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Juniper Park\TBWA on Creating an Unusually Personal Bank Ad that Empathises with First Time Buyers


LBB’s Ben Conway speaks with Paul Little, group creative director and Nicole Glickman, managing director of Juniper Park\TBWA about the optimistic and intimate CIBC spot directed by Miles Jay and how “disruption is the core purpose” of the agency

Juniper Park\TBWA on Creating an Unusually Personal Bank Ad that Empathises with First Time Buyers

Collaborating with multi-award-winning Canadian filmmaker, Miles Jay, Juniper Park\TBWA has created a story-focused and intimate spot for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). Titled ‘Let’s Find Your Way’, the film delivers on the bank’s tagline ‘Ambitions Made Real’ by showing a glimpse into the highs and lows of a couple’s journey trying to enter the property ladder. 

Narrated from the perspective of one of the protagonists, the couple’s story is told via some emotive and heart-warming visuals that utilise Bolex film camera footage and seriously powerful lighting and cinematography to elicit feelings of aspiration, despair, uncertainty and joy, all within its mere 60-seconds runtime. 

The campaign is the first for CIBC since its recent rebranding, which aligned the bank as a “helper to realise ambitions” and so Juniper Park had a fairly substantial task to act on this new messaging and differentiate the brand in a densely populated market. Seizing the opportunity to create something narrative-based, authentic and more personal than your average bank ad, the creative agency workshopped the copy with CIBC mortgage adjudicators and through internal research to ensure the spot was suitably empathetic and relatable to first-time buyers.

Speaking with LBB’s Ben Conway, Juniper Park\TBWA’s group creative director Paul Little and managing director Nicole Glickman discuss how you could feel director Miles Jay’s magic on set, acknowledging the reality of the situation for people struggling with homeownership and how disruption and innovation wins the agency awards.

LBB> What was the brief from CIBC like? - What were some immediate creative ideas that came to mind when you first saw it and began creative?

Paul and Nicole> The client wanted to differentiate themselves in the space, so we saw the brief as a wonderful opportunity. There is a whole generation of people who don’t feel as if homeownership is available to them and CIBC wanted to reach out to this audience in an authentic and relatable way. We wanted to showcase how CIBC could help within the context of what is real – something different than what you would typically expect to see from bank advertising. The initial creative ideas were focused on ways we could bring empathy and understanding to the forefront when talking about what it feels like to enter the housing market today. 

LBB> How did you want to use the messaging of CIBC and utilise their tagline of ‘ambitions made real’?

Paul and Nicole> This was the first piece after the launch of the rebrand that leaned into CIBC as a giver of help to realise your ambitions. This kind of help means something to us; it sees what’s true in life and offers tangible solutions based on that. That is what CIBC represents to us – they understand the context of what people are currently going through, and when you understand people, you can truly help them. That was the story we wanted to tell. 

LBB> How did you research and capture what first time buyers and people who are currently renting are feeling and what they want from a bank’s campaign?

Paul and Nicole> We conducted a great deal of research both within CIBC and through our own channels at Juniper Park\TBWA. Through our clients, we also had the opportunity to speak with the adjudicators themselves. We identified the ways that people were figuring out how they could afford homeownership, and this really informed the direction of the campaign. We realised that something personal and empathetic would best resonate with these people. They wanted a reflection of what is actually happening - that becoming a first home buyer is fraught with worry and steeped in the unknown. With this in mind, we set out to create something that acknowledges the reality of the situation rather than showing unrealistic homeownership situations that can sometimes be found in more traditional bank ads.  

LBB> How was the process of writing the copy for the spot?

Paul and Nicole> Writing the copy was an iterative process and we first workshopped the important elements of the campaign with the client. In order to effectively speak from a place of empathy, we decided to make the script an inner monologue of the main character, which allowed us to get much more personal. Once we had a broad sense of what the script could be, we worked closely with the director, Miles Jay, to bring the copy to life. A key part of this process was discussing the potential shots that would connect with each of the thoughts expressed by the main character. Having the woman narrate her own story really strengthened the end result, making it a lot more relatable for audiences. 

LBB> Was the ‘Let’s find your way’ slogan already written/part of CIBC’s existing marketing or did you help create it? How did this slogan influence the creation of the spot?

Paul and Nicole> The slogan wasn’t pre-existing -  it was written for, and inspired by, this campaign idea. We love how it highlights CIBC’s desire to help by bringing people along. Using the word ‘let’s’ suggests that the bank wishes to work alongside its customers to find a way into homeownership in a difficult market. It creates a sense of teamwork, where CIBC and its customers can figure out the challenge together. We think this is effectively reflected in the final spot. 

LBB> What was the casting process for the spot like? The couple has great chemistry and an on-screen presence.

