Smartphone shoots using FaceTime direction: A look into Goodby's ads amid COVID-19

People do a toilet paper Zoom hand-off in a Comcast spot.
People do a toilet paper Zoom hand-off in a Comcast spot.

In the last few weeks, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' Elevel unit has produced 20 spots from home.

Earlier this year, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners unveiled a spot for client BMW that was shot in Kyiv by director Terence Neale and produced by his company, Park Pictures. 

The agency’s latest spot for BMW was a much more linear process. It was put together by GS&P’s own Elevel production group, who were collaborating from home, due to coronavirus.

Agencies across adland are adapting to the monthlong quarantine by using remote technologies to collaborate, bootstrapping footage and streamlining production. While GS&P staffers cannot go to their Elevel production studio that's stocked with equipment to film, edit, mix, animate and finish, they’ve taken home what resources they could and are making it work.  

Using Elevel, GS&P Social (online video and pre-roll production) and GS&P Labs (in-house innovation team), the agency has produced 20 ads in the last few weeks, said Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer at the San Francisco-based agency.  

In addition to the "Flatten the Curve" spot for BMW, other new ads include a social campaign for Panera Bread delivery and work for Comcast’s Xfinity cable, internet and phone services.

"I would say every big brand in the building is at least talking about producing and we are working on things for everyone," said Johnson.

The BMW "Flatten the Curve" spot uses found footage of hairpin turns and winding forest roads. At first look, you almost see a BMW purring through the landscape, but the roads are empty, and the point of the spot is to remind people to stay home.

"It was all stock footage and that was the beauty of it," said Johnson, noting that the team was able to add voice over and edit sound from home.

The agency’s last big Los Angeles production was for client Panera Bread’s new unlimited coffee subscription. Its new spots, which are running on social media, are the polar opposite of LA soundstage but that only reinforces the message.

From San Francisco, GS&P cast three Panera drivers, who then propped their smartphones on dashboards and filmed themselves making deliveries. Leigh from Michigan, Theodore from North Carolina and Velinda from Texas, each recommended by Panera store managers, are who make these social media spots special.  

The picture of calm and continuity, the three drivers essentially comfort viewers by telling them they can drop off dinner and things will be okay.   

"We wanted to feature the drivers, they are really the heroes of the story," said Johnson. The GS&P production team watched their rough footage on the spot, offered direction and the drivers reshot as necessary. "We could comment and they could do another take," she said. 

"It is really emotional," Johnson continued. "I love the line at the end, "From one neighbor to another" is such a nice sentiment." 

Comcast’s commercial for Xfinity internet services used found footage from YouTube showing how people are adapting to online interactions.

One sequence picks up on a 2020 trend of people pretending to pass an object to the person in the next Zoom cube, who then does the same. Sometimes it’s a glass of wine, or in Xfinity’s case, it was a much hotter commodity, a roll of toilet paper.  

"The idea behind the spot - it’s called 'Togetherness,' - is how people are connected while staying far apart," said Johnson. 

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