How do you shoot real, authentic, unscripted footage of a family for your advertising campaign? Set up a bunch of cameras around their house, and then go away for a long time—so the family can (mostly) forget about the cameras, and you, and just be themselves.
That's what ad agency CHI & Partners has done for TalkTalk, the British TV, internet and mobile provider. They found an ordinary family—mom Julie and dad Paul, sons Peter and Harry, daughters Sophie and Lucy, niece Daisy and family dog Elvis—and filmed them for two straight weeks with unmanned cameras.
Then they sorted through the hundreds or hours of footage to find ordinary, everyday moments to write ads around. The point? That small moments matter, and indeed, are the stuff of life—particularly moments involving TalkTalk's products and services, from trying to have a TV dinner with a dog on the sofa, to texting boyfriends, to teaching your aunt how to use a tablet.
Check out the 60-second launch spot here:
The work feels very real, and is quite touching. Conceptually, it's daring and unique. Strategically, it's meant to signal TalkTalk's commitment to its existing customers, not to what one client marketing leader, in the press release, called "confusing packages and loud advertising."
"This is a very brave, completely unprecedented campaign, which proves that the small, humble moments of everyday life have as much power to capture our imaginations and move us as do the big, glossy, aspirational scenes of traditional advertising," CHI creative partner Micky Tudor said in the release. "We're incredibly proud of it, and we feel we've stumbled across some truths about family life today that no other brand has yet touched on. We hope the people of Britain love it as much as we do."
The :60 breaks this week, and nine more 30- and 20-second spots will debut starting next week. The work was directed by Tom Tagholm, the Park Pictures director famous for making Channel 4's "Meet the Superhumans" spot for the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Media planning and buying was handled by m/SIX. Print and out-of-home ads will feature photography from Olly Burn, who visited the family home for two weekends.
See more of the TV work below. AdFreak spoke more with CHI creative director Danny Hunt about the campaign.
Where did such an ambitious idea come from?
We had the idea for "This stuff matters" when we decided to treat TalkTalk as an essential utility provider, rather than an "entertainment" or "connectivity" provider. Today, TV, mobile and broadband have shifted from being "nice-to-haves" to being an intrinsic part of the fabric of everyday life. They're the things that we gather around: They make us laugh, cry, get us together and keep us there. It's proper, serious stuff. So when you think of it like that, using unmanned cameras and treating it like a documentary seemed the most exciting and least "advertising" way to prove this point.
How did you pick the family?
Treating this like a TV show rather than a commercial was the key to the whole job. We used a casting director who's done a lot of work for Channel 4. We sent emails to all TalkTalk customers and used social channels to kick off the casting process, asking each applicant to send us home videos introducing the family. Tom [Tagholm] then visited each one until we had pared the shortlist down to about 10 families. He chose his favorite, and we agreed.
Where did you place the cameras, how many cameras were there, and were you worried the family would be distracted by them or not act naturally around them?
We used 16 cameras. That's how many we needed to capture the whole house and garden, apart from the parents' bedroom. We weren't really that worried the cameras would be distracting as we did lots of research into this technique—speaking to the producers of major reality TV shows such as Educating Yorkshire and First Dates. The general rule seemed to be that the first 24 hours are unusable, as whoever you're filming needs to settle into the fact they are being filmed. After that, you're golden. We shot for two weeks.
Having 16 cameras film for two weeks—that's more than 5,000 hours of footage. How did you get through it all?
It took us, Tom and Tim Hardy [the editor] at Stitch four weeks to get through all the footage. We then started making the best bits into ads and writing the lines that made them make sense.
Were you worried that you might not actually get enough moments that "matter"?
At first, yes. It's so weird being on a job like this—shooting but not knowing what the ads are, or are going to be. But after two days we knew we already had some really nice moments.
What did Tom Tagholm bring to the production that other directors might not have?
I think the fact Tom used to be a creative director really helped. He could see the simplicity in the idea and bought into that 100 percent.
Managing Director, Consumer: Tristia Harrison
Marketing Director: David Parslow
Head of Creative: Paul Godfrey
Head of Brand: Mark Moloney
Brand Manager: Jeanine Peters
Agency: CHI & Partners
Executive Creative Director: Jonathan Burley
Creative Partner: Micky Tudor
Creative Director: Jim Bolton
Creatives: Danny Hunt, Dan Watts, Rob Webster
Head of Art: Marc Donaldson
Head of Art Buying: Emma Modler
Lead Designer: Loty Ray
Chief Strategy Officer: Neil Goodlad
Planners: Simon Ringshall, Katherine Barnett
Producer: David Jones
Creative Producer: Ruby Hill
Production Assistants: Hannah Greene, Alfie Glover-Short
Chief Executive Officer: Nick Howarth
Business Director: Tom McCoy
Account Directors: Catrin Tyler, James O'Reardon
Account Manager: Maddison Done
Account Coordinator: Joel Kaas
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Tom Tagholm
Executive Producer: Stephen Brierley
Producer: Fran Thompson
Production Manager: Ananda Grace
Director of Photography: Luke Scott
Camera and Sound: Jon Boyce, Transmission TX
Transcoding of Rushes: Mark Purvis, Mission Digital
Visual Postproduction: MPC
Postproduction Producer: Amy Richardson
Visual Effects Artist: Bruno Fukumothi
Colorist: George Kyriacou
Editing Company: Stitch
Editor: Tim Hardy
Audio Company: Pinewood Studios
Sound Supervisor: Glen Gathard
Sound Editor: Adam Bourne
Rerecording Mixer: Peter Hanson
Foley Mixer: Jemma Riley Tolch
Foley Artist: Pete Burgis
Music Company: Leland Music
Media Agency: m/SIX
Media Planner: Matthew White
Social Media Agency: Nonsense
Public Relations Agency: MHP Communications