Director Tal Zagreba and Leo Burnett Israel’s Adam Polachek and Shai Nissenboim embrace jazz hands and a sense of perspective
LBB> What was the insight that led to this strategy around the phone's ability to stop tech crises from happening?
Adam and Shai> The Samsung Galaxy Note9 is a cell phone that has been engineered to suit the demands of the modern day worker and manager. Our cell phones have become an integral part of people’s work toolkit, that’s why Samsung created a cell phone that could handle people’s almost impossible demands of their phone. A phone that would work fast, be able to complete a number of tasks simultaneously, that could be remote controlled from afar, that’d have a great quality camera but most importantly – a cell phone with battery that would last all day. Why? Because every time our modern-day workers encounter a problem with their phone, a crisis arises and it’s our modern age’s overuse of that word that has led to the devaluation of the term and its loss of any real impact. That’s exactly what we wanted to communicate – work with the new Samsung Galaxy Note9 and you’ll be able to keep the crisis for the real crisis.
LBB> And from there you got to the musical! How did you get to that place creatively?
Adam and Shai> There were a few ideas on the table, but we were looking to create local premium type content that would convey the premium nature of the phone and brand as, after all, this is their flagship model which targets a very upscale audience. Musicals have a premium quality to them and as such we felt there was a high correlation between this genre and our audience. That’s also why we decided to work on the “crisis” piece with Shlomi Shaban who is a world renowned pianist, composer and lyricist and is very familiar with creating content for this type of audience.
LBB> Why was Tal the right director for the job and what did he bring to the idea to really elevate it?
Adam and Shai> First of all, Tal is super talented and over the past two years he has been setting the tone for a new and fresh kind of film direction in Israel. Keeping in mind the premium quality of our brand, he was exactly the typecast we were looking for – a new generation of film directors that felt connected to our product and would demand it keep pace with his lifestyle while taking maximum advantage of all its features. So when you put these two things together, Tal completely suited the brief of the type of person we were after to direct our commercial. The idea was to focus on office situations and it is Tal’s approach to things that enabled us to widen its scope and take it into much more grandiose territories, like the desert and the airport. The kind of places that explain in no uncertain terms what a real crisis situation is (as opposed to the ‘fake’ office crisis). Tal infused the commercial with a certain cinematic dimension which we really liked and was exactly what we were after.
LBB> What was it about the idea that appealed to you, Tal?
Tal> The concept really made me laugh. I immediately felt that with such a strong “Keep the ‘crisis’ for a real crisis” insight we had an incredible opportunity to go wild with the visuals to make a real wicked video.
LBB> What was your starting point for figuring out the way into this musical extravaganza? And were there any musicals that particularly inspired you?
Tal> Our main references were two brilliant commercials: Old Spice’s ‘Mom Song’ and Tide’s ‘It’s a Tide Ad’. I thought that the combination between Mom Song’s exaggerated musical structure with Tide Ad’s sharp nonchalant sense of humour might achieve a really fun video to watch. I hope it worked.
LBB> There's a real dreamy, fantastical quality to the visuals - the hazy sunlight, the warm glow throughout – that contrasts nicely with the stylised grey office. How did you develop the look of the commercial with the art director and production designer and cinematographer?
Tal> I developed these looks with my incredible DOP, Roman Linetsky, and amazing art director, Netta Dror – together we discussed every detail from the pre-production stage to the final video.
It was so much fun to make this ad with so many talented peers, and that’s a good opportunity to thank Leo Burnett for their faith in me and their amazing collaborative work, the production company Omri Paz Productions and my agency and co-production company Great Guns.
LBB> From La La Land to The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia, movie musicals seem to be having such a resurgence right now! Why do you think that is and was that something you specifically wanted to tap into?
Adam and Shai> Musicals allow you to incorporate a certain amount of humour into your storytelling and lighten up the plot while still preserving a very premium style. So alongside the global brand materials, which convey a very precise and stylish account of the cell phone’s capabilities, we wanted to create a piece of content that would be catchy, humorous and suited to our target audience. But more importantly we wanted to create a piece of content that would bounce off daily situations and interactions our audience has with their phone. The best way to do that in our mind was to ridicule office crises and call them out for what they really are – not crises! And so from a creative standpoint, working on writing a musical together with an artist as talented as Shlomi Shaban totally hit that sweet spot.
