Directed by directing duo Julien & Quentin through HAMLET, the fast-paced spot for Smartbox’s Christmas fiasco is made to grab the attention of the late-gifters. According to the original press release for the campaign, research has shown that despite living a life deep in the digital world, audiences from younger generations are more likely to want to receive and to give real life experiences.
In comes Smartbox, Europe’s leader in gift experiences, with their film dubbed ‘The Hesitation’. The ad sees a man speaking on the phone as late as December 23rd and debating heavily what to get his friend. As he goes through the options in the Smartbox shop, the film takes us on a rollercoaster of a journey through all of the possible options, from spa to scuba diving.
The seamless transitions between office environments and high-adrenaline sports for the main character keeps the energy of the 60-second TV ad high all throughout its air time, which is a sure recipe to engage the audiences that it's aimed at. Although they span a whopping nine countries (France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) across Europe, the story of the late gift-giver and the possibility to experience some of the options are sure to resonate with them all.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Julien Martorell, one half of directing duo Julien & Quentin, about how they crafted every single scene in a studio in Sofia and why the high energy was so crucial for this spot.
LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and what did your initial ideation process look like?
Julien> This was an unusual process. Smartbox's CMO Charles Tzakyrelis knew our work because he had met us at the very beginning when he was working in an advertising agency (I did my first internship as a graphic designer where he was working). We each went our own way, then he came to us one day in HAMLET’s office to ask for a film, as the new CMO of Smartbox. His brief was quite simple: to show the different experiences that Smartbox offers, through the prism of the gift. He wanted a film with a visual direction, close to some of our work.
LBB> What made you set on this idea - showing so many different storylines in such a punchy manner?
Julien> So we started writing the film by projecting ourselves as smartbox users, and based on the experience of people we know who had already bought the product. This last minute gift thing came up a lot. Even if it may seem a bit negative, we liked to connect our film to something very real, to paint this very common moment in an ultra visual way: a guy hesitating between several gifts on the evening of December 23rd. This hesitation allowed us to show the range of experiences while connecting to a moment in life that speaks to everyone.
LBB> How does the film relate to the brand pillars of Smartbox?
Julien> Even though we had our own vision of the brand, it was the CMO who guided us to understand what was at stake. He spoke to us a lot about the point of view of the person giving the gift, and their relationship with the person receiving it. This idea of pleasing the other person, because we know them well. It's a central subject that had to be connected with the catalogue of experiences that the brand offers. With that, the idea of the film becomes quite simple.
LBB> Tell me more about the choice of the locations - why did you decide on caving, bungee jumping, car racing, etc.?
Julien> Once we had this idea of hesitation, we started to think about an incredible sequence, an almost metaphorical projection of the character who is projected into each experience to the rhythm of the hesitation of his friend. We asked the brand which experiences they wanted to highlight, the classics and the new ones. We then made a selection and organised it to create a sequence that worked best.
LBB> What about these extreme transitions? How did you achieve them?
Julien> This comes from several things: First of all, Quentin and I discussed this a lot, without limitations. Then we wrote a script and a storyboard that reflected this. For this kind of film, an essential step is the film test. We made the film roughly with our iPhones. This allows us to specify our transitions (sometimes we realise that some of them don't work), but it also allows us to have a first idea of the rhythm of the film and to try out music on the editing. It also allows us to improve our acting skills!
LBB> What was the most challenging aspect of the campaign? And the most fun?
Julien> The answer is a bit of a follow-up to the previous question. For this project, we quickly decided with the production company to build all the sets in a studio in Sofia, Bulgaria. This allowed us a great deal of flexibility in shooting and to master the architecture. Seeing the sets being created while having fun in them and fine-tuning the film's structure is a bit like playing in a big playmobil set. We also do this job for this kind of childhood return.
LBB> Tell me more about the demographic you were aiming at and why do you think this approach will resonate with them the most?
Julien> Although the film was designed for a wide audience, it targets a slightly younger audience than the usual Smartbox base. (25/35 years old). The moment of giving a gift is synonymous with pleasure and generosity. And, like us, we believe this generation is addicted to experience and play. We hope that the film is following that direction.