Vancouver Print Advertising: Our Process

February 17, 2021 | Filed Under Immersion Creative, Uncategorized, Vancouver, Vancouver advertising | Leave a Comment 

Print is a great place to start your campaign.

Once you have a visual that can tell the whole story, the rest just builds from there.

The process for producing a print advertising campaign goes a little something like this.

We put a law firm on horseback

 

PRE-PRODUCTION

 

  1. Rough Sketches

The first thing I do is present three or so rough sketches.

Now, I admit, my drawings are pretty terrible, but they get the idea across.

Here are some examples of how we take a rough sketch from concept to completion.

Every sketch contains a concept, which tells a story, because ads that tell stories are memorable. The more you elaborate on an idea, the more likely it is to embed itself in the long-term part of your brain (recall memory). Take a journey down the rabbit hole to the Intersection of Elaboration and Memory, just past 303 PSYC, and the cluster of trees.

Rough sketch to show the layout

 

  1. Mood Boards

Next, we present a page or so of imagery to give the idea of tone and feel.

When you are happy with the art direction, we move forward with production. This begins with a photographer that fits that style.

 

PRODUCTION

 

3. Pick a Photographer

Each one of the photographers we work with introduces a unique style to the production. Peter brings the epic. Matthew has the gift of stylish fashion (and sports). While Christoph brings a professional, more corporate/governmental feel.

Here’s a mood board of some of my best work with the talented advertising photographer Peter Holst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was from a beautiful, award-winning shoot I did with the always-stylish Matthew Chen.

 

Chistoph Prevost, the consummate professional, was the eye behind this uplifting campaign for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Peak 102.7 Host for Celebrate Everyday Victories

 

4. Casting

Picking the right talent is huge. It will make or break an ad. We find our fit though a few channels: casting agents, our social media, even just talking to people on the street. Our criteria is that we start with experts where experts are needed (martial artists, acrobats, stuntmen, etc.) then we go for character over glamour (unless the spot specifically calls for glamour). For bigger shoots, we’ll do auditions. The client is welcome to come along (they’re pretty fun). Then the photographer and I make a short list of our favourites, and together we pick the best fit.

Vancouver print advertising

Continuing Education Advertising

 

5. Location Scouting

I love location scouting, and I am always keeping an eye out for interesting places for shoots. If I didn’t work in advertising, I’d try to be a location scout for big budget film productions. It’s one of my favourite hobbies.

Location scouting Vancouver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also some great studios in town that we like to use depending on the size and complexity (read: COVID safety measures) of the shoot.

Here are some places we have shot on-site:  FishSafe – Steveston Pier, MS – Muddy fields in Langley, CMHA – A high school in Surrey

Here are a few in-studio shoots: Miller Titerle – Post-apocalyptic lawyers, CCE – Experience Transformation, Shearwater – Scuba diving ninjas

Sometimes it’s a mix of both: RCABC – Father / Son. (Finding the right perch to shoot Vancouver out of a balcony with no glass was no easy task.)

 

6. The Plate

If we’re shooting in studio on a white screen (or green), we’re going to need a dramatic plate (static photo) for the background. Sometimes we shoot this. Sometimes we hire a retoucher to artfully assemble a beautiful post-apocalyptic wasteland. Shearwater is a good example of this. Miller Titerle too. Once we have sign off on the plate, then we build on top of it.

 

7. Props

In the past, I have tracked down a real ball and chain, had a blacksmith forge an iron trident, built a giant, green, fuzzy YES, (with Snuffalufagus-like fur), found a grappling hook, had a real armourer build a functional set of chain mail armour (he had never built armour as a film prop before—the idea was completely foreign to him). He built functioning, historically-accurate armour for… battle I guess? I don’t know, I tried to stay on his good side.

Vancouver magazine advertising

 

8. Styling

Wardrobe is a huge component to any shoot. And if you are doing a bigger production and the costuming is key, it’s always best to bring a professional stylist onboard. A stylist not only brings the eye, but they also find whatever clothing options are needed (from leather and spikes and sporting goods a la Road Warrior to marching band uniforms).

