This Brand Put 16 Cameras in a Family’s Home for 2 Weeks and Made Ads From the Footage

Small moments are everything in CHI's work for TalkTalk

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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.


Brand: TalkTalk

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

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