Category Archives: ad agency

Project Arachnid short targets online images of child sexual abuse

Early this year, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP) launched Project Arachnid, a new tool that detects and helps remove images of child sexual abuse on the Internet. The centre, which operates in partnership with police forces across Canada, recently posed questions to 128 adults who had been sexually exploited as children and whose abuse had been recorded on camera. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they were worried about being recognized years later, because the images continue to spread online.

To bring to life how Project Arachnid helps victims break the endless cycle of abuse, the organization enlisted agency No Fixed Address and Nice Shoes Creative Studio to craft a brief, but powerful animated short film that features a B&W hand-drawn look.

“It was very important to us to find a way to reflect the gravity of the matter, but not make people look away. We didn’t want the problem to seem insurmountable,” says Shawn James, creative director at No Fixed Address.

Nice Shoes creative directors Gary Thomas and Matt Greenwood, along with design director Stefan Woronko, developed style frames, taking the piece into an illustrative, textured direction inspired by Manga, graphic novels and the work of Frank Miller and Edward Gorey.

As the teams explored the concept, they quickly found they were on the same page, and worked closely to animate the dramatic and powerful story. “We felt the narrative should drive the visuals and presented a solution where only simple animation was needed to emphasize the story,” says Thomas, adding that they were brought in almost from the beginning. “We had reference from the creative team, but we really came back with the look and feel, and worked closely with the team to refine elements.”

Nice Shoes used Adobe Photoshop for all the illustrations in order to get a handmade quality. Everything was assembled in Adobe After Effects. “We composited the scenes and gave it a paper-like, distressed texture,” says Thomas. “We used Maxon Cinema 4D to do the spiders and globe sequences. We had a great character animator, Rob Findlay, come in for a few days and add the animated touches to the characters.”

In terms of challenges, Thomas says the only major one was a quick turnaround of three weeks. “The piece was tied to a big media launch for the CCCP, so we had a firm deadline to work with. It wasn’t really onerous, because we were careful at the outset to do as much as we could at the beginning to make sure the creatives at No Fixed Address were part of the process, and they in turn were able to keep their clients at CCCP in the loop.”

The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

Flaunt Productions in Glasgow teamed up with the Leith Agency on a two-spot campaign for the Scottish blended whisky brand, The Famous Grouse. Heading the effort was director Ben Craig and Flaunt’s head of lighting, Jon Neill — they were tasked with putting the iconic grouse into a CG version of his natural environment for these holiday-themed ads.

The first spot, Perfectly Balanced, was released earlier this month and takes the viewer on a flight through the Scottish Highlands to reveal the Grouse with his chest puffed out and feeling proud of his environment. The second commercial, called Smooth, which aired the week of Black Friday, starts as the camera spins through the snowy Scottish Highlands.

flauntTo create the cinematic photoreal landscape, Neill and some of the team shot drone footage in Glencoe, which allowed real-life textures to be applied to the CG world.

In order to create a realistic grouse, Flaunt applied a feather system based on a fur and procedural shader that gave on organic look to the model. When it came to movement of the body and wing feathers, specific movements had to be animated to give a sense of realistic movement and the personality that is associated with the Famous Grouse.

We reached out to executive producer Andrew Pearce about the project and its workflow…

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

How early did you get involved in the project? Was the agency up for suggestions, or did they already have a specific plan locked in?
Director Ben Craig worked with Flaunt on a creative treatment, based on scripts from The Leith Agency. Their central idea was to bring the much-loved Grouse into his home environment: the epic, sweeping Scottish Highlands. Previously, all ads had been set against an infinite white background. With that in mind, we worked collaboratively with the agency to bring the ads to life.

The first stage after treatment would normally be storyboard. However, because our camera move was so extreme, we felt a 2D animatic would be misleading, so we proceeded straight to previs.

You used drone footage for the Grouse’s environment. How did you go about turning it into CG?
We drove up to the Glencoe ski resort and jumped onto the ski lift to get as high as possible. After a 30-minute walk, we attached a camera to the drone and sent it up into the sky — 360 overlapping stills were taken at three different heights.

We merged the images together to create a 360-panorama and applied this to geometry in Autodesk Maya. From there we rendered out the shot with this background, making creative decisions on what to add or take away. Next, we made simple 3D hills on which to project the images, thus providing parallax and a three-dimensional feel.

Was Maya your main animation software? Did you write your own particle systems off of that? What other tools were used?
Maya was used for animation, Side Effects Houdini for FX, Houdini Mantra for lighting and Nuke for compositing. We also had to write a feather system for the Grouse, which worked inside Houdini.

Can you talk about giving the Grouse personality in the CG world? What about facial (or beak) expressions, and his eyes and movements?
For these adverts, the Grouse was in a real-world environment. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go over the top with cartoony animation. The realism of the Grouse asset wouldn’t support that style, but we needed to give the Grouse some character beyond that of a real one.

Real grouse faces don’t move that much, and we didn’t want to change the anatomy too much. So we used the eyebrows and eyes as much as we could. Our rig also enabled us to exaggerate the shape of the eyes and eyebrows beyond the norm. These subtle anatomical exaggerations were enough for us to push the facial animation enough to engage the viewer.

When it came to the motions of the Grouse, we had to tread a fine line between realistic and anthropomorphic — fans of this brand love how it has moved in previous campaigns. We created various versions of all the actions as we honed in on the motion we wanted. The Grouse’s wink at the end of one of the adverts was the product of many iterations, having explored head tilts, nods, lifts, raised eyebrows and so on.

