Advertising on the Internet has definitely gained momentum.
“While budgets are still generally higher for TV spots than for online films, the gap is lessening and advertisers are beginning to understand the amount of care and attention that needs to be invested if their ‘content’ is to be seen at all,” says Andrew Watson, creative director with Amsterdam-based Minivegas.
“On the flip side, it’s actually an extremely liberating time for filmmakers and advertisers,” he reports. “Huge TV budgets are no longer necessary to make awe-inspiring films, and failure needn’t break the bank, so we have the chance to experiment and create more.”
Sounds like a win-win situation.
FLAVOR — ARROW ELECTRONICS
Arrow Electronics readily admits to being “the biggest company nobody ever heard of,” but its innovative B-to-B ad campaign from Karsh Hagan/Denver should change that. Appearing on Arrow’s Website and YouTube channel, on big screens in Major League ball parks, at the Arrow Global Strategic Summit, and in an internal campaign to Arrow’s 16,500 employees worldwide, eight spots target the company’s eight core areas of business: aerospace and defense, intelligent systems, lighting, data center, power management, value recovery, the cloud and mobility.
The spots convey Arrow’s “Five Years Out” brand message by bookending live action scenes of youngsters and engineers telling imaginative stories of technology as seen through the eyes of a five year-old and animated in an array of styles by LA-based Flavor (www.flavor.tv), a recent addition to the Cutters Studios family.
“The agency envisioned different styles of animation, and we were excited by the possibilities,” says Brad Tucker, executive creative director at Flavor. “The animation style changes according to the journey the kids are taking, but there’s the same hierarchy in all the spots so that structure keeps the campaign together.”
Flavor assembled a team of talented artists for the project. “We consulted on-set for the live-action shoots but waited to see what was captured from the kids before figuring out how to animate to it,” says Darren Jaffe, Flavor’s executive producer. “Because we weren’t limited to :30, we could let the stories tell themselves: Some spots are :45, some are over a minute.”
The stories had to tell themselves wordlessly, though. “The spots were international, so there we had to come up with visual representations that everyone could understand,” Tucker explains.
Among Tucker’s favorites are Forest, for Arrow’s lighting business, and Dragon, for the mobility sector. In Forest, a little boy is walking through the dark woods when his imagination gets the better of him. “It has a 3D character to it, but we didn’t really have the budget for full 3D, so we mixed 3D with cel animation and After Effects compositing, and it all came together beautifully,” he says.
Dragon was entirely cel animated, offering “upbeat and exciting illustrations that are lots of fun,” he adds.
Jaffe especially likes Rocket, for Arrow’s aerospace business, because it depicts “the spirit of what we want scientists and engineers to be: It’s about the dreamers and how to make their dreams reality.” In the spot, Flavor opted to mix “cel, 3D and traditional 2D motion graphics with seamless transitions so nothing is disparate or unnecessary,” he says.
The spots were shot and animated as if they were destined for broadcast, Tucker and Jaffe report. “When you’re promoting your brand, you want to show it in the best possible light, so the live action and animation are high quality,” Jaffe says. Their toolset included Autodesk Maya, Maxon Cinema 4D, Flash, Adobe After Effects and Photoshop.
The project showcased the all-inclusive capabilities of Cutters Studios with Cutters in Chicago handling the color grading during a remote Autodesk Lustre session, with Tucker guiding the grade from LA, Cutters LA editing the spots, and Another Country performing the sound design.
“Everyone has been very excited by the campaign,” says Tucker. “We were invited to a Colorado Rockies game to see the spots play on the Jumbotron while we were standing on home plate — a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
ROYALE — TOYOTA
LA-based Royale (www.weareroyale.com) continued its long-standing relationship with Saatchi & Saatchi/LA with a social media campaign of 19 :15 animated spots for Toyota Academy. These spots illustrate the impressive features of various Toyota vehicles, from the body-on-frame construction of 4Runner and the 50mpg economy of Prius, to the eight-seat capacity of Highlander and the rear cross-traffic alert of Rav4.
“Most automakers traditionally showcase features by simply X-raying through the body of the car, but for this campaign we took a really creative approach by using humor and a little irreverence to showcase the features in a playful way,” says Royale partner and creative director Brien Holman. “I think Toyota Academy has become one of their most successful viral campaigns with millions of hits — and counting — because of the sense of humor it uses.”
Royale worked closely with the agency to develop a “clean, almost white-board look” where a live-action hand draws black-and-white environments around a color still of the vehicle model. “The idea was not to build a cartoon but a sophisticated illustration, and Saatchi let us find that style,” Holman says. “It took a while to find the right balance. This is Toyota — we had to find a sophisticated style that would appeal to Toyota’s audience, so we decided on a black-and-white aesthetic with the human touch of the hand interacting with the art of the cars.”
Some aspects of the style were determined by the assets available — the only key art offered were stills of the vehicles. “We didn’t have access to 3D models,” Holman notes. “And no photos of the features were available.”
Royale shot a hand model sketching blind, not making marks on paper. “We captured him sketching from every angle so we could have some control in post,” he explains. Then a team of After Effects artists created assets as mattes to layer in and build the animations.
“It was really more of a design job than an animation job,” says Holman. “Since each spot was only :15, the hardest part was figuring out how fast the hand had to sketch — which parts should be sketched in and which parts animated in, so in :03 an entire scene could be drawn. We decided to have some elements already there and have the hand augmenting them as the spots open — erasing, changing, tweaking things so the hand is a device to aid the story, not just draw it on.”
