Tuesday, February 06, 2007
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
‘History’ came in late from sidelines
BY LEWIS LAZARE, Sun-Times Columnist
Eight days ago, it was just an idea in Phil Gant’s head. On Sunday, “This Is History” was a full-blown 30-second Super Bowl commercial. We’re talking about a commercial that actually ran during the Super Bowl, not the pregame.
Gant had been a creative director at Element 79 for all of a week when he went to chief creative officer Dennis Ryan’s office Jan. 29 to tell him about a concept for a commercial celebrating a historic moment in Super Bowl annals: the first time African Americans would be head coaches of teams in the big game.
Gant, who had been chief creative officer at BBDO/Chicago, wanted to do a commercial showing groups of people in different settings watching the game. As the commercial progressed, we would see that all the people were African Americans. A message would appear on screen asking “Who's winning?,” followed by the answer “We all are,” before a final reminder to “Enjoy the game.”
Ryan was immediately taken with the concept. Within an hour, Ryan had sold the spot to Element 79 client Frito-Lay. That left Gant just days -- about four, give or take -- to get the spot made and approved by Frito-Lay, CBS and the NFL.
Ryan tapped another Element 79 talent, creative director Scott Smith, to direct the commercial. On Jan. 30, Gant and Scott looked at 150 local actors and cast 40 for the commercial. On Wednesday they scouted and selected several sites on Chicago’s South Side where they would film. On Thursday a film crew shot the commercial.
Footage was delivered to the Whitehouse edit facility as quickly as it was shot, while CBS Super Bowl commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in Miami kindly agreed to record simulated football game voiceover copy that would seem to be emanating from television sets in the commercial, and Joel Corelitz at Underscore Music quickly whipped up an original piece of music.
By midnight Thursday, Gant and Smith had a rough cut of “This Is History.” By midday Friday, several cuts later, Frito-Lay had signed off on the finished commercial. By Saturday morning, CBS and the NFL had given their approval as well.
All that remained was to decide where in the big game the spot would run. Smith first heard word it might air during the most prestigious first break after kickoff, but that wound up not being the case. “This Is History” in fact, aired near the end of the first half.
And the commercial turned out to be a welcome moment of quiet dignity in what was mostly a parade of spots going for laughs.
[Click on the essay title above to view the spot.]