Is it me... or is this the era of the info-ad?

Cartoon 7 Nov 2011 Gonk.jpg

With the unrelenting rise of the machines, there’s a constant need to explain new technology to us mere mortals. Films to make things clearer are a modern necessity. It’s an infomercial boom not seen since the heady, tank-top ridden days of the Open University programmes.

This increasing need for clarification has spurned a new breed of info-ads: no set – no frills. In fact, lo-fi is an art form. Recent work from major brands like Tesco and Waitrose have picked up where the classic Apple “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” left off. And in a way, this revival makes sense. In these austere times it pays to say: ‘no cars were blown up during this commercial because you know what? We’re all in this together.’ Now get out your wallet.

So I decided it was time I tried this unplugged approach for myself. I got the chance thanks to the lovely people at Freesat. They needed their new on-demand facility explaining in a way that would engage a target audience of middle aged males. So my Eano partner and I decided to enlist an old friend to help us out. A nostalgic figure to counteract the latest technology we now couldn’t possibly live without. Enter…

…The Gonk.

A true 70’s icon. Cue memories of childhood with flashes of Rally Choppers on the side. The little guy with big hair was deemed to be perfect iconography for the launch. The only problem was we weren’t the only people with Gonks on the brain. Enter…

…Steven Spielberg.

It appears that following the success of TinTin, Mr. DreamWorks now has his sights set on Gonk heaven. Great news for Gonks agents, bad news for us. When I was a kid you couldn’t put your hand behind the sofa without finding at least three, now we couldn’t find a Gonk anywhere. Savvy collectors were snapping them up and waiting. Waiting for the Gonk Renaissance.

With filming just 48 hours away, we came across a Canadian hippy called “Sky” selling a handful of Gonks for $3.50. She obviously doesn’t read Variety. Franticly, and looking back, perhaps irrationally, we offered her $100 plus air freight to ship our celebrity Gonks first class from Big Bear Lake to our North London studio. Disaster averted. Surely?

Afraid not. At the eleventh hour, our tie-dye savior backed out of the deal citing “unmanageable pressure and unrealistic deadlines”. I mean please, I’ve done my time in some tough Post Office queues but they’re not that arduous.

Just as I’d resigned myself to an orange wig and, well, the rest is too hideous to repeat, our fabulous prop master (and I don’t use theatrical expletives like that often) sourced a throng of our hairy friends deep in the Welsh Valleys. God bless eBay. Oh, and in the end, somewhat inevitably, we used the original Gonk.

The film turned out great by the way, check it out below if you don’t believe me.

5D, lo-fi and high production values were supplied by the uber-creative Simon Paul. The fantastic Artillery supplied post, graphics and generally more than our modest budget deserved. And the music was handled by our old friends, cc.lab. Cheers guys.

So what have we learnt? Well, it’s safe to say, the number of lo-fi ads produced is only going to increase. This should provide some interesting cross-platform work for brands, companies and individuals out there on the grind. What struck me again about the experience was that it’s still all about filmmaking.

So if I had one bit of advice for directors out there, it would be this: embrace it – a good director is a versatile director. Oh, and hang on to your Gonks until after Summer 2012.