RadicalMedia’s Glenn Kitson speaks to Addison Capper about working with Wieden+Kennedy London to capture the unique essence of Liverpool in 'Tell Us Never'
Back when Nike released its epic ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ campaign in 2018, director Glenn Kitson cheekily pitched a responsive idea to Puma and to adidas. It was something along the lines of ‘Nothing Beats a Scouser’ (Scousers are people from the northern city of Liverpool, for any non-UK readers) and involved locals giving a ribbing to Londoners. Sadly, at least for our sakes, neither brand was brave enough to go for the idea.
But life is a funny ol’ thing. Wieden+Kennedy London just launched ‘Tell Us Never’ for Nike, an epic ode to Liverpool both as a place and a football club. It’s been created to celebrate Liverpool F.C.’s victory in the 2019-20 Premiere League – a win that’s all the more triumphant because it came following a season interrupted by lockdown. The minds behind the campaign are Tom Bender and Tom Corcoran, the same creatives as Nothing Beats a Londoner. Glenn pitched to direct the project, and here we are. It’s important to stress that this is anything but ‘Nothing Beats a Scouser’. It’s an original piece of creative from Tom and Tom that’s as unique in its execution as Liverpool and its inhabitants.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Glenn about bringing it to life and the virtues of working with super smart and meticulous creatives.
LBB> Why was this project something you were keen to get involved in? What was the script like when you received it?
Glenn> Where do I start with this? Firstly, I love jobs like this - sports, culture, wit, humour, mixed media, etc. It's stuff I love to do, it had everything in it. The creative was just right. It was a privilege to get the chance to work on it. They've basically given the people of Liverpool their own Nike slogan - Tell Us Never. It really sums up the spirit of the city.
The script was brilliant, the agency had got the tone correct. I may have changed the odd word but it's more or less the same script as you see it in the film. It's my line right at the end though. Nikee? It’s Nike!
LBB> You're from Bolton! How was it immersing yourself in Scouse life? What did you learn along the way?
Glenn> My granny was a Scouser, her family had a pub near the Liverpool end of the Wallasey Tunnel and I lived in the city for two years in the ‘90s, in Wavertree and also over the water in Birkenhead. I used to date a girl from Toxteth. I love the city and its people so it was quite easy for me to get into this job and the creative (in fact, I think it was this that convinced the agency that I was right for the job). It genuinely is a unique city - the spirit, the people, the humour, the attitude... there's nowhere like it elsewhere in the UK. It's true to say that things happen there that couldn't happen elsewhere.
LBB> What was the casting process like? Who's the main girl? And how did you enlist the rest of the real people in the film?
Glenn> It was all a bit of a whirlwind. I think it was about 10 days from receiving the brief to shooting it so we had to move very fast, it was a real collaboration between RadicalMedia and Wieden+Kennedy. The casting was all done via Zoom which was very tricky. We landed on Rudy Abdulla - it was the first thing she's really done but she was brilliant. I am so proud of her. I can't wait to see what she does next and where this takes her.
LBB> How were Jürgen Klopp and the players to work with?
Glenn> Meeting Klopp was an absolute dream, I am genuinely in awe of him - he's so charismatic and thoughtful and you can feel his presence around the club. In fact all the players were well sound to speak to - and I think it's testament to Klopp and the changes he has made at the club.
LBB> What were your main aims from a look and feel perspective?
Glenn> I wanted to put my stamp on it, but again it was all there in the creative from the start - capture the spirit of the city, the wit, the spirit, the energy. It was just a case of bringing that out. I wanted to create slightly stylised set ups - hyper real and then cut in with the player interviews and archive footage. I think we got there.
LBB> There's definitely a comedic edge to it mixed with an overall realness. Why is that? And what does that say about Scousers?
Glenn> The biggest task for this project and something that came up time and time again over many many Zoom calls with the agency was that this couldn't be cringe. It had to feel authentic to Scousers. If they get a whiff that something isn't right or start to feel cringey they will fucking hate it, and the last thing we want is actual Scousers thinking it’s shit. So everything was poured over - every detail - and I can only commend Wieden+Kennedy for their dedication to get this right and to make something so authentic. So yeah, we had to capture that in the film - the energy, the natural wit and also the gritty side of the city, but then also consider the wider Liverpool family, the international fans, etc. This had to work for them too. I am so happy with the results and the feedback we've had from Scousers and Liverpool fans has been phenomenal.
LBB> What's the track and why was that right for the film?
Glenn> It's Doorman by SlowThai - he's a Liverpool fan!
LBB> You worked with Tom and Tom, the creatives behind Nike Londoner, on this. How did their experience of working on that inform this job? How was it working with them and the Wiedens crew?
Glenn> Funnily, when Nothing Beats a Londoner came out I pitched an idea to both Puma and adidas to do ‘Nothing Beats a Scouser’ but they shit themselves and wouldn’t do it. It involved Scousers taking the piss out of Cockneys and that’s where the line ‘Nikee? It’s Nike’ came from. But the first thing Tom and Tom said was this cannot be Nothing Beats a Scouser. It was different creative and had to feel unique to Liverpool.
Again, it was a real honour to work on this with them, they’re fucking well talented and also mega funny, the whole team are proper sound - and thorough. They are all about the minute detail, everything is looked at. I’ve learnt a lot from working with them. I feel more wiserer and cleverer.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Glenn> Lots. The timing, getting things right, doing everything remotely. And also, Wieden took a chance on me too. I don't have a lot of agency work, a lot of my stuff is done via my wee studio (The Rig Out) - smaller stuff, direct to brand where I come up with an idea and execute it. This was very different for me and I had to adjust quickly, so personally I've learnt a lot as a director.
The Covid measures meant that only a few people could be on set so we would shoot a scene and the creatives would be watching a live feedback home and would give feedback - it was like using VAR! Then there was the usual stuff with footballers - their schedules, etc. There was lots to deal with but the whole thing was handled really well by RadicalMedia who produced this.