“We treat every project as a unique opportunity to create something exciting”
London, August 14th, 2018
London headquartered Brave Spark is the brain child of Rob Remington Drake and Robin Shek. Having met earlier on in their careers while making documentaries for the BBC and SKY, they found their creative affinity drawing them together.
Rob says, “Back then, content was barely crawling out of the digital primordial soup, and if brands managed to create a viral, it was usually completely by accident, rather than the months of strategy and planning that goes on these days.”
From the very beginning, Robin and Rob enjoyed playing around with cameras to create stories. And precisely stories are at the heart of what Brave Spark offers to brands. The agency’s mission has remained the same from the start, ‘to tell unexpected stories in unexpected ways.’
“I’d done the rounds at the big advertising agencies but the changing digital landscape meant I’d always envisioned a space for hybrid of creative and production in digital,” notes Rob and adds, “That’s been our mission from day one: ‘to offer the bells and whistles of a creative agency while being able to produce and edit in the same building.’ So in 2010 Brave Spark was born… Robin and I where in our bedrooms dreaming about Brave Spark, and our overdrafts were ready to challenge our ambitions.”
Today the pair have, not only graduated from their bedrooms into a fancy office in Shoreditch, but have also recently opened an office in LA and added a team of incredibly talented people that just want to make great work.
With a smile on his face Rob says, “I get to tell stories for a living… how cool is that! The 10 year old me would be grinning in his little purple and lime green shell suit.”
“It’s all about telling stories, as we have always done. But now we do it in ways I couldn’t have imagined, creating work across digital, TV, interactive video, VR and AR for some of the biggest brands in the world… everyone from Microsoft, JEEP and Nivea all the way to Pepsi, Mattel and Glenfiddich”.
“Because we have delivered on our mission to provide that full capability in house, from insight and creative to production, post-production and web development, we treat every project as a unique opportunity to create something exciting that consumers want to be part of… not just an ad that’s served at them. No shellsuits anymore though… Sadly.”
Can you please define creative video storytelling?
I’m a big fan of getting back to the proposition, not the product and what it does. Why does our client exist and how can we leave the customer with a feeling? The trick is to then find a story that exists at the perfect place between the client’s proposition and the customer’s. Stop telling the customer who you are and what you do, and instead make them feel something.
If that sounds abstract, that’s because it is. And that’s why data is so important in understanding the usual segment tension points… but it’s important to look more at the editorial, movies and narratives your customer consumes to find out the stories that move them.
Once you’ve cracked that, you’ve got the bracket that your entire campaign collateral can fit within and that’s when you can start to create the assets that will live throughout the consumer funnel… but it always has to come back to the proposition, not the product.
How often do you use video on your creative campaigns? Does video win over other techniques – such as interactive graphics?
Video is a powerful tool, one of the most powerful weapons in a campaign strategy but it’s not a magic wand.
Like any campaign you need to work out where you are targeting your audience and build from there… and video is often, but not always the best ways to draw them in. The important thing is the story, not the mechanics.
But if you are using video think about what type is best to tell that story. It could be a silent three second GIF, a 10 second social film, or a longer, interactive adventure… in fact I’m a big fan of breaking the mould of linear lean back experiences and creating experiences in which the user wants to lean forward and get involved with the story, and therefore your proposition.
There’s been quite a few times over the past few years where we’ve picked up briefs where the client has asked for a VR execution (which are always tempting because they’re fun to make) but it hasn’t been the right mechanic to engage the audience, so we’ve challenged them on that.
In your opinion, what ingredients are essential to tell a story through video successfully? What’s the secret to connecting specific emotional responses to the visual form?
It’s really simple but so many people get it wrong. Make a story for your audience, not for your board or company stakeholders. Make them feel something, and they’ll remember you.
There’s plenty of techniques you can use around this – surprise and delight, anticipation building or simply shining a light on a truth – but the most important thing is honing in on the emotional takeaway.
It also helps that everyone at Brave Spark just loves creating cool stuff… we all have a lot of fun making the work we do and I think that translates onto the consumers.
What challenges do you face today in your agency/ with your team?
The industry has changed so much over the past few years and a lot of the bigger agencies have struggled to keep up with the smaller budgets and timeframes but because we built the agency to be lean and agile, we’re lucky that our biggest challenge is a nice one to have; scaling up.
But it’s not something we’re in a hurry to do. We have great clients, whom we have a healthy relationship with, where we can both challenge and be challenged so that the best work is created. And Robin and I want to stay at the sharp end of the work, so that we don’t just become a video factory that churns quantity out.
What first drew you to the creative field?
When I was a child and was told I could make a living telling stories, I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do something I Iove to pay the bills.
To which qualities of creativity are you most sensitive?
Narrative arcs. And that doesn’t need to be on epic proportions either… one of my favourite examples is (allegedly) Hemingway’s famous six word story – ‘For Sale. Babies shoes. Never worn.’
By Geny Caloisi.
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