- Friday, Dec. 22, 2017
With Father Time about to move from 2017 to 2018, it’s time for reflection on varied fronts, including assessing what work was among the year’s most worthwhile creatively.
Determining any year’s “best” is a highly subjective, problematic proposition so SHOOT staffers looked to at least narrow the field by first culling through two bodies of work, our weekly Top Spots as well as our “The Best Work You May Never See” gallery entries in 2017. We then added to the mix select pieces of work that might have fallen through the cracks and not earned Top Spot or “Best Work” distinction yet which we had covered extensively in other stories during the course of 2017.
We also reviewed our quarterly Top Ten Tracks and VFX/Animation charts. We ultimately chose a Top Five from each for 2017.
So here are SHOOT’s selections for The Best Work of 2017 divided into Top Spots, The Best Work You May Never See, and our Top Music/Sound Tracks and Top VFX/Animation entries.
Top Spots of the Year
A tumultuous year marked by increased polarization, anger (some would say scapegoating), and sexual harassment charges that impacted the entertainment, media and political sectors found a measure of relief in brand messaging and ad industry creative that championed gender equality, and promoted feelings of empathy and togetherness. This is reflected in this Top Spots of the Year section as well as our Best of our The Best Work You May Never See gallery.
On the former front, heading the top spot parade is a branding/messaging phenomenon that came from our Agency of the Year, McCann New York (see separate coverage), and resonated with audiences worldwide. Perhaps most remarkably, this piece of communication didn’t entail cutting edge technology but rather a time-honored art form—sculpture.
During a panel discussion at the SHOOT Directors/Producers Forum at the DGA Theatre in NY back in May, Nathy Aviram, chief production officer of McCann NY, quipped that his department is active in TV commercials, AI, AR, VR, gaming, product development and “bronzing,” a reference to that sculpture—the now famed “Fearless Girl” statue positioned opposite Wall Street’s “Charging Bull.” Created by the agency in concert with artist Kristen Visbal for asset management firm client State Street Global Advisors, “Fearless Girl” gained worldwide praise, viewed as a symbol which celebrates the power of women in leadership and advances the cause of greater gender diversity on corporate boards.
Our #2 pick for the year’s best work emerged during the Super Bowl telecast from a previously largely unheard of small company in Pennsylvania, 84 Lumber, which ran “The Journey Begins,” a spot which shows a mother and daughter embarking on a long, arduous sojourn from Mexico to the U.S. for a better life. The broadcast ad ends with a website address, Journey84.com, inviting viewers to continue the trek. The second part of the journey online depicted the mom and daughter encountering a large wall blocking their path but then they come upon a door through which appears a crack of light, showing it has the potential to open. A supered message reads, “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” Brunner, Pittsburgh—with a creative team headed by CCO Rob Schapiro— served as agency on the job, which was directed by Cole Webley of production house Sanctuary.
At first the entire journey was to have been captured in a broadcast :90 to be shown during the Big Game. But the FOX network objected to the appearance of a wall, reasoning that it was too controversial a sight during these divisive times. 84 Lumber, Brunner and director Webley then problem solved, deciding to use the TV spot to drive traffic to the web where the rest of the journey—wall, door and all—could be seen by viewers.
Right after the Big Game aired, in SHOOT’s annual Super Bowl survey of creatives, Chuck McBride, founder/chief creative officer of Cutwater, commended 84 Lumber for having “the balls” to take on a controversial subject. He observed that conveying the values of a brand can “at the end of the day be the biggest differentiating factor separating one brand from another.”
Staying on the immigration theme and the antidote of empathy, our #3 pick is in the VR arena from none other than two-time Best Director Oscar winner (Birdman, The Revenant) Alejandro G. Inaritu who last month won a Special Achievement Oscar for the VR project “Carne y Arena” (“Flesh and Sand”) which simulates experiences of immigrants crossing the deserts of the American west. The installation, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Working with his frequent collaborator, three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer (Birdman, The Revenant, the Alfonso Cuaron-directed Gravity) Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Inarritu embraced the emotional evoking VR discipline, helping to put participants in the shoes of immigrants.
