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Why Sofology put Owen Wilson back in the hot seat for another big TV ad


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

August 27, 2019 | 4 min read

Sofology, a furniture retailer from the north west of England, made a surprise splash when it secured Hollywood star Owen Wilson for a brand awareness-raising ad campaign in 2017. Two years later, the “king of chill” has returned as its ambassador but this time there's a whole new host of objectives to tick off.

After it rebranded from Sofaworks to Sofology and was acquired by rival DFS, the retailer recruited the 'Marley and Me' actor to spearhead a long-running campaign. Buoyed by the results, Wilson has been enlisted again, this time with a new canine companion, although the company still hopes that its sofas still steal the show.

Sebastian Brown, director of creative at Sofology, told The Drum that the latest 'Feel at home on a sofa you love' ads will put more emphasis on the product after the 2017 work delivered above and beyond on its broader brand awareness goals. With the help of creative agency Alpha Century, Sofology had Wilson on set for just a single day, giving it the challenge of getting the most out of its talent in a short space of time.

Brown said: "We wanted to continue the increase in awareness that we captured the first-time round but also wanted to hero the product more. In the first ad, Owen articulated what it means to feel at home on a sofa he loved, so the product took a back seat. But in the latest one, the product is now the hero."

Brown explained how the ads shift focus from Wilson to the intricate details of each sofa while getting “intimate” with the camera work and using the script to “subliminally” draw attention away from the star.

On its laid-back ambassador, who put in more of a shift than the comfortable couch surfing suggests, Brown said: “He's the perfect fit for us. He breathes relaxation. [He's] the king of chill. He embodies feeling at home on a sofa both in his personality but also in his delivery.

“This time around we had a bit more fun with the scripts, but Wilson has a real air of authenticity around his delivery. When he's delivering the script, it doesn't actually feel like he's presenting. It suits the personality of our brand and it's really intimate and authentic, so it doesn't feel forced.”

Director Chris Cottam also returned to the set, having built a relationship with Wilson in the first campaign. He found there was more demand upon him this time in order to ensure extra through-the-line material, missed in the first campaign, was captured this time.

Additional assets were created to showcase more products in more media environments. Chiefly, there will be two TVCs and six social videos. Furthermore, sofa photography from Flood will match up the website and in-store assets. The in-house team also captured behind the scenes footage of Wilson’s shoot that can be rolled out down the line.

TV will take the lion’s share of the budget (the previous campaign debuted during Channel 4’s Gogglebox) but extra spend will go into paid and organic social across Instagram and Facebook. Geographically, spend will be concentrated in areas where there are – or will be – stores. Five new stores are planned for 2020 alone. Wilson's appeal is being leveraged to get the word out about the expansion.

This is not the only time the brand has leaned on Hollywood talent. Between the 2017 and 2019 Wilson campaigns, X-Files' David Duchovny narrated ads intricately showing how each sofa is crafted.

It's another example of how Hollywood talent can be deployed to draw attention to regional brands. Robert De Niro's starring role in Warburton's creative illustrates the attention a brand can get from a big name (and their acting chops).

Vote for the Sofology campaign below in The Drum’s Creative works.

Feel at home on a sofa you love by Alpha Century

Overall Rating 4/5

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