Ad of the Day: Prudential Visits Madagascar’s Fishermen for This Gorgeous, Moving Film

Lowe Cape Town captures the power of the human spirit

Consistency—supposedly the hobgoblin of small minds—might seem like an unlikely driver for evocative brand storytelling. Yet, Lowe Cape Town and Prudential South Africa have created memorable, moving short films illustrating the company's credo that "Consistency is the only currency that matters" when it comes to managing clients' money.

Their latest effort is "The Fishermen," directed by Kim Geldenhuys via production house 0307. Shot on a lush, remote island off Madagascar and cast with local villagers, it tells the story of a young boy and his grandfather who venture out on their boat, day after day, in search of a big catch, undeterred by empty nets and long, hard hours at sea.

"It's a very simple analogy which conveys Prudential's message in a humble and poignant manner," Lowe executive creative director Kirk Gainsford tells Adweek. "We wanted to steer clear of all the clichés of showing aspirational people getting ahead in life and so on." Ultimately, he says, the film is meant to subtly convey the message that "the power of the human spirit, not the force of big business, is what makes Prudential an enduring brand."

"The Fishermen" has no dialogue, relying on moody but ultimately uplifting imagery and music to make its point. The brand tie-in, straightforward and unforced, doesn't appear until nearly the end of its 1:45 run time.

Stylistically, the film marks a shift from "South Pole," a much-praised Lowe-Prudential ad from 2013 that told the tale of Robert Scott's calamitous 1911-12 Antarctic expedition.

"In the 'South Pole' TV ad, we showed very powerfully what happens when one is not consistent," says Prudential South Africa marketing chief Sumayya Davenhill. "In this TV ad ["The Fishermen"], strategically, we really wanted to show the power of being consistent … in a positive way."

Adweek chatted further with Lowe's Gainsford about the new commercial:

How did you pick the location?
We felt that the village should be humble but proud. The village had to survive on the fish, so a sense of it being remote was very important to us. Some other locations felt too desperate and impoverished. These are poor people by world standards, but live happy lives.

Can you tell me more about the village?
Nosy Iranja—it's a small island village about four hours from the mainland. There are about 300 people who live on the island. There is no electricity, no toilets for the villagers and no running water. A small school serves the children's education, and for supplies the villagers use their sailing boats to travel to the mainland and other islands.

The whole village was involved. The cast is villagers. The boy was from a neighboring island, and the grandfather another island—they weren't actually related. The boy's father is also featured in the ad. The casting process was very interesting. The people of Madagascar speak Malagasy. We used interpreters we met on the island to try and communicate. Even the interpreters don't speak English well.

"The Fishermen" feels different than "South Pole," stylistically. Why the change in approach?
We don't see them as that different. They are both human stories, both show human grit and determination in a very physical and humbling way, and both are in extreme environments. The "South Pole" ad showed blizzards and freezing temperatures, while the fishermen in the new ad had to contend with 100 percent humidity, hot days and heavy downpours during the cyclone season.

And so, while the ads may appear to be different on the surface, to us they remain very much part of the same family, with the same values and common touch. The biggest difference was focusing on the positive and not the negative aspects of consistency.

You must have encountered difficulties on the shoot, given the location.
It was a real challenge. There is no film industry in Madagascar. We only had 16 crew, including a media and a boating specialist. Our catering was eating what the village ate: fish and sometimes chicken. The heat was often unbearable. I had to change my T-shirt three times a day as the humidity was so intense; I would be dripping with sweat.

The days were long and with no electricity we made do with one generator. The camera crew was very lean. Stomach bugs were rife. We stayed in rustic chalets on the island. Shooting took five full days, plus a couple of days on either side for travel. We also had to wait for a cyclone to pass before shooting could start.

On a personal level, what did you take away from the experience?
The project reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place. Our courageous client trusted us throughout the whole process—willing us to be better, do better and try be more creative. The experience shows that great client trust, dedication and old-fashioned hard work can lead to beautiful results.

Agency: Lowe Cape Town
Producer: Riska Emeran
Executive Creative Director: Kirk Gainsford
Creative Director: Alistair Morgan
Art Director: Bruce Harris
Account Manager: Sarah Hall
Sound Design: Stephen Webster, TheWorkRoom
Music Production: Pulse
Editor: Kobus Loots
Editing Company: Upstairs Post
Postproduction House: Black Ginger
Production Company: 0307 Films
Producer: Tess Tambourlas
Director of Photography: Alard De Smidt
Director: Kim Geldenhuys
Assistant Director: Craig Brorson