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.

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?

 

Comedy Advertising Should be Funny

January 31, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

A BAFTA-winning comedy writer on how to make advertising that actually makes people laugh.

It’s pretty common that we’ll watch a film that clearly fits into the category of ‘comedy ads’, but doesn’t provoke even slightest tittle of a laugh. Somehow it’s become acceptable for advertising to be less funny than other forms of comedy.

We’ve been enjoying the current series of Revolting – BBC Two’s new satirical sketch series – and were excited to find out that one of the writers on the show, Joe Wade, is also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of the agency Don’t Panic London. They’ve made some very high profile work for Greenpeace, Save the Children and PETA in recent years.

We wanted to see what Joe, as a BAFTA-winning comedy writer thought of British comedy advertising’s low standards, so we called him for a chat.

 

The Beak Street Bugle: Why are comedy ads so rarely actually funny? How do they get signed off?
Joe Wade:
The threshold is low. I think one reason is you are asking people who are not comedy writers to come up with comedy. That is a different skill in many ways. They’re sort of related but if you’re an advertising professional, I don’t know why you’re expected to be funny. That’s a slightly different thing.

So one thing we tend to do is have comedy writers from TV to help us on our ad work, to try and make things more genuinely funny.

The difference will be in terms of how that manifests itself in the process. Somebody who comes from a TV comedy background will tend to think ‘is this a funny set-up or scenario?’ and then somebody else might have to come along and go ‘where’s the brand?’ You can do it that way round. That will probably result in something funnier, whereas advertising professionals often start with ‘what can we do to make this deliver against brand objectives?’ then ‘can we make it funny?’

There were funnier ads in the past and it’s interesting to note things like the Smash Martians. I used to think in the old days you probably just used to write it on the back of a fag packet round the corner from the pitch, then you’d go in and they’d obviously say yes because they thought you were some kind of creative genius. But actually that wasn’t the case at all. That advert was meticulously researched and tested really well with housewives, who where the intended market at that point. So it wasn’t as wild as that at all.

That was by BMP, which is in a circuitous way now adam&eveDDB, who are known for their extremely emotional adverts and have never really attempted anything funny.

 

BSB: Why do you think emotional advertising is so much more popular than comedy?
JW:
I think another potential trend is people want to create things that are shareable and they feel that highly emotive adverts that make you want to weep are the most shareable. And kind of forgetting online behaviour. Some of the biggest Facebook publishers are like The LAD Bible – I think in September last year they had about three billion views – and most of that is humour. So there’s definitely an appetite for it there.

In America the picture’s slightly different because with the Super Bowl everyone tries to do a funny ad. The two that did well [in 2016] – number one was the Doritos one with the ultrasound. 

It’s not hilarious but it was at least a bit shocking. The other one that did well was the Mountain Dew one – Puppymonkeybaby.

Unruly wrote a white paper about it. 22% of felt less positively about Mountain Dew after watching that advert. So it went badly. But among its key audience – Millennial males – 58% of people felt really positive about it. And it was the 7th most shared ad at last year’s Super Bowl.

 

BSB: That requires some bravery from clients though, right?
JW:
The thing about humour is you can’t be too bothered if it turns off a lot of people or a lot of people find it in bad taste. If you work out who your audience is and a more hard-hitting humorous approach would work, then you may have to risk offending older women, for instance.

There were a few ads that went really badly like that Volkswagen ad, where they had a [white Amercian man with a] really stereotypical Jamaican accent in it and it was called out as racist. A few have backfired and that’s a big fear for a lot of clients.

Another factor is the sheep-like mentality of the industry. Clients have seen John Lewis and they just say ‘do me a John Lewis.’ That’s why you’ve had so many emotional adverts.

I think there is possibly a real thing that is if you’re going for a global ad you’re on safer ground with emotions than with humour. Humour tends to be a bit more regional. A good example of a humorous ad that was done really well was the Mac V PC campaign. The reason that was good is they weren’t hugely funny, but it was a very simple format to replicate and in every country they did them with a regional sensibility using regional talent.

That was a good way to answer the problems of that regional element. I think you could do an effective global campaign and make it region specific.

