Have a tremendously satisfactory day
Nov 2012 15

A rather long-winded recanting of a story from my (not-so) illustrious career involving strange client demands. And cats.

Yesterday the Facebook status of a friend in advertising read: “Can you show light-hearted playfulness in her eyes?”. I assumed she was referring to some ‘feedback’ from a client and I remembered this true story from my long and (not so) illustrious career. And I thought I’d share it with my seven regular readers. Clients get a bad rap sometimes and it’s because of the odd one that is frankly just a wingnut. Most of them are actually just normal people who only want to do good advertising that their friends will talk about and they’ll feel good about too. Oh and of course, is effective so no one gets fired.

This is a ‘wingnut’ story.

Late 1990s and my Art Director partner and I are about a year into our first jobs in the business. We were put on what seemed like an easy project to develop our skills a bit — put a new ending onto an existing cat food commercial. The original spot was from the UK and the Canadian version of the product (with French on it, Mon Dieu!) needed to be shot and inserted into the 7 seconds at the end. So far, so good. My partner and I looked forward to a day on set with craft services free food (we were poor) and a couple of days in post-production where again we’d have a few free meals (really poor).

The only catch was that the product shot had to have a cat in it. The campaign ran around the world, and every country always had to reshoot the product with the same kind of cat next to it for the ending. Okay, still no problem. The producer just added one ‘cat wrangler’ to the budget.

After choosing a director, we got together with the client to present their storyboard before the shoot. The pre-pro. The storyboard was beautifully drawn. Lots of great details. About 4 panels. For those of you who aren’t in advertising (and why do you read my schlock if you’re not?), it’s a great way to get clients comfortable with spending a lot of money on a film shoot. It’s about $70,000 a day just to get a crew (with craft services) to show up. It’s also a way for everyone to visualize the final product — of seven seconds in this case. Our storyboard was basically four panels of a cat next to a can of cat food.

We present the storyboard, quite proudly I’ll add – we were good presenters – and at the end the main client looks very concerned. He’s quiet for awhile, thinking. He looks sternly at my partner and I and says quite measured: “Guys, I told you I wanted a look of tremendous satisfaction on the cat’s face. The cat in the storyboard does not have a look of tremendous satisfaction on its’ face”. I looked at the board, and it looks like… a cat. The way cats look. It was a very realistic interpretation I thought. We spent like $500 per frame on this storyboard.

The account person from our ad agency, our co-worker, looks over at us and she says “Guys, is that something we can address? It is in the brand objectives.”

My creative team partner and I look at each other, waiting for someone to say it’s a joke. But it’s not a joke. This wingnut client expects the drawing of the cat to show he/she is ‘tremendously satisfied’. Forget about how we are actually going to achieve this at the shoot, we’re suddenly on the hot seat for not delivering on a ‘brand objective’ – in a drawing. Crap, if we are removed from the project we will not get our free lunch for three days as we desperately need.

Brilliance strikes my Guatemalan Art Director partner who shall remain nameless. He takes our deck of the printed storyboard frames and on the final frame he draws a ‘happy face’ mouth on the cat, like you’d find on those stupid ‘have a nice day’ yellow happy faces. He slides it across the table and says “There is a look of tremendous satisfaction. Is that what you mean? I think we can achieve something like that at the shoot.”

The client, dead serious, says “Thank you, that is all I ask for.”

Nov 2012 09

This is a fun follow-up to a spot McGarryBowen did earlier this year involving beautiful people running on a beach. This time, they tackle the feel-good holiday romcom movie trailer.

I’m hoping Sears here in Canada will start doing some fun work now that Graham Lee and the crew are on the business here at Unitas. But for now, we have this. I thought it was pretty well done.



Nov 2012 02

Following up ‘Pink Ponies’ and ‘Catvertising’, John St. spoofs the viral video world.
I remember a brief I received while freelancing at an agency for a very large company in Canada. The brief was “Do something that goes viral”. If only we had this back then.

CREATIVE TEAM: Kurt Mills & Kyle Lamb
CD: Stephen Jurisic & Angus Tucker
AGENCY: John St.
PRODUCTION: Aircastle Films

Nov 2012 01

Jon Murray, one of my favourite copywriters (now in sunny California, the turncoat), called me up at RMW to say he was working on a short film. And could we maybe do the sound? Of course we could.

As the Audio Director, the real hard-work was done by other people like the sound engineer and composers at RMW that contributed their formidable talents for the project. However, I will say I did learn how challenging (and fun) it can be to try to corral everyone to go in one direction. Jon had a specific sound in mind and it was a good learning experience for me to take what he was saying and relay it to everyone else or interpret it a new, different way. Hey, that’s what an audio director does, right?

In the end, I think my big contribution – other than keeping us to some deadlines – was recommending that we should throw out the VO we recorded that belonged to the actor in the film. He came in for a couple of hours and it never sat well with me for some reason. He was good. But I was always hearing Jon Murray himself in the VO role. Jon had a quality that made you want to root for him. He was earnest and sincere. And I think the character needed that for us to empathize more. So that’s what I recommended – we redo it with Jon’s voice. And the rest is sound history.

Here it is, Jon Murray’s award-winning short film ‘Today I Tell Her’.

Today I Will Tell Her from Jon Murray on Vimeo.

Written and Directed by Jon Murray
Cinematographer: Robert Lyte
Editor: Jackie Roda
Producer: Phil Carvalhodd
Music: Dustin Anstey, Laura Nikolic, Jeen O’Brien, and Stephan Szczesniak
Audio Director: Andrew Bradley
Sound Engineer: Dustin Anstey
Sound Design: Art Mullin, Kyle Gudmundson

Oct 2012 31

Halloween is here. And you know what that means… kids coming to the door expecting free candy just for standing there and doing nothing. Half of them don’t even say “Trick or Treat” anymore. Where are our standards? It’s an unspoken agreement — I give out candy I bought with my hard-earned dollars and they’re supposed to say something. They’re fucking with tradition here. Sigh.

Anyhow, here are some fun and clever ads for Silver Snail Comics for Halloween thought-upped (yes, I know that’s not a word) by Cheil here in Toronto. Joe Musicco, the ECD, is not only a smart (and evidently geeky) guy, but he’s also one of advertising’s super nice people.

I particularly like the Superman as Batman one, cause we all know Superman secretly wanted to be him. It’s fucked up psychotherapy “My mom and dad died when my planet blew up and now I’m Earth’s saviour” stuff.

AGENCY: Cheil, Canada
ECD: Joe Musicco
AD: Donald Vann, Laura Kitching, Helene Larochelle
CW: Tom Mednick, Scott Lew, Jason Partridge
DESIGNER: Joe Borges
PHOTOS: Alex Lukey