SHOOT’s picks ranked #4 and #5 on the year are counterparts in a sense to #2 and #3, showing the lighter side, respectively, of the Super Bowl and VR.
Cutwater’s McBride, who praised 84 Lumber’s “The Journey Begins,” added on the flip side that when it comes to the Super Bowl there are brands that see the value of humor as people want to escape, polarizing, argumentative political times. “People want to escape the divisiveness. They want to feel good about things.”
Coming in at #4 in SHOOT’s Best of the Year roundup is one of those “feel good” Super Bowl commercials, Kia Motors’ “Hero’s Journey” from David&Goliath, Los Angeles, and directed by Matthijs van Heijningen of MJZ. The comedy spot features Melissa McCarthy as a crusading environmentalist who finds it can be perilous trying to save the trees, the whales or the rhinos. Luckily she drives a Kia Niro which proves that while it’s hard to be an eco-warrior, “it’s easy to drive like one.”
As for the lighter, whimsical, fun side of VR, our pick for the year’s #5 slot is Samsung’s “Do What You Can’t.” While it is not a VR project, the spot promotes VR via regular video, helping a flightless bird to virtually soar. Directed by MJZ’s van Heijningen for Leo Burnett, the ad gave MPC Life, MPC Advertising’s character development team, the opportunity to create a fully photo-real and anatomically correct ostrich—and give him his own quirky personality. Opening with this curious ostrich stumbling into a VR headset, the spot shows the character beginning to dream of achieving the impossible. “We make what can’t be made so you can do what can’t be done,” Samsung proclaims as the ostrich reaches new heights to the beat of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
“Best Work” gallery
Last year 180LA took the #1 slot in our Best of “The Best Work You Never See” for a UNICEF film depicting the real plight of Syrian refugees. That animated short told the tale of a seven-year-old girl who we then see is real upon a transition to live action.
Fast forward to 2017 and 180LA again leads the way with a UNICEF short—The shared story of Harry and Ahmed—directed by Joshua Neale of Smuggler. The live-action film draws stark parallels between the experiences of Harry, a World War II child refugee, and Ahmed, a young boy displaced by the conflict in Syria, highlighting the gravity of the refugee crisis facing the world today. Urging viewers to support Syria’s refugee children, the film is part of UNICEF’s “For Every Child” campaign, a commitment to promoting the rights and improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children. Incorporating contemporary footage of Syrian refugee struggles, as well as historical footage from World War II, the online film was launched globally across UNICEF’s YouTube page and social channels.
Taking second place is a short for stationary store Take Note from BBDO Toronto. Released around Valentine’s Day, the four-minute piece—which can be found on the retailer’s Facebook page—tells the life-long story of a relationship between two people from the notes they leave each other. Titled Notes, the short was directed by Chris Booth and Joel Pylpiw of Skin and Bones.
Settling in at the #3 position is an animated spot for Regional Hospice and Palliative Care, a two-year-old facility in Connecticut. Produced by White Plains, NY-based J.J. Sedelmaier Inc., this ad titled “Beep Beep” introduces us to two hospice residents from different generations, Hector and Emily, who enjoy a good day together.
Promoting tolerance and empathy in the #4 slot is P&G Vicks’ “Touch of Care” from Publicis Singapore, part of the “Family is where Care is” campaign. This short portrays the real-life story of an orphan and her newfound mother. Told in the first person by the girl Gayatri, the film beautifully captures how Gauri from the outset cared for Gayatri as her own, against all odds, with deep compassion and love. The story reflects the challenges that Gauri faces from the rest of society, as a transgender woman.