Another factor as to why we’re in this position is with the awards in advertising, you tend to get awards for emotional rather than funny advertising. In our slightly rudimentary research, last year in Cannes 13 Lions were given to funny ads and 44 to more emotional ads. I think agencies are aware of that. And we’ve tended to do much better out of the emotional adverts than we have with anything funny.

 

BSB: How are Don’t Panic set up to do things differently?
JW:
As an agency we tend not to do ads as such. We do often ask ourselves ‘how is this different from an advert?’ If you want to create work that’s storytelling [that’s designed to go] viral, you might get a better story arc out of it if you were looking to writers who weren’t only advertising copywriters. And the same thing would apply to drama as well.

That’s not necessarily new. There has been a bit of fluidity between those who have written commissioned content versus adverts, or famously people like novelists who have written for Hollywood.

I think we’re lucky because as an agency we started making viral videos for ourselves and then began to do commercial work. So the mindset in the agency is like ‘is this shareable?’ first, then we work back from there. I think that’s a big help.

BSB: Revolting feels a lot like its stunt-based predecessor, The Revolution Will be Televised. Is it essentially just a rebrand or do you see it as distinct?
JW:
It started off being a lot more scripted and then people wanted us to do the stunt-y stuff as well, so we ended up bringing more of that into it. In some of the sketches, I think the ones that we are most keen on are the ones that are scripted and then it goes into stunts. I really like the tax office one [the VR Tax Simulator sketch in Episode 1], where there’s an amusing idea behind the scripted segment and then it ends up with a minor stunt on Eric Schmidt. 

The big difference from Revolution is there are the scripted bits. We like to work more on how those two things fit together. It’s a really nice way of doing things.

 

BSB: How different is that from writing for a commercial client?
JW:
For us, the difference is less than it would be for a traditional agency because we came from doing that sort of stunts and then we commercialised it. We’ve developed that a long way from stunts by doing proper narrative things commercially.

We do a lot of cause-related work for charities. So given that the comedy in Revolting is satirising stuff but also focusing on issues, for us to go from that to working with charities is not much of a stretch.

I think what we’re trying to do with the cause-related stuff is not preach to the converted all the time. If you take a more traditional approach to these issues you would have a sad child staring at the camera sort of thing and hope that people will be touched enough to hand some money over.

We don’t really do that kind of thing. We have an awareness of what wouldn’t interest people and trying to approach it from a different angle. I guess the comedy angle helps with that.

What we’re trying to do with Revolting is present issues that you may read about in the Guardian but in a different kind of way so a broader audience may be interested in them.

As an agency one of our priorities is to work with more brands and another priority is to do more funny work. I think we do need to work with more brands to make that a reality because we can’t pitch funny ideas to a lot of our charity clients. Child abuse isn’t funny, and neither is people suffering in Syria. So we’ll need more brand clients to be able to do more funny stuff. We think there’s an opportunity there given that the whole industry’s got a bit weepy. And with the political reality of Trump and Brexit, people don’t want emotional ads the whole time.

Unsigned: Broken Antenna

January 30, 2017 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Skills honed in the honourable tradition of making music videos for mates.

Myles McAuliffe and Gustav Newby (AKA Broken Antenna) grew up in Camberwell, loving films and hip-hop, with big dreams of working in Blockbuster Video. Eventually these interests led them to start working on feature films, such as Skyfall and Made in Dagenham, doing lock offs with the locations department. Undeterred by on-set boredom they went to Bath Spa university together to study film.

For their final project at university they made a documentary called Lo-Down In London, about the London chapter of a New York gang called the Lo-Lifes who only wear Ralph Lauren. After graduation they moved home to London and tried to ship their film around to see where it could take them, traipsing around Soho and Shoreditch with a wad of CVs trying to get jobs in film. They managed to get a meeting at Mother London where Charlie Inman & Anthony Austin took them under their wing, and started to get them in to work on pitch documentaries, edit mood films and shoot event films.

Soon they started treating on music videos. The first one they won, the artist never showed up for the shoot, so they had a studio and cameras ready with nothing to film (sound familiar?). They phoned around their friends that rapped to see if any of them wanted to do a video and ended up making Cruger - V.I.G. That was the start of a new era for them, making music videos for their friends and it’s allowed them to build quite a reel.

