From Hollywood to Bollywood... 15 megabytes of Fame
By Graham Kittle, IBM Global Business Services
Getting the call…an unexpected screen test
It’s not every day you’re asked to be in a commercial – at least I’m not! I’m no actor. I am a keen surfer, a would be photographer, father and an IBMer who happens to be passionate about the potential capabilities of social business. So imagine my surprise when I learned I was nominated to appear in this Smarter Planet TV campaign.
I was still on a high after the Australian CMO + CIO Leadership Exchange, where Ginni Rometty and Jon Iwata shared IBM’s vision for the future of marketing, when I received an email inviting me to join a Skype chat - which turned out to be a screen test! This kind of thing only happens on TV… oh wait!
Despite feeling like a complete amateur on (Skype) camera, I was chosen as one of three IBMers to appear in the ads - and I needed to be available to fly to Los Angeles, California in a week! My ad was focused on a subject I am passionate about - Social Business, while my colleagues Latha Maripuri is featured in the mobile ad and Harriet Fryman (on right) in the analytics ad. Latha and I were both shooting our ads in India, while Harriet flew to Barcelona, Spain.
And to add to the somewhat already surreal experience, I learned the Smarter Planet ad was to be directed by none other than Joe Pytka, known in ad circles as the 'King of Cannes’ for being the most highly awarded TV ad director. Text books were written about Joe, and history marked him as one of the best. I was excited to be a part of what would clearly be a highly talented crew.
In the “fluid” world of advertising, a few days before I was due to fly to LA, plans changed and was told I needed to fly to New Delhi, India instead. Had I just gone from Hollywood to Bollywood…? Almost!
An arrival into India at dawn
I have travelled to India several times for business, but had never been to Delhi. My wife always told amazing stories about her back packing experiences in Old Delhi – and I couldn’t wait to experience it myself. As a wannabe street photographer, I imagined Delhi to hold the perfect audience for all the photos I was hoping to take in between shoots. And I wasn’t disappointed! Even upon my arrival at 4 AM the airport was busy and rich with color as hundreds assembled to greet, hustle, barter and befriend the embarking tourists and locals.
Finalising the shoot locations with Joe & the agency team
One of my aims when traveling is to 'eat like a local' (another is to avoid 'Delhi Belly'!). So the first thing I did Sunday, when arriving for breakfast in my Hotel, was skip the continental buffet and order a la carte. While waiting for my bedmi-aloo, I noticed a group of ad agency looking types, huddled around a commanding looking man in black with shoulder length silver hair. I immediately realized this to be the legendary Joe Pytka and his entourage. I was impressed to learn that Joe had been behind the previous IBM Smarter Planet ads.
With little on the agenda for my 'recovery day' before our Monday shoot, I decided to take a chance and introduce myself. The Pytka / Ogilvy crew were engaged in last minute planning to finalize precise shoot locations chosen earlier by a local Indian production team - the same production team that co-produced iconic movies such as Life of Pi and Slum dog Millionaire! We were in great company.
I was invited to join them - leaving in just 5 minutes…so much for my traditional Indian breakfast! The day with Joe and the agency crew was fantastic. Not only did I have the chance to get acquainted with the team and familiarize myself with the location, I had an opportunity to capture some of the amazing scenes of both New and Old Delhi including Humayun's tomb (said to have been an architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal); the thriving Old Delhi street markets; the Red Fort; a traditional local primary school and the general bustle of Old Delhi high street.
The shoot - "That's what I'm working on. I'm an IBMer...Let's build a Smarter Planet!"
Latha and I arrived on location at Humayun's tomb shortly after sunrise on what was shaping up to be a clear day in Delhi. The final location for our shoot was a small but very beautiful garden area on the edge of the grounds of Humayun's tomb (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993). My role was to wrap up the ad with IBMs now famous ad mantra "That's what I'm working on...I'm an IBMer...Let’s build a Smarter Planet". Joe and the co-creative directors from Ogilvy were great to work with and after (only!) 8 or so takes, we had the shot. For a different perspective, we repeated the shoot later that day at the small local primary school which became one of the key locations for the Mobile ad shoot.
After the initial take it was time to jump back into the ‘Agency’ van and weave our way through the chaos of New and Old Delhi streets, dodging cars, rickshaws and pedestrians. Despite several near misses, there was not a scratch on our van when we arrived at lunch! I had the opportunity to sit with Joe where he shared some great stories about working with celebrities such as Michael Jackson and the Beatles. I was fascinated to learn that Joe was the cinematographer for the Beatles’ critically acclaimed “Free as a Bird” film clip. This is a particularly interesting story as the song was recorded after the death of Lennon, using a track Yoko Ono provided, recorded by John on a small Dictaphone. It was a highlight to listen first hand to Joe’s experience.
After lunch it was off to the chosen school for the final shoot of the day. Here Joe and team filmed a group of local school children in class, assisted by the mobile computing technology on loan for the shoot. The school seemed a real oasis, casting the perception it was far away from the noise and bustle immediately outside its walls. In between the shoot I had the opportunity to take advantage of some amazing light to sneak in a few quick photos of the school grounds. A local gent ‘herding’ homing pigeons using a loud and distinctive chant from the rooftop of the school was an interesting experience.
Before I knew it, after just two short but memorable days, it was time to head home to Sydney. And just two hours after landing, I had a key client meeting we’d been preparing for months. I don’t recall time where I had the benefit of so many new experiences in such a short time span. Delhi had provided a true feast for the senses!
And speaking of senses, I had to make a quick trip to a local sound studio in Australia just a couple of days ago. Thanks to the lively Prinia, a native bird of Delhi, we had to make some edits to the original sound file! As it happened, I noticed the video file, a compressed version of the final cut was roughly 15 megabytes in size, prompting me to realize… this may indeed be my 15 megabytes of fame!
We're looking to extend Graham's 15 megabytes of fame! Join Graham and several of our IBM Business Partners and clients for a Facebook chat (April 10 at 4pm ET - April 11 at 8am ET) as they discuss the benefits and challenges of building a social business.
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