Richmond-based branding, advertising and design firm Elevation recently tapped The Clyde Brothers of The Cortez Brothers to direct a comedic new commercial campaign for Virginia529, an independent state agency offering Virginians a suite of college savings programs.
The three-spot campaign introduces the Tuition Monster, Virginia529’s new "anti-mascot” representing the anxiety, fear and pressure that comes into the lives of parents considering their children’s futures. Each spot, behind the campaign slogan, “Tame the Tuition Monster,” features the inescapable furry green character antagonizing parents of children of all ages. The moral behind his antics is a reminder that it is never too early to plan and take control of the “college savings” situation with Virginia529.
“We are really happy with the way these spots turned out,” says Frank Gilliam, Elevation Creative Director. “I think they make everyone laugh on the outside, even though the ‘Tuition Monster’ may make them cringe a little on the inside. The Clyde Brothers really grasped our creative vision, and added touches that made the campaign funny. They know humor is subtle and has more impact when there is texture and nuance to it. We were not going for the ‘smashing watermelons with a hammer’ vibe. It really takes a team approach to take a big idea and make it as powerful as it can be in 30 seconds.”
“The spots needed to be relevant to a wide variety of people, from expecting parents to grandparents,” explains The Clyde Brothers. “The agency also needed the monster to be scary to adults yet somebody a 4-year-old would run up to and hug since he’ll also be making live appearances at major events throughout Virginia, such as halftime competitions for basketball games.”
Designing the monster was the first step in production. With the concept presented by Elevation, The Clyde Brothers further developed the character and its physical details, such as horns. After engaging a sketch artist to draw the character, they commissioned costume and make-up artists to create the final look, including the Tuition Monster's full-body suit.
Opting to use only practical effects, The Clyde Brothers aspired to take the films into a humorous realm. In addition to costume and makeup, scripting and casting the right actor with great comedic delivery were both crucial.
“Given our resources and the campaign messaging strategy, we focused on being funny rather than trying too hard to make a super-real CG monster to sell the spots. So we went for a Jim Belushi-style college humor and sought an actor who could to take the character to more of a ‘Beetlejuice’ realm when digital effects weren't such the status quo in filmmaking. Robin Collins portrays the Tuition Monster. During the auditions, we fell in love with him right away. He brought his personality to the character -- and he was a trooper putting on that hot suit everyday."
Seeking homegrown talent to direct the spots, Elevation found the perfect fit with LA-based filmmakers Rob and Ben Clyde. Actual brothers born and raised in Virginia, both are commonwealth public university graduates with degrees from George Mason University and James Madison University, respectively.
“Their upbringing was a happy coincidence, but I think it gave them a stronger connection with the client and the program,” says Gilliam. “It made the coast-to-coast creative collaboration that much easier. We all enjoyed creating these spots and that’s what really shows in the end product.”
“We hope the Tuition Monster becomes the state's next big character,” concludes The Clyde Brothers. "These spots have that potential, which was a big part of our goal in making them. We’d love nothing more than the Tuition Monster catching on and helping bring Elevation some longevity with the campaign. We’ve already started brainstorming new ideas with them for the next round, and are excited to continue the fun.”
Spot Titles/Airdates: Tuition Monster/Party (March 2013), Tuition Monster/Closet (December 2012), Tuition Monster/Nursery (November 2012)
Creative Directors: Frank Gilliam and Aaron Dotson
Copywriters: C.J. Hawn (Party & Closet) and Aaron Dotson (Party, Closet & Nursery)
Art Directors: Frank Gilliam and C.J. Hawn
Producer: Mark Meyers
Director: The Clyde Brothers (Rob & Ben Clyde)
DP: Marten Tedin
Producer: Mark Meyere (TradeMarky)
Unit Production Manager: Dawn Asher
Costumes: Robert Miller
Executive Producers: Frank Gilliam, Aaron Dotson & C.J. Hawn (Elevation)
Editor: Devin Bousquet/Mondial
Sound: Michael O'Connor/RainMaker Studios