The brief – two of them, in fact
International TV campaign. A short sentence guaranteed to pucker the poohole of any executive creative director. The most vivid international TV campaign I can currently recall is that extraordinarily badly dubbed one for Dr Oetker, the German frozen-pizza brand.
The brief is for two significant TV spots for Samsung’s new gesture-controlled smart TV, so hope must outweigh experience. Worth putting two of our most talented teams on it. Cue Rob Webster and Alexei Berwitz, and Neil Clarke and Jay Phillips. That’ll fucking teach ’em.
Shitloads of ideas
So many of them, in so many different colours. They run from the well-it’s-slightly-better-than-meh to the fuck-me-I’d-like-to-make-that-it-might-just-give-me-the-justification-to-tap-Hornby-for-a-bung-and-I-could-do-with-a-nice-holiday. There are more of the latter than I could hope for.
Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of that old-school creative director MO of chucking as many teams as you can muster at a brief, but the situation builds an enjoyably erotic competitive frisson between the four creatives. Not one of them goes home for a month. As three of them have young children and the other is experiencing the ball-crushing run-up to his wedding, this may just be tactics.
Eventually, four excellent scripts pack their bags and go travelling around the world, as full of optimism as a happy gang of gap-year buffoons on a very long daddy-paid holiday. Only two come back alive. But a brace of ads featuring an alien invasion, Marie Antoinette, an albino minotaur and a teddy bear on a tricycle isn’t too shabby.
Now some poor bastard has to make this stuff
The brilliant Adam Berg says yes to "king of TV city" and delivers a stunning treatment. Rob and Alexei are made up about this. Neil and Jay are quietly livid. Fortunately, Zoe Barlow, our ever-glamorous head of broadcast, ups the ante by suggesting Romain Gavras (pictured, bottom right) for "charge". His treatment gives me ad-fat.
After various Skyped pre-pre-pre-pre-prods and hilarious banter with the cost-controller, the teams head off to different parts of the other side of the world. I send Rick Brim to go along to oversee the "charge" shoot, ostensibly to add some senior creative director clout to the production but, in reality, because that man surely loves a long flight in business class.
Scant news from far away
Information on the two shoots trickles in via e-mail and text, in dribs and drabs. A photo of the account lead, Christian Hinchcliffe, with his shockingly hairless tits out on a New Zealand beach, surrounded by repelled-looking Maoris. A text from Rick that the first set-ups look "fucking awesome". IPhone footage from South Africa of a £300,000 1969 Porsche 917 Le Mans being written off.
A panicked e-mail from Alex Nicholson, the extravagantly tattooed TV producer, asking if we can shoot another day of the marauding wildebeest, as it appears that wildebeest don’t take direction that brilliantly and have a tendency to, well, maraud. The usual stuff.
That dreaded first cut
I fear first edits – tatty round the edges and viciously ugly from the one-light. Alex plays the first cut of "king of TV city" on the big Samsung TV on my office wall, appropriately. Paul Hardcastle has cut a mini-movie and it already looks beautiful, looks Adam Berg. Only one tiny change, so minor it feels embarrassingly like I’m making a point that I can have input.
I head to Hagon to see the first cut of "charge". The edit suite huffs like male creative people and various takeaways. A long editing weekend, although Romain’s beard remains defiantly unbowed by the experience. Jono Griffith’s edits put a great big goofy grin on my face. We argue the toss about music. Anything works on the cut, from Judy Garland to Jay-Z. Jim Bolton, just for shits, lays the Benny Hill theme against the ad and plays it to Neil and Jay, claiming that he has "cracked it". I have to share an office with this man every day.
All the cherries on top
While Caroline Angell unflappably produces the 1,289 versions of "charge" required for global play-out, the post-production on "king of TV city" sails along with stately grace. The Moving Picture Company’s Franck Lambertz delivers a million exquisite pixels every day; the film composer John Murphy and the Hollywood sound designer Brian Emrich conspire to blow the bass on my speakers.
Platinum Rye’s Dave Goulding finds the perfect track for "charge" – and it isn’t the theme music of a comedian whose particular peccadillo was to be masturbated by Marigold glove-wearing prostitutes. Jim is crushed with disappointment.
Out into the world on wobbly legs
And the ads are finally done, shined-up and signed off. So often, this moment is a let-down, never as great as the perfect ad you projected on the inside of your head during the interminable pre-prod.
But these ads, these two great big hairy-arsed global TV ads, are so much better than the small, tight, hard scripts that they started as. Aren’t they? We throw a party to show them to the agency and, while they are playing, I find myself more nervous than when I had to do my wedding speech (and, fuck me, that was a tough crowd, vicious – especially Him Indoors, who loudly booed me at one point).
We play the ads back to back, and there is a silence when they finish.
Then the whole drunken agency cheer themselves hoarse.
That’ll do, pig.
Jonathan Burley is the executive creative director at CHI & Partners