Eric Kallman has an incredible two D&AD Black Pencils and nine Yellow Pencils to his name. With so much success, we thought it only fair that he shared some of his secrets. Here he sheds light on some of his most (in)famous TV commercials and integrated campaigns.
Eric Kallman is currently at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, having previously worked at Barton F. Graf 9000, Wieden+Kennedy and TBWAChiatDay. Unbelievably, he has two Black Pencils and nine Yellow Pencils at D&AD, and in 2015 he will be Foreman of our Professional Awards Integrated & Innovative Media Jury.
With so much success to his name, we thought it was only fair that he shared some of his secrets. The stories below shed some light on some of his most (in)famous TV commercials and integrated marketing campaigns.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coined a term for what I do – I write ads like everyone else. People tell me my style is distinct, but I don’t think about it that much. I just do my thing.
I’m a big fan of Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, Tim & Eric. I’m a lucky dude and the stars aligned with the weird part of my brain.
In most cases I enjoy the writing and prep. But with these campaigns, we had surrounded ourselves with A+ people, and are doing stuff that’s pretty radical, really different.”
The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
We had an established relationship with Old Spice and an existing rulebook for the campaign. But the different insight for bodywash (rather than deodorant) was that men buy their own deodorant, but women buy bodywash for their boyfriends.
We had about five days to turn around a campaign, using the same established parameters, but this time it was aimed at women.
It was myself and my partner Crag Allen penning it. The first thing we wrote was “Hello Ladies”. Usually we were visual, but this one came out as dialogue; we thought we had a radio script. We had no idea what it could look like.
We ended up writing six or seven of those scripts. There was a ‘hero’ version that Craig my partner had, but it didn’t have an ending. So we just picked out “I’m on a horse” from a different script and put that at the end.
The director, Tom Kuntz, told us he’d like to try filming it in one take.
So everything you see is real, apart from the diamonds on the hands. It was actually shot outside on the beach. It’s a smaller set than you’d think, but was incredibly intricate – to the extent that it was one guy’s job just to rip the towel off.
Black Pencil / TV & Cinema Advertising / TV Commercial Campaigns / 2011
After The Man Your Man Could Smell Like was released, it blew up. Ian Tait was looking at the YouTube comments, and he said, “usually people comment on the commercial. But here everyone’s writing to the character. Let’s write back.”
Our first idea was to insert a tiny video player into the comments sections, but that wasn’t possible. So we simplified it.
It wasn’t a big production. I remember going into it, we were sat behind computers writing things in real time. I remember someone saying ‘welcome to the most work you’ll ever do for a Pencil’. We were just in a little studio, cut off from everyone. Afterwards we went back to Wieden’s and everyone was celebrating. Craig and I just winked at each other.
Yellow Pencil / Writing for Advertising / Writing for Film Advertising / 2011
This stuff was fun because we already had the character figured out. We were trying to cast a bodybuilder and it was an account guy who suggested Terry Crews.
So on the shoot we were in a garage with Terry Crews, and a green screen. It was an unorthodox experience.
He’s a very intelligent, well educated, professional guy. He was very well spoken but he would go back to the trailer, and come out in character: pumped up, eyes twitching, intense.
Beard was the first spot Craig and I did. Skittles already had the Taste the Rainbow campaign; which was epic, but not funny. Skittles was the magical candy; it was always a situation where something magical happened in a mundane situation.
Yellow Pencil / TV & Cinema Advertising / TV Commercials 21 – 40 Seconds / 2007
Shooting Touch, the first thing we did was blow up this clear plastic desk that we filled with Skittles. We had a desk built with electric charges, and a million Skittles in it. When we blew up the desk the far end exploded and fell but the bit near the camera didn’t. We thought The Mill could fix it in post… but they couldn’t. So the effects crew spent the afternoon building another one.
The Skittles themselves were in a million big bags; they send a truck load and someone’s job was to open each bag. I remember shuffling Skittles into this clear desk thinking we weren’t going to get the shot. But when it blew up the second time it worked – and a million Skittles hit me in the face.
