“We wanted to find a way to talk about the all the services that SAP is known for, such as supply chain management, logistics, data, etc. but do it in a way that felt personal and authentic to how the pandemic affected people,” Jeff Reed, Kommune|NoSlate, Creative Director, says. “The spot was conceived as a simple, heart-felt thank you, and it clearly resonated with everyone at SAP.”
ProductionHUB spoke with Reed as well as his Kommune|NoSlate Creative Director Danny Zobrist, Copywriter Sean McNamara and Producer Jon Barlow about their work on the 90 second ad and what production looks like in 2021.
PH: Can you talk a little about Kommune|No Slate?
Jeff Reed: We like to let our work do the talking for us, but sure. Kommune | NoSlate is an independent creative studio making work that blurs the lines between disciplines and mediums. We cut our teeth in the worlds of film, art, and technology, and bring that imagination and craftsmanship to every experience we create, for brands, non-profits, and our own ventures. We’re born and raised in Venice, CA, and are still working out of our studio space in Dennis Hopper’s compound, where we get weird every day.
PH: How did the SAP ad “Dear Business” come about?
Jeff Reed: SAP is a business-to-business brand, but every single business is made up of real people, who have real hopes and fears. So we set out to speak to those people in a human, empathetic voice. And create something that resonates with people from all walks of culture.
PH: What was the purpose and message behind it?
Sean McNamara: The purpose was simple — to celebrate the businesses that have inspired us, motivated us, and worked with us throughout the most challenging year of our lifetimes. The message was far more complex — striking the right balance between an acknowledgement of the difficulties of 2020, while instilling the viewer with a sense of resilience, hope, and pride. To break out of the typical corporate speak of B2B marketing, we wrote an emotive letter to the businesses that moved everyone at SAP to come to work each day, and made a meaningful difference in the lives of the people and communities that we serve.
PH: What did pre-production look like? What were some of the logistics?
Jon Barlow: It’s been said that freedom is the enemy of creativity, and limitations are its savior. If that’s true, we started with an abundance of advantages in that there were restrictions around every corner. There were the usual suspects, like timing and budget. But we also had to create something that felt cinematic in scale without picking up a camera, so each element we could control, from footage to voiceover, type to sound design, required a heightened level of craft.
PH: A spot this size and scope usually takes months, but you were able to do it in weeks. How?
Danny Zobrist: With radical honesty and zero tolerance for bullshit. We move fast and light because everyone on our team, including our client partners, rolls up their sleeves, gets in the kitchen together, and shares ideas and feedback early and often so there are no surprises. As a result, even when we can’t be in the studio, edit suite, or design bay together, it still feels like we are.
PH: This started out as a digital-only spot. Can you talk about how it turned into a global broadcast media buy?
Jeff Reed: It was one of those smelling-salts moments, when after watching the roughcut the clients realized how powerful this story was in reflecting the current climate, and rising to meet the moment. So it moved pretty quickly from there. Once we got the green light for broadcast in multiple markets, our client partners were incredibly generous in giving us the space and support to elevate the craft of it to shine on that global stage.
PH: Were there any challenges with the ad going global?
Jon Barlow: At the risk of being redundant, we had no shortage of challenges from day one, and expanding our reach to a global audience only created more. Perhaps the biggest challenges we faced were voice talent casting, getting the script to a point where it still had emotional resonance but could culturally trans-adapt across the nuances of different languages and geographies, and of course the bureaucratic hornet’s nest of legal and broadcast clearance in multiple markets, at the last minute. In fact, the UK and German versions needed to be turned around in 2 or 3 days. So we had to develop a deliberate choreography of making quick creative decisions, sharing only the best options, and getting our client partners to be ruthlessly blunt in their feedback and uncharacteristically decisive in their approvals. As a result, we were able to leverage the SAP team’s global footprint and local understanding to reflect insights that made each execution in each territory work harder, smarter, and more empathetically.
PH: What do you think production will look like in 2021 and upcoming years?
Danny Zobrist: I think we’ve all hit our lifetime quota of ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ platitudes around this pandemic. So we’ll just say that if we could make great work this year under these conditions, the future of dreaming up and bringing to life ideas that have meaning looks bright. We just have to focus on the fundamentals of storytelling — the concepts, techniques, and relationships that give brands permission to break through culture.
PH: What other projects are you working on currently?
Jeff Reed: Well, as you know, it’s bad juju to talk about projects that haven’t seen the light of day yet, but we’re currently in concept development and pre-production on large-scale global series of events that bring together keynotes, watcheable content, and interactive experiences. So, stay tuned.