Neeraj Ghaywan of production house SeeOn directed the #Touch of Care short film, noting: “It was an immensely gratifying and inspiring experience to put together Gauri and Gayatri’s story. #TouchOfCare questions our conventional understanding of a mother and what constitutes a family. In a contemporary society, it is essential for us to be inclusive of everyone and accept the universality of care with love and empathy. And the best way to begin that would be the most basic human emotion of all—a mother’s care.”
And rounding out the Top Five of our Best of Best Work gallery is a sweetly romantic four-minute film, Label of Love, celebrating the 85th anniversary of Monoprix, the French retailer that sells food, household items, decoration and clothing. At the heart of cities throughout France, Monoprix has developed into a part of daily urban life. To mark the occasion, the retailer didn’t want to focus on its history so much as its valuable relationship with its customers. The online short follows a young boy and girl whose destinies cross paths thanks to the words found on Monoprix packaging. It starts with the lad constructing messages from the packaging and slipping them into the locker of the lass at school. A bond forms though the girl does not know the identity of her admirer. But one day, the girl’s family leaves town and the budding romance comes to a halt. Years later, though, there’s an unexpected reunion—and we see that the messages from the packaging have had a lasting impact. Created by Paris agency Rosapark, the film was directed by the duo known as Thirty Two via production house Insurrection.
Kia’s aforementioned Super Bowl commercial, “Hero’s Journey,” tops our 2017 lineup of VFX/Animation Chart entries.
That’s followed by Absolut’s “One Night” directed by celebrated, aforementioned cinematographer Lubezki via Park Pictures for agency BBH London. The piece—with visual effects from Framestore—takes us through creative moments in history in rapid fire succession with a voiceover from actor/musician Juliette Lewis, ultimately arriving at the present moment, a night where the creative possibilities are endless.
Earning third place distinction is another Kia spot, the :90 called “The Arrival,” which centers on a newborn baby hamster who is so fast, he’s impossible to catch. Set in a hospital, the film opens on a young nurse making rounds in the maternity ward when she comes across an empty bassinet. It’s revealed that the missing baby is our speedy newborn hamster, racing through the hospital in a diaper and destroying everything in its path. Nurses, doctors, orderlies and other medical staffers chase after the baby hamster in hot pursuit until it swan-dives off the roof of the hospital, utilizes a make-shift parachute and lands in the sunroof of a new Kia turbo Soul, now available with a 201-horsepower engine.
L.A.-based agency David&Goliath aimed to deliver a fresh take on Kia’s ongoing hamster-themed fare. For music, D&G chose the sonic embodiment of speed: Motorhead’s iconic speed metal anthem “Ace of Spades.” The team also worked with director van Heijningen of MJZ to give the narrative a true cinematic feel while dialing up Kia’s trademark in the most kinetic way possible. Then, together with JAMM VFX, they developed the character of the baby hamster and animated it within the real-world hospital environment. The film was shot with anamorphic lenses and was designed specifically to run in movie theaters. The campaign included :90, :60, :30 and :15-second extensions for both general and Hispanic markets across in-cinema, digital and online channels.
Coming in at fourth place is Honda’s U.K. market commercial titled “Dream Makers” for Wieden+Kennedy London. Directed by James Allen and Mike Skrgatic of London-based Time Based Arts, this piece pays tribute to the art and craft of filmmaking. Each scene depicts a different movie genre, ranging from action/adventure to sci-fi. The scenes unfold at a rapid pace going through different stages of the filmmaking process, from scripts to storyboards CGI to grading, culminating in a perfectly designed scene. The process represents an analogy of the passion and continuous pursuit of excellence behind both great films and the making of Honda vehicles.
Finishing fifth is The Salvation Army’s “Emma,” directed by Moth Studio via Hornet Inc. for The Richards Group, Dallas. The overall animation campaign tells different stories about hardship and what generosity means to those in need—as well as to those who give. One of these PSAs introduces us to Emma, an elderly homeless woman who remembers her childhood when she had a roof over her head. Back then, she loved holiday dinners when family got together and listened to Xmas music. She particularly enjoyed a piece of pie for dessert. Those days were long ago but thanks to the Salvation Army—and the donations made by people into that group’s red kettles—Emma can again experience a holiday meal, a sense of belonging and hopefully a better life down the road.
