Squarespace’s Radical Update Is Like a Blank Canvas. So Its New Ads Are, Too

SpecialGuest crafts launch spot and a pair of celeb docs

IDEA: Even for a company known for great design, Squarespace 7 was a revelation. The elegant upgrade to the website maker's interface, called a "UX dream" by Wired, completely does away with the backend, allowing users to edit in WYSIWYG format.

In fact, it's so different from Squarespace 6 that the company felt like it was starting from scratch—and wanted its ads to do the same. So, it brought in SpecialGuest—a new creative agency founded by Aaron Duffy, known for his own impeccably designed ads as a 1stAveMachine director—for a campaign embodying Squarespace's love of design while suggesting it's completely up to you what you do with it.

A launch spot does this by showing how people's ideas and passions can be translated for the web, while two short films tell the stories of celebrity Squarespace users—the climber Alex Honnold and the musician St. Lucia.

"With Squarespace 7, it was like starting with a blank canvas. That was a good creative seed for the launch film," said Squarespace chief creative officer David Lee. "We also have a very eclectic and fantastic set of personalities and brands that utilize Squarespace. We wanted to wrap all that up into a concise campaign."

COPYWRITING: The 65-second launch spot shows writers, photographers, artists, hat designers, musicians and more practicing their craft in real life, and juxtaposes that with how they might design their websites—in the process showing off the software's creative tools. There is no dialogue.

On-screen copy at the end says: "Introducing Squarespace 7. Start here. Go anywhere."

The focus is partly on the technology and partly on the people. "The thread I often think of is: How is technology more human, and less techy?" said Duffy, who served as executive creative director.

The Honnold and St. Lucia spots are mini documentaries with their subjects speaking in voiceover and footage of them in action. Both use to Squarespace to speak for themselves, countering what the media might say about them.

They're different people, "but Squarespace is perfect for both of them," said creative director Jonathan Emmerling "in the sense that everybody wants to have great design, but not everybody knows how to achieve it. Squarespace helps close that gap."

ART DIRECTION: The launch film is very much about framing set pieces of action. The camera remains still in almost every shot, often looking down from above, with only the occasional subtle zoom in or out. Visually, it's clean and simple, but not overly rigid—the vignettes flow freely enough to imply a great range of possibilities for the user.

The carefully considered use of white space is reminiscent of how Google brings web pages to life in its ads—perhaps not surprisingly, as Duffy has directed a lot of Google work, including the famous "Parisian Love" spot. Here, online and offline seamlessly mix together, implying that you really can show the world the real you with a Squarespace website.

TALENT: Honnold and St. Lucia were chosen from what Lee said are a great number of brands and celebrities that use the platform. They won't be the only two—Squarespace is planning more such spots.

"We have a very, very deep bench," Lee said. "We pick people who we feel have an interesting story. And it can't just be about their website. We try to curate a set of collaborators to tell very different stories."

MEDIA: The online spots are being cut into :30s and :15s for broadcast and will air during the World Series. The Honnold spot will also likely run in cinemas.



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