet at the helm it looks like a bizarre cross between a Wes Anderson and a Baz Luhrmann film. It’s somewhat in the style of the brand’s recent output, but Sebastian Artois is decidedly less smarmy and a lot more hapless than the usual lager ad guy. That’s a good thing, making for a charming tone. Maybe this is the one to finally shake Stella’s “wife beater” nickname… Maybe!

In Defense of the Rep

April 6, 2016 / Features

By Andrew Swepson

Let's address some misconceptions about new business in production.

I like to see myself as a level-headed and reasonable kind of person. However, I can literally hear my friends and loved ones crashing to the floor as they pass out in fits of laughter at this news. It’s true to say that little surprises me, especially in this business. As my mother would say I get aerated at all the wrong things. However, sometimes I do get annoyed at things that I’m very passionate about. At these times I feel the need to shout very loudly or at least moan at the same mates who are now picking themselves up off the floor.

So, I should elaborate as to why I find myself writing this piece and attempting to raise awareness of a subject that vexes me. Not that long ago an article featured on The Beak Street Bugle presenting a very distinct view of the production company Rep. It had me ranting at my computer screen and reaching for my quill.

To set the scene the APA had gathered a panel, which included a number of agency people alongside independent PR and press writers. One of the topics up for discussion was how can production companies project their marketing message more efficiently and successfully in 2016.

It wasn’t the broadest of panels with most notably no representative from production being present. However, the questions posed were considered and deserved discussion.

Up for debate was the role of the Rep. Somewhat clichéd views of marauding Reps, harassing all with over zealous calls, were bantered about. Advice was offered, which was rather patronising and painted an outdated picture of the role.

I’m sure that the advice offered was done so with no malice intended. However, it dawned on me that this image was not one that I identified with or indeed applied to others that I knew. This image of the Rep was not helpful to the role itself or to those who employ such people.

I’ve always regarded the position as important. It holds a privileged position and it saddens me that it’s not held in the esteem that it could or should be. The role is an intrinsic part of the industry and always has been.

It wasn’t just me though who felt this way and it caused a similar reaction in many others. It was now clear that we needed to provoke a change in people’s perception for the better. It should be more reflective of today’s evolved New Business Associate in a changing media landscape.

For starters people have very distinct view of what characteristics Reps have and what their supposed methods are. I’ve been at this game for over 20 years and in that time I’ve met every possible variant. So, I’m well aware of the need to address the issues that face us.

I moved on some years ago from the purely sales arena. But I’m very proud of being trained as a sales person and have passed on my knowledge to many over the years. It’s on this basis that I want to re-affirm its important role and hopefully help to redefine it for the future.

The Beak Street Bugle has asked me to pose questions to a number of sales people relating to these issues. Those selected are individuals that I feel are amongst the best in the industry, pushing the boundaries and re-defining the image of the production New Business Representative.


Andrew Swepson: The very word Rep conjures up such a negative image. Do you think we need to change the name and if so what would be a suitable alternative?

Ali Lindsay, Dark Energy: Yes, I agree the connotations sometimes conjured up are not reflective of what we actually do as the role is so multifaceted. Personally for me it’s not about the need to change the job title, but the need to change people’s opinions of what experienced Reps / Heads of Sales / EPs / Heads of Talent (whatever you want to call us) actually can do for you.

Ellie Botwood, BOT Inc: I think people in the industry are always going to use the term “Rep”. I have never called myself a Director’s Representative because of these negative connotations, but it hasn’t made any difference. I don’t think it’s the name that is the issue. I think it’s the association that goes with it.

I can’t tell you how many agency people have said being a Rep must be so much fun and have no idea just what the job entails. It’s the production companies’ responsibility to hire people who understand what the nature of the job is about, and not that it’s one big party. God, if only!

 

Andrew: Is there still a job for the in-house Rep or do you think that the growing number of independent sales and press people is the way forward?

Pippa Bhatt, Madam: My experience shows that the widening yet shrinking market will offer a place for both. The independent new business person offers opportunities for those SMEs that are rapidly growing in our industry. The behemoths will remain and need the role just as much to satiate the need of the directors they employ and the overheads their shape and size creates. We can live together!

Ellie: London still has a long way to go adapting to this new model, which has been so successful in the US. First and foremost, it is much more cost effective to have part-time experienced reps that work across more than one client as opposed to a full-time in-house rep. However, as a freelancer you are much more “disposable” if you don’t deliver within a certain amount of time. And that’s just not realistic. The beauty of having an in-house rep is that they are an integral part of that company and work solely for you. The main issue I personally have with this type of model is managing client expectations in the time frame.

 

Andrew: How do you define yourself within your company and amongst your peers?

Ali: As someone that helps production companies to be relevant and competitive in today’s climate and who enables the growth of both individual directing talent and the company through creativity and established contacts.

 

Andrew: Agencies are very adept at telling us how to go about contacting them. However, as we all know those contacted rarely respond or engage with our emails, invitations or calls. How are you addressing this issue?

