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High Five: Penny Verbe



The CEO of Accenture Song Production Studios gives us a bonus sixth option to High Five as she looks back over an eclectic range of ads that hit the spot

High Five: Penny Verbe

Thank you to LBB for asking me to take a trip down memory lane. Who am I? I was an original founder of Smoke & Mirrors, and many many years later (27 to be exact) am now CEO of Accenture Song Production Studios. Still loving our incredibly creative industry, here’s a few of my favourite ads. Full disclosure: I might have been involved with three of them...

Levi Strauss & Co. - 'Spaceman'

The five of us had just set up Smoke & Mirrors, using our houses as collateral which certainly gives you a fair amount of motivation. We had two flames set up in some barely decorated rooms in Covent Garden. Somehow Vaughan and Anthea, the eponymous directing duo, and Sir John Hegarty and Phillipa Crane at BBH, trusted we could help them make this incredibly full on VFX-laden ad for them. The tech was still nascent and tended to crash - think hundreds of layers, five-day renders...if you got it wrong, you had to start all over again. I think we had about six weeks for production, which sounds like a long time now but back then was nothing like enough time. I don’t think any of us had more than a few hours’ sleep a day (if we were lucky). Somehow we managed it. I’m still not quite sure how but the adrenaline certainly helped. It will always have a place in my heart, it’s a little bit bonkers, very stylish and put us on the map thanks to the help and belief of some very talented, supportive, and quite frankly, patient people.

John West - 'Salmon'

Agency: Leo Burnett
Production: Rattling Stick
Director: Daniel Kleinman
Editorial: Cut+Run

By accident, we were involved with the first viral ad of all time - those didn’t exist back in 2000, so everyone I knew contacted me and asked me to email them it...which crashed our server. This was when email and the internet were in its early days, five years before YouTube even existed. Danny’s brilliant direction and comedic timing still makes me smile. There was sod all money - sorry, a ‘challenging budget’ - so it was all about how can we make one man in a bear suit look real.  The answer? Shoot it on a long lens, far far away, then you couldn’t really see the bear suit - which was actually a bit of a moth-eaten old thing. I can’t tell you how many people called me up to ask me if that was a real bear we trained. I had a lot fun telling people that, yes, we had trained a bear to do kung fu. By the way, if you’re wondering what we actually did on this, we added more ‘bears’.

Stella Artois - 'Devils Island 2002'

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Fabulous script, casting, direction and post-production, of course. Not only an epic mini feature film but it almost never made it to the big screen. Directed by the lovely Jonathan Glazer, I remember getting a phone call to say some enterprising Argentinians had stolen the negative and were holding it to ransom, as their economy had crashed big time. Best excuse I’ve ever heard to move a schedule. Getting this on air seemed like a huge achievement.

Old Spice - 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like'

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Tom Kuntz
Editorial: Final Cut
Post: The Mill

I had nothing to do with this one, but I wish I had. The casting, the script, the timing...the ridiculously straight delivery of "I’m on a horse. I’m on a boat"...just brilliant. I laughed my ass off. Still do. I should watch it every day to cheer myself up. Note to self.

Sport England - 'This Girl Can'

Production: Somesuch
Director: Kim Gehrig
Post: Framestore
Editorial: Trim
Sound: Wave x Soundtree

This genuinely brought a lump to my throat. It made me proud to be female on a lot of levels. It's also the first time I’ve ever seen cellulite in an ad.  My favourite Missy Elliott track and the - as always - spot on direction of Kim Gehrig, who is genuinely one the nicest directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Project Everyone - 'The World's To Do List: 2021'

Agency: Karmarama
Production & Post: nineteentwenty
Director: Ludo Fealy
Sound: 750mph

Karmarama totally nailed the brief to 'save the world’ in a simple, relatable and beautifully executed way. Love this! Now let’s get the hell on with doing some of them can we? PLEASE!?

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Accenture Song UK, Wed, 14 Sep 2022 11:30:05 GMT