giffgaff’s Tom Rainsford and Rattling Stick’s Ed Morris take us behind the scenes of ‘Small vs. Big’
Over the weekend, giffgaff kicked off its 2018 brand campaign with a simple but powerful statement of ‘Small vs Big’. The launch ad, directed by Rattling Stick’s Ed Morris, is a single-shot film bursting with nostalgia and subtle confidence. Working direct to client, Ed also came up with the idea and wrote the spoken word poem that punctuates the ad with the brand’s manifesto.
LBB’s Liam Smith chatted to director Ed and giffgaff brand director Tom Rainsford to find out more about this David vs. Goliath story.
LBB> Can you tell us a bit about the new brand campaign – what are your goals for it throughout 2018?
TR> We’re all about spreading the giffgaff word and making sure people know who we are and what we’re about. We started the year sponsoring The Voice on ITV, watching the show every Saturday night alongside the audience and tweeting with them. To build on this momentum, we launched ‘Small vs Big’ in Saturday night’s final of The Voice.
2018 for us is about communicating a bold point of view in a small way.
LBB> And why was Ed Morris the right director for the new ad?
TR> We’ve always been a massive fan of Ed’s brilliant work and how he brings to life a brand and message. He’s a true master of advertising and it was a pleasure to work with him on this campaign.
LBB> Ed, can you tell us a bit about the casting? Why was Molly the right actress for the job?
EM> I wanted a girl. Feminine allure and strength. Youthful energy and defiance. I wanted to embody the spirit of freedom. I wanted long hair blowing in the wind. We had very little time to cast. I was worried. Molly came in and had the right face and style about her. She is a natural actor. Her first read was good but she just got better and better. We worked on it over a few meetings and she was able to adjust to very small notes, subtle shifts and changes. It’s a rare thing to have that maturity and restraint so young.
LBB> From a directorial point of view, how did you work with Molly to get the most out of her performance and delivery?
EM> I don’t talk to the actor, I talk to the character. Interrogate them to help them build a richer inner idea of themselves. Why have you got that car? What are you doing up here in this forest? When did you last come here? Who is that necklace from? Why are you saying these words? Who are you talking to? How do the words make you feel? What music are you listening to? Are you more like your mum or your dad? How does being here in this forest by your car with the wind in your hair make you feel? Then nothing. Then I shut up and just shoot.
LBB> The ad is so much more toned down than the last two. Why was it the right approach for this new campaign?
TR> We’ve always been about positive disruption and being a challenger to the big boys; this is no more the case than in this creative. It has the same set of values and approach as any of our other campaigns, but we like to bring this to life in different ways with every campaign. This year it felt right to create a confident moment of calm in a big noisy world.
LBB> How did you stumble upon choosing the 1978 classic ‘Hong Kong Garden’ for track?
TR> We loved the spirit and the energy of Siouxsie and the Banshees and ‘Hong Kong Garden’. We tried lots of tracks, but it felt like using something from British punk fit the tone and message of what we were trying to get across. The key thing here was keeping it subtle and not doing that classic big ad, big soundtrack, thing.
EM> I looked at a lot of ‘70s punk for a previous job that never happened. For this it was just one genre or time we looked at. We tried a lot of music. It could have taken a lot of tracks. The most important thing with the music though is that it's not slapped over it like the big track on the big ad. It's subtle, almost throw away. It's a phenomenal piece of music but it’s playing fairly quietly from the car stereo.
We liked it also because the inspiration for Siouxsie Sue writing the track is a small against big story. She wrote it in retaliation to a bunch of skin heads she saw terrorise her local Chinese restaurant.
LBB> There’s something oddly nostalgic about the spot – was that intentional?
TR> There are elements of our brand that have a retro feel. You see that in this campaign and also the ‘Big Swim’. We wanted to make something timeless that didn’t simply play on current youth culture trends. We love the way that something old can unify people, and become a talking point.
LBB> What was the inspiration behind the wardrobe choice?
TR> Ed wanted to keep things very simple and not overshadow the script with big wardrobe statements.
LBB> I’m intrigued by the car – what make and model is it? Why did you choose this specific one?
TR> Ed loved the angles and colour of this car and felt it played really well with the location. And who doesn’t love retro cars?
LBB> And how did you decide on the location?
EM> For me one of the most important things in character development is ambiguity. It makes anyone immediately interesting. I wanted every single thing in the frame to be a series of inconclusive, incongruent clues to Molly’s character. That’s why I chose a generic forest, an American car, a London accent, a young girl, an old punk track, etc. I wanted it all to make us intrigued but unsatisfied, wanting more and engaged in an ongoing putting together of the pieces.
LBB> How was it writing the spoken word poem? Is it something you do often? What were your inspirations?
EM> Writing is something I do every day. The words wrote themselves. In about 10 minutes or so. The initial version that is. It went through a series of changes after that. It’s pretty much as it was. Inspirations are too many to name.... Ted Kooser, Walt Whitman, Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Kendrick, Chance, Nick Cave, Primo Levy, Gill Scott Heron, Don Van Vleet, Dr Zeuse... the list never ends.
LBB> How did you find it directing straight to client?
EM> Clients aren’t clients they’re just people. Some people are arseholes, most aren’t and some people are wonderful. The people I was shooting this for were way up the wonderful end of the spectrum. Much more so than I. I am incredibly grateful for their creative contribution and involvement and their total support.