“No cow shots.” It’s a principle Ivan Pols, chief creative officer at what3words, the precise-location app, believes is key to creating a great TV ad.
“It’s a reminder that if a shot doesn’t serve a purpose, we may as well be pointing the camera at a cow standing in a field,” he says. “It forces us to make the most of every frame we get to play with.”
The winner of the latest Thinkboxes Award for TV creativity in March/April, along with agency Neverland, Pols is worth listening to. And he’s a TV fan.
Not only does TV give what3words “an injection of broad awareness and education” that complements its other comms, he says, “TV also gives us the time to express our personality and build an emotional connection with our audience.” The brand’s goal is to become “a global standard in addressing, so we need as many people as possible to have some knowledge of the system, to like the brand, and to remember to use it at the right time.”
The aim of the ad, “Neighbours” was to tell people they can add their precise what3words address to delivery notes so that their packages arrive at the right place. “When we buy something online, there’s always that worry it may not arrive where we expect it to,” Pols notes. “The question was: how could we bring that insight to life in a special way?”
The answer arose “as the best always do,” explains Neverland senior creative Lloyd Daniel, with a simple conversation: “in this case; where on earth missing parcels could get to and then a simple truth – your neighbours. After that, it just needed some advertising creative licence.”
“Neighbours” plays out a young man having an awkward encounter with an elderly neighbour. As he asks her about his missing parcels, which she claims no knowledge of, he spots her husband wearing the things he’d ordered and, as she closes the door with a smug expression, the man spies the woman herself wearing some box-fresh trainers that look suspiciously like the ones he’d bought. Even so, his politeness won’t let him challenge her word.
Daniel explains the thought process: “As we went from treatment to storyboards, we fell in love with the idea of creating an ad that felt more like a short comedy sketch from a series you’d expect to see launching on Channel 4 or BBC3. The right casting nailed this.”
And, since “over-egging the comedy pudding was simply not an option,” director Tom Speers at Smuggler was chosen for his dry, restrained sense of humour.
Trust between client and agency made the ad development “flow nicely”, Pols acknowledges. “It also helps that it's a cracking script. At what3words we work very openly and Neverland embraced that culture so decisions were made clearly and quickly, and [the agency] could work their magic.
On shoot day, the entire premise rested on the performance of three cast members, a front door and some bits of wardrobe, Daniel recalls. And post-production was no drama.
Favourite bits? For Daniel, it’s “Gwen’s wickedly pleasant nose wrinkle and Benji’s ungodly ability to pretend he hasn’t just seen what he knows he’s just seen. British (over)politeness at its best.” Pols points to Speers’ talent in the casting and performances that means “the highlight is definitely the silent reactions between the actors that tell us so much about their characters. It’s exactly what TV is great at.”
Family, friends, the wider public - and the Thinkbox TV Academy members - also clearly rate the ad. Most importantly, Pols reveals, “the graphs are moving in the right direction”.
Looking back, what’s the winning formula for getting an ad from script to TV screen? “There is no blueprint (or if there is, I’m not aware of it),” Daniel admits. “The best I can offer is to be present and quickly respond to every twist, turn and spanner the process throws at you. It’s always worth it when you finally see the work on screen.”
Pols is sticking with his favourite principle. “However, I’ve just made a film with a cow, so clearly there are exceptions.”
Second in the March-April Thinkboxes was "Let play unwind your mind" by Mother for Ikea. “I am what I am” by Lucky Generals for Virgin Atlantic was third. Also shortlisted was “The epic mission” by BBH for Tesco Mobile.
Creative: Lloyd Daniels
Client: Ivan Pols
Production company: Smuggler
Director: Tom Speers
The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms. They are judged by the Thinkbox Academy – 200 advertising and marketing luminaries who have been involved in award-winning creative work for TV.
Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.