One of their videos was featured on brown cardigan (Japadollar – So Fine), they’ve been nominated for two UKMVAs (Newham Generals – Scars and Dead Players - Drenching), a Berlin MVA (Dark Sky - Silent Fall), and recently got a video on Channel 4’s Random Acts that’s even been written up in OK Magazine (Swet Shop Boys - Zayn Malik). They’ve made a few commercials along the way, too.

They’re on a strong trajectory, so it’ll be interesting to see what they achieve once they get the budgets they need to realise their ideas.

Watch some of their work here:

What is it About French Advertising?

January 26, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Paris agencies discuss the unique power of their advertising community.

The London ad community can be a bit navel gazing at times. As a hub that’s admired for the quality of the work it puts out, it’s easy to forget about the other good stuff out there, especially from outside the Anglophone world. And since Brexit happened (although the fun’s really only just begun with that one!), global eyes are paying more attention to markets across the Channel.

There’s something special about the French advertising industry. The country is host to the business’ most important festival and award show in Cannes and is consistently one of the most awarded markets there. Last year France took fifth place, making it the second most awarded nation in Europe after the UK. That kind of international influence is noteworthy, considering about 660 million more people speak English than French worldwide.

So what makes France so dominant? While visiting in Paris recently, I decided to ask a selection of French agencies what about their country helps them to do it so well.

At first they thought it was a stupid question. It is a bit. Advertising works on the same principles the world over. This is the 21st Century – everything is globalised and the same business principles often apply everywhere. “I don’t know if there is a real difference between French advertising and the rest of the world,” ponders Olivier Apers, Executive Creative Director at BETC. “I don’t know if our advertising tastes French.”

Obviously we couldn’t stop there though. We need to go deeper, Inception style. So let’s start by gathering some raw materials: the best of French advertising – and the Frenchest of good advertising. For the most part big French brands, no matter how international their markets, use famous French agencies.

Publicis and Havas are the leviathans of the market, but BETC are the agency du jour for that contemporary French flavour. New Zealander Mark Forgan, Creative Director at Rosapark, came to France seven years ago and from his foreigner’s perspective BETC is the peak of French advertising today. “It’s typically French but international,” he says. “I feel like it’s the point where fashion meets advertising. It’s really modern. Even when they do Evian, although it’s quite international it has a bit of French taste to it. Then they have CANAL+ and of course Air France.”

Air France is about as French as it gets, according to everyone I speak to in Paris. “It’s selling the French lifestyle,” suggests Bruno Lee, Deputy Managing Director at Sid Lee. Frenchness is their product.

Evian is an example we can perhaps learn more from. Their relationship with BETC goes back to 1994, and since then it has stuck with the same strategy, trying to own the idea of youthfulness. This thread continues today, and their babies have become iconic. The campaigns are more than a little weird, but they work. This demonstrates something that French agencies do better than anyone – long-term development of a creative concept. It takes perseverance and conviction that most agencies fail to demonstrate. “It’s typically French,” says Olivier. “And maybe that’s our own particularity regarding the agency and the French market. We do not try to reinvent a strategy each year for a brand. When we find something that we believe in, we like to build on it.”

What about the bad side of French advertising? I asked what the lowest common denominator was. Those clichés particular to French culture? It was easier for Mark and Jamie Standen, his creative partner at Rosapark, with their immigrant perspective. “When you turn on the TV in a hotel, in the UK you see a bunch of ads for short term loans,” says Jamie. “In America it’s pharmaceutical ads. In France it’s mass-produced food like cheese or yogurt.” He describes the typical scene of two women by a swimming pool enthusing about how surprisingly delicious their 0%-fat yogurt is. Bruno agrees that dairy products are particularly guilty. “If there is a French cliché of advertising it would be for this sort of brand,” he says. “Like people enjoying a yogurt in a really ecstatic way, or kids in the countryside watching farmers milk cows.”

But even ads for these mass-produced brands don’t feel cheap in the way British or American commercials often do. “In America, it’s like someone’s yelling at me all the time from the TV,” says Mark. And one explanation for this is the common assumption that the French are more attuned to style than other countries. “The reason we were attracted to come and work in Paris in the beginning was because they did advertising with such precision,” he says. “The art direction and look of everything was incredible.”

