As the line between production companies and agencies blurs, the debate over turf heated up in 2017 amid a US Department of Justice investigation into agency bid-rigging. However, Somesuch has a compelling answer to the question about the role production companies have to play in creating great work.
One of its stars, Kim Gehrig, told Campaign this year that production companies remain the best place to nurture directors. Somesuch has certainly lived up to that promise. Gehrig herself rocketed back onto the scene after a year on maternity leave, with the moving sequel to Sport England’s "This girl can". She also directed a spot for Eurostar, which Somesuch handled without an agency intermediary, as well as Uber’s first UK TV ad.
A 2017 creative milestone came from Aoife McArdle with Absolut’s "Equal love", an artistic kissathon celebrating inclusion. The year held even more significance for McArdle after Somesuch produced her first feature film, Kissing Candice, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim and cemented her status as one of the most exciting UK directors to watch.
Another hot talent on Somesuch’s roster is Daniel Wolfe, who directed Bodyform/Libresse’s "Blood normal", the first UK ad to depict menstrual blood. His vision brought to life a world free of period shame, smashing taboos through a beautifully crafted film.
One of Somesuch’s newest directors, Raine Allen-Miller, grabbed attention with the colourful "Go play" for Asos. She started snaring jobs this year and adds to the examples of Somesuch’s knack for spotting and developing fresh talent.
In an industry dominated by men, it was refreshing to see the company sign its 10th female director, Cannes-winning filmmaker Lynne Ramsay, who is best known for movies including Ratcatcher and We Need to Talk about Kevin. It also welcomed Crystal Moselle, who won at Sundance with her 2015 documentary The Wolfpack, as well as directors Fleur Fortuné, Clayton Vomero and Dan Emmerson.
Many other 2017 highlights can be credited to Somesuch, from Secret Escapes’ wry "I shouldn’t even be here" campaign, directed by Tim Godsall, to Uniqlo’s mesmerising "Move" ad by Autumn de Wilde.
Beyond traditional commercials, Max Weiland won a YouTube contest with a music video for Elton John classic Tiny Dancer, shot in a Los Angeles traffic jam. And Somesuch nabbed a coveted Bafta for its work on "Home", a short film commissioned by the UN about the refugee crisis.
Somesuch co-founder Sally Campbell once wrote in Campaign that the old definitions of production company and agency are "being eroded". But whether or not everyone embraces her conviction that "there’s room for everyone", Somesuch shows off the alchemy that a production company can still bring to an idea.
Blink was a close contender for the title this year for its diverse work and masterful craft.
Its top director, Dougal Wilson, brought his signature emotional touch to Channel 4’s idents, introducing the nation to a lovable giant, built from the broadcaster’s logo blocks. He also cast a look inside a neighbourhood barbershop for one of Apple’s best recent ads.
But Blink has much more in its stable besides Wilson’s star power. The company is home to first-rate animators in its Blinkink division, which brought to life 335 baked characters for Channel 4’s spectacular The Great British Bake Off trailer. That near-obsessive level of craft was also seen in the BBC’s stop-motion Christmas ad, directed by Elliot Dear of John Lewis’ "The bear and the hare" fame.
Blink recently brought in new directing talent responsible for some of the most memorable ads of the year. The Bobbsey Twins from Homicide left the agency world at Mother to sign with Blink last year, and have since made their name directing spots for Domino’s and Moneysupermarket.com’s Dirty Dancing tribute with Skeletor and He-Man.
Young director Pedro Martin-Calero conjured up magic from a dull brief with Honda’s "Up", about a woman scaling a mountain. And he infused BT Sport with fun in an ad starring Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli.
Outsider produced an impressive array of films this year, including two Christmas gems. Heathrow’s endearing teddy bears returned in a love story directed by Dom & Nic. McDonald’s also charmed with a festive spot about a girl who saves a carrot for Santa’s reindeer, directed by James Rouse.
Rouse is better known for his comedy, as seen this year in Marmite’s "Gene project" campaign, but he also took a more serious turn in the AA’s "Designated driver" ad. Other highlights were Volkswagen’s emotional "Second speech" by Max Fisher, and Honda’s "Somewhere over the rainbow", a well-crafted car ad.
Rattling Stick gets a nod for producing the year’s top film ad, Audi’s "Clowns", overseen by celebrated director Ringan Ledwidge.
Among the company’s other creative heavy hitters was Daniel Kleinman, best known for his work on James Bond films, but who turned to a softer character with Marks & Spencer’s Christmas ad starring Paddington Bear. •
Recent winners: Academy (2016); Somesuch (2015); Academy (2014); Rattling Stick (2013); Blink (2012)