Barking Owl Boards "Bus," Tops Music Chart
Kelly Bayett
BBDO creates suspense spot turned musical for AT&T

To showcase how AT&T can provide a wide swath of entertainment through its range of services, BBDO LA created a campaign which includes a series of mashups blending movie genres in completely unexpected ways.

One of the spots is “Bus,” which puts us aboard a touring bus making its way along a winding mountain thoroughfare. Distracted for a moment, the driver swerves to avoid a broken patch of road, causing the bus to careen until it stops at a precarious perch, half hanging off the mountain.

The suspenseful, foreboding scene then gives way to a musical as passengers croon about getting to the front of the bus to shift their weight to the terra firma side, stabilizing the bus so that it doesn’t fall off the mountain.

The fun, whimsical transition is the surprise payoff to this :90 cinema spot directed by Daniel Wolfe via production houses Somesuch and Anonymous Content, with music score and sound design from West Los Angeles-based Barking Owl.

Atticus Ross of Barking Owl composed the front “suspense” portion of the track. Barking Owl’s Jacob Plasse wrote the “musical” part.

Barking Owl composer Houston Fry re-arranged the piece, working in tandem with BBDO.

And Morgan Johnson of Barking Owl handled the sound design. Audio post mixers were Steven Rosen, Mike Marinelli and Paul Weiss of Sonic Union, NY.

Finding the right tone, rhythm
Kelly Bayett, creative director/partner at Barking Owl, related, “The biggest challenge overall was to find the tone of the musical. No one wanted anything too traditional. They wanted a modern/fun piece but without elements of hip hop. Something that you can dance to, but also has a build to release the tension. Different genres were explored but once everyone heard Jacob’s piece, we knew we had found it. I think I actually cried when I heard it.”

Bayett credited lead singer Ada Dyer whom she described as “a powerhouse. She was unbeatable. We went to the very end with her original demo recording.”

Relative to the sound design, Bayett shared, “Morgan creates all of his sounds and he always works rhythmically with the picture and music. Because we had Atticus’ music early, Morgan was able to start early to create tension in the rough cuts, so every version the clients saw had his original sound. Tim (editor Lindsay) from Trim Edit was great at collaborating and working back and forth with Morgan to get the edit and sound design in a good place. Morgan’s biggest challenge was trying to create a sense of rhythmic tension with bus sounds and the beat of those rubber balls (being played with by kids aboard the bus).”

Another prime challenge came with how to end the spot--it didn’t feel right to continue the musical score or to go back to the initial suspense music. Visual effects house KEVIN came to the rescue by showing the bus—since evacuated—starting to fall off the cliff. So Johnson created a sound design sequence for the end where the bus hits different pieces of the cliff on the way down. Each tumble was sonically choreographed to hit the end credits as they came up. “Although you never see the bus tumble down, you can visualize what’s happening,” said Bayett. “It worked perfectly and everyone loved it.”

Helping everything come together was the working relationship among director Wolfe, the BBDO and Barking Owl ensembles. “Daniel (Wolfe) and Atticus (Ross) have a fantastic relationship and we have been collaborating with BBDO for years so they brought us in right away,” related Bayett. “It was brilliant because we could craft each piece sonically from the very beginning. Tim (Lindsay) is a great music editor so we were able to provide longer pieces to him and he was using our work from the start.”

Bayett described Wolfe as “one of our favorite collaborators. We went through every stage of the music with him, on every piece of the project.  Any day they were shooting the musical I was on set, in a director’s chair, right next to him staring at the monitor to make sure that every person was in sync. Often, we are pushed aside on set and then put in a terrible position in the edit when people aren’t in sync.  There was so much happening at one time in each shot so you had to carefully watch each person.  Daniel and the agency were really gracious and respectful of what we brought to the table. They kept us completely involved for the entire project from day one.  We were at rehearsals, on set, in the edit, et cetera.”

The cinema ad campaign is facilitated by AT&T’s media partnership with National CineMedia (NCM, a leading cinema media vendor in the U.S. The partnership, which was secured by AT&T’s media agency Hearts & Science, enables AT&T to run 90-second films during the previews before the industry’s biggest films such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

See quarterly Top Ten Tracks Chart here.


Client AT&T Visual Effects/Animation  KEVIN, Venice, Calif. Sue Troyan, sr. EP/partner; Tim Davies, executive creative director/partner; Mike Dalzell, head of CG; Jami Schakel, VFX producer; Andrew Cowderoy, VFX coordinator; Anthony Petitti, Marisa Chin, Robert Murdock, Steve Gibbons, Theodore Maniatis , Roger Kupelian, 2D; Andy Byrne, Carl Harders, Delano Athias, Greg Mawicke, Jarrod Avalos, Kris Kelly , Matt Longwell, CG. (Toolbox: Flame, Maya, Houdini) Music/Sound Barking Owl, West Los Angeles Atticus Ross, Jacob Plasse, composers; Morgan Johnson, sound designer; Kelly Bayett, executive producer/creative director. Audio Post Sonic Union, NY Steven Rosen, Mike Marinelli, Paul Weiss, engineers; Justine Cortale, Pat Sullivan, producers. Agency: BBDO  Production: Somesuch, London; Anonymous Content, bicoastal; Daniel Wolfe, director


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