It seems impossible for the French to ignore design. “Our approach is to work like advertising designers,” says Olivier. “To imagine what the core message for each communication is, but at the same time what is the style, what is the mood?”

Paris is famous for its style, and there’s no way the ad industry there is letting go of that reputation. Art direction is paramount.

French creatives have the attitude to fit this reputation, too. Somehow they’ve escaped the shame that seems to hang around a career in advertising for the Anglophone world. The old line “please don’t tell my mother I work in advertising – she thinks I play piano in a brothel” wouldn’t make sense in a Paris agency, where creatives consider themselves legitimate artists, despite the commercial ends of their work.

“A lot of creative teams see themselves like poets of daily life,” says Bruno. “That’s probably an important part of the DNA of the French market. The culture of the creative is totally different from places like London, the Nordic countries [or] the US. Here you feel that being a creative is a gift, not work.”

Mark and Jamie have witnessed this difference. “In New Zealand and Australia people would never consider themselves artists,” says Jamie, “because in those countries it would be too pretentious to imagine. Here that’s not a problem.”

So the French take their advertising seriously. I get the impression that Olivier, the Frenchest of my interviewees, considers my line of questioning a little frivolous. He’s right. And maybe that’s just how Brits approach advertising. We have to make a joke to justify our selling. The French do funny advertising too, of course, but it’s less subtle. “The French don’t get irony,” says Mark. “[They] need to know when to laugh.”

Culturally, the French retain a value that’s generally dying out in our collaborative, Silicon Valley influenced business landscape – the culture of competition, even within companies. “I think in France there is still the notion of getting respect for a fight,” says Bruno. “It’s a culture of confrontation.” This can be between clients and account teams, fighting for the right idea, between account teams and creative teams or creatives and strategists.

“You hear stories about teams being too scared to print their work because another team might steal their ideas,” says Jamie. Of course, all the agencies I visit tell me they’re totally collaborative – exceptions that prove the rule, I’m sure – but it’s easy to see why it might work. When you’ve fought for an idea, it’s been rigorously stress-tested, so is hopefully more effective.

Then there’s Paris itself. A city with so much allure it has its own psychological disorder. And ad agencies there are proud of their home’s electricity, drawing people in like moths to a neon windmill. It’s always been a city synonymous with fashion, film, music and art.

Even BETC, who recently moved to the underprivileged suburb of Pantin to build their own creative neighbourhood, remain proud Parisians. “We keep our link to Paris because [it’s a] very powerful battery,” says Olivier. “It’s necessary for us to go back to take a little bit of the electricity of the city.” Creative ideas need fuel, and there’s plenty in France’s capital to stoke those fires.

Paris isn’t like other capital cities though, because it’s so dominant compared to other French cities. In the USA the big agencies are spread between New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, and elsewhere. In the UK we even have a few notable ones outside of London, and historically our culture has been spread throughout the various cities. Paris doesn’t have that kind of competition. “France is dominated by Paris,” says Jamie.

Maybe that’s why French advertising has such a strong identity. Practically everyone who creates culture works within a few miles of one another. And that spot on the map has become a stylish, artistic nexus.

French advertising is special. It’s fun to try and work out why, but that secret ingredient remains a certain je ne sais quoi to me. One thing is certain – it deserves more attention from the English-speaking world.

Don’t Moan, Organise!

January 24, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Not happy with the way the world’s changing? Advertising professionals are far from powerless.

Rodney Rascona thinks the advertising industry could do much more good. A veteran commercials director and photographer at production company Squire London, he wants to help the expert communicators of this industry to step up for the good of humanity. The shocks of 2016 made the world look bleak. We need to turn that around as a creative community, he suggests.

For 17 years he’s worked all over the developing world to bring the harsh realities of people’s lives to light. He’s documented the 2004 Southeast Asia Tsunami, the Haitian earthquake, the Somali / Kenyan exodus, Ethiopian famine, post-genocide Rwanda, women’s rights issues in Congo, the Phillippines typhoon Haiyan and has been involved with several NGOs along the way.

