VB&P Strikes Again for HBO Home Video

LOS ANGELES Venables, Bell & Partners breaks its “Bowling Ball Bags” spot for HBO Home Video’s Sopranos DVD and video release on Monday.

With a movie-like pace and theatrical lighting, the 30-second spot shows a heavily breathing man moving apprehensively toward his closet, frightened by the possibility that something other than a bowling ball is in the bag. Poking it with a five-iron, it falls from the shelf as he shrieks before recovering his nerve. The onscreen title that comes up over whimsical music, “Bowling Ball Bags Just Seem Different After Season 4,” is an inside reference to a plot line from a past show. Epoch Films’ Phil Morrison directed the spot.

“The category for advertising DVD releases is terrible,” said Paul Venables, principal at the San Francisco agency. “They shout ‘available now’ and expect everyone to rush the stores. And even a great ad using footage would tend to feel like a ‘tune-in’ ad for the show. ‘Bowling Ball’ suggests that if you live with the series on DVD for eight to 13 hours, that has a power that affects you directly, putting the viewer into the equation.”

Venables said the media buy will “heavy up” in the beginning, with national play during Late Night With David Letterman, Monday Night Football and Alias, as well as national and regional cable and a print component. The campaign budget was not disclosed, but in the past the client has spent $1 million per release in a concentrated one- to two-month blitz, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

VB&P’s previous work for another HBO Home Video show, Oz, won a gold Effie for sales effectiveness. Venables said that March release, with a 60 percent awareness of the title, outsold in one day the first week’s sales of the Sopranos title the previous Christmas.

“We never rush out and do a creative commercial and hope the client buys it,” Venables said. “We always look for a strategic position that builds business.”