Number one on our hit parade is Porsche’s “High Speed Orchestra,” a spot directed by Bart Timmer via Czar Film, Berlin, for Hamburg, Germany-based agency Grabarz & Partner. We see a orchestra playing “Winter” from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” While doing justice to the piece itself is challenging, even more so for orchestra members is staying on their feet. The musicians inexplicably are flying all about, swaying to and fro while performing. A confused conductor looks on. An explanation finally surfaces as we see a Porsche navigating tight curves, making hairpin turns. The accompanying line is simply, “Taking the concert around corners.” We then realize that both the orchestra and the car are being put through their paces, the featured attraction being the car’s state-of-the-art sound system. You can experience both the visceral joy of riding in a Porsche along with the aural delight of hearing the best in music. Yessian Music served as the music, sound and audio post house.
Taking the second slot was University of Phoenix’s “We Can Do IT,” a stirring CG animated film in which a struggling single mom finds her job at the factory in jeopardy as robotics replace people in the workforce. The inevitable finally happens as she is out of work and at a crossroads, floundering to see a path forward. Inspired by the love she feels and the responsibility she has for her kids, the mom enrolls in an online course at the University of Phoenix to get a degree in Information Technology (IT). Hers is a story of triumph—for her, her family, and for women who are sorely underrepresented in the tech biz. Directed by Dan & Jason (Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson) of animation studio Hornet Inc. for agency 180LA, “We Can Do IT” tells a tale that is complemented and advanced by music and sound design from Beacon Street Studios in Venice, Calif. Also deployed in the spot is the Cranberries’ track “Dreams,” with bicoastal Good Ear Music Supervision providing its services. Beacon Street’s Amber Tisue served as sound designer/mixer.
Third place went to National Geographic’s “Genius,” a departure from the promo norm which finds Geoffrey Rush in character as Albert Einstein playing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on the violin, ultimately sticking his tongue out at the camera.
Directed by Ivan Zacharias of Smuggler for McCann NY, this piece promotes National Geographic’s limited series, Genius, which bills itself as exploring “the man behind the mind,” the iconic Einstein. This :45 promo won the Super Clio, a special creative award honoring the best 2017 Super Bowl commercial. The spot appeared on air right after Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime performance, which culminated with her rendition of “Bad Romance.” JSM Music served as music/sound house with audio post from Soundsquare, Prague.
Finishing fourth is Gatorade’s “Sisters in Sweat” directed by Jaci Judelson from Tool of North America for TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles. Starring Serena Williams holding her recently born baby girl (actually a double for her baby), this short shows the tennis superstar imparting an important message to her child: “Baby girl, I won’t mind if you play tennis badly. I won’t mind if you never choose to pick up a racket. But I beg you. In this game of life, please keep playing no matter what.” This mother’s wish for her baby carries a special intimacy that at the same time has to universally inspire. Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” meets the inspirational prerequisite. Yet to make it sweetly personal necessitated a lullaby-style version of that song crafted by an ensemble at Los Angeles-based Pivot Audio. Dave Wagg of Lime Studios was audio post mixer.
And taking the fifth slot is “Lost Panda” for Tile, the Bluetooth-enabled tracking device. Directed by Mark Molloy of Smuggler for Deutsch, the commercial follows the story of a stuffed panda bear who is trying to find his way back home with the help of the Tile community. The new tagline “Together We Find” hints at the brand’s community where people can easily and anonymously help each other find whatever they’ve lost. The bear’s journey is driven by the “Girl in My Dreams” track composed and performed by Stephan Altman of Mophonics. Audio post mixer was Mark Meyuhas of Lime.
See the Best Work of 2017 here.
See the Top Five Music Tracks here.
See the Top Five for VFX/Animation here.