Paul and Nicole> We conducted an extensive casting process to find the right talent for this campaign. Being the hero of the spot, casting the right woman as the main character was particularly important. It had to be very believable that she would be at this stage of her life and she also had to be able to deliver the emotions that we needed to ensure the story had real impact. The couple needed to be accessible - audiences had to like them right away and also get a real sense of who they were. We wanted people to be able to empathise with them and be rooting for them from start to finish. All of this was kept in mind throughout the casting process.  

LBB> When did you get Miles Jay involved? How much control did they have over the creative process and developing the concept and narrative?

Paul and Nicole> We brought Miles in once we had a rough draft of the script, which was mostly dialogue. We then worked with him to determine how the spot could come to life visually, including what scenes and shots would really build upon the emotional narrative. It was an incredibly collaborative process. It wasn’t about having him just shoot our vision, but rather to have him further enhance what the vision for the spot could be. The script provided a lot of flexibility for him to add what he needed, in order to make the story as strong as it could be. 

Having worked with Miles before, we felt that he had the right sensibility for the project. When we first met with him to understand his vision for this spot, we felt a kinship right away. He understood what we were trying to achieve and his ability to work with our team to enhance the direction was seamless. Not to mention, Miles is so talented, and he delivers every time. He is a great visual storyteller, and he does it with amazing emotion and empathy. We knew we needed that for this spot, and we wanted as much as he could bring. He is extraordinarily collaborative and was very open to working together with us, which made for a very enjoyable and effective working relationship. 

LBB> How was the production process? 

Paul and Nicole> We were on set with a limited crew as we shot the spot between covid waves late last year. One of the interesting aspects of this production was that we shot a lot of B-roll footage with a Bolex camera. This meant that, for about a third of the footage that Miles shot, we weren’t able to tap into a monitor to see it on the day. This required us and the client to put a lot of trust into Miles and his vision. But it was also one of the most beautiful shoots to have been a part of. You really got a sense of the magic in the making while on set. Sometimes you don’t get that sense in the production phase as it comes later during post-production – but the shots, mood and lighting of this particular shoot were just so powerful that the magic really came through while we were filming. 


LBB> The music is perhaps my favourite part of the spot - it reflects the emotions and the momentum of the visuals amazingly well - who did you work with for the music and sound? Why did you decide on this track?

Paul and Nicole> We worked with OSO productions in Toronto to create a custom soundtrack for this spot. It was important to have something that felt modern and emotional, and OSO was able to emulate that in an original piece of music for us. We had to ensure that the music could be really supportive to the spot and not just be a guide track to keep it moving. The music aims to emphasise and reflect the feelings being displayed on the screen, shifting through the stages of the story – from uncertainty and apprehension to an optimistic moment of assurance.

LBB> What was the most difficult part of creating this campaign and how did you overcome it?

Paul and Nicole> Creating this spot was challenging for two reasons: it happened right around the Omicron wave and it was also close to the holidays. This made for an extremely expedited production process. Pre-production had quick turnaround times and we were seeing a lot of materials on the fly. Fortunately, the client had an amazing amount of trust in Miles, which really helped us make a lot of decisions quickly. Despite being quite nerve-wracking, production ran incredibly smoothly because we were all depending on each other to do it justice. 

LBB> And something slightly unrelated, but how do you feel about the recent industry honours and awards that the TBWA network has been awarded (specifically from Fast Company, Ad Age and Ad Week)?

Paul and Nicole> We are thrilled about the recognition and really proud to have contributed to these accolades as part of the TBWA collective. Receiving all three awards is an industry hat trick of sorts, and cements us as the number one advertising collective in the world. It is such an honour. We believe there is a lot of power in our borderless approach to collaboration and this is what makes our agency and the TBWA collective special. We’re able to draw upon our colleagues from across the globe to ensure we are delivering work that is at the forefront of culture and drives truly impactful results. Recognition such as this is a true team effort and extends to our clients as well. Their partnership allows us to create disruptive, exciting work, and we are delighted to share this recognition with them. 

LBB> Juniper Park\TBWA prides itself on causing disruption and innovating - how has this contributed to industry recognition, and more specifically, what would you consider innovative or disruptive about this CIBC campaign?

Paul and Nicole> Disruption is the core purpose of Juniper Park\TBWA. It is in every piece of work that we create; so naturally, from the Cannes-and-Effie-awarded Signal For Help for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, to our exciting work on CIBC, disruption is a driving force behind a lot of the industry recognition that our agency receives. We believe that it sets us apart and allows us to create work that isn’t just a reflection of current trends, but is actually a part of deeper cultural shifts. For this campaign specifically, it was about turning the conventions of a traditional bank ad on its head by empathising with first home buyers and what they go through, rather than taking a more typical arms-length approach and showcasing something unattainable. Bank ads aren’t usually so personal, and we believe this authentic and emotive perspective makes for an innovative piece of work.

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Juniper Park\TBWA, Fri, 08 Apr 2022 15:39:00 GMT