Shooting an advert for TV is more complicated than you’d imagine. And during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, it goes way beyond that.
But a watch as mould-breaking as the new C60 Sapphire deserves a campaign that takes it to as broad an audience as possible. And that meant creating a TV commercial that’s not only beautiful but also shows the two qualities that make Christopher Ward unique. First: an obsession with creating top-quality watches, and second, not taking ourselves too seriously.
Broadcast across channels including Sky Witness, Sky1 and Sky Atlantic, the ad starts with a close-up of the Sapphire’s mechanical movement Sellita SW200. Then a voiceover begins.
“There’s nothing our Swiss chums enjoy more than being precise,” it says. “So, when we encouraged the Swiss to be more, well, Swiss, we wondered whether we were pushing it a bit too far.”
The voice belongs to TV producer and the man behind QI, John Lloyd. The result of years of exceptionally good living – and perhaps one or two sessions in the pub – his well-worn brogue delivers the script with quintessentially English understatement. When he says “precisely” it sounds like he’s swilling a rare single malt around his mouth.
Martin Galton is Creative Director at Working Beehive, the agency behind the ad. He says John Lloyd was the obvious choice.
“I wrote the script with him in mind,” says Martin. “We were after dry, English wit – and John’s voice captures this perfectly, adding just the right warmth and personality to the brand. I was also looking for a voice for a-long running campaign. A voice that would always be associated with Christopher Ward: one you’d hear, and immediately think ‘Christopher Ward’. It’s one of the memory structures that makes advertising stick in the brain.”
And did John nail it in one take?
“Yes, his first read was superb, but as in any voice recording, we gave ourselves options.
I think it was his fourth read we used. It just had a bit more colour to it.”
The footage is also exceptional, taking us deep into the movement, and showing off the watch’s translucent dial. Something that took a lot of patience, according to Greg Jordan, Producer at Beehive.
“Shooting in macro needs precision equipment, as any shake on the camera is magnified to earthquake proportions,” says Greg. “When we did a take, we all had to stand still, and the DOP (Director of Photography) operating the camera had to hold his breath.”
One piece of equipment was especially useful. “We needed a motion-control rig to move the watches rather than the camera to avoid camera shake,” says Greg. “The motion control rig is computer-operated and works on fine gearing, so there’s no shake. And it can repeat the same move time after time, eliminating human error.”
Another difficulty came from staff shortages caused by the lockdown. Instead of a crew of 20, there were just five people involved.
“It should have been a three-day shoot,” says Greg. “We allowed for six and used them all. Normally we’d check each shot with the creatives and the client. As they couldn’t be present, we uploaded all the shots at the end of the day. They had to take a leap of faith that we wouldn’t balls it up. Thankfully I don’t think we did!”
One final thing was the timing. With the current crisis, is it wise to launch a campaign now? Tim Hollins, Head of Strategy at Beehive, thinks so.
“It’s about building a brand reputation, despite the situation,” he says. “And leveraging a direct-only business model that means people can still buy from CW. The watches haven’t changed, despite the situation we’re in.”
The final word goes to Mike France, CEO and Co-Founder of Christopher Ward. He sees lockdown, not as an obstacle, but an opportunity.
“We’re lucky to be working with a group of independent agencies who not only share our counter-intuitive view that this is the best time to launch our first TV campaign, but have the ability, agility and determination to deliver such an innovative piece of work.”
Could there be a better example of something that sums up the campaign’s tagline: ‘Ingeniously English. Unsurprisingly Swiss’?