When there’s no commercial brand trying to hike onto a poignant moment such as ANZAC Day, it’s a chance for the creative to really shine through. At least, that’s what Jonny Clow has found.
The group account director at creative agency GPY&R was part of the team that launched an ANZAC Day campaign for charity group Legacy called Letters of Gallipoli.
Clow agreed brands dabbling in ANZAC Day campaigns were treading a fine line, “especially with the controversy that happened last year with Woolworths”.
“For us, for ANZAC, it’s really good to be involved in a campaign where there’s no brand fronting it,” he said.
Removing the brand means eclipsing the brand conversations and the worry that comes with trying to remain respectful, said Clow.
“For an event where there were thousands of causalities and deaths you have to be exceptionally careful if you are a brand and trying to get the right balance. Also, let’s be honest, most brands…there is some element in wanting to engage with people. And that engagement can be misconstrued as blatant commercialism advertising.”
We all saw what happened with Woolworths last year when it released a rather naff campaign called ‘Fresh in our Memories’. Not only was it vilified on Twitter and the mainstream media, the agency behind it was virtually attacked for its stupidity and lack of sensitivity.
However, the project recently released by GPY&R on a pro-bono basis for Legacy takes all worry away, said Clow. “From that perspective it makes it very easy,” he said. “And, for an agency, once it goes up and people see it, it’s very hard for people to critique it.”
Behind the videos
The campaign saw well-known personalities and actors read 101 year-old letters from troops sent back to their families. It was a follow on from the centenary campaign in 2015. The group had uncovered a hoard of letters from the Gallipoli campaign and released some in podcast form. This time, GPY&R took it a step further and filmed seven actors and personalities reading the letters.
A new video is released each day in the week leading up to ANZAC Day on 25 April.
“We had the idea of, if we had the letters, wouldn’t it be great if you could actually experience more of that emotion by actually seeing someone read a letter for the first time,” explained Clow.
All seven clips were shot over one day in Sydney, with three different directors. Clow said they didn’t want to the actors to be A-listers, no Chris Hemsworths here.
“We wanted to get a good mix of people who are old, middle-aged and young,” he said. “We had an hour slot for each of the actors to come in. They hadn’t seen the letter before they sat down on the stool.
“Half of the magic for us was to get reactions. You can almost see the actors read the paragraph before they launch into it and their facial reaction is the unexpected nature of what they’re reading. And we thought, if we could capture that in one take with three different cameras – that would make some great content.”
But still, while it’s lovely to see some big name personalities such as Ita Buttrose and Vince Colosimo taking part in the initiative wouldn’t family members evoke stronger emotion?
The allotted timeframe made it difficult, said Clow. “I think researching and finding those family members would be, within the timescale that we had, unachievable,” he said, but added it’s an option for next year.
However, he did note the final letter being read out on ANZAC Day by actor Josh Lawson is one from the great-grandfather of copywriter, James Wills. “Obviously quite a poignant story for him to be involved in.”
One thing that really struck Clow was the cast and crew giving up their time for the project. He confirmed the actors and personalities weren’t paid, neither was the production company Finch, nor the team at GPY&R.
“It was hats off to these actors who’ve donated their time. Hats off to Finch who did a wonderful job in helping us get the actors.”