The Right Song is Always “Clocks”

Before the editing magic happens, you must find a music “bed,” also called a “scratch track.” This bed needs energy—it should rally Harvard MBAs and advertising award show judges alike. Scrolling through iTunes, you may feel overwhelmed. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem: you’re in love with the latest greatest electrothing on Pitchfork; one track that has rendered your commute somewhat bearable. Either way, stop thinking about music. It’s been predetermined.

You have three artists from which to choose: Coldplay, U2 and Sigur Rós. Of those, there is only one correct song. Coldplay’s “Clocks.” It exists for case-study videos. Brands as diverse as Domino’s Pizza and Vietnam Tourism have used this evergreen tune. For the next five business days and one harried weekend, “Clocks” rigidly chromatic piano, lavish strings and ethereal wails of Chris Martin will echo in your mind during spare moments away from the office, dining or resting post-coitally with your partner. In choosing “Clocks,” you may worry that every case-study video will sound like yours. This was bound to happen anyway.

Remember Barry, from Travel?
He’s Your Voiceover Guy.

So you hassled one of the copywriters to stop tweaking his destined-to-be-rejected humor piece and the script is in your hands. It explains the marketing problem, effectively demonstrates the idea and integrates statistics in a surprisingly coherent way. Who will V.O. it? Of course, you have no budget to hire professional talent. You are limited to those walking your agency’s industrial-chic hallways. Per the scratch track, you have three options: the studio designer who does a good “casual nerd”; that guy in travel, an ex-smoker with a faint lisp, couldn’t identify him in a lineup, but have talked on the phone countless times; and a hot, man-voiced account girl.

The lispy guy (who has some unplaceable twang, come to think of it) is your best bet. His timbre will take the edge off lines containing language such as “viral,” “hashtag,” “curate,” “crowded tablet market,” “point-of-purchase engagement,” “rabid followers,” and “tell the brand’s story to a new generation of Millennials.” Barry’s rasp will be cut with joy, seeing as you pulled him away from his real responsibilities, if only for an hour.

You Have Nothing.

Now it’s time for the visuals. This is when an Assistant Producer will say something to the effect of, “It should be around three minutes. If you need any other assets, shoot me an email.” And you’ll gesture at your monitors and say, “I have zero assets. Absolutely nothing. Did you record any interviews? Shots of people tweeting? Wasn’t there some real life event all this led towards? Point-of-purchase means a store. Should we see people in a store? A Black Friday stampede. I need something.” The producer will listen enthusiastically, let out a long “well,” and then inform you that you’ll have to get creative with screen captures and what she unhelpfully keeps calling data viz. The Producer will then disappear forever. Just that morning, you had thought, “If I really crank today and tomorrow, maybe I can keep my Sunday.” What funny tricks a desperate mind can play!

Your producer had the foresight to book an in-house motion artist. He’s not happy to be there. All you want him to do is animate a few graphs in a manner relevant to the campaign idea. After seven hours, he emails you something out of the virtual reality sequences in Lawnmower Man. His Seamless order goes well beyond your weekend per diem.

The Creative Director Review,
aka “Bad Cop, Stoned Cop.”

You finish Sunday night, right on time. The client meeting is Tuesday morning, so your Project Manager decided it best if the Creative Directors (CD’s) email feedback right away. That way, you can hit the ground running Monday and address any changes. Strangely, you’re impressed with the video. Sure, you overused the zoom effect where the screen becomes all pixelated. But it lent a tactile feel, besides adding precious seconds. You synched the part when Chris Martin sings, “And nothing else compares,” to the amount of Facebook followers going higher and higher, intercut with these insane Tokyo cityscapes from Koyaanisqatsi (the visual equivalent of “Clocks”). It sends chills down your spine. You wish you felt nothing towards this case-study video—seriously, you thought of one sequence as tactile?—but you’ve spent too much time on this project. You’ve worked hard, and it shows. After refreshing your email for an hour, you head home. You pass out on the couch, phone in hand.

Monday morning, still no word. Does no feedback mean good feedback? Sadly, this hunch proves incorrect. After both CD’s amble in around ten-thirty, they descend to your editing suite like hungry, confused Dobermans. While one marks up the script, the other wishes minute two wasn’t full of so much “deadness.” Meanwhile, Barry is M.I.A.

Blessedly, around lunch, you discover a hidden video rivulet within Corbis. The actors are using Motorola Razrs, but you cut around that. By the time the CDs approve the video late that day, they seem to have forgotten it and you. No worries. This is your baby. You fiddle with the logo placement, fading at the perfect moment when Chris sings, “home, home, where I wanted to go.” You add a boca effect. No one else is around to tell you otherwise. You feel both reckless and responsible. At 3:30 a.m., you head home with a pre-flu chill. Ragged joy, too.

Earlier that week, a friend asked you to direct and edit a music video. Why had this potentially exciting offer brought such dread? Not anymore. The boundaries between art and commerce seem more permeable than before. You learned from this process. Your boss offered a comp day. Take it. Maybe more people will see the case-study video more than anything else you’ll ever work on. So what? You have ideas, patience, resources. Get cracking.