As sentimental music starts and an entry level office worker runs into the frame, you don’t expect anything unusual. A voice-overed question “Have you ever doubted your sense of existence?” seemingly gives away the melodramatic direction of the ad. But then, the recent commercial film for Anmuxi, a sub-brand of Chinese dairy giant Yili, makes a U-turn.
Client 客户：Anmusi 安慕斯
Production 制作方：Rolling Studio
Instead of just another heightened emotional spot, the agency GOODIDEA envisioned a crash course into how commercials are made. Produced by Rolling Studio, this 3,5 minutes ad mixes serious tone scenes with an ironic voice over. “Originally, the two characters were supposed to skate together. But because there’s not enough money to construct the set, the scene was cut out”. For the industry people, phrases like this one are all too familiar. Yet for the audience, it’s a small glimpse of the truth that making ads is not a complete creative freedom and easy process. Budget cuts, copyright music issues, re-shooting scenes because of tiny details, director’s unfulfilled creative ambitions— are just a few common situations covered in the film.
The brand definitely scores points with the audience by tapping into non-pretentious, ironic and relatable advertising.
Though it’s not common, it’s not the first time that we have seen this approach of exposing the filmmaking process into a commercial. A year ago, a Watson campaign shot at the height of the pandemic was released with an unusual element—a message from the director at the end. The director explained the challenges of remote shooting and even voiced the possible contradictions of the audience about characters seen through the lens of the ad.
Director 导演 ：王文
Another more recent example of bitter humor about the advertising industry comes from production house Dotwell. Their blockbuster recruitment video tackles two things at once: shows the future candidate what working in production is really like, while making a case for Dotwell’s creativity. In other words, it’s also a witty advertisement for the company itself. Maybe the newcomers to the production house will never face so vividly depicted in this three-parts spot tribulations of deadlines as scarier than horror movies, or risk their mental health, or deal with shooting in falling sets… but they’ve definitely been warned though in this parody-like exaggerated manner.
Client 客户：LinkediIn 领英
Agency 代理商：Havas 汉威士
Using the same angle, but unlike the above mentioned entertaining ads, the brainchild of LinkedIn, agency Havas, and production company Smooth is actually dead serious. It’s another example of showcasing the advertising industry through a behind the scenes perspective, but the film sends a contradicting message: “Don’t do advertising”. Released last October, the film featured 10 creatives from 4A and independent agencies alike, talking about what it takes to be a real adman/adwoman. Especially in Chinese’s ad industry, which is so dynamic, fast-paced, yet so demanding and unlike any other market in the world. It highlights that neither production, nor agency have it very easy.
Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that the creative ideas behind these ad campaigns, and those who have came up with them, have enjoyed positive exposure. In recent years, behind the scenes videos are increasingly used in big brands’ campaigns. Credits at the end of commercials, as if in feature films, have also become more common in China. And we’re not just talking about spots that have a big name cinema director attached, like the recent Mercedes ad curated by Wong Kar-wai. Slowly, it seems, production of advertisement campaign films are gaining well-deserved attention and credit for their notoriously grueling work.