In 2008, clothes company Wrangler put out a pitch to advertising agencies asking for help to reinvigorate the brand within the European youth market. It faced a specific image problem. “The problem was that Wrangler is an American brand, 125 years old, associated with middle America…” explains Fred Raillard of Parisian agency Fred & Farid. “So the perception of Wrangler was very much linked to the cowboy… But the cowboys in Europe was negative, because the cowboy means old, white America. It’s Marlboro, it’s John Wayne, it’s the people behind the indian genocide. It’s George Bush, who was hated in Europe”.
Despite this, Fred & Farid, which won the pitch, felt it was important not to stray too far away from the brand’s root in its new advertising. “You cannot start from scratch with the communication of a brand thai is 125 years old” continues Fred. “You cannot. Especially as in America the communication about the cowboy was to carry on… So we tried to extract the values of the rodeo - the wildness, being on an animal, roughness. Also, the positive aspects of cowboys – environment, nature, living with animals. Living in sinch with nature, having courage. We tried to extract some values that would connect with young people in Europe. The we thought: maybe we could just move from the cowboy to the animal… To the horse, in fact…”
This concept tied in with an old logo for the brand that the creative team found during their research. The logo from the 1970s saw the letters of the Wrangler name forming the shape of a horse. It may have been what Raillard describes as “cheesy”, but it meant that Fred & Farid’s idea of focusing on the brand’s associations to animals had a heritage. They then tested the concept on the target audience, and connected the idea with the culture of the time. “It was a period when we where facing a crisis” says Fred, “everything was collapsing, the banks were collapsing, and in that period of time we all had the feeling that our human society had reached a limit. So it was relevant to highlight that maybe we’d lost something when we lost our animality…”
The slogan WE ARE ANIMALS was decided upon, though Fred & Farid realized that this high concept ran the risk of backfiring if the execution of the ads was too heavy-handed. The key was to emphasize the animal instincts of humans, but in an unexpectede way. “The first thing we decided was to never show any animals…” says Fred. “To not create confusion – we’re talking about human animality, so the big mistake would be to show an animal. Then we thought with such a strong statement, we couldn’t play around, we had to really do it. The whole background had to be animalistic – spontaneous, not too intellectual. So we decided to set up a way of working on Wrangler that was more spontaneous and creative…”
The team decided to avoid too much planning and over-thinking before the shoot, and to employ a photographer who was skilled in attaining a raw, natural quality to their work. “We looked at photographers not from the ad industry but from art” says Fred. “People who in their personal work are passionate about showing human animality, celebrating animality in humans. We choose Ryan McGinley, as already in his personal work he was really driven by the whole idea of our animality…”
McGinley’s shooting style is loose, and his work follows a tradition of documentary photography begun by artists such as Nan Goldin and Larry Clark. He developed his style in the late 1990s by documenting his friends and acquaintances in New York engaging in parties, sex and general hedonism. When he moved to more formal shoots, using models, he retained this naturalistic approach. A shoot of McGinley’s even a commercial one, will usually involve setting up loose parameters and scenarios, but otherwise letting events evolve naturally, with everything captured on camera.
Fred & Farid wholeheartedly embraced this style of working for Wrangler shoot, which took place in the New Jersey countryside over two nights. Twelve models were selected to take part, drawn not from professional agencies but from street-casting. Actors and performance artists were also among those chosen, and the shoot, when described by Fred, has the feel more of an art performance than a commercial exercise.
“It was a crazy shoot!” he says. “People made love in front of us… everybody got crazy for two nights. It was freezing like hell, we were wearing North Face jackets, and they were naked in nature! Everybody was amazing, everybody went for this art experience. We experimented with any idea that anybody had on set…”
Mcginley, and his assistant, Tim Barber, took thousands of photographs over the two nights, according to Fred. “So you don’t even have time to think about anything – any idea that anyone has you experiment with. It’s chaos, complete chaos… and inside this chaos some pearls pop up…”
The shoot resulted in a set of arresting images, which were used to create the posters that stood at the centre of the WE ARE ANIMALS campaign. Beyond the impact of the images themselfs, what is striking about the posters is the lack of overt branding. The brand’s logo appears at the bottom, alongside the tagline, but otherwise the photographs are given room to breathe, a highly unusual approch in billboard advertising today, where brands have a tendency to shout their messages.
Even the product itself is absent from many of the shoot. “We had to convince them” says Fred. “Clients want to show their product, but we really fought to convince them, to get them on board with us that it is more important to bring back the Wrangler attitude and make a connection with a new generation. They would never have done it by showing the denim, because even if it’s great denim, denim is not a surprising product. We all wear denim now…”
The WE ARE ANIMALS print and poster campaign is a great example of pure branding. Fred & Farid used other media to do the less exciting work of the ad campaign – using the Wrangler website to provide the vital product information, for example – but insisted that the posters be more ambiguous. It was a risk strategy that ultimately paid off for the jeans brand, injecting it with an edge and attitude that allowed Wrangler to stand out within an extremely crowded market.
Wrangler Jeans print advertising campaign, “We Are Animals”, won the Grand Prix for Print at Cannes International Advertising Festival.
