Armoury director Marc Sidelsky and MD and executive producer Matt Hichens talk to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating a no-nonsense German character within a distinctly British high street setting
Memorable characters are hard to get right, but when they work, they do everything to get you to remember a brand. Armoury, Nomad and 2050 have collaborated to create a character-led UK launch campaign for website builder IONOS that features a lady named Aunt Helga. Appearing from a portal, clicking her jet-shoes and getting to work, it’s her direct attitude that gets the job done.
Website building never looked so easy with Aunt Helga, who represents the German reliability that Brits - who this campaign is made for - know so well. She arrives just in time to save the ‘Woolworks’ knitted brand with a functional, stylish website to support the high street shop. The use of clever nostalgia is a subtle nod to how IONOS can support British businesses.
LBB’s Nisna Mahtani speaks to Matt and Mark at Armoury about the collaboration which went from pitch to TV in just four months.
LBB> You’re bringing back memorable brand characters. Was this the initial idea that sparked the direction?
Matt> When we started working on the pitch with Nomad and 2050 the brand character route very quickly became the one that felt right. We were launching a tech brand that, although the biggest in Europe, wasn't really known in the UK. So launching IONOS with a character allowed us to create an interesting personality and have a lot of fun with it at the same time.
LBB> Aunt Helga is definitely small but mighty. How was she created and how does she represent Teutonic efficiency for the IONOS brand?
Matt> Firstly, what is Teutonic efficiency? Googled it and got it, German Efficiency!
IONOS is Europe's leading hosting, website and domain provider and it’s a German company. Our early thinking was that we in the UK love and trust German efficiency and so we wanted to lean into this. We also talked about other brands positioning themselves as friends to call and fix your tech problems, and them not being that genuine or really true. Again, we went back to ‘Teutonic efficiency’ and how we liked the idea of a no-nonsense German efficiency.
So we had a starting-point brief of a funny, memorable, German, no-nonsense character.
Then, in stepped Chiappe and Saunby at 2050 and out pops Aunt Helga to make her first appearance!
LBB> The ad has the feeling of being from the past, and quite current, but also futuristic. How did you film and edit it to come across this way?
Marc> From the beginning, we wanted the characters and environments to feel very British. Easily relatable and identifiable. That’s why we wanted to shoot in a market town and sought out quirky faces that felt distinctly local. We were looking for a certain timelessness. I saw it as Doctor Who meets Monty Python meets Looney Tunes as filtered through German expressionism!
We achieved a great deal of Helga’s compact size with in-camera techniques, utilising forced perspective. We also played with the angles of the set design. Helga was conceived as a live-action cartoon character - her speed and movement were sharp and snappy. All of this contributes to a final film that feels hopefully unique and of no particular era.
LBB> The pitch to TV turnaround being four months is impressive. How did the non-traditional collaboration between Nomad, Armoury and 2050 impact this?
Matt> We (Armoury) have worked with branding agency Nomad as their production partner over the last few years. Saunby and Chiappe, I’ve known for years and since they formed 2050 Armoury has worked on two projects with them, and it was around this time that Nomad received the request to pitch on IONOS. So knowing everyone involved allowed a shorthand communication between us, and by having such a good team we were able to just plugin, make it happen and get it done.
LBB> Has this campaign shifted the way in which you’ll produce ads going forward?
Matt> I don't think we’ve reinvented the wheel but we would work in this way again at the drop of a hat! Being involved in the very inception of the project allowed us to work with creatives and the creative in tandem with the production. It was fast and intense in terms of the speed of the creative development and production, and we learned a lot on this one.
LBB> I’m sure there were memorable moments on set, were there any you won’t forget?
Marc> Katerina a.k.a. ‘Aunt Helga,’ came in from Berlin. For me, she was always ‘Helga’, she’s the only one I wanted. From the time she was fitted, she LOVED being that character. Some of my most memorable on-set moments were Katerina entertaining the crew with her in-character dance moves… she’s a hoot!
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Marc> It was a tough schedule, but it was always a free-flowing conversation with decent, smart and passionate people… who also love a laugh. I was very lucky to work with Terry at Nomad, Saunby and Chiappe at 2050… all on my first UK job, with my killer team at Armoury. Last but not least, the clients from IONOS - Claudia, Andre and Lucie - they bought into something unconventional and I hope they reap the dividends. I feel very lucky to have been brought on board for this project, alongside such a superb crowd to be in the trenches with. I hope they’ll have me back.
Matt> I concur Marc! It was our first job together, and Marc really got involved. So a baptism of fire for us all, but Marc was brilliant and a pleasure to work with at all times.