A stylist is also key on set. It’s one thing to dress your talent, and another to dress them professionally, and be on-hand for any eventualities, be it wardrobe malfunctions, popping collars, or steaming and tapering shirts.

 

MT Apocalypse BTS

 

ON SET

 

9. Catering

People gotta eat. There is also always an abundance of coffee on set. And sushi. Always with the sushi.

Legendary adventures ad.

 

10. Hair and Make-up

I’ve worked with a bunch of HMU artists over the years, most notable among them has been Marie-Helene Babin, the artist body-painting wizard behind some of our best work. Hair and make-up takes it to the next level as you can see here, and here, and here.

Marie Helene Babin at the CCE shoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Creative Direction

I work with the photographer to get the best shot. There are a lot of moving parts on a print advertising shoot, when the talent is in front of the camera, though, that’s all that matters. We take the attitude, “anything for the shot.”

 

12. Assistants

I wouldn’t dare do a bigger shoot without an assistant behind the camera, helping with gear, setting up the skrim and lights, and being an extra set of hands. Sometimes you get out there and you’re missing a cable, or a battery, or (most commonly) duct tape. Instead of shutting down the set, you have someone to run to the store or back home without losing any time. Also, getting the right lift to billowing hair is better done by a human waving a large piece of cardboard than any fan out there.

 

Shearwater Peregrine will light the way.

 

13. On-Set Photography

This is the photographer’s time to shine. They set the lighting just right. They coach the model. And they bring their vision to life. After working for weeks (sometimes months) closely with a photographer in the pre-production stages, I’m always amazed at how the image I had in my mind is suddenly materializing before my eyes exactly as I saw it. That’s the sign of a good photographer. Intricate prep, good communications, and a mastery of lighting. We try to rely on post as little as possible, so we get it all right there and then.

Peter Holst behind the scenes

 

POST-PRODUCTION

 

14. The Selects.

The photographer and I will comb through the thousands of shots we take, and find the gems. We’ll assemble these as our best ‘selects‘ for use to choose from. These are un-retouched, straight out of the camera shots, usually still unmasked from the green screen.

Law firm advertising in Vancouver

 

  1. The Layout

Once we have our best shots of each talent picked out, it’s time to lay them out on the background. We will do a rough ‘mock-up’ first, to get an idea of how the spacing looks, then once that is agreed upon, we move into the polishing.

 

Mock shearwater

 

  1. The Retouching

We work with high-calibre retouchers that add that final, final layer of polish. It’s one thing to look at a website at 900×600 px and think, yeah, that looks great. Retouchers get right in there at 5000px and straighten every wayward hair and uneven hoodie string to make the final product look immaculate. It’s all in the details.

Shearwater Esme

 

  1. The Design

Once we have everything looking great from a photography perspective, we move into the graphic design. (Realistically, I usually have design working on this from the layout stage, sometimes even earlier to keep the train on track.) Font choice is huge. Kerning. Tracking. Serif (or Sans)? Wingding. You’re into a whole new language with designers. As with every other professional on this list, I usually let them do what they do best and leave them to their Wacom devices—with minimal interference.

Advertising for Roofers

 

  1. Final Edits

With every job that we do, the client gets one round of free revisions at each stage. As you can see, there are several stages in the production of a print ad, so there’s plenty of room for the client to have their say if they are concise and organized in their feedback. By the time we get to the final edit, there are no huge surprises, but it’s always nice to see the final outcome of something that we have been working so hard at for so long.

Post-apocalypse

 

  1. Voila!

The final artwork is now ready. We can resize it to whatever mediums we like, and send this thing off into the world. It’s always a proud and slightly melancholy moment, like sending your kids off to school, or finishing the last page of a good book.

NOTE: We can move through this process in as quickly as two weeks (I think 10 days is our record), but ideally we like four to six weeks.

Let’s make some print advertising. Let’s do this!

Tug of War ad for the MS Society - BC and Yukon Division

 

 



Working With Immersion Creative

February 14, 2021 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

So you want to build a campaign to get your message out to the masses. Where to begin?

Peter and Julia on set of Homes For Heroes

 

How we work:

1. Pick a direction (idea) from one of 3 sketch drawings:

http://immersioncreative.com/blog/2018/07/from-concept-to-execution/

2. Pick a photographer – photography will be used for the visuals for print, outdoor, digital, etc.

http://172.96.177.155/~im/services/photography/

3. Pick a TV style – motion graphic or live action – we will use TV for television broadcast, YouTube pre-roll and social media

*If live action shoot the photography while on set shooting TV

Live Action

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chloqQlbVjM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDmrPZ0sh6o

http://immersioncreative.com/blog/2020/11/apbc-2017-behind-the-scenes/

Motion Graphic / Kinetic Type

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr75j4_41tU&feature=emb_title

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1v_R-9W3DI

4. Pick the MEDIA – outdoor, print, radio, TV, online, etc. Don’t worry we can help you with this part.

-Sports on TV (30 second ads)

-News on TV (30 second ads)

-Bus Supertails and kings (side banners)

-Skytrain station posters

-Superbowl ads (Canada market only)

-Full page print ads (wraps)

-Radio on the major stations

 

5. Build a SALES FUNNEL – This is how you are going to reach your B2B clients and get your influencers.

Here’s one way we lay out a plan:

Send a message to their social media.

Follow up with registered mail with interesting envelopes.

Follow up with a phone call.

Follow up with an email.

Track everything on an XL doc.

Repeat.

We start with Strategic Planning over several meetings as to how best approach this.

Either way, once you have your message, your medium and your celebrity endorsement, you are well on your way.

That’s what it’s like working with Immersion Creative. We’re the spark that gets things started. And once we get going, that sizzling wick ignites the flame, which sets off these dazzling fireworks, one after the next, in an incredible chain reaction, right back to the factory down by the water which detonates with a thunderous bang into a sky-shattering explosion of splintered wood and crackling lights. All the while the whole city watches, mouths open, eyes flickering with the burning light on the lake. “Wow! what was that? What just happened? That was wild.”

Yes. That’s what it’s like. We get things done, there’s no question about that, and we’re intense, and effective, and always doing work that we’re proud of.

Here’s an example of how we used this technique for Influencer Acquisition for Canadian Mental Health.

 

 



The Process of Making A TV Ad

February 1, 2021 | Filed Under advertising, Immersion Creative, Vancouver, Vancouver advertising | Leave a Comment 

Making a good TV commercial can seem really daunting and complicated. Just like anything else in life, the trick is to break it down into simple, smaller steps and do them one at a time.

 

TV ad for paramedics with a stunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP ONE: Timing

I like working backwards from deadlines in just about every area of my life. If I need to be up at six, I work backwards from how much sleep I need to be functional. So bed by midnight. Therefore, last tea at noon. It’s how I organize my life and it’s how I organize my shoots.

So first things first is we look at when it’s due at the stations, and then take away a week for clearing censors at TVB and any last-minute tweaks they might require. Then, working backwards, another week for post-production and colour correction. Then, back, another week and a half for editing. So if you’re doing something on a fairly big budget, like we did for the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia, you want the shoot date to be about three to four weeks from the launch date.

Once we have the shoot date in place (ideally as far as possible from the day you receive the brief), then we start moving.

 

STEP TWO: Murphy’s Law

If you are making television advertising in Vancouver, you’ll need a rain date or two around it.

 

STEP THREE: The Concept

Nothing kickstarts the creative process like a deposit and a deadline. I like to have about two weeks to get together with my Art Director, Designers and Director Of Photography to start fleshing out the ideas. Usually my first pitch is just me talking to the client. Nothing fancy, just a discussion. Sometimes a cave drawing or two, but usually we just talk about what we plan to do. I’ll present about three or so ideas, and the one that gets us all excited is the one we make. We sign-off on a concept we move forward with storyboards, scripts, and the production of the thing.

 

We wrapped the front cover of the Metro newspaper and had a two-page advertorial inside. These were distributed at Skytrain stations by people in paramedic jackets.

 

WHAT’S A DOP?

The Director Of Photography (aka a cinematographer) is responsible for the visual aesthetic. They work closely with the director in every stage of the planning and production. A DOP will work out a shot list and help with storyboarding each shot.

They are key in assembling a crew and gathering gear as they will want the right grips and lighting technicians to give the production the look they are envisioning.

 

STEP FOUR: The Casting

Talent (the actors) bring an idea to the next level. So once we know all the characters, we reach out to casting agents to help find the best people to bring them to life. We often hold auditions either at my office or at the studio with the client. (We get sushi and make an afternoon of it.) When we have our final list of selects from the audition, we pass these on for discussion with the client. When we are happy with the talent we’ve picked, and they fit our schedule and budget, we move ahead with booking them and making sure they know their scripts. We get their sizes from the casting agents, and then we move ahead with wardrobe, props and styling.

STEP FIVE: Wardrobe, Props and Styling

For a bigger production, we often bring on a professional stylist at this point. Their job is to find the costumes and wardrobe (clothes) that fit the era, style and budget of the piece. They have the measurements of the talent to work from, and they know where to source items from all over the city that will fit the vision of the ad. We might also bring in Set Decorators and Art Directors, who help us find props, and items that will add to the reality of the shot and reinforce the concept.

When we shot the scene with teenagers doing drugs in a suburban basement, our set dec team had crap scattered all over the room: skateboards, bags of chips, video game consoles, magazines, backpacks, etc. At first I was like, this is way too unrealistic, no one hangs out in a room this messy, but they assured me that teenagers are in fact that disgusting, and sure enough, when I actually started looking at rooms from a set dec perspective from then on, I realized how right they were! A good set dec, is constantly taking in all the little details of each room, and bringing those observations to life by adding another layer of believability to a production.

STEP SIX: Location Scouting

I love location scouting. I am always running around the city as is, and I have a huge database of places I think would make great spots to shoot an action sequence, or a classy photoshoot, or a dream sequence. That said, there are also professional location scouts I work with as well when when do big productions. They help find everything from homes to shoot multi-day productions to places to park, bring in trucks, store gear and set up tents for the crew. Some of my favourite location moments have been shooting a terrifying traffic jam sequence in an abandoned parking lot in Burnaby and blocking off traffic in North Van to shoot an overhead crane sequence of a car accident, complete with an upside down vehicle, glass everywhere and a lifeless body.

We recreated a traffic jam with a few cars in a parking lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP SEVEN: Permits

There is an enormous amount of paperwork that goes into doing a production. The biggest headache though, is getting all the right permits to shoot everywhere. You can find the best locations, but you need to jump through all the necessary hoops to film there. There are a lot of rules to follow. For instance, when we shot this ad, we were awfully close to CN Rail, which meant that we had to be super careful not to get too close, and we were just on the line.

You know you’re serious when you break out the 70-foot crane.

 

STEP EIGHT: Stunts

We once had a stunt man fall off a tall roof and onto a concrete walkway forty feet below for the opening scene of one of our ads. It was a super fun stunt to do. I was amazed when the stunt coordinator used a stacks of cardboard boxes as opposed to crash pads. Our stunt man had to do the fall three times, but it looked great on film.

 

APBC paramedic commercial stunt.

 

We flipped this car upside down for our haunting texting and driving ad for the paramedics.

 

flipping car upside down for paramedics ad

 

STEP NINE: Gear Rental

This is the DOP’s territory usually. My attitude is, if they want special gear (like the anamorphic lens we used in the APBC 2017 ad), or a Steady-cam to shoot the entire ad on one continuous shot—by all means. They want a scissor lift? Sure. I’ll even throw in a 70-foot crane to get a fantastic overhead shot of our freezing model down below. If that’s their vision, I make sure they get what they need to do just that.

 

TV ad for paramedics BTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP TEN: Keeping On Time And On Budget

For smaller productions, I do this myself, but once we are doing larger television commercials that have 75 people on set and a lot of moving parts, like the APBC TV ads, we’re going to need a Production Manager and a 1st AD.

The role of the director (usually me) is to focus on the here and now. The action. What is going on in front of the camera, and nothing else. There should be no other distractions in the back of your mind around the other great variables in the world of film: time and money. There are two people who’s jobs are specifically to deal with those two things.

The 1st AD handles time. He makes sure that everything is happening when it should be happening and that all the shots are being done, in the order they need to be done. He takes on the stress of herding the cats so the director can breathe.

