July 2nd, 2015
The Making of “The Postcard”
Author: Amy VanHaren
How do you tell Vistaprint’s story inside the confines of a TV commercial? Our creative team decided that the best way for us to convey our story to consumers was to tell theirs. How did Vistaprint demonstrate that everything you create matters? With a postcard.
We interviewed the team behind one of our most creative and engaging outreach efforts to find out what it takes to tell the Vistaprint story. Meet Kim DiVincenzo, Creative Director.
Kim, what is your role at Vistaprint and in this brand spot?
I served as the creative director on the The Postcard project and have been at Vistaprint for ten years this July. I started as a graphic designer in an email acquisition channel of marketing before I transitioned into TV. My background is in film, so it was a really great move for me.
What is different about this project vs. others you’ve worked on at Vistaprint?
All of the TV ads we’ve done to date have been direct response ads that include an offer and a strong call to action. I have always wanted to work on true brand spot and create something that the audience can really connect with. My favorite ads are those that feel like mini-movies. Ads that tell a story with just the right visuals and music feel very powerful to me, especially when it ties to the brand in a way that feels natural. This was our first chance to really take that challenge on, and create something that people would want to watch and tell them what Vistaprint is really all about.
Tell me a bit about the process.
Well, we started out with a brief developed by the brand strategy team. Initially the goal was to tell Vistaprint’s story and focus on the quality of our offering. As we presented the first round of concepts, our strategy shifted from telling Vistaprint’s story to telling the story of our customers.
The second round of concepts honed in on the experience of small business owners but they didn’t connect enough to the Vistaprint brand. Our CMO didn’t want a generic ode to small business owners that anyone company could put their logo on. Our concept needed to tell an emotional story that was authentic to our customers and at the same time, showcase what Vistaprint does and what our brand stands for. One mandate we were given was to infuse our products throughout. The main challenge for Liam and I, was to find a way to do this without it feeling forced and riddled with tacky product placement.
So we went back to the drawing board and building off an earlier idea about family business, we decided to focus our story around the relationship between a father and son and their family business. This basic idea checked off a lot of what we needed to accomplish. Family business is relevant to our target, is rich with emotion and it allows us the perfect backdrop to incorporate our products.
So, we started there. As we continued to develop the story, we realized we could actually use our products to help drive the storyline. We could use them as storytelling devices.
Next we had to find a director who was a strong visual storyteller and somebody who could integrate our products in a natural way. Greg was our guy. He knew how to integrate our products seamlessly so the viewer barely noticed them until the reveal at very end when it all ties together and you realize how integral the products were throughout. Subtly is key. You have to entrust the viewer to make that connection.
Greg was also key in helping us really develop the story. Did we want a tailor shop or a bakery? How do we develop an evolving identity for the bakery? How does Barrett & Sons modernize and how is Vistaprint a part of that? Greg made sure our story was told is a way that was completely relatable yet still sparked something that reminded viewers of Vistaprint – that combination creates a powerful ad.
While our casting criteria may sound vague now, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted. It had to be believable that they were father and son. The father needed to be someone who felt like a dad and had both an authoritative and nurturing presence. We wanted the son to come off as a bit naïve, sweet and endearing but a hard worker who looked up to his dad. They had to have chemistry. On paper it all sounds very obvious but its actually quite difficult to get just the right qualities. You would be surprised at how little things like mannerisms and body movements can effect how someone is portrayed. We knew our spot was going to have any dialog because it needed to work across locales; so subtle things make all the difference when there isn’t dialog to guide the viewer.
Discovering and building the perfect location was the next big challenge.
For the bakery we wanted something with character and texture–a mixture of old and new. We were looking for brick and light and a lot of glass. It had to feel open and fresh.
It also had to work when the bakery was just a bakery but also give us room to expand when it later becomes a bakery and café. We also had to make sure all the locations we used were somewhat “generic” in that they wouldn’t feel totally out of place in anyone country.
The art department at Velocity was phenomenal. Once we locked down a location, they really transformed it. From the signage on windows and awnings, to the decorations on the walls, to the breads and pastries – they created an atmosphere that was warm and welcoming. In fact when we were on the shoot several people wandered in off the street thinking that it was an actual bakery!
We went to South Africa for a very long six days of production. We spent two days outfitting everyone with wardrobe, then we went directly into shooting – we shot over 60 shots in 11 different locations in a total 4 days. It was a whirlwind with a lot of wind (real wind!). There were times when we were wondering if it was even going to work. The grand opening banner was blowing away, everyone’s hair was whipping around but in the end it actually worked in our favor. Some of my favorite shots are the ones where the wind is really apparent. My two favorites are the shot of the father and son posing for their picture in front of the bakery with their aprons blowing and the shot of the father and the older son looking at the newly updated bakery awning with the son’s hair blowing everywhere. It just looks very real. You can’t plan for that.
We went right from shooting into editing. We knew we had to create a long form, a 60 and a 30 and we only had a week to do it. Thankfully, our editor, Rikki was incredibly fast and incredibly talented. We started with the long form. The main challenge with that was to figure out the right length. You can easily have something that is too long and the viewer gets bored and drops off before the end. We are already so invested in the story that it can be hard to take an objective stance and make a judgment call on what is really critical to the. We stared with a five minute cut. That was clearly too long but 2 minutes felt to short. We ended up at almost three and I still think that feels about right.
The 30 was an interesting challenge. We knew that it was going to be challenging to communicate a somewhat complicated story in 30 seconds so we decided to simplify the story and leave out the part where the son leaves. The 30 ends up being a nice little tale about a son who works with his father and eventually grows up and gets the business. It’s simple and sweet.
I like that the 60 and the long form give an added dimension to the story. With each version, you can get a better sense of who the characters are and their relationship. I think they all work pretty well together.
What did it mean to you to be a part of this and to see it come to life?
I’m so proud of The Postcard. The most terrifying but best part was presenting it to Vistaprint’s leadership group for the first time. We were on the phone from South Africa and they were all in Lexington. Those three minutes while they were watching the spot felt like forever. But then comes the best part of it – positive reinforcement. We’ve received so many awesome reactions from people internally and externally.
The whole process is really exciting. You have this idea but you never really know how the idea is going to come out in the end. There are points in the process where you start to think ‘oh no, what if this doesn’t work after all’, but you just have to keep pushing for the best. It’s really very satisfying when it all comes together and you can look back and don’t have anything you would change.
See even more insight into the commercial with a spotlight on the Barrett and Son Bakery & Cafe, as well as interviews from the actors, director, writers, and producers: