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How Core and Screen Scene Changed the Game for Irish National Lottery



The first creative work from Core for Irish National Lottery subverts the genre as a result of lockdown

How Core and Screen Scene Changed the Game for Irish National Lottery

In recent years, Lottery ads have developed something of a template. Internationally, a live action film of winners jetting away to a fantastical location has become something of a staple TVC. 

The global pandemic, however, put a stop to that. Marketing comms agency Core, together with post house Screen Scene, faced the challenge of creating ads with cut-through for their client, Ireland’s National Lottery, despite the new restrictions and the new global mood. Rather than a somber reminder of our ‘new normal’, however, a whimsical and at times off-the-wall series of films spoke to hope for a brighter future. 

Marketing and communications agency Core, who won the highly competitive National Lottery account in Ireland early in 2020, have a relatively young creative department. Formerly known as a powerhouse media agency, Core have, over the past couple of years, created a model that draws on traditional agency practices, bringing nine disciplines under one roof - data, strategy, media, creative, sponsorship, research, investment, tactical and learning. And since they have had their creative department up and running, they’ve been scooping up some of the most highly coveted Irish accounts - including Heineken cider brand Orchard Thieves.

Throughout the development of their first campaign films for the brand, Core worked closely with Dublin-based post production company Screen Scene. It's likely you will have seen Screen Scene’s incredible handiwork in Hollywood blockbusters including The Irishman, The Favourite and Captain Marvel and in advertising with work for clients such as HSBC, Tesco and AIB. Kicking off in the height of lockdown, Core’s partnership with the National Lottery began with three beautifully serene and aspirational origami-based spots and a pair of enjoyably absurd TVCs starring a washing machine and a split golf ball. Throughout it all, however, was the underlying message of a better tomorrow communicated through a grounded sense of humour. For a campaign delivered during the early stages of lockdown, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air. 

To get the inside story on the creative partnership, LBB spoke to Core’s ECD Liam Wielopolski, head of production Fiona McGarry, marketing director Finian Murphy, Smuggler director Jamie Rafn, and Screen Scene’s creative director Hubert Montag. 

Above: The origami-themed spots begin with a national lottery ticket folding into a fantastical adventure scene. “It works great thematically in part because the paper ticket is the one tangible part of our client’s business”, explains Fiona McGarry.

Q > First of all, congratulations on a great campaign! How much did the timing, coming right at the start of lockdown, influence your vision for these films?

Liam Wielopolski, Core > Thanks! Yeah, I can remember winning this account on a Friday, and then lockdown getting instated on a Monday. So caught between two different worlds, almost! But having just started working with the client, we always wanted something visually arresting that made a statement and stood out. 

Fiona McGarry, Core > ‘Business as usual’ before Covid was set to be a live-action campaign. But it became quite clear that wasn’t quite going to work, and frankly our team relished the challenge of coming up with something quite different given these restrictions. I think the origami was a great balance between looking beautiful and engaging the viewer, whilst enabling us to make a new spot every two days. 

Q > And on the origami spots specifically, the papercraft theme works so well thematically. What was the process of landing on that idea? 

Liam, Core > As Fiona said, we were all set to run with a series of fully live-action spots before Covid hit. As we woke up in the ‘new normal’, we did kind of all suddenly have this idea of animating the spots, and that was something which worked thematically really well as you say once you bring in the paper aspect. We all loved the idea and nobody on our side needed much persuading to run with it.

Hubert Montag, Screen Scene > From our perspective at Screen Scene, The core of the idea (excuse the pun) was that the lottery ticket folded origami-like into the lead character who then went on to win the lottery in each case. We had been looking for a suitable project for some time to collaborate with Paula McGloin, an award-winning Irish Illustrator, who also happens to be married to our senior 3D artist here in Screen Scene, Mike McCarthy. Paula came up with a paper cut-out aesthetic, and the agency really loved the look and feel of her work.

Q > A big part of the lottery daydream is the idea of flying away to a paradise-esque location. But in 2020, a big holiday seems less possible than ever before. Did that worry you at any stage of this campaign?

