By Jesse Dylan
In my work, I have had the opportunity to tell the stories of some of the most amazing, complex and innovative people and organizations helping to change the world. By being allowed a window into their work, I can make clear why it matters.
These people and organizations inspire–from the MIT Media Lab to George Soros and the Open Society Foundations to TEDx to the Yes We Can video that captured the hopefulness of the Obama-for-president phenomenon of 2008.
When Steve Simpson, the chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather North America, invited me to work together on a project with IBM to show how technology serves to make lives better, it was an opportunity to learn how one of the most innovative companies in the world thinks about an ever-changing world. The project is Made With IBM.
Typically, when you’re making a TV spot, you first come up with a concept, make a story, produce a storyboard, write scripts and hire actors, and finally shoot something. In this case, IBM and its advertising partner, Ogilvy, had an idea to extend IBM’s brand and its Smarter Planet theme by exploring the transformational journey of IBM ’s engagement with clients. They innovatively decided to send film crews—including journalists—to interview IBM clients and shape the commercials around what they told us.
Usually, in advertising, we create stories and hire actors to act them out; here, we’re using real people to tell their own real stories.
All of this happened quickly. IBM had the opportunity to show a large number of ads during the 2014 Master’s Tournament, starting yesterday. Rather than make a handful of spots and run them repeatedly, the company decided to make and show up to 50 ads—each its own story and each contributing to an understanding of how technology can transform businesses and industries.
In just a few weeks, they sent directors and crews to 17 countries to interview dozens of clients, plus IBM executives, and to capture imagery illustrating their insights. It was a lot like making a documentary. In fact, that’s why I was chosen, along with a few other directors including Joe Pytka, Doug Pray, and Christian Weber. Our challenge was to show the humanity of people as they were solving difficult problems and portraying that on film.
Here’s a narrative slide show about the journey of a crew that worked in China and Japan that encapsulates the experience.
Of course, the words and pictures were just the start. Once we shot the interviews and the imagery, our task was to turn that raw material into effective commercials. We had a lot of work to do in a short period of time.
In 30- and 60-second spots, we decided against portraying scenarios in business or operational settings. Instead, the work was thematic and impressionistic. Our piece about the Seattle Zoo, for instance, explored the importance of using data analytics to match the viewing locations of the animals with weather predictions. The imagery captures the grace of a swimming Walrus. The spot about Kyocera’s management of digital documents draws on the beauty of origami, the art of Japanese paper folding.
Through this experience, I gained insight into the people striving to predict what the future will bring and what we all need to do now to affect outcomes later. IBM recognizes and prioritizes this. That’s super challenging. It requires a different way of thinking. The Made With IBM ads expose viewers to this kind of thinking.
Made With IBM gave me the opportunity to tell the story of how technology intersects with people’s lives. I’m all for businesses operating better, but, for me, the greater promise of technology is its potential to make improvements for all of us—help us live healthier productive lives from getting better medical treatment to facing huge challenges like climate change. That’s the role that technology needs to play now and in the future. And we need it to succeed.
Jesse Dylan is a director and producer of feature films, documentaries, music videos and TV ads. Wondros, the production company he founded and leads, is dedicated to translating the ideas of the world’s most innovative organizations and individuals with the goal of inspiring passion, inciting action and propelling change.