Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Books to Swear by: Behind the Scenes of Pete Henderson’s Unspeakably Good Ad for Kobo Plus

Production Company
Toronto, Canada
The Someplace Nice director, alongside creatives Lindsay Eady, Nuala Murray, and Mriga Suchdeva, tell LBB why reading is like spring cleaning, and how a spark of comedy can so often be found through juxtaposition

Is there a better feeling than reading through a truly great book for the first time? Perhaps just one: The opportunity to enthusiastically recommend that book to your friends, family, plus anyone else who’ll listen. And, in all honesty, a fair few people who won’t listen, too.

It’s precisely that rare delight which the latest ad for Kobo Plus - the monthly eBook subscription service - comedically taps into. The rib-tickling spot, from creative agency The Garden and directed by Someplace Nice’s Pete Henderson, portrays an inspired reader who - in spite of all the world’s interruptions - just can’t hold back from recommending her latest read on Kobo Plus.

Playfully, the ad subtly takes aim at larger players in the eBook space by casting Kobo as the home of readers’ guilty pleasures. Rather than pay homage to the high-brow classics everyone has read (or, perhaps more likely, claims to have read), Kobo’s messaging celebrates the joys of true crime mysteries, paranormal fiction, and the occasional helping of smut. What’s not to love?

But, as many creatives and filmmakers can surely attest, capturing subtle comedy on-screen is far easier said than done. And so, to go behind the scenes of this ad, LBB sat down with director Pete Henderson, alongside creatives Lindsay Eady, Nuala Murray, and Mriga Suchdeva…


Above: The latest ad for eBook subscription platform Kobo Plus taps into a universal joy to which any avid reader can relate.


LBB> Hi, Pete - what was the initial brief from the client for this ad, and how much creative freedom did you have?

Pete> Honestly, I read the script and immediately prayed, on my knees, that it was approved and the client knew what they're getting into - because I didn’t want to change a word! I didn't need any freedom, just trust that I keep this as funny onscreen as it was on the page.


LBB> And Nuala, what kind of insights or inspiration led you to the idea behind this ad?

Nuala> There’s so much pressure on what everyone reads these days. It feels like it’s become a lot more about the clout, rather than just genuinely enjoying what you’re reading. And the Kobo Plus reader reads these indulgent, true crime, or smutty eBooks that you’ll never see on NYT lists or in celeb book clubs - so they definitely get some social-shade for that. 

While I’m not a genre-reader, I’ve got my own guilty pleasures like Top 40 and reality TV, so I know what it’s like to get side-eyed for the stuff you love. We wanted to fight back against this feeling, and empower people to own their fave genres, and just be so proud of their eBooks that they shout it from the rooftops (and at seven-year-olds.) 

LBB> And what references or inspirations did you draw from to nail that comedic tone?

Pete> References came from everywhere, everyone on the team remembered scenes and shows that reminded us of the kind of comedy we were aiming for. From ‘Airplane!’ to ‘Bridesmaids’, we simply wanted to rupture our heroine's refined exterior with her desire to drop the 'f' bomb in the context of literature.


Above: 2011’s Bridesmaids was one of several reference points for the ad’s feel. 


LBB> From a creative standpoint, how did you settle on the specific situations we see in the film?

Mriga> We wanted to capture the everyday moments where people can relate to themselves reading. At the same time, we chose situations where the sound effects would feel like a natural part of the setting - we didn’t want them to come off as over-the-top (but they still needed to be disruptive enough to get the laughs.) 

From morning coffee to after-school pick-up, we made sure our main character goes around her regular daily life, letting people know what she’s reading while giving no f*cks.


LBB> More broadly, what persuaded you that comedy was the right tone to go for to promote Kobo Plus? 

Lindsay> Giving people “permission” to binge their favourite guilty pleasure books felt inherently comedic. Plus, we were able to have fun with real Kobo Plus book titles. Some of our alternate titles were DILF and GILF — the G stands for Granny. 


LBB> Pete, what steps did you take to ensure that tongue-in-cheek tone came through on the shoot?

Pete> For that, all credit should go to Jordana Lloyd, our lead. She simply delivered a restrained, suppressed character and then we inserted profanity that she delivered like she was at a cocktail party. The formula was to play it straight and find a mild arc of frustration as you're being interrupted.

What ultimately generates the comedy is the interruption of the heroine's flow. She's dying to trumpet the name of this book and swear with sophistication. So when that opportunity is repeatedly denied, she finally explodes with actual profanity that is devoid of any loftiness or elegance.


LBB> As well as being funny, the ad really captures the feeling of reading something fantastic and being compelled to share it with others. How do you go about creating that sensation as a filmmaker?

Pete> Through the sheer repetition of the same line, with yet another interruption, the compulsion to share grows stronger.  All that can change is the demeanour of our lead, who's too excited to not say the word. It was just about keeping the rhythm and letting the performance amplify the intensity and, ultimately, the laugh.


LBB> And what kind of role does reading play in your own personal or creative life?

Lindsay> Reading helps make me a better writer and overall creative, and ignites my imagination in a way bingeing Netflix can’t. Like radio, it involves a theatre of the mind.

Pete> For me, reading is like deciding to spring clean. It starts slow, but once you’re in and put your head down, it’s all you can do or think of until it's done. Then I'm really glad I did it.


LBB> Did you run into any interesting challenges while filming? If so, how did you overcome them?

Pete> The only concern we had going into it was swearing around children. We informed the parents days before the shoot, and they all said that it was nothing the kids hadn't heard before. I figured that was pretty healthy, in all honesty.


LBB> And finally, what was your personal highlight of working on this campaign?

Nuala> Watching every person we worked with, from concept to production, try to keep a straight face while saying “Clusterf*ck” in a meeting.

Mriga> The personal highlight for me was just accepting that I love reading psychotic murder books. And that it’s okay to be a freak.

Lindsay> Being denied by telecaster again and again. And again once more. 

Pete> ​​The highlight was shot one, take one, when you realise the talent is gonna carry this idea on her shoulders and do all the heavy lifting. That gave production a chance to make things as visually interesting as possible, knowing this would never overpower the performance. To direct by simply watching, without assessing and adjusting, is such a rarity.  Jordana Lloyd, our lead, she was the highlight.

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