Pippa: I don’t cold call and I don’t take a lack of response as a no. I have a network that I call upon, who give me leads and names to follow up on. I feel very strongly that the offering has to be about the non-sell. Creating environments for my clients on agency and production company side to connect in a mutually interesting situation. I do believe in pillars and having all of them working – emails, calls, newsletters, website, social media, PR, opinion pieces, face-to-face meetings, events.

Ellie: By thinking outside of the box. Long gone are the days of lunches and even meetings are few and far between without being cancelled last minute. Some up-and-coming production companies are trying new and engaging ways to interact with agencies. I’ve always found that self-generated work or events does eventually lead to work. There is such strong competition in this oversaturated market, doing something original and different does make people stand up and take notice.

 

Andrew: Are we creating a problem for ourselves? With 202 production companies on FileFX all contacting the same people are we creating white noise with all our newsletters, emails, calls and meetings?

Pippa: Yes, and there really should be a better way. The difficulty for us is that agencies are time poor and highly risk averse and it’s because they are on high alert at losing clients with a huge shift in how clients engage them. Our biggest barrier is agencies using the same directors and companies over and over again. All advertising is looking the same.

 

Andrew: There has been a multitude of Agencies and indeed Post Houses creating their own production offering. How do you compete in this over populated market and remain at its forefront?

Ali: I think we’d be kidding ourselves to think we can put a stop to in-house agency production companies, and quite honestly on the flip side for us to say production companies can’t also offer creative services – which we’re being pulled into more frequently working with PR and brand design companies etc.

It is a free market after all, so I’m not sure we can tell agencies and post houses what they can and can’t do, just like we wouldn’t want them to tell us how to run our business. What will be will be I guess. Maybe we’ll all end up working in-house! Who knows, we might also get pensions!

So, on the whole I’d say in this current crazy market we need to be able to maximize any benefits we see fit from this scenario, even if this means loaning out on occasion…yes I said that. Because work generates work and I believe we need to utilise the possibilities for developing directors where necessary sometimes.

However, we do also need to be very mindful to not undersell our skilled production talent, knowledge and services at enforced cut-down prices and kill off production companies in the process.

It’s tricky and I’m not entirely sure where the middle ground is with this. But in a dog-eat-dog world I guess we’ll do what we need to do to provide a service and get work made and on screen, so long as it’s of creative benefit to a particular director and ultimately as “Reps” that’s still our call to say yes or no to.

 

Andrew: We’ve all met that clichéd sales person, who falsely thinks that attending every party and event defines their role. What advice would you give to your younger self, or indeed them, to change that rationale?

Pippa: Research, research, research. Knowledge is everything working in tandem with a spoonful of charm. Get to know your client and your client’s client. Get an amazing CRM tool in place and fill it out religiously!

Ali: I’d say have fun meeting people from all parts of the industry who you can learn from and enjoy extending your network as it can be one of the best things about the role getting to meet so many interesting and inspiring people.

However, beware of thinking you constantly need to be out and be seen at every industry event going. Pick and choose carefully and never feel the need to be part of a crowd. At those industry events more often than not it’s your individual ability to represent yourself, your company and your talent, think clearly and remain focused that will help you in the long run.

 

Andrew: In America ‘Reps’ earn a very good wage, are highly respected and seen as key links in the production process. The business model is different there of course, but what do you do to encourage a more positive view of your role in the UK to advertising agencies and peers?

Pippa: I try my very best to do my role with as much integrity and care as I can.


Andrew: What changes would you like to see to improve the image of the job role in the UK? Maybe we should be considered for the various judging juries (we have years of experience reading scripts that are then crafted into final films).

Pippa: Yes, I like this idea. Really we should be on the public floor much more often – in industry rags, invited as guests and speakers to industry events, celebrated in the same way as any other industry exec. If you’re connected, up-and-coming, an influencer then we should be on a stage. IPA Women of Tomorrow has the agencies covered and WACL. We need a bigger stage for us or for other stages to open up to us.

Andrew Swepson is a PR and Marketing Consultant who runs Menagerie PR.

ARTWORKS London: The Secret Life of the Pencil

April 5, 2016 / Arts and Culture

By Alex Reeves

An exploration of the most basic creative tool.

Dougal Wilson's pencil

 

As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting the Keswick Pencil Museum will agree, pencils don’t get the credit they’re due. The Secret Life of the Pencil is a photographic project that grants them their deserved respect.

Each photograph in the exhibition by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney explores the pencil of a notable creative talent in stunning detail, revealing every knife stroke, scratch and tooth mark made in the process.

Recognising the pencil as a common denominator across almost every creative discipline, Alex and Mike have found a unique way to celebrate this fundamental tool. With the digitisation of the creative method, the feeling of lead on paper is becoming more rare every day, so maybe it's a good time for appreciation.

