Concept comparison: actor vs. still image

It’s not unusual to go through multiple concept and copy revisions, even after the client chooses a direction. What was interesting to me during the Venture Match My Miles campaign was how the versions changed what I had to do as the copywriter.

In a previous post, I mentioned that we started the project before Alec Baldwin was secured as spokesman and then finished it with him green screened with my dialogue.

What happened in between was a series of scripts I wrote for three different scenarios: the first (and much hoped for) in which Alec would do the read on video; the second in which we’d have only still images of him with his voiceover; and the third in which we’d have still images of him with text onscreen and no VO.

What I noticed was how much harder the copy and concept had to work with each variation. The less there was of the real actor, the more the copy had to compensate.

Take a look at the opening scene to the left, for example.

In the final script, really only two Jack Donaghy-style jokes remain. The first one is “redemption policies that even your hairdresser’s lawyer can’t explain,” which Alec delivers himself in the first 10 seconds. The majority is pure offer.

In the “worst case scenario,” however, where we’d have stills and no VO, my copy had to do all the heavy lifting.

Hence this opening scene.

It’s the copywriting version of coming out swinging. The rest of this script used the star’s still as a cardboard cutout, placing him in different locales to turn its static nature into the joke itself. At the same time, we used the notion of travel, which is the heart of the offer, as part of the concept to enhance the humor of what changed in each scene vs. what didn’t.

Those scenes looked like this.

In this case, it would have  meant more time to get the actor to commit to costume changes, which would also mean more makeup sessions. And it would have required more stock images, as well as more time for art direction.

All in all, it added up to a greater endeavor than having Alec read on camera, which we were fortunate to get him to agree to do.

The key takeaway for clients is not to underestimate the impact that various restrictions, or opportunities, can have on your creative result. And also not to make assumptions about resource cost until all variables are accounted for.

You might assume, for example, that a live shoot is going to be more expensive and time-consuming than just having the art director do magic in Adobe Photoshop. But as we just saw, it’s not always the case.

For creatives, and especially copywriters, the key takeaway is to always be ready to look at an idea in multiple dimensions. And even more than that, which really comes down to the heart of the creative: be ready for anything.