IDEA Rubber fish tossed on a chef's prep station. A skydiver caught by stagehands. A 2-D dog floating through painted pastoral scenes. Full of wires and props, scenery and costume changes, TD Ameritrade's new ads have their insides showing—which is the point. They talk about life, not just money. And life is messy. "I think a lot of humanity is about being flawed. And that's what these ads were. We never tried to make them perfect," said Matt Ashworth, creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Three new :30s, each shot in a single take, are presented as mini plays, with silent characters whose stories are told in voiceovers (by Matt Damon) and illustrated with a whirl of low-fi chaos around them. TD Ameritrade plays a supporting role, providing financial security so these folks can get on with life. "We tried to take complicated financial stuff, simplify it, and act it out in the lives of real people, almost like how fairy tales and fables work," said Ashworth. What emerges are simple, charming set pieces whose handmade framework imparts a kind of transparency or honesty—crucial in a category built on trust.
COPYWRITING Two spots deal with retirement—one about a couple who "don't know it yet, but they're going to fall in love" and build a life together; and another about a busboy who rises to become chef, investing wisely along the way. A third spot, aimed at traders, stars an adrenaline junkie who needs to trust his bank as much as his parachute maker.
Broadly speaking, the three spots are about family, career and recreation. "We tried not to get down in the weeds but keep it universal," said Ashworth. The copy has a folksy vibe. Each spot wraps with Damon saying financial planning "isn't rocket science. It's just common sense. From TD Ameritrade." A curtain with the brand logo falls, along with a placard offering up to $600 for opening a new account. Stagehands swoop in with two more signs: the phone number and Web address.
ART DIRECTION/FILMING Feature-film director Brad Silberling shot the ads over four or five days on the Universal lot in Los Angeles. "His take on it was perfect," said creative director John Shachter. "Just do things simply, show the wires, show all the mistakes that happen." Because of the intricate blocking, Silberling would rehearse one ad while filming another. "He talked about the ads being like human Rube Goldberg machines," said Ashworth. "And we tried to do all of it practically. It was like filming a play." Ashworth said the clearly patched-together choreography lends a tension that keeps the viewer engaged. "I think you're kind of holding your breath and hoping it goes OK," he said.
TALENT Damon was signed up before the spots were even written. "He's great at storytelling," said Ashworth. "I also think he brings a great intelligence to the work. And he has a strong everyman quality, so you can relate." For the actors, Silberling looked for "silent-film-star faces" that could carry the scenes without dialogue. "We got some really good eyes," said Shachter. "You forget that you can act so much with your eyes."
SOUND The creatives wanted an "innocence" to the music that would enhance the fable-like narratives. In the "Marriage" spot, it's literally so—they used a homemade recording of Ashworth's 9-year-old son playing piano. A whistled version of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" plays in the trader spot. Sound design helps frame the often-busy action, telling the eye where to look.
MEDIA National broadcast and cable, and online.
Client: TD Ameritrade
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Partners: Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein
Executive Creative Directors: Rick Condos, Hunter Hindman
Creative Directors: Matt Ashworth, John Shachter
Executive Broadcast Producer: Tod Puckett
Broadcast Producer: M.J. Otto
Account Services Department
Account Director: Katie Rafferty
Account Manager: Jenna Lubin
Operations Director: Jeff Chunn
Operations Manager: Julie Whitecotton
Business Affairs Manager: Judy Ybarra
Production Company: Pony Show Entertainment
Director: Brad Silberling
Director of Photography: Philippe Rousselot
Executive Producers: Susan Kirson, Jeffrey Frankel
Line Producer: Fern Martin
Editing House: Spotwelders
Editor: Haines Hall
Producer: Carolina Wallace
Visual Effects House: Kilt Studios
Producer: Mathew McManus