In recent years he’s been working with a United Nations Foundation initiative called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. He directed Black Inside for them – three short documentaries in Keyna, India and Peru, highlighting the importance of clean cooking equipment to women’s health.

Red Dirt Road, his short about one woman’s journey to escape the oppressive garment industry in Cambodia, established a link to the issue that he continues to explore. He’s currently working on a feature-length film on the subject called White Silk, taking a wider angle on the exploitation that is so ubiquitous.

“When you work in relief and development you end up involved with these large ethical questions,” he says. “In White Silk it’s ‘can the Western world accept that for them to get a £5 blouse at Primark there’s a whole generation of women in the developing world subsisting on $50 a month with no hope for the future?’ They become beasts of burden to the western consumer to provide that £5 blouse.”

He’s been spending time in Mexico City recently too, poised this season to direct four feature documentaries on hip hop culture, and in between all this he returns to London where his films are stitched together and post-produced with producer Phil Tidy.

Rodney’s been a professional photographer for over 30 years, and started in an altogether glossier sector, doing portraits and car advertising around the planet for international advertising and design teams. In fact, his transition to humanitarianism started with him being up for a LIFE Eisie award in New York for work on the return of the BUG for Volkswagen in 2000.

The ceremony was packed with photojournalistic heavyweights with Sebastião Salgado’s keynote speech hitting home: “Senior image makers need to be working on serious work,” Rodney recalls. “The world needs serious professional photographers, not someone just out of university or someone who just bought a camera.” “I thought what the hell? I’m an advertising guy. I don’t have access to that.”

Later that night Rodney was introduced by respected photojournalist David Burnett, to the famous Brazilian photographer and asked him for advice on photographing human issues in the developing world. He received three tips:
1. Beware of people with short fingers;
2. Before you go to a village drink half a bottle of wine. It doesn’t matter if the images are slightly out of focus but it will relax you;
3. When you’re done, drink the other half.

The next day the phone rang. It was an NGO on the other end asking Rodney to “find famine” in Ethiopia. Since then photographing and directing in the developing world has been his raison d’être.

“In the year 2000, my first assignment for a major NGO, I was sent to a desert pitch in the Ethiopian desert with an assessment team to document the tragic fallout from drought, and ended up taking photographs of children who were starving to death,” he says. “If you work on stuff like that it’s with you all the time – the images the sounds never leave you, but you can’t not want to do it more because its become part of you now, part of your DNA – your life changed forever.”

17 years later, he understands what Salgado meant about applying yourself to serious causes. An advertising professional, he’ll still shoot glossy advertising briefs very happily, his conscience salved elsewhere, but he lives for the more meaningful work.

Having collected likeminded senior image-makers – producers, editors, post-production experts etc. - Rodney’s found the best talent to surround himself with in his ethical endeavours. “I want to be plugged into the people that want to make a change,” he says. “I’ve been blessed that I have that access because whether a project has money or not, thankfully with my producer Phil Tidy, it gets made.” People want to be involved with whatever he’s doing because he’s talented and the causes he’s involved with are fulfilling to work on.

But the world needs more people like this. An Englishman who grew up as a Republican in the USA, last year was the first time Rodney’s voted Democrat. The shifts in the world that Donald Trump represents are too horrific for him to countenance. “He’s been elected President on a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, narcissistic platform with few tangible solutions to global or domestic ills,” he despairs.

“We’ve just seen probably the most cataclysmic shift of our time. If anybody thinks that Trump being elected President isn’t going to affect the world, this is the guy that’s got millions of people lined up to be deported. How are we supposed to receive him? Pretend he didn’t mean what he said? The people who put him in office will expect him to do all those things.

“Regardless of your political view, I believe we can come together, be part of compelling projects where we celebrate cultural diversity, uncover social problems needing a voice and lend a creative heart to the on-going discourse surrounding the social issues of our time.” 

Rodney’s not defeatist though. He wants more people in advertising to step up and respond to the global issues that Trump signifies. “This is a call to action,” he says. “More than ever we need to have a big voice against bigotry, racism and persecution of migrants and refugees. Advertising producers and senior image-makers need to take on major issues. There’s not a lot of money in it but we have the ability to create really impactful messages.”