The Wrangler campaign was developed at FFL Paris by executive creative directors Fred & Farid (Frederic Raillard and Farid Mokart), art directors/copywriters Julie Louison and Perinne Durand, copywriters Baptiste Clinet, Nicolas Lautier, Philippe Pinel, Frederick Lung. Filming was shot by Ryan McGinley, known for his nude films.
Describe the objective of the promotion.
The campaign goal was to fortify HBO against increasing competition by strengthening the brand’s relationship with super-fans. Incredibly engaged in all forms of media, they seek intelligent, cutting-edge entertainment experiences. Super-fans recognize HBO as one of the few brands that respects their intelligence. They don’t just watch HBO programs – they’re completely involved and engaged before, during and after a show.
The creative task was to ignite this same level of passion around the HBO brand itself. Success would be determined by positive shifts in brand perception metrics, improved bonding levels among super-fans and increases in online brand buzz.
Describe how the promotion developed from concept to implementation.
In order to impact perceptions among an already positive audience, it wouldn’t be enough to tell super-fans that we are the leaders at cutting-edge, innovative storytelling – we needed to show them.
HBO Voyeur took the act of watching, already an integral part of the HBO experience, and intensified it. The viewers became essential players within the story – their gaze the very essence of the concept for HBO Voyeur: sometimes the best stories are the ones we were not meant to see. It encouraged viewers to seek more, become a part of the story and engage with the content.
Explain why the method of promotion was most relevant to the product or service.
In order to encourage the participation beyond passive viewing that is so critical to super-fans’ experience with the brand, HBO Voyeur was expressed as a multi-media, multi-platform program, each touch-point acting as an invitation to engage with the project as a whole.
It began with a life-size projection on the side of an apartment building in downtown Manhattan, creating the illusion that the wall had been cut away and allowing viewers to experience the story by seeing the lives inside. The campaign extended to HBOVoyeur.com, HBO On Demand and HBO Mobile, with each content experience uniquely tailored to its platform.
Describe the success of the promotion with both client and consumer including some quantifiable results.
HBO Voyeur strengthened super-fans’ perception of the HBO brand:
74% said Voyeur set the HBO brand apart.
72% claimed it made them think HBO is better than other networks.
60% said it made them more interested in the HBO brand.
The campaign led to improved feelings towards programming, even though Voyeur was not linked to any specific shows. (Hall and Partners)
3,200+ people visited the Manhattan event.
Over 1 million users visited HBOvoyeur.com within the first 3 weeks (Google Analytics).
The campaign was mentioned in 500+ blogs, prompting conversations and debate (Nielsen BuzzMetrics).
Launched in the summer of 2007, HBO Voyeur was a multimedia brand campaign created by advertising agency BBDO. Using the concept of voyeurism, the team created a series of fictional, interconnected characters and stories set within a NY apartment block and these were expanded to create a multiplatform brand experience.
‘It had been a long time since HBO launched a brand campaign, so it was important that the team assembled was able to articulate a refined brand strategy that truly captured the essence of the brand, into high quality, innovative and break-through creative,’ recalls Cindy Matero, director of brand strategy at HBO. ‘HBO Voyeur at its core was a brand initiative and our long-term relationship with BBDO meant they have a deep and firm understanding of the HBO brand and our innovative communication strategies, as well as the nuances of the relationship with our consumer.’
The creative team at BBDO was selected because of its mastery in communicating brand messages in a non-traditional way that leverage all forms of media. According to Matero, the success of HBO Voyeur can be attributed to the close collaboration between BBDO and the brand team at HBO; a partnership that transcended traditional agency/client relationships and resulted in a campaign that was innovative, on strategy and of the highest quality.
After working together for more than a decade, the established relationship between client and creative was especially strong. On this particular project, it was also extremely collaborative, with the client remaining closely involved from beginning to end.
HBO and BBDO shared work and project details on a consistent, at times daily, basis. The client also consistently demonstrated tremendous respect and support for the creative team and its work.
‘In fact, because of the magnitude of the project and all the different moving parts, at times it was as if we were one with the client, all working closely together, hand-in-hand to get things done,’ according to BBDO’s creative team. ‘Our challenge was twofold; to ignite the passion of HBO super-fans without leveraging the brand’s most powerful asset, its programming, and also to demonstrate the evolution of the brand across multiple platforms. Although the project grew in scope, this initial focus never changed.’
The main focus of the campaign was a silent film showing the residences and residents of a fictional urban apartment block in New York City. The campaign’s stellar launch saw crowds gather on the corner of Broome Street and Ludlow Street when the four-minute film was beamed onto the side of a nearby whitewashed apartment building.
Divided into 12 moving parts, the film mimicked a cross-section of the building’s infrastructure, allowing it to show the interiors of all eight apartments simultaneously, as well as the stairwell. Onlookers instantly became voyeurs.
For Matero, seeing the film projected life-size onto the side of a building in Manhattan was the most memorable moment of the campaign. ‘Everyone who worked on the project attended this very successful event and represented all of the hard work and collaboration on the project,’ she recalls.