Hubert, Screen Scene > There was definitely some discussion about representing foreign travel on screen, particularly during that period in which Ireland was in full lockdown. But on balance, the lottery is about dreams. There will come a day when that kind of travel becomes available once again, after all - even if it feels like a dream right now. 

Finian Murphy, Core > On that note, this issue fed into some challenges in terms of media placement, as well. OOH, for example, came with a tonne of challenges that we had to face up to which just weren’t there before the pandemic. I think the genius of what the team came up with was that, as well as working great as TVCs, these spots all work great on socials and digital platforms. 

Q > The campaigns with Hank the washing machine and the golf spot were both filmed live-action - did remote filming cause any issues there (especially when filming a moving washing machine)?!

Fiona, Core > Ha, well in fact there is a person in that washing machine. God bless him, he had a tough day as it was incredibly hot in there! He actually already had a reputation for bringing inanimate objects to life. As you can probably tell from watching at the ad, presence at the shoot wasn’t a huge priority! In practical terms, we had a direct line with the producer and director on the day. And then in Dublin, Screen Scene gave us a few rooms to sit in and we put the shoot up on monitors and stuff, and we watched it remotely. It worked really seamlessly. 

It was funny for us, as we have a great relationship with Screen Scene but had never worked with Smuggler before. We had to invest a lot of trust in them, and they repaid it massively. And it helped that Screen Scene had worked with them before. Still now, though, we’ve never physically met anyone from Smuggler!

Jamie, Smugger > It's always a huge amount of fun bringing an inanimate object to life on film, and that’s what drew me to the Hank script. I loved the idea of this knackered old washing machine, who’d seen one or two things in his life, suddenly seizing upon the opportunity to shake his way into winning the Lottery.  

The trick was always going to be in making sure Hank didn’t look too 'cartoonish'. He had to have a face, but the audience needed to find it - it couldn’t be too obvious. Before he “came to life” he needed to look like any old washing machine. The way he moved also had to have a certain logic to it, as we didn’t want him to be able to do anything. This all led to us deciding to shoot as much as we could in camera and then have post tidy up and add all the little flourishes of magic. I think it all came together beautifully and am thrilled with the work both the art department and post production did to bring Hank to life. From start to finish, Core was also an utter joy to work with. It was a genuinely collaborative experience that I would happily repeat in a heartbeat!

Q > Speaking more generally, how did you contend with the issues arising from remote working in those early days on these ads?

Finian, Core > You know it’s funny, we’re three years into a five-year business plan here at Core. As part of that, we had designed a building that was all set up for perfect collaboration, everyone being able to jump around for spontaneous face-to-face chats - and then Covid happened. 

But, that collaboration we’d been aiming for is happening anyway! There’s an awful lot of crossover between our nine ‘Core Practices’ and we lean on each other’s expertise. That leads to more serendipitous moments, which is hugely satisfying. It’s been fascinating through this remote revolution that, despite the challenges, you realise how much diversity of thinking we can call on. I think in some cases we are reaching out to each other in ways we wouldn’t have done were we sat at our desks. 

Hubert, Screen Scene > These commercials were our first fully-remote campaign at Screen Scene, too. There was a short period of getting used to things but we found great new ways of working and have been doing so ever since. In fact,  Paula and Mike decided to move to County Cork for most of the production on these! 

Q > Finally, why do you think the underlying message of hope and excitement worked so well during such uncertain and dark times?

Liam, Core > Well, the lottery has always been about the possibility of a life-changing win. Pre-pandemic, our brief was always to make that dream seem more attainable and possible. But Covid of course changed everything and I think, in a strange sense, it created a slightly more fertile ground for that message. People look for hope and possibility a little bit more in trying times. That gave us the opportunity to be a bit more human and take that ‘everyday’ approach to the dream. And that seemed to resonate with people.

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Screen Scene, Thu, 01 Oct 2020 09:23:25 GMT