Case study Parallel Lines | client Philips | Agency DDB London/DDB Worldwide
Parallel Lines is DDB London’s new campaign for Philips. It follows last year’s interactive online ad Carousel (from Tribal DDB Amsterdam), which emphasised the filmic quality of Philips Cinema 21:9 televisions. With Parallel Lines, DDB intended to deliver a global campaign that continues to emphasise the brand’s cinematic viewing experience yet in a new and unexpected way.
The resulting campaign sees DDB collaborate with production company RSA to create five short films by different directors. The films are tied together by the dialogue, which is the same in all five. “This year we needed a big idea,” says Neil Dawson, creative director at DDB. “The idea being that there’s a million ways to tell a story but only one way to watch one.”
There are only six lines of dialogue in the films, but by cleverly inserting
an unusual word – ‘unicorn’ – DDB created a unifying concept across the five different shorts. “We settled on about six short lines of dialogue: too many lines and it started to feel too prescriptive, we wanted the lines to be interpreted in very different ways,” say Sam Oliver and Shishir Patel, creatives on the project. “We chose to include the word ‘unicorn’ in the script because we knew it would present a challenge for the directors. It’s a word that can be taken to mean many things. How the directors interpreted that word was key to the story they decided to tell.”
RSA sent the script out to all of its directors and 45 proposals were received in response. These were whittled down to five, chosen for their variety of content and style. The films are by directors Greg Fay, Johnny Hardstaff, Carl Erik Rinsch, Jake Scott and Hi-Sim. As the stories in each film are invented by the directors, the role for the agency creative was unusual. “It was slightly different from the normal process of making a commercial,” says RSA’s Caspar Delaney, executive producer of the films, “because the usual almost micro-management that a creative team from an agency would normally have didn’t apply. Not because we were being protective of them in any way – we all got on amazingly well – but because it wasn’t their creative vision.” “It’s almost a slightly different role,” agrees Dawson. “You give them the concept, you give them the dialogue and then we were kind of editors, because the scripts would come in and we would judge the ones we wanted to move forward with.”
Parallel Lines is released largely via the web at philips.com/cinema, where the films are presented within the Ambilight frame of the Philips
TVs (this frame also appears on the YouTube versions of the films). Excitement was built around the release of the films on social media websites and by a trailer that will also air on TV, driving viewers to watch the films online. As part of the campaign there is also a competition to create a sixth film using the same dialogue. Entries will be judged by Ridley Scott.
Paul Belford, creative director, This Is Real Art, London
This is similar to BMW Films, of course, but I don’t have a problem with that because there’s enough of a unique Philips idea here. It’s wonderful that the internet gives brands the option to take a chunk of budget that would otherwise be spent on buying media, and instead invest more in the creative work (with the obvious proviso that we still need to drive people to see the work).
The purpose of the exercise is to sell more Philips Cinema 21:9 TVs, a product for people who watch a lot of films on TV. So the ‘millions of ways to tell a story, only one way to watch one’ line is appropriate and good. As is the idea of shooting wildly different versions of the same piece of dialogue. As a film lover, I’m already interested. And the website is simple and easy to use.
But are the films any good? I like some more that others but yes, they’re all good. I particularly like The Gift by Carl Erik Rinsch and Darkroom by Johnny Hardstaff. They have interesting narratives, great production values and feel like trailers for films that I would want to see. In fact at the time of writing I notice that Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox are bidding for the feature rights for The Gift. Interesting. If I was being ultra picky, I’d suggest that some of the films reference existing blockbusters just a bit too closely. In the case of the above two: The Gift — I, Robot and Darkroom —Bladerunner. And the title sequences could be better. My favourite is the computer game-inspired sequence for Jun and the Hidden Skies film by Hi-Sim.
Another negative is the TV framing device around the film player. It’s clunky, annoying and unnecessary. A controllable Ambilight effect around a 21:9 window would have been cooler and just as effective at dramatising the product benefits.
My final observation is a positive one. How nice to see a communications project from a corporate giant that doesn’t seem to have endlessly dicked around both the agency and the hired-in talent.
James Hilton, co-founder and chief creative officer, AKQA
‘Skip intro’. It’s never a good sign.
It shows a lack of belief in the first impression. I can understand why they did it though; the title sequences, which I assume are there to act as such and also to sell some of the features of the telly, are rather awful. Afterthought? Pity. The idea (five films with the same dialogue), on the other hand, is lovely. But, thing is, I love the idea more than the executions (which are clearly where the money went). Yes they’re all very well made. Beautiful even. But I don’t feel anything. And isn’t that the point of this 21:9 television with Ambilight (not a fan, sorry), best sound, and picture perfect? Should it not capture my imagination? Should not the message make me think dirty techporn thoughts about the product? It should, but it doesn’t. Maybe I’m a film snob. Maybe I thought the films too derivative. Maybe it smacked of creative indulgence at the expense of the message. Maybe I’m just a grumpy git. But whatever it is, I’m left with the overriding thought that an awful lot of cash has been spent creating five beautiful but impotent films that have completely failed to make me think or care any more for the Philips telly than
I did 15 minutes ago. Skip intro? Good advice.
Andy Fackrell, executive creat- ive director, 180 Amsterdam Parallel Lines does everything right for the product. It takes the cinematic aspect TV and perfectly forms a concept around it, combining facets of the art house film experience. The sell is nicely woven into the titling, and the interpretation of one screenplay into five different treatments intrigues. The idea itself being very film school, it’s another spot-on association.
I liked the filmstrip homepage very much and the promise of the five distinct deliveries. The Ambilight simulation initially distracted me, as it reminded me of a lava lamp that stood on my TV in my student days. Soon though it did its job to enhance the saturated colours that imbued most of the movies.
The films vary in terms of creative interpretation andproduction values. The weakest in both probably being Jake Scott’s The Hunt, and the strongest, for me, Darkroom by Johnny Hardstaff. Maybe that’s a personal choice in genre, but I found Darkroom really compelling, not unlike the Carousel in its full circle resolution. And amazingly crafted and shot. Say, Bladerunner for location, Wong Kar Wai for music, Lynch for bent sexuality. I could throw in a few more references, but all good in my book. A little bit cheekier than the rest, it’s the only one where I wanted to hit repeat. Scott’s film was, frankly, pretty much phoning it in. No drama, not huge on originality. The Gift by Carl Erik Rinsch was interesting in terms of production but a bit woolly for me in terms of storytelling. Frankly I’m pretty bored with robots these days. And James Cameron still does them best.
In the end, the campaign is well-rounded. Good to great filmmaking, an idea that makes complete sense, but for me somehow it lacks the killer, one-hit blow that Carousel did last year.
Philips Parallel Lines Credits
Agency: DDB London
CCO: Neil Dawson
Copywriter: Sam Oliver
Art director: Shishir Patel
Production company: RSA Films
Digital agency: Tribal DDB Amsterdam
Digital production co: Unit9