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Anatomy of an Ad: How SPP and M&C Saatchi Stockholm are making people care about pensions

How do you get people to care about pensions? For Swedish pension firm SPP the answer was to get them thinking about the kind of world in which they will retire, with a stark interactive film reminding viewers of their two potential futures.

Morbid, dreary and far too easy to dismiss, getting people to think about pensions is no easy task, but it’s one M&C Saatchi Stockholm, the advertising agency of one of Sweden’s largest pensions companies, SPP, has been grappling with for almost three years.

Originally keen to focus solely on its pensions and products, creatives at the agency saw potential in exploring SPP’s promise to only invest clients’ money in companies that are beneficial to the environment as well as the wallet.

Inspired by comments made by the firm’s sustainability manager, Filippa Bergin, at a client meeting, the team successfully pitched, and launched, the concept ‘Small choices make a big difference’ last year. It’s based around the central idea that no matter how much money you have, if you want to lie on a beach with a cocktail in your hand when you retire, you won’t be able to do it if the beach no longer exists due to climate change.

“For SPP sustainability is such a huge part of the brand but they didn’t think it was something that could be interesting from a commercial standpoint,” says Alexander Elers, senior art director and partner at the agency, and one half of the married creative team leading the campaign.

“No one else had made the connection between savings and sustainability here in Sweden,” adds senior copywriter and partner at M&C Saatchi Stockholm, Linda Elers, who says the brief from SPP for a follow up had “forced” the agency to come up with the creative idea behind the thought-provoking interactive ad.

After producing “two or three TV commercials per year” the client made the big decision to move its advertising online for this campaign, a change Linda admits the team at M&C Saatchi Stockholm found “tricky” to begin with as it required a different mind-set from a TVC to find something people can relate to and provoke emotions.

“This idea in particular developed from many directions,” she recalls , explaining that numerous other ideas had already been pitched to the client and put into development when a “very rough” idea was brought in at the 11th hour.

“We saw no harm in bringing it along, even though it wasn’t really ready, because of our relationship with them,” she says, adding that before-and-after images from the Haiti earthquake had served as the inspiration for the concept of a film depicting a dystopian future.

“It’s hard to imagine yourself in 30 years’ time, so we thought the slider would be a good way of really showing how the choices we make today will determine whether we live in a utopian or dystopian future.”

Using the slider function and asking viewers ‘How do you want the world to be when you retire?’, the film allows users to travel between two potential realities where landscapes, food, fashion and news transition between bright and hopeful to grim and gritty. The sound design and colour subtly alter between the two realities with little touches like ambient noise enhancing the worst-case scenario painted in the dystopian scenes.

“We showed them [SPP] the slider function and some of the images we planned on using and then we played the song – a cover of ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Music Super Circus (feat. Victoria Winderud) – and they just had to have it,” says Linda.

Handing over the idea to production company B-Reel and director Patrik Gyllström, the creative team praise the treatment they came back with and the production team’s ethos.

“We all had the same vision,” Alexander says, “and having the digital and film production in the same house really helped. Sometimes when you have different production companies they only work on their part, but we all wanted to deliver on this one.”

With Sweden ‘shutting down’ in July for summer vacation, pre-production commenced in May with the shoot taking place over two-and-a-half days in late summer. Essentially two shoots in one, Linda admits it was challenging to get the actors to replicate the same movements in both versions of the film and particularly awkward in the scenes with the children. “It was very sunny and hot and they were not happy,” she laughs.

As both films had to match identically, the client handed the agency offline approval of the shots, making the edit process much smoother.

However, the film was not without its technical challenges, with the team left disappointed that it would not work on mobile and also that it couldn’t be hosted on YouTube due to technical issues with the slider function on both platforms. “We had hoped the slider would have worked even better on mobile and provide an even more interactive experience but it just wasn’t possible, says Linda. Compromises were made, however, to bring an iPad version to the Swedish market, which “jumps” between the two realities rather than allowing viewers to smoothly transition between the two.

Creating a vision of the future didn’t come without a little added help, though the team is keen to point out director Gyllström’s vision for the film was to avoid an over-reliance on CGI. Instead, they employed camera tricks to achieve the finished product along with some 3D and green screen elements.

Upon showing the finished ad SPP “cheered and clapped”, alleviating any worries the creative team had about the dystopian vision being too dark. “In the end they didn’t focus so much on the small things clients can sometimes get hung up over,” says Alexander. “They looked at the full picture.

“Even when viewed internationally there’s something everyone can take away from this campaign – the higher meaning in the sustainability message – and we’re proud to be able to put that across to people both in Sweden and beyond.”

To view the SPP interative film in full click here.

This feature first appeared in the 28 October issue of The Drum which is available to purchase now from The Drum Store.

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Gillian West

Gillian West manages the Creative Works section of The Drum covering weekly round-ups, Ad of the Day, Creative Work of the Week and Creative Work of the Month.

All by Gillian