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Promoting an authentic and genuine app for the visually impaired - #BehindTheIdea

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Just 10 years ago, some of the technological advancements which make entertainment more accessible were often related with some crazy science-fiction projects. Today, agencies like Something Different show that a lot of those concepts can now be made a reality.

Approached by Charter Communications to build a brand campaign for Spectrum, the team at Something Different crafted a stunning series of spots to showcase the power of technology in solving everyday problems, promoting the whole of Spectrum's TV, Mobile and Internet capabilities. The Desert spot is part of that series, and you can take a look at it below.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea to learn more about this wonderful campaign and how a talented team of creatives brought it to life.

What was the brief?

“We need a brand campaign” is often the starting point for very formulaic, anthemic commercials, with more deep-voiced voiceover than actual insight or relevance. So, while our brief was a brand campaign, it was also to make it as much about you (customer) as it was about us (Spectrum). It needed to be based in the real world solutions Spectrum delivers for your everyday problems. Less preaching, more proof. And it needed to speak to customers in a relevant, entertaining way.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

The initial brainstorming was a deep dive into the various solutions that are available (or coming) for Spectrum users, and ranking them in order of relevance and, frankly, interest. And the one that kept rising to the top for everyone who saw it, was the Spectrum Access App and its Movie Description feature. Although it’s aimed at a small customer base (visually impaired customers) it’s a very powerful example of how technology can be applied to help solve a real problem. When you have a product that makes everyone say “that’s very cool” then you know you're on the right track. Then it was simply a matter of finding an entertaining way to tell the story.

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Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

Well the idea didn’t come to life instantly or in isolation. It required a lot of conversations between the creative teams and visually impaired people, not simply to understand what it did exactly, but to grasp what its real power was - what freedoms did the app enable. And it turned out that the “enjoying a movie” aspect of it was strong, but the fact that it enabled sharing movie night with others was an even more powerful feature. So the movie as experienced in the mind of the young woman (which is what we see on screen) ultimately resolves into a shared movie experience. It turned the spot from a story about differences, to a story about how the app allows people to be together.

What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

Above everything, our priority was casting the right woman. So, all credit to the casting folks for finding a range of talented, visually impaired actors, all of whom brought their unique experiences to the role and helped us to think about the spot in new ways. We were very fortunate to find Natalie, who really nailed it. 

From a shoot standpoint, there was enormous discussion and investigation to find the best way to execute the idea because the norm was not viable. We couldn't fly off to distant deserts and spend days on the road. We needed to be strategic about how to make the piece with all sorts of tools to not only elevate it, but do so safely. The sandstorm didn't help either.

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What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

The image that stands out from the shoot is the director, on set, sitting in the center of a 20 foot wide no-go, do-not-enter circle, marked out with police tape. Clearly it was the responsible thing to do, but it was also pretty funny to see.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

In this instance (for this spot anyway) it fairly easy to say why it matters. It gives the visually impaired a whole new way to enjoy movies. It opens doors and makes the world a better place. Which makes the other three spots in the campaign seem slightly less important, in comparison. But even those still find funny and entertaining ways to show how Spectrum’s ideas make your life better. All in all, it’s not a bad place to play.

What is one unique aspect of the campaign?

The thing that most excites us is that we get to showcase real things. So there’s always a moment in the spot where you can say “oh okay, they do that for me”. Then, if that suits your life, great, sign up. If not, there’ll be another useful solution along in the next ad break.

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How long did it take from inception to delivery?

It took quite a long time to choose the various topics we were going to highlight. But once those were selected, it was about a 6 month process to conceive and create the four spots of the campaign, of which the Spectrum Access App is one. There’s a ton of CGI and post-production, and the combination of the imagined landscape, the detail (or lack of detail) in each scene, even the timing of the sound effects - which have to exist audibly before the objects can appear on screen - all took a lot of time to get right.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

It’s hard to stand out in a world of $35 unlimited mobile ads, NextG and the Gigaflop internet speed wars. So, it’d be a success if people saw the work and were moved to consider for a moment that it does make a different who provides your mobile, internet, TV service. It’s not just a price thing. It’s a “who understands what you need” thing. (Spectrum is also least expensive, but that’s another campaign entirely)

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Credit list for the campaign?

Something Different 
Co-Founder / Managing Partner                Patti McConnell
Co-Founder / Chief Creative                      Tommy Henvey 
Creative Director, Writer                             Richard Ryan 
Special Ops / Producer                               Garrett Crabb
Director of Accounts                        Meghan Linehan 

Biscuit Filmworks 
Director                                                          Noam Murro
Partner / Managing Director                       Shawn Lacy
Executive Producer                                     Andrew Travelstead 
Producer                                                        Emily Skinner 
Head of Production                                      Sean Moody
Director of Photography                              Eric Schmidt
Production Designer                                    Brock Houghton

Work Editorial 
Editor                                                              Biff Butler 
Assistant Editor                                            Audrey Weiner
Executive Producer                                     Erica Thompson 
Producer                                                        Brandee Probasco 

VFX: Parliament 

Halo Music and Sound 
Founder / Creative Director                        Peter Gannon 
Sound Designer                                           Gus Koven 

Color Collective 
Founder / Colorist                                        Alex Bickel 

Elevensound 
Mixer                                                              Jeff Payne

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