LBB> Tell me about the song - did you know what style/genre you wanted for the song itself or was it a process to discover that sound? And who did you work with on the song?
Adam and Shai> The reason we contacted Shlomi Shaban for the job was that his musical style is very unique and of a very high standard. Shlomi Shaban has that distinctive quality of being able to convey a story through song and, paired with his musical prowess, it was exactly what we were looking for.
We initially instructed him about the broad lines of what it is we wanted him to say and then gave him a lot of creative liberty in bringing that to shape. We knew full well that working this way we would ultimately have to adapt the actual film to his storytelling. This created quite a few dilemmas and production challenges that needed to be overcome – but if you get past those, the result is really worth it.
Tal> The idea was to refer to Hollywood’s golden age musical movies – with a modern humorous touch. Shlomi Shaban is a virtuoso. We all fell in love with this song from the first time we’ve heard it.
LBB> What about the casting – tell us about the spot’s stressed out protagonist and Shlomi Shaban, the pianist…
Tal> After finding out that Shlomi Shaban was going to be the pianist who leads the ad, I needed a charismatic lead actor for the protagonist role to perform the crazy situations Shlomi sang about. I immediately thought of Gal Friedman, a brilliant actor from the Israeli ensemble ‘Tziporela’ - that I adore. The match between Shlomi and Gal was out of this world and we couldn’t stop laughing during the shoot. A big shout out to Gal for not complaining even once, though we tortured him in every scene and even shaved his glorious beard (as seen in the desert scene) to a super kinky moustache.
LBB> What were some of the interesting challenges involved in this project and how did you overcome them?
Adam and Shai> Essentially we had three big challenges, failing at any one of them would have caused the whole project to collapse:
1. The schedule – we had only three weeks to produce the commercial from start to finish.
2. Budget – as this was a local production and not a global one, the budget was significantly smaller
3. Working with talent – Shlomi Shaban and Tal Zagreba
We knew that if we could get these talents on board, under the prescribed budget limitations and in that particular timeframe, the result would be spectacular. There were three weeks of intensive work with sometimes 20-hour long days. But in retrospect no one remembers that, we’re just happy with the result. The project lived up to our expectations and we totally achieved what we set out to do, which was create a local piece of content up to international standards for one of the world’s strongest and most influential brands.
Tal> My DOP and I decided to raise the bar and make it more interesting by shooting almost every scene in a one single camera pull out/in – without any additional cuts. Not easy to do under serious time pressures but totally worth it visually. It all became possible thanks to the professional crew, the amazing cast and a bit of luck.
LBB> The commercial has been picked up all over - why do you think it's been so appealing?
Adam and Shai> I think the commercial rests on an insight everyone can relate to and has fabulous production values. When you pair that with a brand as premium as Samsung, it just works.
Tal> First, I think that the insight is very global and many people from different places can identify with it. Second, I tried to create a universal aesthetic language for each set – so the office, desert, sauna and airport could be located anywhere in the world. Third, the song is very charming and based on musicals we are all familiar with. Fourth, the humour: we used a very visual humour to make it entertaining, funny and clear to everyone. But the most important reason: a piano on a wing.
LBB> The message is all about having a sense of perspective - are you someone who panics or do you reckon you've got a pretty cool head?
Adam and Shai> In general we are very cool headed, but… hold on a minute, we’ve got an email crisis in the office!
Tal> I think that I’ve got a pretty calm approach towards filmmaking: I’m trying to be focused on my vision, not wasting energy on getting into a panic.
As someone who’s never been to film school I’m directing mostly through my intuition and it has worked for me so far. I guess the intuition never lies.
LBB> What's your fave musical?
Tal> 'Sweet Charity'. I guess that’s the mixture of a plot, based on Fellini’s 'Nights of Cabiria', Shirley MacLaine and Sammy Davis Junior at their best, and the extravagant 'The Aloof' dance scene. Bob Fosse is a genius.
Adam and Shai> 'Not everything is a crisis' by Samsung.