By now, you’ve seen the latest “Iceberg Alley” tourism ad, created for the provincial government by Target Marketing. If not, watch it now, at this link:
Like other spots in this series, the ad is brilliant; a masterful blend of writing, music, cinematography and editing.
But I have learned that this commercial goes one better. The iceberg that you see crumbling? That’s not digital effects. It’s the real thing, captured by a resourceful and very lucky camera crew, near Twillingate.
We’ve all seen home videos of icebergs rolling and crumbling. However, they’re either grainy, shaky, out of focus or badly exposed – or all of the above.
I stand to be corrected on this, but I’m fairly certain this is the first time a professional crew has recorded such a spectacle, on broadcast quality equipment, locked down on a tripod.
There is much I would like to ask the people who were there that day. Did they sense that the berg was ready to crumble? Did they have several cameras rolling at once? Was it pure serendipity? Did they do a happy dance, when they realized what they’d recorded?
I sent a message to Target Marketing, asking if I might drop by their studio, chat with someone who was on location that day, and perhaps even view the raw footage.
Alas, all interview requests had to be channeled through the client, the Department of Tourism and Culture. They wouldn’t even confirm my information about the iceberg.
Fair enough. Within a day or so, the communications director from Tourism got back to me, with some generic information about icebergs, and the floating ice shelf from the Peterman Glacier, which calved so many icebergs last year.
But I already knew about that. I wanted to talk about the iceberg in the ad, and the crew who captured it breaking up. In the agency world, this is a Big Deal. I sent back a reply, asking if I could talk to the crew at Target, for some on-the-ground colour. The reply was: “You can send any questions regarding the Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador ads directly to me.”
So, I did that. I wrote a detailed note, outlining why I found this interesting and – oh, heck, here’s what I sent:
“I have learned that the crumbling iceberg in the commercial is the real thing. It’s not computer generated or fake. The camera crew managed to capture it for real. This is not earth-shattering news, but it fits well in my media blog. After all, I’m pretty sure it’s the first time a professional camera crew has ever captured an iceberg disintegrating... On a broadcast quality camera, mounted on a tripod. Up to now (in this province, anyway), it’s always been on grainy, shaky, badly-exposed, consumer-level equipment. That’s the angle I want to explore. The odds of them being in the right place at the right time are not good... But still, they did it.
“Can you confirm for me that this much is correct? And if so, the name of the person(s) who made commercial history.
“I will say good things about the Tourism Department too. I think it’s great that you allow, even encourage, such innovative, ground-breaking ads. (Having worked in the agency world, I know a lot of clients are afraid to shake things up, and a lot of creative ideas get flattened by committee. The same cannot be said for NL Tourism.)
Several days later, I received a reply confirming that the iceberg is “authentic” and that Target did indeed capture the footage. My compliments had been passed on the to the tourism marketing team, and information was included about the recent CASSIES Award the campaign had won.
All very nice, but it was clear that there was reluctance to talk in any detail about the iceberg, or to allow Target to talk about it either. And that’s too bad.
However, I did talk with someone who saw the original raw footage of the iceberg breaking up. That person would only talk on condition of anonymity.
“That camera person was in the right place at the right time,” said my source. “It is real. I saw it. I saw the very raw footage, and it was as spectacular as it was in the finished ad. Even in the raw footage, it looked like it was happening somewhat in slow motion. It was a phenomenal piece of footage. I was quite wowed by it.”
I think a marketing opportunity was lost here. If the Tourism Department had issued a news release, announcing that spectacular iceberg footage had been captured in broadcast quality and made the clip available, it could have been picked up nationally and even internationally. This would have generated many thousands of dollars in “earned media” coverage, which is more valuable than paid advertising by a factor of three. It also would have created awareness and anticipation – “buzz,” in other words – of the ad before its debut.
Instead, the ad launched quietly, with footage so spectacular, it almost looked unreal. I actually wondered if it was computer generated – and I know I wasn’t alone in my reaction.
Either way, it is spectacular, and I tip my hat to Target and the crew that captured it. Our tourism campaign overall is superior to anything I’ve seen from this country, and among the best in the world. It deserves the many awards and honours it has received. I congratulate Target on its creativity, and the Tourism Department on enabling this world-class ad campaign.