We spoke to Sam Ahmed - who goes by Sam Bombay - former adman and present day ad film director, about his new Oppo commercial.
Chinese smartphone brand Oppo, has recently launched a new digital film to promote its phone, the Oppo F3. The ad titled Oppo F3 - Your Best Diwali Gift, was launched on Facebook and YouTube on September 26. The seven-and-half-minute video uploaded by the brand on its Facebook page, has garnered close to 10 million views with 8.3 lakh views for the six-and-half-minute long video on the brand's YouTube channel.
About his experience directing the film, Sam Ahmed, who goes by Sam Bombay, tells afaqs!, "It was challenging because I was with the cricketers in Sri Lanka during the Sri Lanka-India series and had to shoot in the hotel they were staying at because they couldn't come to the location. The other challenge was - we were given a very ugly place to shoot in. I had to cut it out because it just didn't suit the rest of the film. I had the cricketers for only three hours. But Virat Kohli is great; he memorises the script immediately and he is ready to go. Shooting in the heat of Jaipur was another challenge. We took three and half days to shoot the ad across Sri Lanka and Jaipur (where the bulk of it was shot). And on some days, we shot for 18 hours..." This film has been produced by Fusion Films.
In 2013, Sam moved on from Rediffusion-Y&R (after spending about eight months there as vice-chairman and chief creative officer) to pursue ad film direction. Sam runs his own production house called Bombay Matinee Films. "In advertising, life is fun, but with direction, you are more focused and singular... and I am not really 'out of advertising' since I am the agency for Oppo and do most of their creative stuff. A lot of stuff happens in China, but whatever they do for this market, I end up writing for them." For its outdoor ads, Oppo works with Platinum Media.
In this ad, the glossy, zoomed-in product shots are conspicuous by their absence. Ahmed says, "The kind of work I do with Oppo is always brand-centric, not product-centric. When they come to me, I tell them I don't want to do that product stuff; there is just no joy in that for me. And the brand was clear they want to make it cricket-centric."
When Sam and Oppo started out on this film, the idea was to cap it at three minutes, but the final result is much longer. "If the content is interesting, one gets the attention span to look at it. Yes, people would prefer a 60-second-story, but if the content is interesting, everybody has time for it," says a confident Sam.
How much has ad film making evolved since he last sat on the agency side of things? "I don't think it is evolving at all," Sam tells afaqs, "But there are some smart clients who know what they want to do. I think the smart, savvy people are now working on the client side; previously, the savvy ones were on the agency side. For agencies, it has now become depressing... Everything is evolving and nobody seems to have any idea what is happening. But some great minds are still in advertising -Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Josy Paul - so there's hope..."
For this ad, Oppo collaborated and directed with Sam, there was no creative agency involved. When directing an ad, does working with an agency seem restrictive? "No," says Sam, adding, "On the contrary, I feel restricted when I work with Oppo because there is such a huge responsibility. Their faith is debilitating because if somebody trusts you then you have to deliver your 'A' game. Whereas with the agencies, they are the agent between me and the client; agencies help with a lot of the hygiene checks, which makes it easier for me, because they are managing the client. But yes, I do prefer writing myself."
In the past week, few brands have already started to push their Diwali communications. We asked our experts if this ad has the 'X' factor to break the clutter and if the length will be able to sustain viewers' attention till the end?
Naren Multani, an ad film director and co-founder of Puppet Pictures, says, "There is a certain X factor with the Apsara, time travel, kana Raja, tiger drops, and the Indian cricket team all woven into the same story. So in that sense it will definitely stand out. It is very long and with the kind of attention span today's generations has, I wonder how many will watch it till the end."
Adding about the direction and execution, Multani says, "Nicely directed and some good quality in the production. The casting could have been better. Just wish the ad was much, much shorter."
Gopa Kumar, executive vice president, Isobar India, says, "With regards to this ad having the 'X factor' and breaking the clutter, it does have one thing going for it - it has Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and the Indian cricket team, so it has all the star power to grab attention and cut through the festive clutter. Also, it's an interesting execution of the narrative which is unlike any other competition set in the market. Definitely a commendable effort in trying to create an ad with a storytelling approach."
Kumar finds the ad lengthy. He adds, "That's the problem, seven minute ads in this day and age of bite-sized content delivery needs to be really engaging and engrossing to hold interest and attention. While the effort needs to be appreciated, the entire story line tends to drop mid-way and it fails to hold any interest by the end. The Selfie Story seems to be a force fit in the overall narrative."