Creatively developing eight interconnected stories that could play out, fully synchronised, in four minutes was a considerable challenge for the creative team. In addition to developing over 30 different characters, they also mapped, timed and choreographed all the characters’ movements.
The actors had to learn the technical elements of their roles before finding a way to inject characterisation. Part of the challenge for the actors was to portray character and emotion from a distance, while steering clear of pantomime.
The cast and crew were brought together in a mass workshop to perfect the performance. The core film was shot on two sound stages and filmed one ‘floor’ at a time, including activity in the stairwell.
While one floor was being shot, the other side of the sound stage was being dressed. With no dialogue, shot entirely from the perspective of the voyeur, the film required the actors to perform as though they were on a theatre stage.
Each element was carefully choreographed and later meticulously stitched together in post-production. The final film represents an entirely new concept.
In addition to being projected onto the building, the film was also extended to hbovoyeur.com, HBO On Demand and HBO Mobile, as well as other media-sharing platforms such as Flickr and YouTube.
Along with additional interactive content, viewers were able to find more information about the individual characters and their lives, by looking both online and in the real world. This further heightened the experience for those keen to get more involved.
While many campaigns begin and end with the creation of a single character, HBO Voyeur reaches an entirely new level. It is a startling achievement for a single campaign, from the creation of multiple characters, each complete with their own story, to the way in which their lives are cleverly intertwined, to the outstanding direction of the filmed sequences, to the perfect choice of music, to the innovative use of multiple platforms.
Moreover, by incorporating multiple platforms with specific content created to optimise each one, yet never to the detriment of another, HBO Voyeur encapsulates where the advertising industry should be right now.
‘HBO Voyeur was a multi-platform initiative with original content developed for each,’ notes Matero. ‘The creation and implementation, as well as the complex marketing plan behind the project, was nine months in the making. This level of detail required constant communication and many conference calls and meetings every week.’
The complexity of the project and range of skills required meant there were also a number of additional collaborators on the project. These included RSA for film production, Asylum for visual effects, Search Party for music, Big Spaceship for online development and Butcher for editorial.
A team of account managers at BBDO was responsible for managing and overseeing the entire project, ensuring everything was carried out professionally, from developing the strategic thinking behind the project to securing the location to ensuring the media plan was working.
The team’s tasks included liaising between the client and the agency project team; researching, securing and managing outside companies as partners (including PR and event marketing specialists and an online agency); working with the New York City authorities to secure the necessary approvals for the projection location; and generally tackling entirely new concepts in a creative manner.
HBO Voyeur was a complicated project with many different facets. A number of its elements had never previously been attempted, so the project’s account managers needed to be open-minded and creative.
One of the biggest obstacles for the creative team was finding and securing the location. It was crucial to find a building that would work with the creative concept – a stripped-away wall – in a location that could both accommodate an audience and was visible to passers by.
The building used was almost as much of a character in the tale as its inhabitants. For this reason, and to ensure the film was shown in context, Manhattan’s Lower East Side was chosen. Finding an appropriate space there was not an easy task. In the end, a location scout was hired to find the right venue, but the complications did not end there.
‘Our perfect building was adjacent to a Department of Transportation parking lot, which required approval from the city at a time when projecting on the sides of buildings was very controversial,’ recall the BBDO account managers. ‘We worked with seven different NYC government offices to secure permission to use the space. It was the positive relationships we developed with decision makers and influencers, as well as our passion and persistence for the project, that ultimately allowed us to bring it to life in the location we had chosen.’
It was the responsibility of the production and account teams at BBDO to oversee the budget with the client and, because there were so many firsts with this project, unexpected elements throughout the process increased the budget from the original estimate.
Also, as the project developed, elements were added or extended, which also resulted in budget increases. However, these were always discussed by the full team (agency, client and partner) and agreed upon in advance.
‘We faced an unusual challenge in that the project evolved and grew over time, with an endless number of tentacles and ideas – the only thing standing in our way at times was budget!’ says Matero. In fact, were she to repeat the project, this is the one element Matero would alter, allocating more money to expose many more people to the outdoor film in more cities.
For the creative team, the key lesson from this project was that anything is possible for an agency that is truly committed at all levels to create and produce a unique and amazing project, no matter what the obstacles, working alongside clients who are equally committed.
‘It is possible to communicate a strong and succinct brand message in a non-traditional form, and still have it connect deeply with consumers and elevate the perception of the brand,’ concludes Matero.
The HBO Voyeur website received a record number of hits: 1.2 million in the first four weeks, with an average time spent on site of nine minutes. The original content on all HBO platforms, including HBO On Demand, HBO Mobile and HBO on iTunes, also garnered above-average usage.
Additional post-campaign research revealed that HBO Voyeur communicated a strong and positive brand message. This was a resoundingly successful campaign by any standards.
Advertising Agency: BBDO New York
Executive Creative Director: Greg Hahn
Copywriter: Greg Hahn/Mike Smith/David Carter
Art Director: David Carter
Production Company: RSA Film/Little Minx
Directors: Jake Scott/Chris Nelson