Sometimes the only thing worse than missing the boat is seeing the boat, boarding the boat and then turning around and letting the boat sail away without you. (True story: I sold my Netflix stock in 2005 and I’m still not ready to talk about it.)
With a fun new ad developed in house on a tight budget, inbound marketing platform Phonexa takes that scenario to its most painful extreme by imagining two aspiring tech entrepreneurs—suspiciously reminiscent of Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—who manage to predict just about every major Silicon Valley trend of the next 40 years.
But as you might expect, their prophecies end up not amounting to much as they let some of the world’s biggest ideas slip away.
Phonexa’s software combines lead-tracking tools with services like email management and accounting, so it’s pitch in the ad is that it can help clients miss big opportunities that might otherwise fall between the cracks.
To learn how the spot came together without a creative agency and whether the ad’s concept sparked any legal concerns for the company, Adweek caught up with Phonexa’s marketing vp, Armen Karaoghlanian:
Adweek: Did you have any concerns about referencing some of these trademarks? Did you consult a legal team at all about how far you could go?
Armen Karaoghlanian, vp of marketing, Phonexa: There wasn’t a lot of concern about most of the trademarks because of the parody style of the spot. There is a lot of precedent of fair use parody holding up under legal scrutiny. We also generally felt safe because many of the trademarks are twisted up in the dialogue: “Pay your pal,” “flicks on the net.”
The only topic that came up for discussion was the final shot, which is something we went over with in-house counsel and an outside law firm that specializes in film and TV clearance. We had two different shots at our disposal—one of an apple with a bite and another of a pear with a bite. The apple one was a dead ringer for a very famous trademark, but we decided that the pear was more in the spirit of the spot and actually much funnier. This call also allowed us to play it a little safer and not ruffle any feathers in Cupertino.
What kind of budget did you have to pull this off? How did the budget limitations affect the way you approached the spot?
This spot was part of a two-day shoot where we shot two commercials that in total cost under $100,000. There are a few production VIPs who really helped stretch our budget: our director and producer have a lot of industry connections, and they were able to get some stellar professionals who came through for us in a big way.
Our production designer, Dave Duarte, was an absolute magician and did amazing work turning a garage in Ladera Heights into the prototypical Silicon Valley garage Mark and I had envisioned. There’s an incredible level of detail in the space: circuit boards, monitors, and plenty of gags written on the chalkboard.
How did this idea come about? What was the writing process like for coming up with all these references?
It began with our budget limitations. We had already created one commercial this year about the first telephone, and it was set in the 1870s with a number of period era extras and sets. The idea came about to do a similar “technology time jump” but in a more limited way, and the concept of confining ourselves to a 1970s Silicon Valley garage was born.
The joke of our “first telephone” ad was one character not grasping what a telephone could do, so for this it seemed like a fun continuation for our two characters (also the same actors) to have all these great tech ideas and not realize it.
Our writer, Mark, has a background in comedy and screenwriting, and he had a lot of fun finding ways to weave familiar tech companies into the dialogue of our Jobs and Wozniak doppelgängers.
Plenty of other one-liners were improvised on set with our brilliant actors. If we had kept in all the tech reference jokes everyone came up with the commercial would’ve ended up being 3-4 minutes long, so we wisely cut a good number of them. We’ve half-jokingly discussed releasing an “extended cut” down the road.
President – David Gasparyan
Vp of Marketing – Armen Karaoghlanian
Writer – Mark Kosin
Director – Andy Landen
Producer – Giles Andrew
Producer – Elliott Watson
Director of Photography – Richard Card
Production Designer – Dave Duarte
Costume Designer – Gregory Metcalf
Sound – Kevin Rosen Quan
1st Assistant Camera – Andy Huynh
Gaffer – Patrick Walter
Hair & Make Up – Amy Wilson
Lead Man – Cameron Ritchie
Shopper & Set Dresser – Caoimhe Whitebloom
Production Assistant – Greg Seller
Costume Production Assistant – Jennifer Watson-Jenkins
Production Companies — Honora and Haggard
“Phil” — Barry Rothbart
“Neely” — Davey Johnson