The playful illustrations include an alien environment for 4Runner’s robust construction, a gas station that Prius doesn’t need except for the restrooms, a circus act that packs a Highlander and some rather strange suburban traffic detected by Rav4.
Toyota Academy runs on the automaker’s YouTube channel and some spots are formatted as online banners. Royale even tagged one spot for broadcast.
“More and more advertisers are shifting money to Websites and viral — all the Nike work we do is sitting online,” Holman says. “I think that’s the way advertising is going to go. You’ll see ads in more unexpected places, which is a very cool thing.”
MINIVEGAS — KLM
Amsterdam-based Minivegas (www.minivegas.net) was approached by Eigenfabrikaat/Amsterdam about creating a live, interactive experience for KLM’s big World Deal Weeks ticket promotion, which would also generate ongoing visibility with an international audience online. The key device of the promotion was a high five — the hand slap would link players at kiosks in New York City and Amsterdam. If their hands met on the screen at exactly the same time, each party would win free KLM tickets to the other’s city.
The Live High Five initiative would be a 1:30 spot capturing the excitement of game play, the reactions of participants who came close to winning and the joy of those presented with giant KLM tickets. It supported a fully-integrated campaign with TV, radio, display, print, social and PR components.
Minivegas fielded two production teams working in parallel: creative director Andrew Watson in New York and director Maarten Boon in Amsterdam. “We knew how we wanted the film to feel, what emotions we wanted to capture, and we also preplanned a number of specific angles, positions and lens combinations that we knew would work well in the edit,” says Watson.
The directors opted for unobtrusive Canon C100 cameras and sound men armed with long booms to capture the reactions of players without invading their space. “When shooting things like this you always want to capture true, honest responses and emotions so keeping the crew in the background as much as possible is crucial,” Watson says. “You also need to be on your toes so that when something happens you can get close quickly and not miss anything. The C100 was great as it’s light enough to [move] quickly into position and swap out lenses when necessary.”
Since Minivegas has a background in animation and VFX it prides itself in being capable of producing projects end to end. “For KLM we brought in [editor] Ben Putland, who we have worked with a lot and who we knew would understand the style and rhythm we were looking for,” says Watson.
“Of course, cutting an eight-hour experience into a 1:30 spot is always challenging — but we were focused on telling the story and capturing the energy and emotion of the day rather than getting bogged down in the finer details of how exactly everything worked. In the end, we had enough footage that we were able to cut between the action in Amsterdam and New York in a really playful way to bring the event back to life and make sense of it for a passive online audience.”
Watson notes that cutting through the clutter applies to Internet as well as broadcast advertising these days. “The Internet is a busy place. You can’t expect to stand out or be seen if you throw up mediocre content. The story must be compelling. That could be achieved through the subject matter or production values — but without one of these factors, chances are no one will see your film.”
WHITEHOUSE POST — HP
Big-wave surfer Ian Walsh used an HP Pavilion X360 computer to help him find the amazing South African swells documented in Ghost Wave, an eight-minute film shot by director Taylor Steele, via 180LA, and edited by Brandon Porter of Whitehouse Post, Los Angeles (www.whitehousepost.com). The film resides on HP Computers’ YouTube channel.
Earlier, Porter edited a :30 broadcast spot about Walsh hunting down the next big wave, which was designed to drive viewers to the Web to watch a longer spot and trailers, and leave their comments about the surfer’s quest. “The writers whose comments HP liked had their names machine-etched onto Ian’s surfboard in a ‘drop into history with Ian’ promotion,” says Porter.
Fans kept up with Walsh’s hunt online through a series of on-location social media postings following him to South Africa where he and his team, aided by HP, honed in on the location of the massive surf Walsh sought. Porter traveled with the team as it captured travel footage, interviews with key support staff and curious locals, and stunning shots of the big waves. Eager viewers around the world were waiting for film of Walsh’s ride so Porter had less than a week to edit the film.
“Being there cut down on the time I needed to get familiar with the material,” he notes. “Since I knew what happened and I knew the certain beats we had to get, I could put the film together a lot faster.”
There was debate about how long the film should be. “Taylor [Steele] does a lot of surf movies so we wanted the feel of a Taylor surf film,” Porter explains. “Two minutes wasn’t going to be long enough for the epicness of the event, but my original cut of 14 minutes was too long, so we aimed for just under eight minutes.”
Steele shot 5K anamorphic with two Red Epics, which enabled Porter to reposition or push in on shots as needed. He boarded a plane home, armed with a MacBook Pro, Avid Media Composer 8 and a 4TB hard drive containing eight days of 5K footage. He didn’t have time to transcode on the plane, but using Avid’s new ability to AMA link to the RAW media, he was able to review the footage and make selects, getting a jump on the edit back at Whitehouse Post.
Still, “there was so much interesting stuff that my original cut was 14 minutes,” says Porter. “I had to step outside the box and look at what kept the story moving as opposed to what I thought was interesting. I had to keep viewers engaged, to weave the story together without repeating or dragging. Once I had the interviews strung out then it became easier to fill in with beautiful footage.”
Mark Gethin at MPC/LA performed the color correction; Flame artist Chris Nollert at Whitehouse Post’s sister company, Carbon, did the conform.
Ghost Wave captures all the excitement of Walsh’s big wave quest while subtly showing how HP facilitated the adventure. “We felt we were making a film, not an ad, and I think we succeeded in that,” Porter says. “We didn’t cut any corners for the Web. We did our best work and gave Ian’s ride the respect it deserves.”