The Spot: TV’s Best Friend

Mother introduces second-screen app Zeebox in quirky ads celebrating other great partnerships

IDEA: Cookies and milk. A prom queen and her limo. A slow-running teenager and a horror-movie monster. Some things were meant to be together. You can add Zeebox and your TV to that list, says a new campaign from Mother for the second-screen app, which is jumping from the U.K. to the U.S. via partnerships with NBC and Comcast (and soon HBO, Cinemax and Viacom). Rather than squeeze in product demos, agency and client figured the entertainment app deserved ads that were themselves entertaining. Six new spots, each cut into 15-, 20- and 30-second executions, present Zeebox simply as something that makes TV more awesome than it already is— through amusing metaphors showing other great partnerships, from the familiar to the obscure. "We were given a lot of creative license to express this idea that with TV plus Zeebox, one plus one equals three. When they come together, something even more magical happens," said agency mother (aka account leader) Krystle Loyland. The ads are pretty magical, too— quirky, witty, sure-footed, and destined to be cult favorites.

COPYWRITING: The agency wrote hundreds of scripts. Along with the three mentioned above, the other three produced spots pair a hot dog and "fancy French mustard"; a Star Trek-like space captain and a "learned alien first officer"; and, most oddly, a ship in a bottle and a cage of seagulls.

"We had a mix of more obscure ones, and some straighter ones," said art director Dave Tomkins. "It came down to which ones were making us laugh more." The ads are frontloaded with the pitch, which says, on screen and in voiceover: "Zeebox is the free app that makes watching TV even better." The metaphor is introduced next, and the cutaways show it in action. The spots close with the product name and logo, and customized end lines referring back to the ad's plot.

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Directors Ben Hurst and Dave Thomas (known as Ben/Dave) of Fueld Films shot two spots a day over three days. The ads exist in a bright, colorful, theatrical surreality that's lighthearted and imaginary while often veering into the absurd. "They have the obviously fake [painted] backgrounds and go into an abstract sort of space," said Tomkins. "People immediately realize we're in metaphor land, that we're not selling star captains or ray guns." The aesthetic is simple. Mother's art department built props as needed on the fly. There were some hiccups, including three stuffed seagulls that are still stuck in customs somewhere.

TALENT: "You're used to going out to L.A. and seeing the same types of people," said copywriter Jordan Chouteau. "This was a really fresh look at some great American faces that you don't always see in commercials." Chouteau herself was cast in one spot as the horror-movie monster. "She was writing lines with that really weird monster head on," said Tomkins. Chouteau added: "My boyfriend actually said that the 'Grrr' sounds very feminine. I was a little offended." Robert-Allan Arno did the voiceovers. He has a fluid, understandable voice and added some subtle color to his line readings while remaining matter of fact. The actor in the cookie spot was called on to swim in a large pool of milk-like liquid. "He was dying to get into the pool, which was really amazing," said Tomkins. "It's not in the final spot, but we actually got him to dive under that milk, or corn starch, and come up with a big smile on his face. It was pretty fun."