Acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti makes his on-screen commercial acting debut—and jousts with a family of know-it-all movie and TV buffs—in CenturyLink's amusing "Hollywood Insider" campaign from Arnold Worldwide.
Known for his roles in American Splendor and Sideways, Giamatti channels his earnest, harried screen persona in a series of commercials—directed by Speck and Gordon of Furlined—touting the client's Internet service and interactive Prism TV offering.
Giamatti is seen pitching the service in a family home, in the kind of setup you've seen a hundred times before. But in a cool and fresh conceit, the family—schooled by CenturyLink content—ends up turning the tables on him, and critiquing his acting.
In the 60-second spot below, "Movie Titles," the family engages in Film Theory 101, likening Giamatti's CenturyLink pitch to Italian neorealism and film-noir:
"CenturyLink asked us to amplify their message of simplicity and honesty, while being humorous and personable," Arnold executive creative director David Register told Adweek. "This idea did both, especially with Paul in the role of the lovable, put-upon celebrity, who is really put to the test by this family of experts."
In the next clip, Giamatti gets some unsolicited hair and makeup advice:
Frankly, he's rocking the "crazy-uncle look," even in that natty suit.
"The family rehearsed a lot," said Register. "Paul pretty much just nailed his delivery." Well, in the ad below, the family disagrees with that assessment:
Finally, we get an improv scene—scripted, of course, since this is, after all, a commercial:
The actors are all veteran improvers, and during the shoot, "sometimes the banter or critique would just keep on going," Register said, "heading totally off script. And although it wasn't all usable, it was extremely funny to watch, given how game Paul was to playing off any critique thrown his way."
Indeed, Giamatti acquits himself well throughout, providing a likable foil for the family's verbal assaults.
The campaign also scores by cannily tapping into certain cultural truths. "We're becoming these ravenous devourers of all things entertainment," said Arnold global chief creative officer Jim Elliott. "Thanks to franchises like TMZ, IMDb, Entourage, Us Weekly, Vanity Fair, Inside the Actors Studio and all sorts of 'making of' and 'behind-the-scenes' programming, we're also becoming students of the industry itself. We're becoming armchair film critics. We're becoming 'Hollywood Insiders.' "
With that concept in place, "the thinking became, maybe CenturyLink's high-speed Internet and interactive Prism TV services are accelerating that phenomenon even faster," Elliott said.
The campaign got an unexpected boost during Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast when Chris Rock name-checked Giamatti shortly before the ads aired in target markets. "It's a beautiful thing when marketing and culture collide like that," Elliott said.
There are also some bonus videos, without Giamatti, that will post to social. See those here:
Pat Glavin, VP of Marketing
Spencer Lange, Director, Marcom Strategy for Consumer Products
Rachel Zucker, Manager, Marketing – Planning & Analysis
Heather Verzwyvelt, Manager, Marketing – Planning & Analysis
Agency: Arnold Worldwide
Global Chief Creative Officer: Jim Elliott
Executive Creative Directors: Wade Devers, David Register
Creative Director: James Clunie
Associate Creative Director: Matt McGowan
Copywriter: Arthur J. Warren
Account Managers: Sasha Hartman, Simran Sudan
Planning: Vaughn Allen
Project Manager: Cyan Dana
Producers: Bill Goodell, Tia DeMelis
Assistant Producer: Alissa Feldbau
Business Affairs: Lisa Mercier
Talent: Paul Giamatti, David Barnes, Ann Carr, John D'Leo, Lily Silverstein
Production Company: Furlined
Directors: Speck and Gordon
President: Diane McArter
Senior Executive Producer: David Thorne
Executive Producer: Jay Wakefield
Director of Photography: Jeff Cutter
Line Producer: Greg Schultz
Editorial: Bug Editorial
Editor: Andre Betz
Sound: Soundtrack Group, Boston
Sound Engineer: Michael Secher