Ogilvy Group Creative Directors Lisa Fedyszyn and Jonathan McMahon talk through the creative thinking behind their comedy-action spectacular
Considering the number of A-grade action cop movies out there (Point Break, Bad Boys II etc.), it’s surprising that police recruitment videos aren’t usually that popular. Thankfully, the New Zealand Police recently changed that with their sensational recruitment video, created by Ogilvy New Zealand and directed by Damian Shatford of The Sweet Shop. An adrenaline-drenched action romp, punctuated by a bunch of cheeky gags, it’s three minutes of unadulterated entertainment that’s captured people’s imagination the world over. People are even making parodies of it.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Lisa Fedyszyn and Jonathan McMahon, group creative directors at Ogilvy, to find out what they were thinking when they created this internet sensation.
LBB> What strategic insights were key in creating this campaign? How did they shape the way it came together?
LF> The key insight was probably the fact that New Zealand is such a multicultural country, but that is not represented in the police.
JM> Yeah, I think the NZ Police is currently 65% male and 80% White European New Zealanders, so we needed more diversity among the ranks where they had a team that’s more reflective of the communities they serve.
LF> Some other insights were around the fact that a lot of people get put off because they think you have to be extremely physically fit to be a cop and that sometimes you’ll have to handle dangerous situations on your own, so these are parts we cover in the video when we have that gag with the bodybuilder being overly fit and where we highlight two Black Ferns who are teammates on the rugby field and in the police as well.
LBB> Maybe I'm just being narrow-minded here, but I can't imagine a police department is an easy client to get ambitious creative ideas signed off by. How did you convince them this was a good idea? Was there anything they were anxious about?
LF> They’re a really great client actually. If you look at what they post on their social media channels they’re up for fun and being involved in the community. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to buy any old thing. They wanted to talk about how they’re looking for more diversity among their ranks and that got us thinking, “Who would be a spokesperson who can talk to everyone?” That’s basically how we came up with having many spokespeople to deliver the one message.
JM> If you listen to the dialogue throughout, it’s pretty straight forward, delivering the message and information the client wanted to communicate. So, in that regard we ticked every box of the brief. Then, after the dialogue was written we applied the gags and entertainment – Which was the approach we said we were going to take and the client was down with from day dot.
The only thing I would say they were cautious about was not having too many crazy flips or parkour moves, because they didn’t want people thinking they needed to be that physical to join the police. But there are still some in the film, and the client knew it was all there to entertain and get people talking.
LBB> Can you tell us about the casting process? Did you have cops queuing up with dreams of a future in acting? How long did it take to find the right ones?
JM> The casting process basically saw the police send out a note to all their staff asking if anyone wanted to be in it. They have about 12,000 employees and I think a few hundred said they were keen. Then they all submitted videos and from there, our director Damien Shatford, got many in to run through different lines while running on treadmills, or on the spot. From there, it was just about selecting the best for each role.
LF> I don’t think any were hoping for a future in acting - in fact we were loving Zion, the officer who opens and closes the ad, and then we heard she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it. But thankfully she did, she was great. They all were.
LBB> It's a funny script but it’s Damien's direction that really makes sure the gags land. What attracted you to him as a director?
LF> Damien is a very thorough, detailed director and really collaborative. He is always thinking and wanting to chat and come up with new thoughts, sequences and gags, and it’s for all these reasons we chose him. It’s not just his talents on set but the fact he’s very approachable and personable too.
LBB> The film has a really believable aesthetic. It looks like one of those dramatic police camera documentaries. What were your considerations on that?
LF> There was plenty of reference thrown around, from us to production company and visa versa. There was talk of everything from Hot Fuzz to Baby Driver to Hunt for the Wilderpeople to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to some Swedish film I’d never heard of, and other films.
JM> At one point we show the angle from the Police Helicopter and that is shot more like what you’d expect to see from one of their cameras, rather than the style the rest of the film was shot. So, there were a lot of considerations on the approach.
LBB> It's had an amazing reaction online. What are your favourite responses?
JM> There we plenty of good reactions. I liked hearing from other cops around the world praising it, wishing their countries would do the same.
LF> It’s just nice to get so many positive reactions. It’s great to hear comments like, “sign me up” and “I’m going to join.” Whether those actual people did or not I don’t know, but the Police have had a great response with a month’s worth of enquiries in one day. So, I feel the fact that it’s working has been the best response we could get. Well, that and the quote from the Huffington Post that said: “This hilarious police video confirms New Zealand is cooler than Australia.”