Balletic Trucks Are Light on Their Tires

NEW YORK Ballet and telecom bucket-trucks aren’t the most obvious combination, but creatives at Merkley Newman Harty Partners in New York pair them in a gracefully choreographed TV spot for SBC Communications, which broke earlier this month.

The ad, one of four in a campaign touting SBC’s services, was created to highlight the number of service trucks the San Antonio-based telecom maintains.

“What we had to go on was this sheer volume of trucks that they have, which is a pretty dry statistic,” said Chris Landi, art director and copywriter on the spot. “We thought, ‘What can we do with just a lot of trucks?'”

“Movement en masse” came to Landi, which led to the concept of choreographed bucket trucks going up, down and around, he said. The spot, directed by Victor Garcia of MJZ in Los Angeles, shows people watching the trucks as the buckets bounce and twirl to a ballet score, “The Thieving Magpie” by Rossini. There is no dialogue, but a voiceover near the end of the 60-second spot states, “SBC has more than 49,000 trucks ready for work every day.” Onscreen copy reads, “More trucks, more service.”

The crew shot the choreographed scenes in and around Pasadena, Calif., before the music was chosen to match the movements, Landi said. Selecting the song was difficult.

“I wasn’t a classical music expert before, but I sure am now,” Landi said. “There were easily 50 to 60 types of scores we listened to.” “The Thieving Magpie” was chosen because “there was some energy to it,” and the song created a “nice arc” to the commercial.

While most of the choreography of the 15-20 trucks used was done in camera, special effects contributed to some of the scenes, according to Landi.

Landi used another trick as well: actual SBC field technicians, familiar with operating the trucks, drove them during the spot.

“It would have been more difficult were it not for the truck handlers,” Landi said. “And they got a kick out of being in the commercial.”

Executive creative directors on the campaign are Andy Hirsch and Randy Saitta.

The spot is running on network and cable stations in the 13 states SBC covers, including California, Texas and Illinois.

Spending was undisclosed. SBC Communications spent about $70 million on corporate image advertising in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.