After 9/11 the Ad Council made a film in response to the atrocious attack. Titled I Am An American, it presented a diverse and defiant America as people of all ages, ethnicities and religions declared “I am an American” to the camera. There was no budget and no client, and Rodney finds it inspiring. “It was work done for the greater good,” he says. “We don’t need a client. The human population is the client.”

Rodney knows the talent and resources are out there, and that people are willing to face up to the challenges of our time. You’ve all seen your advertising friends ranting on social media, despairing the shifts in our world that Brexit and Trump symbolise. If those people organised, they could create messages to counteract these negative trends.

“Assuredly there are dark clouds above us but let’s see this as a call to action,” says Rodney. “A new year now, let’s have a round table meeting, invite leading filmmakers, photographers, producers, creatives, editors, all of us within the creative supply chain. Let’s not wait for something to happen, a client, a budget or motivation. Let’s recognize what the serious messages of our times are. Racism? Bigotry? The fact that some children under five are going to sleep hungry in Hackney? To offset some of this all we have to do is to organize and start creating poignant work and putting it into the community.”

London, where Rodney is based, is the ideal place to mount this response. “It’s worth talking about the collective capability within the creative community here,” he says. “One of the largest exports from London is creativity and so with this in mind, we have the ability to create honest work that people will possibly pay attention to. Instead of taking our frustrations to online chat, let’s do something face to face where we all will benefit. Shots published a feature article I wrote a couple of years ago on a similar set of thoughts where being involved on the social challenges of our times is good for creatives, agencies and clients alike.

“We’re standing on the banks of a stream. It has been flowing for all eternity in the same way. It goes round trees and rocks and follows the same path. As creatives we can stand on the bank and watch this. But if we take just one step out into that stream it changes its path. It stops around our feet. It gurgles, bubbles, goes in different directions just because of that one step. It’s incumbent on creatives to do this, to take the risk. We’re the gatekeepers of creative messages that can bring change, create empathy and compassion for others lives and along the way, educate the rest of us. We’re the ones that bring those messages together.

“For 17 years I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to leverage my image making skills to help raise awareness to serious issues – mostly in tough places around the globe, and so I’d like to play my part here at home too. So see this as a soft appeal, a friendly invitation if you will, to the other like minded creatives to help us breathe life into human challenges many face within the community. Just maybe a group of producers, filmmakers, photographers, writers, advertisers…mature professionals and the young guns among us, collectively with a bigger voice, may help to offset the sense of helplessness and hopelessness many of us feel as a direct result of the current political climate we are forced to endure.

“Perhaps it’s time to step up. Dig deep, share ideas, be advocates, maybe a bit of a zealot in spirit - and to play our part, do our best as creatives for the greater good.”

High Five: January

January 19, 2017 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Some gentle suggestions for how to spend your hard-earned money.

We all need a bit of positivity to kick off the New Year. Thankfully advertisers are here to suggest some resolutions for those of us too complacent to commit to any. Advertisers are nice like that. Although if you listen to all of their recommendations you’ll likely end up broke and unhappy before the spring comes. Anyway, here are the most convincing arguments being put forward – in our humble opinion, the best commercials of the month.

Brand: Bupa
Title: For Owning the Dancefloor
Production Company: Academy
Director: Martin de Thurah
Production Company Producer: Cathy Green
Executive Producer: Simon Cooper
Director of Photography: Niels Thastum
Client team: Angelique Waker (Senior Brand and Planning Manager), Cheryl Rosenthal (Brand Communications Manager), Shannon Faley-Martin (Brand Communications Executive)
Ad Agency: WCRS
Creative Director: Joe Miller
Creatives: Dan Gorlov, Richard Glendenning
Account Handling: Chris Boyton, Chris Moger, Charlie Warner
Planning: Matt Willifer, Hayley Pardoe
Agency Producer: Stefanie Forbes
Production Assistant: Camilla Hempleman-Adams
Editing Company: Little Machine
Editor: Peter Brandt
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective
Media Agency: MEC

Bupa – For Owning the Dancefloor

The power of understatement. One shot, one emotional performance, one great piece of music and one line of copy. Nothing more is needed to convey the moving story of one woman’s triumph over cancer, with a little help from private healthcare. Good for her. Anything that takes the pressure off the stretched-too-thin NHS is welcome. Hopefully it means someone who can’t afford to go private will enjoy the same feeling too.

