The Biscuit Filmworks director and JohnXHannes’ John Mckelvey and Hannes Ciatti on a crazy campaign for Expensify
When we heard that Andreas Nilsson was helming a Super-Bowl-ad-cum-music-video, we couldn't wait to see it. Especially when we found out the promo would be for 2 Chainz. After all, the Biscuit director has history with the rapper. It was under his watchful eye that the famous - or infamous - 'Birthday Song' promo came to fruition.
This latest collaboration acted as a teaser for a Super Bowl spot for expense app Expensify. Created by JohnXHannes New York, the film features Adam Scott, who plays a head of finance for a record label, asking a group of musicians to save their receipts to be submitted for expenses. But 2 Chainz has got better ideas. He breaks out into song about how easy it is to do your expenses via Expensify. And to add to what is an absolute banquet for viewers' eyeballs, fans can also snap photos of the receipts that pop up in the film and upload them to the Expensify app to be in contention for winning some cash.
What's more, the actual ad, which will air during the Super Bowl but has been released already, features some kind of crazy ice car worth $200,000 dollars that viewers can win.
LBB's Addison Capper spoke with JohnXHannes' founders and executive creative directors John Mckelvey and Hannes Ciatti, and director Andreas to find out more.
LBB> What was the initial brief like from Expensify and what were you thinking when you first saw it?
JohnXHannes> While Expensify is already established in the fintech world and B2B, they haven’t previously invested in marketing. The initial brief was focused on brand awareness with the overarching goal to get people to experience and interact with the app. JohnXHannes New York developed new brand positioning and design, a comprehensive consumer strategy and a fully integrated launch campaign entitled, ‘You Weren’t Born To Do Expenses’, that was designed to elicit consumer interaction. The world’s first music video you can expense is a legit music video that sparks a human reaction, making it both entertainment and a very cool product demonstration.
LBB> How early on in discussion did the music video idea come up? And why was 2 Chainz the perfect person to bring it to life?
JohnXHannes> 2 Chainz is a unique artist. He’s a respected and successful rapper, he’s funny and likable, and on top of that he has the Atlanta connection, which made perfect sense for the Super Bowl ad. Add to that his renowned lavish lifestyle, and his hit HBO TV show ‘The Expensivist’, which collectively made him the perfect partner.
LBB> How did you work with 2 Chainz on the actual song and its lyrics? Was it a case of letting him do his thing or was it quite collaborative? How much guidance was he given in order to get across what the brand wanted to achieve?
JohnXHannes> JohnXHannes NY developed the concept and then worked with Andreas to create a clear conceptual outline for the track and narrative for the music video. In parallel, we partnered with some legit rap music writers to actually write the lyrics and the track. Then finally 2 Chainz himself, who shaped it all and made it his own. The beat then went to the next level when world famous rap producer Mustard mixed it.
LBB> Andreas, this is a pretty wild commercial project - what were you thinking when this script first came in and why were you keen to get involved?
Andreas> I was excited to do a music video again after five years and that we did it with 2 Chainz who I know from before. Normally when you do a video you get a track and then you write a story to it. Here it was all happening at the same time. It was like juggling on acid. A process like this would never work with a less experienced agency or a less trusting client.
LBB> This is your second music video with 2 Chainz - how was it to collaborate with him again and why were you keen to do so?
Andreas> I’m a big fan of him both as a rapper and a human being. For a thing like this, where it was all collaboration and trust, one couldn’t work with a better artist than 2 Chainz. The connoisseurs out there might also notice that the Furtick Quadruplets from the Birthday Song are back.
LBB> There are a lot of innuendos in there... the diamond encrusted balls, riding a bearback, etc. Was that something you consciously pushed. And why so?
JohnXHannes> No, the whole video is just about the expensable items. The football is a prize you can win, the painting is a portrait of 2 Chainz and his mother by the artist SicKid, they are all expensable items you can get reimbursed for cash, or win the actual items themselves.
Andreas> We pushed for anything that sounded great musically and that made us laugh. It’s not more complicated than that.
LBB> On the one hand it's obviously quite materialistic with all the bling and such - but then also quite zen and spiritual with the all-seeing eye. What was the thinking there?
JohnXHannes> 2 Chainz embodies all of the above, and we wanted to make something really engaging, memorable and avoid just the cliche rap tropes. Ultimately, we wanted to make it more unique and more artistic. Andreas Nilsson is a master of bringing it all to life from the the funny, the surreal and the technical, all within a tight concept.
Andreas> I asked myself early in the process ‘what would you treat yourself with if your wealth was like Bill Gates?’ and the answer was not a fancy car or a big house. I would get a third eye. Or teleport myself to another dimension. Or find a bearded friend that is made out of 24K gold. I wanted that insight to be reflected in this video.
LBB> Andreas, tell us about the flick from live action to animation - why did you decide to explore both avenues?
Andreas> Because it looks great and it’s funny.
LBB> What were your aims with the style of animation and why?
Andreas> ‘Less is more’ was never really the theory behind this video so of course it needed an animated sequence. We were inspired by old Max Fleischer work like Betty Boop and Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami. Psychedelic and loose. The animation was done by a studio in NY called Augenblick.
LBB> Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Why?
Andreas> When Third Eye Todd is blinking to camera in the last moment of the video. This is my homage to the best video ever made = Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’. I love Lionel.
LBB> A lot of the best ads in recent years have been incredible product demonstrations - VOLVO Epic Split, Apple Outdoor Gallery, to name a few. Why do you think it's such a powerful form of advertising?
JohnXHannes> A truly entertaining product demo will always deliver. This being the world's first music video you can expense makes it such a fun product demonstration. We want everyone to experience Expensify, so they can see how useful it is and allows you to get back to what you were born to do.
LBB> This goes further though and actively gets the viewer involved - how did you land on that idea?
JohnXHannes> It was a process of improvement and refinement working in tight collaboration with our brave clients at Expensify.
LBB> Does this interactive element carry through to the actual spot?
JohnXHannes> Yes, when Super Bowl launches, it will be the first ever commercial you can expense. There’s a grand prize in there and it’s amazing!
LBB> What were the most memorable moments for you both during production?
JohnXHannes> The whole thing. Brave client. Smart passionate people. Weird and wonderful. We loved bringing it all to life.
Andreas> It was great hanging out with 2 Chainz’s Mom Jeanette. A regal lady. She should run for president 2020.