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11 London Charity Helicopter Marketing Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. TV advertising

Zooming in on drought

I should mention here that some of the work I was doing in Chad has now started to go live. The audience for this particular execution (below) is those watching faith channels on TV, particularly Evangelical Christians. After much discussion with the  11 London team with Tearfund I came up with the positioning Give Like Jesus, and evolved the questioning format that poses the thought “Would Jesus…”  I wrote the initial script for this advert, however, as it became a very collaborative process and I cannot take credit for the final wording.

The filming was done by Brad Bell, with Tearfund’s Steve Adams and 11 London’s MD Matt Hunt doing the drone shots, which Brad incorporated. Before I went to Chad I imagined (from the comfort of my Brighton office) a shot that would dive down from the sky onto an isolated village, thinking this would enable us to show the lack of infrastructure and support for these people living with the consequences of terrible drought. I also liked the way it focuses attention from a vast landscape down to the detail of lives lived there.

I call this approach Helicopter territory. A film director will fill the screen with an actor’s face in close up when the story requires us to see things from that actor’s perspective. Think of Janet Leigh in the Psycho shower scene, and we are left in no doubt that that the actor’s thoughts and expressions are important to the story. In this advert we come in from afar so we can see the context. By locating and locking onto an individual, however, we pin the landscape and its drought to an individual. And when that person is vulnerable, and immediately relatable, we have taken a big step towards bringing the subject to life.

Even in Chad, this shot proved fairly simple to achieve with a drone camera. The shot had to be done in reverse, with the drone hovering in front of the child,  before climbing into the sky. I think the results are excellent.

I sincerely hope that Tearfund is successful with its campaign to raise money for those people we met in Chad and others like them who have been affected by erratic rainfall across the Sahel region of Africa.

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Fiction Games Helicopter Marketing Time

Play, engagement and climate-changed futures

Ken Eklund

Yesterday I attended a talk by Ken Eklund, a writer and games designer based in California, at an event organised by The University of Brighton, and excellently hosted by Matt Locke of Storythings. Ken creates ‘cli-fi’ games that allow people to ‘immerse themselves without fear’ in challenging future environmental scenarios.

One game requires people to locate unusual plastic objects which have been scattered, apparently randomly, in several countries. The gamer who collects these objects finds they correspond to a voicemail from the future. These messages allude to future climate change events, such as suggesting that an airport is underwater.

Another game in 2007 saw people documenting a fictional oil crisis. People used various internet platforms to contribute to a crowdsourced fiction about life in an oil crisis. Ken said a pivotal moment was when one person suggested they stop posting doom scenarios and instead find a way of tackling the problem.

Ken creates a game playing environments that are ‘multi-sourced, open and emergent’, he also calls this ‘Authentic Fiction’.

As there was an opportunity for questions, I asked Ken to say more about how while advertising uses creativity to funnel people towards an outcome, such as buying a pizza, his fictional activity turns the funnel the other way to allow for a multiplicity of crowd sourced responses. Would the desired message be dissipated?

Ken said he wasn’t in advertising, but instead created a playful space for the issues to be raised. I liked this as Ken is the kind of storyteller who creates the frame rather than the picture.

While the idea of a messages from the future is an SF staple, it certainly doesn’t crop up much in advertising and marketing. The UK First Direct bank’s confident first effort back in 1989 (a message from the then future of 2010) was the first one that sprang to mind. In a game-playing context, however, those who are ‘playing hard’ are far more willing to suspend disbelief than someone passively watching their TV. In Ken’s scenario the messages from the future become valuable and sought after. Marketing, which naturally is seeking ways of making its messages more magnetic, definitely has something to learn from Ken’s work.

With my other hat on, as a writer, poet, etc. I found the scenarios a little predictable, but I think Ken’s focus was in unleashing the creativity of others, enabling what he called ‘the resurgence of my story’ to feed into a greater narrative arc. In that way richness and unpredictability is organically added.

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The robots are around the corner

His latest project in development is around how artificial intelligence may take over human activities. A project which coincides with Channel 4’s excellent new Humans series about AI being aired in the UK. One scene nails Eklund’s concern where Mattie, a teenage character resentful of the robots, questions what is the point of her continuing to become a doctor. “That’d take me seven years, but by then you’d be able to turn any old synth into a brain surgeon in seven seconds,” and goes on to asks if they are all supposed to become poets.

I found Eklund’s work fascinating and I will be keen to keep tabs on his future projects.