Before we leave you, anything you would like to add?
We had to strike a balance between a look that was both realistic and magical. This was partly achieved by mashing up some of the most incredible landscapes in Scotland. To augment the magical feel, we added lens flares and camera lens aberrations in the compositing. Subtle pollen particles were also added to give a sense of space as we flew through the environment.

Check out the making of the video here.

G-Tech 6-15

Behind the Title: Arnold Worldwide’s Jon Drawbaugh

NAME: Jon Drawbaugh

COMPANY: Arnold Worldwide

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Arnold is a global creative agency that sits within Havas Creative Group and has offices in Boston (HQ), London, Madrid, Milan, New York, Prague, São Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney and Toronto.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
EVP, Director of Integrated Production

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I like to think of the job as sort of production curator. I am the steward of all the wonderful things that we make as an agency — from sites to apps to video content to still imagery to live brand experiences. I produce by supporting creative solutions and executions. We’re in a period of disruption in the agency world, and I find the opportunities exciting. There’s always something new to learn and a “never been done before” to figure out.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I’m lucky that’s it’s a very roll up your sleeves and dig into the work kind of role. Unlike other leadership roles that are administrative or directorial in nature, I’m very hands-on while still being strategic and holistic. I’ll go from managing staffing allocations into content strategy meetings and then be in an edit bay reviewing creative decks and making ballpark estimates. I also spend a fair amount “producing” for the agency.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Collaborating with my team, creative teams, clients and partners.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Number crunching.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Late afternoon. If all my meetings are done for the day, it’s a great time to grab a coffee and reflect on the solutions of the day.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I wish I could be an amazing chef with popular, hip restaurants. In reality, I’d likely be working for a production company producing or directing content.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
To be honest, I stumbled into advertising. I didn’t know anything about it until I moved to New York City. I landed a temp job at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetter as a receptionist. Advertising seemed so glamorous, what with the producers jetting off to foreign countries and working with famous feature directors. It sounded much more fun than what I had been doing, which was making copies in the basement of a law firm.

From there I worked in the creative department and dabbled in copy writing. I wanted to get to making TV spots quickly, so I figured taking the producer track would get me there faster. Plus, I was producing theater projects on the side and discovered I could actually get paid for producing if I worked at an ad agency.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I’m new to Arnold, so I don’t have my fingerprints on any projects just yet, but I’m a big fan of the recent work like Jack Daniel’s Global Barrel Hunt and their Our Town film (pictured). I also love the Hershey’s My Dad spot and Reese’s #AllTreesAreBeautiful social campaign.

Prior to Arnold, I’m really proud of the Qualcomm Invisible Museum app and Fabric Content projects I worked on out of DDB SF.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s a tough one. I’m so proud of a lot of the work I’ve made over the years. For example, the massive Acura TLX integrated launch we did at Mullen LA, the documentary film I made with Lucy Walker Make Haste Slowly: The Kikkoman Creed, or the viral hit Nanerpus before there were viral hits.

But I’d say the animated short Smutley for AIDES (the French association tackling HIV and AIDS) I produced at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners is one of my proudest. A chance to use our ad skills for good, and how many times in a career can you say you made a cartoon about a cat having sex with all different kinds of animals to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.”

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone, my vintage HiFi, and my camera. Running water and heat are pretty cool, too.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Vine, Houseparty, Tumblr, Periscope, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? 
I love music. All kinds. But generally I don’t have a lot of time at the office to plug in my headphones. When I do, I generally use Spotify or Apple Music to listen to the Indie genre.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I like to listen to LPs on my vintage HiFi with my family. It’s our important family together time. We like to go hunting for vinyl together on weekends. Record Store Day is like a second Christmas for us.


Arnold Worldwide adds Jon Drawbaugh as director of integrated production

Arnold Worldwide has named Jon Drawbaugh as EVP/director of integrated production. Reporting to global chief creative officer Jim Elliott, Drawbaugh’s role is meant to further grow the agency’s integrated production offerings across Arnold and Studio6, a content production studio that is part of the Havas Network (Arnold’s parent company). Studio6 works with Arnold as well as outside clients.

Elliott and Drawbaugh had previously worked together at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners on campaigns for various brands, including as HP and Denny’s.

Drawbaugh will oversee Arnold’s cross-channel production efforts, and work closely with EVP/director of content production Bill Goodell to advance content production efforts across Arnold’s Boston and New York offices.

“Jon comes to us with extensive experience building contemporary integrated production capabilities, and we are extremely excited to have him aboard,” says Elliott.

Prior to joining Arnold, Drawbaugh led integrated production at DDB San Francisco, where he oversaw their Speakeasy content studio. In that role, he built a team of cross-platform production experts focused on creating innovative media agnostic communications for brands like Oracle, Slim Jim, Clorox and Qualcomm — including Qualcomm’s Fabric Content film series and Invisible Museum AR app.

Previously, he worked as SVP/director of integrated production at Mullen LA. He joined Mullen from FCB West where he oversaw a wide range of integrated production assignments. He also established the Foundry, the agency’s in-house production entity, which played a critical role in winning Levi’s business. Before that, Drawbaugh was a senior producer at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, working on top brands like Chevrolet, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, Dickies, Comcast, Cheetos, Denny’s, eBay, Starbucks, Subway, Kayak.com and AIDES.