State Farm Shows You How to Fit 60 Seconds of Story Into a 30-Second Spot

DDB's charming 'Never' ad

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Creatives often wish their :30s could be :60s. Here, oddly enough, it's the opposite.

DDB Chicago covers a lot of ground in its 30-second "Never" spot for State Farm, as we follow a young man from his single, partying days through major life changes and into a previously unimaginable existence with a wife and kids in the suburbs. It's a quietly epic tale that, in the end, didn't need an epic length.

"We had planned to film a :60 version of the spot with added scenes to fill it out, but what we discovered, to our surprise, was many of the added moments in the :60 actually fit in the :30," said DDB chief creative officer John Maxham. "We also realized the quickness of each scene added to the humor, so we ended up scrapping the :60 altogether."

The finished spot is well paced, charming and funny, and positions State Farm, said Maxham, as "a company that helps people with all those unexpected twists with solutions for your life, not just your stuff."

COPYWRITING: In each scene, our hero vows "never" to do something, only to do it immediately in the following scene.

"I am never getting married," he says at first, after spotting an attractive girl at a pool party. In the next scene, he's ring shopping. Other things he promises never to do, then does: having a kid; moving to the suburbs; getting a minivan; and having a second kid. In the final scene, with his wife and daughters snoozing on him in front of the TV, he offers a twist on the theme, saying: "I'm never letting go."

The script came from experience—copywriter Chad Broude, 28, and art director Brian Boord, 33, "are at the age when they're constantly faced with life's biggest moments," said Maxham. "Both guys were in the process of planning a wedding when they wrote the spot, and what seemed like only a short time after their party days when they swore they would 'never.' "

The creatives did two or three drafts of the script. "We like to keep scripts simple and then work with our director, Matt Aselton, to workshop the beats in callbacks and on the shoot day," Maxham said.

The spot ends with on-screen text, the logo and a male voiceover: "For all the nevers in life, State Farm is there."

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Aselton shot over three days in Los Angeles, getting footage for this and several other ads that will break soon.

"We wanted the spot to feel real and relatable. The set designs were supposed to mature with our characters," Maxham said of the art direction.

Getting the child actors to stay quiet during the couch scene was a challenge. "Almost every take had some funny quip from the kids, which didn't make the cut," said Maxham. "Whenever you shoot a spot like this, the biggest challenge is deciding what to leave on the edit room floor."

TALENT: "It was a bit of a juggling act finding the perfect couple and two people that would age well," said Maxham. Once casting was complete, Aselton got the best out of the actors. "Matt always brings that intangible instinct of getting great performances," Maxham added.

SOUND: The original soundtrack by Elias Music has a bouncy, roguish feel to it. "We did try to create a sense of mischievousness," said Maxham, "something that paralleled the uncertainly of our hero's bold dialogue."

MEDIA: "Never" broke on NBC's The Voice. More spots will roll out over the next six months to broaden consumer awareness of all the ways State Farm can help beyond auto and home insurance.


A second spot in the series broke this week:


Client: State Farm

Spot: "Never"

Agency: DDB, Chicago

Chief Creative Officer: John Maxham

SVP, Group Creative Directors: Barry Burdiak, John Hayes

Creative Director, Art Director: Brian Boord

Creative Director, Copywriter: Chad Broude

Chief Digital Officer: Joe Cianciotto

SVP, Group Strategy Director: Gustavo de Mello

SVP, Group Business Director: Penn French

EVP, Director of Production: Diane Jackson

VP, Executive Producer: Scott Kemper

Executive Producer: Kent Smith

Production Business Manager: Ryan Hentsch

Director: Matt Aselton, Arts & Sciences

Editing: Arcade Edit – Geoff Hounsell, Editor; Sean LaGrange, Asst. Editor

Finishing: Filmworkers Club – Rob Churchill, VFX Artist

Music: Elias Music​​

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.