TV promos are usually pretty straightforward, with footage cut from the shows they're pushing. But a new ad from National Geographic Channel puts original footage to great use in hyping The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, a documentary series coming in April.
Sadly (or perhaps mercifully), the show isn't a sequel to Bruce Almighty, in which Freeman actually played God. The minute-long ad, by creative agency Holman + Hunt, opens on the Western Wall, the controversial Jewish holy site in Jerusalem, and includes shots of group ceremonies from other religions around the world, Christianity and Islam among them.
"We wanted the spot to reflect the global nature of the series—which filmed in more than 20 cities and seven countries—as well as the humanity of the questions we ask in the episodes," says Emanuele Madeddu, svp of strategy and branding at National Geographic Channel.
The promo also features slow-motion footage of a firefighter saving a woman's young daughter from a burning house, a kid praying his soccer shot will find the goal, and a motocross rider looking toward the heavens before taking off into an airborne handstand.
Explains director Chris Turner: "We used high-speed Phantom photography throughout the film to accentuate those small slices of time when we revert to an in-built gut instinct to pray for help, even if we're not religious. These moments … seek to focus on the split-second of vulnerability in the plight of our protagonists."
To be fair, part of the spot's success is that Freeman's voice can turn anything into gold. It also helps that the subject is intrinsically fascinating: The history of belief is a topic with a direct impact on pretty much everyone participating in modern society, even those who reject religious institutions.
"This is not just a show for believers; it's a show for anyone who has ever asked themselves whether God exists," says agency creative director Richard Holman. "So we decided to build the campaign on the simple human truth that, whether we are religious or not, most of us—under times of stress—find ourselves asking for help from above. Why is this? Where does this instinct come from?"
For a concisely programmed look at the questions that have plagued philosophers, theologians and mankind for millennia, tune in April 3 at 9 p.m.
National Geographic Channel
Emanuele Madeddu, SVP Strategy and Branding
Mariano Barreiro, VP Branding
Alyshia Linares, Marketing Director
Creative Agency – Holman + Hunt
Creative Director – Richard Holman
Creatives – Mark Howard & Jo Tanner
Exec. Producer – Lucy Hunt
Production Company – Able & Baker
Director – Chris Turner
Producer – Emory Ruegg
Exec. Producer – Joe Walker
Offline – Mark Whelan, The Quarry
Post production – Absolute
Music – Carly Paradis