 

Brand: Center Parcs
Title: Forest is Your Playground
Production Company: Partizan
Director: Eric Lynne
Production Company Producers: James Youngs, Jennifer Beckett
Director of Photography: Arnaud Potier
Ad Agency: Brothers and Sisters
Creative Director: Andy Fowler
Creatives: Robbie Ferrara, Andy Drugan
Agency Producer: Phoebe Rixon
Editor: Walter Mauriot
Music Company: Soundtree
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Center Parcs – Forest is Your Playground

There’s something very impressive about that “great forest whale” smashing into the leaf monster, especially if you’re watching this on a proper TV or cinema screen with a good sound system, as opposed to over your Boots meal deal at your desk. With CGI bringing their make-believe visions to life on screen, it’s easy to see how a break in the forest can stimulate kids’ imaginations.

 

Brand: Reed
Title: Commute
Production Company: Weilands
Director: Paul Weiland
Production Company Producer: Rachael Donson
Director of Photography: Magni Agustsson
Ad Agency: Contagious
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Struan Clay
Post Production Company: The Mill

Reed – Commute

The whole “you don’t hate Monday; you hate your job” line has been used a fair bit by recruitment companies, but then there is a lot of truth to it. This whole ad is pretty familiar, actually, but it’s just done really well. The script is tight, the casting and performances are great and the gags are genuinely funny. Not a Grand Prix winner, but a solid piece of work.

 

Brand: Thinkbox
Title: The Broadcast
Production Company: Blink Productions
Director: The Bobbsey Twins From Homicide
Production Company Producer: Ewen Brown
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Ad Agency: Red Brick Road
Creative Directors: Matt Davis, Richard Megson
Creative: Dean Webb
Agency Producer: Charles Crisp
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Ed Cheesman
Music Company: Leland Music
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: Big Buoy

Thinkbox – The Broadcast

This is a really nicely made mini-blockbuster. The Bobbsey Twins From Homicide have absolutely nailed the alien invasion movie aesthetic, down to the last newspaper cutting on the conspiracy theorist’s wall. It drives home the dominance of TV advertising effectively and even throws in a bonus lesson – if your product doesn’t deliver on its promise, all your marketing is wasted.

 

Brand: Thomson
Title: Moments
Production Company: Outsider
Director: Scott Lyon
Production Company Producer: Zeno Campbell-Salmon
Director of Photography: Will Dex
Ad Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Creative Director: Mark Roalfe
Creatives: Nicola Wood, Andy Forrest
Agency Producers: Lara Parker, Fiona Renfrew, Kate Manning, Kevin May
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Julia Knight
Music Company: Native
Sound Company: Mark Hellaby
Sound Designer: 750mph
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Thomson – Moments

January is like a mini Christmas or Super Bowl for the travel industry. Every year the package holiday floggers and the comparison sites take to the ad breaks with promises of a momentary escape from our miserable lives of wage slavery in this grey, damp little country. This year the most effective offering comes from Thomson in the form of this poetic piece of filmmaking about the memories your create on holiday. With some clever camera trickery backing up a clear idea, Thomson have won the battle of the January travel ads.

Signed: Dorian & Daniel

January 19, 2017 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

The most hyped young directors in the advertising consciousness have found a home.

You’ve probably seen Dorian & Daniel’s spec ad for Johnnie Walker. Half of the internet seemed to when it went viral back in December 2015. Dear Brother, their moving story about two brothers touched enough people with its $9,000 budget to spark conversation amongst the normies, not just advertising geeks. Most proper ads can’t manage that.

Dorian Lebherz and Daniel Titz grew up on opposite ends of Germany. Daniel is from a small town in the north and Dorian from a small town in the south, but when the pair met at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg they discovered that their talents complemented one another.

Now they’ve signed to Academy and A+. We’re surprised they weren’t snapped up quicker to be honest, but they’ve done well to land themselves a spot on one of the most talent-packed rosters in London. The company has a pedigree when it comes to developing directors, so we’ll watch their development with interest.

Watch some of their work here: