How Heineken's 'Trailblazers' cut through borders to harness global talent

Global creative businesses must reach new highs but with the speed of the modern age, writes MPC's chief commercial officer.

Clients want it all – consistently high-quality work delivered at high speed. This is their formula for developing and maintaining a sustained competitive advantage and for global creative businesses the answer lies in being able to simultaneously harness the best talent at the peak of creative excellence where ever they are in the world, for any given project.

At MPC we recently delivered this for the Heineken "Trailblazers" ad thanks to our entrepreneurial and collaborative culture, underpinned by state of the art technology. Critically, we can strip away the cultural and logistical hurdles of geography to tap into the best talent from around the world immediately– something many global creative businesses still can’t do effectively.  

To give you an idea of the craft within this Heineken spot, conceived by Publicis Italy and directed by MJZ’s Matthijs van Heijningen – on a practical level the design of the two photo-real CG sail ships involved the creation of 7500 individual parts, while the space station design involved 93,000 unique parts – the brief required blockbuster artistry and creative vision and had to be completed just 90 days.

We couldn’t logistically use just one studio with this challenging deadline. Instead, we used some of our best modelers in the world out in our Bangalore studio whilst London artists worked simultaneously on sophisticated fluid simulations – ensuring the complex water and ship interactions were seamlessly realistic. Our Amsterdam studio, where the director was based, handled all the compositing. This job emphasises the importance for creative businesses not having one ‘centre of excellence’ or lead studio with weaker outposts elsewhere.

The VFX scale speaks for itself – and we weren’t simply creating one spectacular vision but six different epic ‘worlds’ that needed to seamlessly transition. That sort of creative achievement isn’t possible without true collaboration. Could we have fulfilled this brief five years ago? Not in this timeframe or without the global processes that exist today that mean MPC can now harness the best talent without any complications. We now thrive off these challenges as both agencies and brands approach us with ever more creatively ambitious jobs that need to be completed in less time. 

We can now draw on the best and brightest to solve a problem together in hours and days, not weeks or months. Many global creative businesses are just not set up to meet these demands – global networks can potentially face hurdles around allocated revenue or creative ownership.  Or simply lack the connectivity and infrastructure to work together.

It sounds obvious but communication is key. With a job like Heineken that generates hundreds of daily versions and iterations across studios, it is reliant on seamless and connected working with participants safe in the knowledge the same degree of skill and ambition will be applied across the board.

It requires people with exceptional creative vision to project how each tiny detail, element, shot or sequence will come together into one narrative piece.  At the end of the day decision-making still lies with humans. And within these global teams its essential to have healthy debate, experimentation and room to fail which spurs on the work.  Without the right culture this is almost impossible on a worldwide scale. It’s about having a collaborative mind-set based on trust and there are no territorial chiefs and fiefdoms protective of their sphere of influence. The creative industries would benefit from cultivating a borderless culture, underpinned by investing in technology that allows for streamlined systems.

A critical advantage we have is our feature film division – each team spurs the other on in developing the next level of craft. That friendly global competition constantly inspires teams to produce work that makes the other go ‘wow!’ But they also want to share their creative successes and experience with each other. The film teams often work together with advertising teams to crack a brief or solve new client challenge regardless of boundaries.

These pockets of innovation happen everyday in and across each of our studios. Its not often you can move around the offices without encountering multiple huddles, skype sessions or live tech experiments.

The future belongs to those who invest in talent, technology and collaboration. The world is becoming an increasingly impatient place but the industry has to rise to the challenge and make sure creative services can be scaled and delivered to compressed deadlines while remaining of the highest quality.

Graham Bird is chief commercial officer for MPC

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