Michele Burke's Pencil

 

The series of images was made in aid of Children in Crisis, a UK-based charity helping children who are suffering the effects of conflict & civil war, granting protection, education and freedom from discrimination. The proceeds from the book and exhibitions will go towards these efforts.

Having been exhibited throughout much of 2015 the pencils have now landed in the offices of Glassworks London as the eighth private exhibition of their ARTWORKS initiative. Sir Paul Smith, David Bailey and Stephen Fry are just some of the many remarkable creative talents whose pencils have been catalogued, but to keep the exhibition relevant to the advertising professionals filing through Glassworks’ doors Blink director Dougal Wilson added his own stylus to the exhibition to be auctioned off as a special edition framed print.

 

Anish Kapoor's pencil

 

The intense detail displayed in the collection makes each piece feel intimate, as if you’re looking down at these people working from some CCTV control room.

And they’re a beautiful set of photographs. Symmetrical, colourful and minimalist, they’re exactly the kind of piece that would look at home on the kitchen wall of a sleek urban apartment.

It’s incredible how varied the collection is. These lauded visual professionals aren’t buying multipacks of HBs from Rymans, apparently, and if they are then they’re subjecting them to a beating. Also, very few of them seem to know about pencil sharpeners, choosing to do things the old-fashioned way with a knife. Maybe that is how people work, but it’s convenient that a knife-sharpened pencil has more interesting contours, making for more distinctive photographs. Alex and Mike are familiar with the concept of artistic licence.

Cynicism aside, they’re a gorgeous set of pictures for a great cause and you can go and see them if you're lucky enough to be in the Glassworks London office between now and August 2016.

Have Fun. That’s an Order.

March 31, 2016 / Features

By Tom Lee

Advertising student Tom Lee on what it takes to get through creative placements.

I’ve never been a fan of offices. Everything’s had its colour muted, dwelling on the white to grey scale. The office mugs are the only concession. I always opted for the gaudiest mug. I needed a splodge of lurid green, pink or purple less than two feet away at all times. I would jitter along the white to grey scale at varying degrees of caffeination.

Then I quit to become an ad student. Now I have thumbtacks and walls where my screen used to be. My Excel sheets were banished forever by fountains of crumpled paper and throwaway ideas. My instant coffee jitters gave way to Sharpie vapour head spins. Now my desk is in Costa.

But something else changed. Now that I’ve emerged from my secluded office corner everything I do passes under the dogged gaze of other people. For me as a yet-to-be-made spinster looking for my first bit of permanent desk space, every day is a pitch and I’m the product.

In my tour of self-promotion I’ve traipsed self-consciously with my packed lunch through every size of agency, blagged my way into boardrooms, agonised over live briefs and had my book dissected by creative directors.

And I’ve seen that the bogeymen of advertising are living, breathing realities.

The hours are famously long. I’ve worked harder this year than in my other 24 combined. Most days I’ll peel myself out of bed at six thirty and collapse into the same position around midnight. Ad dreams are also definitely a thing.

Criticism, though purposeful, is ubiquitous and persistent. There’s no place for the precious or the fragile. It’s easy to be excessively self-critical. You could treat every piece of advice as gospel. You could think an idea to death and yourself to exhaustion based on advice you don’t fully understand. But then someone else will come and say something completely different and you’ll be forced to think again. You will be simultaneously criticised and praised by two people who share a desk. This can happen more than once in a day.

Schedules are shambolic, deadlines change. Creatives’ work is at the disposal of creative directors, account people, planners and clients. One project is the convergence of dozens of people’s expectations. You’ll be tricked into thinking you have the luxury of time only to have a message pop up saying the deadline’s now in forty minutes. The usual workplace mind set of turn up on time, answer your emails, fill your quotas, leave doesn’t apply in adland.

But at no point has any of this resembled office life. And for that I couldn’t be happier.

Every agency comes with an inbuilt sense of fun. If being a creative wasn’t inherently fun it would be much easier to be employed as one.

There’s always a bar and a foosball table, photographs lining walls of pets and errant childhood moments, a deep house playlist and large scale prints of meerkats or Sylvester Stallone delivering bread.

You’re here to regress back to kindergarten, when right and wrong were vague concepts and everyone doodled on paper. But only the hardiest, most lateral, strategic kindergarteners get given jobs. It calls for equilibrium between the discipline of other jobs with the expression of your earliest finger paintings.

Fun is mandatory. If the process isn’t fun your ideas will have the imaginative depth of a refried bean wrap from the Costa you’ve spent the last four hours in.

Fun leads to good ideas. Good ideas take hard work. If you get the fun bit right the work bit will follow. And the bogeymen will become spirits that guide you adeptly, albeit forcefully, through each day.

Keep smiling as idea after idea is relegated to the bin never to be seen again. Take risks and say ‘yes’ to everything with confident stupidity. Laugh maniacally if you have to. Fun’s the only thing there ever really is to lose.

Tom Lee is studying advertising at West Hers College, Watford. Check out some of his work here.