IDEA: "There is something always a bit funny about the past's version of the future," said Anthony Sperduti, executive creative director at Partners & Spade.
For Sperduti, going back to the earnest, wide-eyed wonder of '60s sci-fi was the perfect way to introduce a truly ultra-modern product like Normal's 3-D printed earphones, which are custom made to fit each user's ears (the right earbud will even differ slightly from the left).
Normal, whose founder Nikki Kaufman had liked Spade's work for Warby Parker, gave the agency a simple brief: Position the earphones as completely unique.
And so, the two-minute launch spot is unique as well, featuring a pitchman who explains the product while walking backward from an underground bunker to a secret lab, where a frizzy-haired "ear tailor" designs the earphones while duct-taped to a wall.
"It started off as a joke of how these were made in our first meeting," said Sperduti, "and we ran with it."
COPYWRITING: The spot opens with a close-up of the pitchman's left ear. "Cartilaginous. Fleshy. Flappy. Wondrous," he says, as retro-futuristic electronic music starts up and the man begins his long walk out of a spacious office. ("The creative director, Griffin Creech, had read that it's how the tours at the Pentagon were given, so it seemed apt to apply that to this," Sperduti said of why he walks backwards.)
"What you may not realize is that your ears are quite unlike anyone else's," the pitchman says. "Completely unique, in fact. Which is why we created this." He then explains how the Normal app works: You send photos of your ears to the company, and it sends back earbuds "formed to the exact specifications of those special places affixed to either side of your head."
Who, exactly, does the forming? Near the end, we meet the "ear tailor," who licks his finger, wiggles it around in the pitchman's ear and inserts an earbud. "And it fits like a damn glove," the pitchman says, suddenly slack-jawed.
The spot then shifts to close-ups of colorful, differently shaped earbuds spinning against a black background. "Introducing Normal," the pitchman says in voiceover. "Custom 3-D print earphones exquisitely tailored to your earhole."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Smuggler director Jun Diaz shot the spot in one long day in Prague. "We really wanted to keep the Eastern European touches, like his glasses and suit, making this startup brand almost feel 'international,' " said Sperduti.
The film has a greenish grade. Other vintage touches include a Doctor Who-like scene when the pitchman emerges from what looks like the top of a missile silo into a barren landscape.
"The best part of a project like this is to pull as much arcane reference and imagery from all types of sources when building out a world. We all had fun imagining and researching the most 'un-tech' environment for these very advanced earphones to be made in," Sperduti said.
"Normal was definitely one of the wildest projects that I've seen in recent years, in the most positive way," added editor Akiko Iwakawa of Cut + Run. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the dailies."
TALENT/SOUND: The main actor is London based, "and very much in the school of English acting," said Sperduti. "It was fun to have someone take such a ridiculous idea so seriously."
The soundtrack also has a '60s sci-fi vibe, with a touch of '80s tech-company "industrial" videos as well.
MEDIA: The spot is running online only, though it could reach paid media in future.
Spot: "Ear Tailor"
Agency: Partners & Spade
Executive Creative Director: Anthony Sperduti
Creative Directors: Griffin Creech, Christine Gignac
Producer: Gulshan Jeffrey
Production Company: Smuggler LA
Director: Jun Diaz
Executive Producer: Lisa Tauscher
Producer: Ray Leakey
Editorial Company: Cut + Run
Editor: Akiko Iwakawa
Assistant Editor: Adam Bazadona
Executive Producer: Raná Martin
Producer: Melati Pohan
Color Correct: Company 3
Colorist: Damien Van der Cruyssen
Producer: Katie Andrews
VFX/Conform/Online Facility: Cut + Run
Online Editor: Joseph Grosso
Assistant Editor: Matthew Dolven
Online Producer: Julia Williams
Audio Post: Heard City
Mixer: Cory Melious
Sound Design/Music Production Company: Q Department
Sound Designer/Composer: Drazen Bosnjak