Philips chooses Web for epic advertisement

Selling consumers on a $4,000 home-theater TV these days requires some epic advertising.

Ad agency Tribal DDB and the Stink Digital shop delivered just that with an ad to help electronics giant Philips roll out a new set in its CinemaOne line that has a 56-inch, high-definition (1080p) LCD screen built to movie proportions.

The assignment was to "own the idea of having a cinematic viewing experience at home," says Chris Baylis, executive creative director at Tribal DDB Amsterdam. "From a production point of view, we thought it would suit the Web (rather than TV) and allow for better interaction."

So the final ad is not epic in the sense of the traditional big-budget, celebrity TV ad. But it is epic in its ambition: create an online video with an engaging cinematic storyline that also shows off the features of the product, and do it in an interactive way to pull the viewer in.

The story for the ad — a quirky tale of evil clowns and a hospital heist gone bust — was not the first choice. But the original idea for a Mission: Impossible rescue-theme story set at an opera house was deemed a little too ambitious. "We had a script on the table, but it was too big to achieve in the time and budget required, so we had to rewind a bit," Baylis says.

Instead, admakers went with the clowns and filmed the story as a single-shot, frozen-motion movie for the Web. The video, at, lets people click on the screen to move and manipulate the shot and view "hot spots" within the video. It was all designed to let people learn more about movie-making and movie-watching.

The video highlights the key screen shape feature and a signature Philips backlighting feature called Ambilight. The screen proportion — known in home theater as its "aspect ratio" — is 21:9, the standard wide-screen cinema format. Watchers of the ad video can toggle between that and the standard flat-screen TV proportion of 16:9, illustrating the black bars or distortion of the movie. They also can view with and without simulated Ambilight.

"We wanted people to experience the difference between 16:9 and 21:9 TV, and we wanted them to experience between having Ambilight on and Ambilight off," says Gary Raucher, head of integrated marketing communications for Philips consumer lifestyle.

The breakthrough design helped the second ad, at two minutes, 19 seconds (21:9, get it?), win the top award at the recent Cannes International Advertising Festival. Parts of it, along with the TV in a product placement, will show up in a new 50 Cent music video, OK, You're Right.

Directed by Adam Berg, the ad was shot in three days by a crew of 100. It underwent five weeks of post-production to fit in the interactive features.

One thing the high-tech video does not have: computer-generated character imagery. The frozen motion was achieved with the actors holding their positions as they were filmed by a camera on a motion-control rig.

"We used stuntmen and dancers and other people who could hold their pose for a long time," Baylis says. (You can watch the Philips Carousel "how they did it" video at YouTube.)

"Everyone thinks it was a Dark Knight thing," Baylis says. "But it was really to demonstrate the product."


Q: I recently saw T-Mobile's new commercial with Catherine Zeta-Jones. I know she has been a spokesperson for them in the past and I was wondering when they decided to bring her back.

— Brianna Johnson, Charlottesville, Va.

A:T-Mobile brought her back last month. She urges people to evaluate the cost of their mobile plan. The message: Get a Mobile Makeover. She was the lead T-Mobile spokesperson from 2002, for the launch of the brand in the U.S., through 2007. T-Mobile brought her back thinking her celebrity will help get attention in the sea of mobile marketing. The landscape has changed greatly since she was last in their ads, thanks in part to the iPhone.

"There's no one better to grab people's attention to let them know they're probably paying too much for their wireless service," said Denny Marie Post, chief marketing officer. "Catherine returns as a familiar spokesperson for the value that T-Mobile has consistently provided."

Q: I recently heard an ad for a new sweetener, (I think PureVia), which sounded a lot like Julia Roberts. Could it be her? And what does a star of her status receive as compensation for voiceovers?

—Kathy Irvine, Madison, Wis.

A:The only star in PureVia ads is beach volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, who appears in new print ads.

The commercial you mention is for rival sweetener Truvia and the voice is voiceover actress Colette Whitaker. She's been the voice in other ads, including for McDonald's, Ikea, Supercuts, Uncle Ben's Rice and Clorox. She also does character voices for movies, TV and video games and is the announcer on the HGTV show House Hunters.

The Ad Team agrees that Whitaker sounds at times like Roberts, who certainly would command more money. But the rate for anyone doing such work depends on use rights and on where and for how long the ad will appear