Those are all real Skittles.
Yellow Pencil / TV & Cinema Advertising / TV Commercial Campaigns / 2007
The very next day we were filming Stable. Our actor with the udders looked really out of it. He almost collapsed after the first line. We were in the middle of nowhere, dairy country, and we had to call a doctor out. He came, and saw the guy lying on his back with prosthetic udders on him… The doctor just said he hadn’t seen anything like it before. Thankfully the actor recovered, and then we shot through the night.
Those two days were a mixture of blur and confusion.
Nomination / TV & Cinema Advertising / TV Commercials 21-40 seconds / 2008
Terry Gilliam knows something about animation. For years, he produced wonderful animations for Monty Python (watch his cutout animation primer here) , creating the opening credits and distinctive buffers that linked together the offbeat comedy sketches. Given these bona fides, you don’t want to miss Gilliam’s list, The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time. It was published in The Guardian back in 2001, before the advent of YouTube, which makes things feel a little spare. So, today, we’re reviving Gilliam’s list and adding some videos to the mix. Above, we start with The Mascot, a 1934 film by the Russian animator Wladyslaw Starewicz. The film pioneered a number of stop animation techniques, making it a seminal film in the history of animation. About Starewicz’s film, Gilliam wrote:
His work is absolutely breathtaking, surreal, inventive and extraordinary, encompassing everything that Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and the Quay Brothers [see below] would do subsequently…. It is important, before you journey through all these mind-bending worlds, to remember that it was all done years ago, by someone most of us have forgotten about now. This is where it all began.
Tex Avery produced cartoons during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation, mostly for Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, and created some memorable characters along the way — Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Droopy dog and the rest. In 1943, Avery animated Red Hot Riding Hood, which amounted to a rebellious retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale. 50 years later, animators ranked it 7th on their list of The 50 Greatest Cartoons. According to Gilliam, Avery’s work delivers this:
The magic of Tex Avery’s animation is the sheer extremity of it all. The classic Avery image is of someone’s mouth falling open down to their feet, wham, their eyes whooping out and their tongue unrolling for about half a mile: that is the most wonderfully liberating spectacle…. There is also a childlike sense of immortality and indestructibility in his work; people get squashed, mashed, bashed, bent out of shape, whatever, and they bounce back. In essence, it is like the myth of eternal life.
During the mid-1950s, Stan Vanderbeek began shooting surrealist collage films that, as NPR put it, “used clippings from magazines and newspapers to create whimsical but pointed commentary.” If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s precisely this approach that surfaces later in Gilliam’s own work. And if one film provided particular inspiration, it was Vanderbeek’s 1963 film Breathdeath (right above).
Borowczyk was a twisted man whose films were infused with a unique cruelty and weirdness. He started out making extraordinary animations, graduated to directing classics such as Goto, Island of Love and La B te… Les Jeux des Anges was my first experience of animation that was utterly impressionistic. It didn’t show me anything specific, just sound and movement from which you create a world of your own.
Jan Svankmajer is a surrealist Czech animator whose work has influenced Tim Burton, The Brothers Quay, and Terry Gilliam himself. In his Guardian list, Gilliam points us to one film, Svankmajer’s stunning 1982 claymation short, Dimensions of Dialogue, in part because the film “has moments that evoke the nightmarish spectre of seeing commonplace things coming unexpectedly to life.”
Based on a short novel written by Bruno Schulz, Street of Crocodiles is a 1986 stop-motion animation directed by the Brothers Quay, two American brothers who migrated to England in 1969, shortly after Gilliam, also American born, became a British citizen. In 2002, critic Jonathan Romney called Street of Crocodiles one of the ten best films of all time — surely enough to make you give it a view.
Other films mentioned in Gilliam’s list, The 10 Best animated Films of All Time, include:
Out of the Inkwell by Dave Fleischer (1938)
Pinocchio by Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen (1940)
Knick Knack by John Lasseter (1989)
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut by Trey Parker (1999)