July 12, 2019

Cornerstone Bank: a stylized campaign

Creative license for stylized commercials

After the success of the #NOTGENERIC commercials we filmed for Cornerstone Bank, they were interested in pursuing a more stylized set of advertisements. We presented them with a creative brief displaying our concepts for the 2019 campaign. There were 4 or 5 ideas we had refined and they were excited about them all!

We did however, have to pick three of these ideas. Read more to find out how they came together in our studio!

Our concepts were based on a theme, allowing us to create unity in the campaign even though each ad had its own distinct “flavor.”

So, we used a tagline that served as our vision for the whole campaign:

“Some things in life are hard, that’s why banking shouldn’t be!”

What is hard in life?

Our first ad, the Do It Your Shelfer is a comical take on a not-so-handy… handyman. He is, (keyword) attempting to assemble a DIY bookshelf kit in his living room.

Set design began simply with just a few items to suggest the living room environment. We used cinetracer software to mock-up a rough example of what we wanted the set to look like.



We added some temporary carpeting, couch and a house plant to give the set some warmth.



A few Cornerstone employees were even able to join us to watch the production!

The end result of this first ad began to open our eyes to other possibilities for the next two.

Ultimately, we wanted to make commercials that were comedic and broke out of the box. This, and the other concepts really had nothing to do with banking, but that was the whole point. We acknowledged the challenge in using bank-related elements and still making something very interesting and appealing. Instead we approached the project with a mentality of:

“How can we get the most amount of people to relate to what they are seeing?”

After establishing a connection with our audience, we can draw the contrast between everyday struggles and the ease of banking with Cornerstone.

For the ladies

Since we are equal opportunity creative comics, we knew there was potential to poke fun at the health-nut or homemaker. In our brainstorming meetings, the frustration of making a smoothie was brought up by our team. 80% lamented at the struggles that so often accompany this healthy drink. However, one of our team expressed concern that making a smoothie isn’t that hard.

One of us asked: “Have you ever made a smoothie?”

His answer was a dejected “No.”

The conclusion: “I rest my case.”

We stepped it up a notch with the painting of our flats in this 2nd ad. Our first idea was to do some sort of subtle floral wallpaper. But, as we searched for the perfect wall covering we weren’t satisfied. Then we found an image of a pattern that we knew would be just what this set needed.



So, we hand-painted two flats (with some help) to create a beautiful 8′ x 8′ backdrop for the Not So Smoothie set.



We also bought a vintage fridge, hauled it into our studio and made it look cleaner than it had for 50 years. Then, we found it still worked and now we keep it in the studio as a talking piece!

Another element we chose (to pair modern with vintage) was white floating shelves. Ours were actually made of styrofoam but they ended up looking really nice on camera.



***We did cover our equipment in plastic in the likely event of a smoothie explosion.

Pulling out all the stops

The last ad we filmed for Cornerstone was a slight departure from our original concept. The marketing team from Cornerstone expressed a desire to have a Farm/Agriculture theme for one of these commercials. So, we discussed how we might develop a farming environment in our studio space.

There was talk of a barn scene. We joked about stepping in cow manure. What if a farmer was carrying a big bag of seed that was leaking out the back?

Then we had it.

We were going to take farming to a smaller scale by using an old lawn tractor. Our farm actor could portray the annoyance with a finicky piece of equipment in his old workshop.

The challenge was to make this set feel old and vintage without being grimy or messy. The other two commercials had such a nice, clean, studio feel that we wanted to preserve. Getting the style of a farm workshop required more texture than we could get with painted flats, so we started to talk about wood, particle board, metal and other finish materials.

After many different options were proposed we settled on corrugated metal panels and rough wood framing as seen below.



We bought the metal panels brand-new and super shiny, so we had to figure out a way to make them look like they had been around for a while. By using a spray bottle of acid, we rusted the panels in a matter of hours. This kept the metal from reflecting into the camera and gave great depth and texture to our vintage set. Oh, the things we do for stylized commercials!



We happen to have a fabulous neighbor downtown who runs the Antiques on Main shop next door to us. Anne Egger graciously allowed us to borrow some of her inventory to give this set the perfect touch!



It was such a delight to walk through her beautiful store and pick out the items we knew would add that historical farm flavor. We used old rope, vintage paint cans, a metal stand-up cabinet, Ag/Feed signage, farm tools, a retro metal fan and more.

What about lights in stylized commercials?

Now that we had all the props, we were able to assemble the set we had built and begin dressing our made-up workshop. One essential item we wanted to nail was that of the over-the-bench work light.

These old fluorescent fixtures typically cast such a harsh blue light and we didn’t want this practical light to wash out the rest of our set. We tried an LED panel and an older fixture, but neither gave us the proper color or light output.

So, one of our team rewired the old fixture and replaced the ballasts so we could use a different kind of bulb. The finished product could be safely dimmed and had the right color tone.

Sometimes these little details may never get noticed by the average viewer, but we believe the process is worth it.



To Stylize or not to stylize?

After doing some research, we found many successful and memorable TV ads were stylized commercials. Now, what does it mean to stylize? It can be defined as simply as this:

“to treat or depict in a mannered and nonrealistic style.”

In essence, there are enough visual elements to hint at an environment or place, without containing enough reality to completely fool the viewer.

This is likely how many of our imaginations work.

Think about any dream you remember. There may be faces or events that you can pick out, but you likely don’t remember wall colors, where the lights were or even if you were wearing shoes!

So, the effectiveness of stylization is in its simplicity. We are not trying to re-create a complete room or environment in our studio; just enough to let the imagination of the viewer take over and draw them in.

Thank you for reading!

We hope you enjoyed getting a taste of our process! (You must have, since you are still reading 1200 words later…)

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