How to direct a TV advert from 251 miles away

GENESISNew campaign

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It’s shoot day.

Darren Lyttle is about to oversee the making of another major TV ad.

It’s an advert for the Public Health Agency encouraging everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccination.

As Genesis’ Creative Director, Darren (or Daz) has made TV advertisements hundreds of times before.

But as the crew set-up the first shots in the studio, somebody is missing.

There’s no Creative Director on-set.

Instead, he’s sitting at a desk at home in Donaghadee.

About 251 miles away as the crow flies.

Nobody from the agency is there.

And there are no clients on-set either.

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In normal circumstances, this shoot probably wouldn’t go ahead.

But this is the coronavirus era and normal circumstances no longer apply.

Daz and our clients will watch a live stream of the shoot and liaise with the crew and Director via video calls.

Since March 2020, Genesis has been figuring out ways of making advertising while faced with social distancing, limited travel, household bubbles and a raft of safety measures.

So how did the agency make it work? And what have they learned?

Daz gives us a wee peek behind the curtain…

What was it like making this ad remotely?

“Remote filming has been around for a while, but never has it been more valid” Daz said.

“It’s not ideal but clients have been supportive and our production partners have accommodated every challenge we’ve thrown at them, which helps massively.”

“This PHA Vaccine Rollout production was perfect for remote filming as it was a one-day shoot in a one-studio location.”

“The timeframe for production was tight and the COVID-curveballs were coming thick and fast in the run-up to the shoot day.”

“We got through it, though, and created a great campaign.”

Are there any benefits to shooting adverts remotely?

“You see directly through the camera while sitting in the comfort of your home (maybe even in yer PJs).”

“But you can’t beat being there in the flesh and being involved in conversations for the set-up with the Director and DoP. When youre not directly involved in these discussions, you can end up becoming the stick-in-the-mud Creative Director who changes things!”

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

“Sometimes when you see something through the camera live, you feel like you need to take a slightly different direction, and pitching those changes is always easier when you’re all in a room together”

“Timeframes also seem to have changed. The pandemic makes things more complex but at the same time there’s added urgency to get projects out quickly to keep up with changing circumstances.”

“Giving creative feedback & direction when rolling-out campaigns is a bit trickier too. Lots of it has to be done via PDF comments and lengthy emails, whereas I’d normally wheel my chair over to a designer’s desk and we’d solve the problem in 5 minutes.”

“There are also too many email conversations in general! Get rid, now.”

What has the past year taught you about yourself and this advertising agency?

“The pandemic has shown that our team is incredibly resilient, hard-working and banterful (new word).”

“We’ve had our moments but ultimately there is no brief, pitch, presentation or campaign we have not been able to crack, and we’ve maintained the highest creative standards throughout.”

Our remotely-directed TV ad (above) launched on May 10th, alongside the wider campaign across TV, radio, outdoor and digital.

Thanks go to everyone involved in this important project.

And if you’re eligible, please remember to book your vaccine.

Because every vaccination brings us closer, together.