The production manager handles money. They makes sure that we are keeping on budget. They can foresee the traps and dangers, and know all the rules, from labour laws, to union requirements to common sense. They say “no” to me a lot, and that’s what keeps the production from going off the rails.

 

STEP ELEVEN: Assembling A Crew

There are a lot of unique skill sets that go into making a piece of cinema, even if that piece is only 30 seconds long.

 

Hair & Make-Up

For a bigger production we’ll source maybe 2-3 HMUs, and they will often bring assistants, depending on the size of the cast and the complexity. Sometimes we will order prosthetics such as gills or severe wounds. Special effects makeup is a specialty for some artists that we bring in. My rule of thumb for a regular shoot is one hour in the chair per character, so we have to build the production schedule on the day of the shoot accordingly.

Even after the actor has left the chair, out makeup artists help behind the camera, catching and covering shines from the light, flyaway hairs and making touch ups.

LE Dye Pack TV ad

 

Catering

For a bigger production, we’ll bring in a professional caterer. They coordinate everything to do with feeding the crew, including snacks. Actors are notoriously fussy with diets that range from vegan to paleo to keto and more. They’ve heard it all and they find a way to keep everyone fed and happy. I keep out of the food part of things. Realistically, whenever I’m on set, I barely eat anything but gum as I’m too busy.

 

Craft Services

When sets reach a certain size they need Snack Land, and that’s where crafty comes in. If you need a quick veggie, nuts or candy fix, this is where you go.

First Aid

Every crafty I’ve ever worked with has also been our first aid on set.

Stills Photography

Print is one thing, but it’s also nice to have a behind-the-scenes photographer to get some stills for social media and the website.

 

Location Manager

This guy handles everything from traffic to security, to neighbours and parking and permits.

PA

An invaluable human that helps in every way possible on the day of the shoot. The PA could be doing anything from directing traffic to running for tape or batteries, to fending the public off set.

This is not to mention all the other specialized talents on set: the lighting crew, the sound crew, the grips and ADs, set dec, art directors, and production managers and more. There are a LOT of moving parts.

 

STEP TWELVE: Shoot Day

This is the day the magic happens. These days are long and drenched in caffeine. But always fun. The client often comes out to the big shoots to observe. I’ll have a million things going on in my head on shoot day as I’m directing. The First AD is there to help with TIME and free up that space in my mind. The Production Manager is there to help with MONEY, and he takes that component off my plate so I can focus on the shot in front of me, and nothing else.

STEP THIRTEEN: Editing

I like to do all the editing ourselves with our own designers. Usually they work from the notes made from my DOP and myself, and piece them together in the format that is more stringent than any big budget Hollywood production: the thirty-second ad. It’s amazing we can create an emotional arc in such a limited amount of time, but it can be done, and that is what makes television advertising such an interesting medium. It has so much potential.

 

STEP FOURTEEN: Colour Correction, Sound Design and Close Captioning

This is one of the best cities in the world to make film and television (and television commercials). Because of all the movies we make here, we’ve got it all. There are separate studios for everything: sound, audio effects, colour correction, special effects, close captioning, you name it.

 

STEP FIFTEEN: Media Buying and Launch

Once the ad is ready it’s time to buy your media. I’m a big fan of Sports and News because no one PVRs it. We can discuss the media buying process in more detail in another post.



Creating A Radio Campaign – The Process

February 1, 2021 | Filed Under advertising, copywriting, Immersion Creative, radio advertising, Vancouver advertising | Leave a Comment 

This Is How We Radio

Most radio ads are either forgettable or annoying. Making something humorous or catchy enough to cut through the mindless din takes some planning, and the right people.

Start with the creative brief.

First, always, is the creative brief. When you fill that out, I have the background I need.

Then, I write nine scripts. My magic number is 70-80 words for every 30 seconds (although I do tend to speak quickly).

You pick the three scripts you like and then I fine-tune those.

I usually write for two characters and an announcer. But this varies.

 

Next: Production. What I like about radio is that every part of it is fast. You can go from brief to air in a couple of days.

