Advertising Week: Getting Behind Big Ads with the Editors
Mainly for personal conceits, Advertising Week's Why Editors Matter panel was by far our favourite.
The panel consisted of Chris Franklin, Big Sky Editorial, NY; Paul Gowan, Rogue Editorial, Toronto; and Neil Gust, Outside Editorial, NY. Check out the link to the panel information to see the work they've done; notably, Paul Gowan is known for having edited that Dove Evolution piece that people keep subjecting us to.
Each of adland's Geoff Emerick's had an opportunity to speak, which we'll go ahead and synopsize here:
At the outset, Gowan observed that you "just can't get enough of" any of the three spots for which these editors are particularly known. And he's right. A resilient, infectious piece isn't just prerequisite of great art; it's critical to an ad's success (for, um, obvious reasons).
If you can't watch them over and over, what makes you think you're going to push product?
Onto Dove Evolution. Contrary to rumors we've heard, the girl's metamorphosis took three hours - not 10. To address still other rumors, the agency did a making-of video to, we suppose, distill the finehanded work implicit in whittling down a long process in a way that still captures a watcher's attention.
"It does get tiring," Gowan admitted of both editing an hours-long tape and watching it.
And while Dove Evolution seeks primarily to cut into the deception inherent to advertising, it's not without its own smoke and mirrors. The model used in the film was chosen specifically for her relatability to "average" women.
And that Photoshop-esque series of functions at the end, where a mouse widens her eyes and lengthens her neck? Complete invention. If shit were that easy, there'd be no excuse for Condy Rice to look the way she does half the time.
All told, the spot took a whoppin' three weeks and 15-17 hours.
Gust has got to be the most touchy-feely of his cohorts in terms of talking editing. His work seems to be less about smoothing technical rough-edges than taking unrelated snippets to convey a feeling, a non-narrative that flows like it tells a story.
The object, Gust explains, is to capture a chemistry associated with feelings that clients hope to associate with their product - like "sexy" or "gorgeous."
"They tell me how they want it to feel," he says, and his job is to create relationships from shot to shot that best convey that sensation. Good shortcuts include building formal relationships between themes that leap from cut to cut: streaky imagery throughout, consistent shapes and logical flow.
In the case of the Jaguar ad, the client wanted a "really long car shot," which didn't quite fit into the existing "hyperkinetic visual." To make it work, they stuck in a scene where the car skids to an abrupt stop, the music halts, and an airport voice is dubbed over the long shot of the vehicle. Then the pace speeds up again.
Franklin probably reminds us the most of the electives professor with promise that we all encountered in high school. He compares showing off an editor's back-end work to airing your underpants for all the public to see - it's clearly uncomfortable for him, but there's a tinge of exhibitionist pride at the same time.
He calls editing a series of mistakes that work eventually; mainly, it's a painfully solitary and long process.
"You just try to find variations that keep you going, keep you thinking," he says. Sometimes you have to go off and stare at a wall, or buy a flower, just to keep the ideas flowing.
The Ellen spot for American Express consisted of seven hours of footage, and the actress was never shot in the same room as the animals. In fact, each animal in the boardroom scene was shot one at a time.
90 percent of the spot was composite-driven, and each animal (and actress') performance had to be elegantly orchestrated to appear like they were all moving together.
A particular point of pride is the moment in which Ellen and an ostrich nod downward (um, toward a kangaroo) at the same time.
Franklin also scoffs at the notion of a "viral ad."
"All advertising is viral, period," he says. "Any advertising is viral." When you really think about it, that makes sense.
As a final thought, Franklin admonishes editors-to-be against attending the shoots that produce the images you'll work with. "AVOID the shoot at all costs!" - the politics behind the cuts will always affect your unadulterated view of the final footage, and that's a shot in the foot.
Overall, editing is described as as much emotive and sensory as it is logical. And music, dubbed "spiritual glue" by Franklin, is a big factor for casting the feel of a spot. The audience can't be expected to see what you're seeing if you don't provide them with the right background noise.
The Ellen/American Express ad has a distinctive Dick Van Dyke feel that hits you the moment you start watching it, and you're not even really sure why. It's cast in black and white, and the vintage music was produced to give it a "timeless" quality. This early sensation is part of the bouquet of emotions you're intended to feel over the life of an ad.
One of the editors observed that without an appropriate soundtrack, this stuff just doesn't work - and it's all too easy to aim for a popular pop song, because those types of tracks can make nearly any series of images likable, which can lead to lazy editing.
In fact, Gown calls the use of popular music "Irresponsible [...] unless you're Microsoft." It's considered part of the job to stockpile obscure, interesting and affordable music.
Thankfully, indy artists will meet you halfway in this regard. Now, plenty of records get "made" on the strength of an ad. (Consider the popularity of Telepopmusik's "Breathe" after Mitsubishi eased it into that one ad where that raver dude is dancing around in the car.)
At this point in the game, Franklin notes that great ads can leverage equally good -- but otherwise obscure -- indy work "because RADIO SUCKS, but that's a different story."
So much for Emerick.