The Spot: Investing in Hollywood

Drama, horror, and suspense are great for movies, not for personal finance, says Vanguard

GENESIS: Vanguard introduced the verb "Vanguarding" as a new ad theme that casts working with the investment company as a rewarding experience. Previously, ads from Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners have explained what Vanguarding means in terms of products and services. This summer, they wanted to add an emotional layer to convey what Vanguarding feels like to an investor. The agency thought it would be easier to communicate what it doesn't feel like—dramatic, frightening, and suspenseful. This led to the creative idea: parodying movie genres that evoke those emotions—drama, horror, and suspense—and suggesting such turmoil is better suited to the movies than to investing.

COPYWRITING: "From the scripts to the color correction, it was always about paying homage to the movies we love," says creative director Jon Goldberg. The three scripts are completely clichéd in plot and dialogue—a scene in a park with a military man and his girlfriend making increasingly melodramatic revelations to each other; a horror scene at night with a young girl calling out stupidly to a chainsaw-wielding maniac; and a suspense-film spoof in which two spies rendezvous near a bridge and soon realize they've been followed. The writers wanted the scripts to be over the top and funny, but also to build gradually. "We didn't want people in the first few seconds to say, 'Oh, it's a spoof,' " says director Hank Perlman. At the end of each spot, a red curtain falls, and onscreen text offers the punch line (e.g., "Drama. Great for movies, not so great for investing"). The curtain then rises to reveal the Vanguard logo and tagline, "Start Vanguarding today."

ART DIRECTION: The costumes, lighting, and grade of the film all mimic the genres being parodied. "The coloring is where it truly came to life," says creative director Paul Collins. The horror spot is dark and has a greenish tone. The drama scene has "that old tobacco look, a feeling of something from the '50s, '60s," Collins says. The suspense film is cold and gray. Perlman brought in cinematographer John Lindley, who has worked on films like Field of Dreams, The Sum of All Fears, and You've Got Mail. "He's great at getting different looks," says Perlman.

FILMING: The three spots were shot in New York in two days—horror and drama on the same day in Central Park, suspense on Randall's Island in the East River. The camera work enhances the mood—a sweeping move around the couple in the drama spot; erratic, poorly defined frames for horror. The ads were shot in anamorphic widescreen to make them feel like films.

TALENT: The actors had to be believable as players in each genre. Onlookers asked the drama actor for his autograph, thinking he was Matt Damon. (Others, oddly, thanked him for his service.) The horror actress was perhaps too good at being annoying. "You literally want her to die," says Collins.

SOUND: The music and sound design enhance the clichés, too—spooky echoes for horror; soaring violins for drama; computer blips for suspense (the location is said to be Helsinki, though satellite photos zoom in on the exact spot on Randall's Island where they filmed).

MEDIA: The ads are running in cinemas, where audiences are primed for the content, and on sites like Fandango and Hulu. There's no TV buy. Print ads use the same setup, minus the movie themes. (One shows a man skydiving and the line, "Adrenaline rush. Great for skydiving, not so great for investing.")



Client: Vanguard

Spots: "Say Goodbye Again," "A Walk in the Park," "Don't Look Now"

Agency: Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, New York

Chief Creative Officers: Izzy DeBellis and Ed Brojerdi

Creative Directors: Jon Goldberg and Paul Collins

Art Director: Lance Parrish

Copywriter: Amy Fleisher

Producer: Brooke Kaylor

Director: Hank Perlman

Production Company: Hungry Man

Editor: Maury Loeb at PS260

Music: Elias Arts

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