First, I’ll send you some options for voice over talent. We pick the ones we like and book them in studio.

I’m a little bit like David Lynch in that I don’t own a comb. Also, I like to collaborate with the same artists over and again. You’ll hear a lot of Mike Daingerfield and Rhona Rees in my work because they’re awesome and they have great range and talent.

 

 

Second, we set the date and book a studio. I usually work with Paul over at Studio X. He’s an award-winning sound engineer with a golden ear, furious fast fingers and all the chops.

 

On the day of recording, things happen quick. Each actor is booked for one hour, so we might stagger their arrival in studio. Depending on the scripts, we either record one or two on mics at a time in the soundproof recording area. Paul and I sit on the other side of the glass as we mix and I patch through my direction from there.

Once we have our takes, mix-master Paul begins the assembly. We splice together our selects and send them off to the client via .mp3 “rough cuts” for approval and feedback from the client. Again, this all happens quickly in the radio world, as we usually have talent for only an hour, and studio time is a premium. Just like my man, Jack Kerouac, we’re going for a “first thought, best thought” style. Quick decisive decisions are often straight from the gut, and you can trust that feeling more than your brain most of the time. This is what makes radio unique. If print advertising is air-tight planning and control, radio is living in the moment and letting the chips fall where they may. Different styles. Different results.

I’m consistently amazed at the happy accidents you find working with talented folk in a fast improvisational environment. You can go in with three scripts, and the one you thought would be the boring one, suddenly takes on a life of its own and becomes your new favourite. You never know what will happen.

Either way, if we are efficient and move quickly we can get the talent to do their pickups based on client edits while still in the same one-hour session for each actor.

We record each actor in turn in this manner.

 

 

Once we have the rough cuts, the crowd disperses and Paul and I go to work on mixing and mastering. Paul has a huge library of sound effects that we can add, as well as free needle-drop music to add some emotion and texture to the piece.

Free is nice, but if music is important and budget allows, I always prefer to bring in a composer for an original score.

In the past we have worked with the multi-talented Marc Wild for unique and interesting compilations, such as APBC 2015 (notice the subtle variations of the song from  one ad to the next), APBC 2017, Durum, and my favourite, Sempio, which I co-wrote and he sang!

Once all the pieces are in place, we master and give it a final polish. Did you know that de-ssssing is a thing? (Think snake jazz.)

After sign-off of the finals, the ads are sent to the stations. Radio stations only need about 48 hours of notice to get the ads into their logs. And then BAM, a couple of days later, and your ad is on the radio in Vancouver, just like that.

Like I said, radio advertising in Vancouver is fast.

 

 

 

 



Consulting – Our Process

February 1, 2021 | Filed Under advertising, Immersion Creative, Vancouver advertising | Leave a Comment 

When communications are organized, everything is more efficient.

Immersion Creative Consulting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY CONSULTATION CALLS

I like to do set, weekly calls with clients. Say 15-20 minutes every Wednesday at ten. This gives us the opportunity to stay focussed without wasting time on multiple emails back-and-forth.

On the production front, we can make sure that everything is running smoothly and check in at where we are at with ongoing projects.

On the media side, I keep you up-to-date on how our media buy is looking, as well as the latest sales and opportunities in the market from TV to transit.

On the creative side, we have the chance to throw around some ideas about upcoming campaigns.

On the strategic side, we can discuss everything from how to handle changes in the market from an operational perspective to what’s going on with your competitors.

On the research side, we can examine how campaigns are being received and how to fine-tune them going forward to generate greater results.

On-call SEO consultation is included with Social Media Kit #3. Clients can call up at any time to discuss how their campaign is going, evaluate content, and strategize next steps.

Having a fresh set of eyes on a problem that you have been over-thinking can be a huge benefit. Through Immersion, I’ve been consulting clients for over 12 years now, and I’ve helped with everything from speech writing to courting advice to counter-surveillance. Never a dull day in the ad game.

I’m a problem solver by nature: advertising and otherwise.

An in-house consultant with a crew is essentially the crux of what Immersion is.

So let’s set up your first free consultation, and then go from there.

Immersion Creative Consulting

Twelve years in. Same jacket. Same tie. New wrinkles.