Slack Explodes with Animated ‘Spaceship!’ and ‘Animals!’ Spots
Email? Ugh. How terribly 2013. These days any creative tech studio or digital agency worth its weight in pixels is using productivity and messaging platform Slack to keep its internal communication organised. It’s reaching eerie cult status among a certain milieu – think Crossfit for tinkerers and makers. And now the brand is ready to push beyond word-of-mouth and viral infiltration – following its first big OOH campaign late last year it’s released two pleasingly whimsical TV campaigns: 'Spaceship!' and 'Animals!'
The first, ‘Spaceship!’, is a tech-infused twist on early 20th century rubber hose animation and was created by Canadian production company Giant Ant.
The story was devised as a collaborative process between Giant Ant and the team at Slack, Giant Ant partner and creative director Jay Grandin explains.: “When we were first briefed on the project we were invited to pitch story ideas, but were also given a handful of optional starting points from the Slack team: one was the song, one was the idea of a 20's style animation, and one was the idea of building a spaceship. After throwing some other ideas around, we decided that the wacky kit of parts we were provided could make for a really interesting starting point, so we worked with Stewart & Bill (CEO & CMO) at Slack to flesh the story out.”
The distinctive look of the spot combines 3D animation with traditional character animation, and stylistically borrows from the wibbly-wobbly cartoons of the 1920s – with a contemporary spin, of course. According to Jay, this visual mashup was driven by a desire to create an ‘ownable look for slack’.
“We didn't want to just fake a 20's animation, and saw an opportunity to combine techniques to give the old-time vibe a modern wink,” he says. “As we dug deeper, we started to like how the combination of styles echoed the product in an interesting way: Slack is a modern tool to help teams communicate in as honest and natural way as possible which, in concept, has an old-time sensibility to it—despite being wrapped in a layer of technology.”
The team did have plenty of fun, though, indulging in their love of the ‘cartoony’ side of animation. As soon as the Slack team mentioned the rough idea of pairing themselves with something like Steamboat Willie, Giant Ant jumped at the chance to go ‘full rubber hose’.
While Giant Ant were developing their Spaceship! Animation, over in London, Nexus was busy creating a very different kind of animation for Slack. Their ‘Animals!’ spot is a blend of CG and live action that re-imagines the office as a menagerie, full of very different beasts working together to get the job done.
'Animals!' Was directed by none other than Smith & Foulkes and the agency involved was TBWA\Chiat\Day. The spot was shot on location in East London and human actors were used as stand-ins for their animated counterparts, in order to capture believable gestures.
The films were created concurrently, and when the team at Giant Ant heard about the ‘Animals!’ project at Nexus, they decided to tweak their approach in order to ensure more creative cohesion between the two.
“The characters went through a few iterations, but it happened in a short amount of time. Our first rounds were more overtly humanoid, and astronaut-like. As we caught wind of the other spot in the Amazing series that Nexus completed, we shifted to animal heads to create a link between the spots,” says Jay. “The characters themselves each have a distinct personality that relate loosely to different types of team members. We have our big muscular work horse who's just happy to get things done. There's our cerebral bird character who is focused on detail work. We've got our alpha female, who is the most vocal and acts as a leader for the team. And then there's our little hungry monkey boy who means well, but isn't a particularly effective collaborator.”
Both TVCs are whimsical and playful – reflecting Slack’s positioning as a product that promises to make work more enjoyable and (dare we say it?) fun. They’re bound to play well with both the creative industries, which has already embraced Slack, as well as wider audiences.
Story by Laura Swinton
CEO/Creative Director: Stewart Butterfield
CMO: Bill Macaitis
Marketing Director: Brad Morris
Project Manager: Jamie Rosenfield
Directed by: Giant Ant
Producer: Liam Hogan
Creative Direction: Jay Grandin
Art Direction: Rafael Mayani
Illustration: Rafael Mayani, Shawn Hight, Yan Jamacaru
Character Animation Lead: Henrique Barone
Character & Cleanup Animation: Henrique Barone, Desiree Cassidy, Justin Smith, Mathijs Luijten, Matt James, Yan Jamacaru
3D Animation: Nicholas Ferreira, Matt James, Jorge R Canedo, Mathijs Luijten
2D Animation & Compositing: Matt James, Nicholas Ferreira, Mathijs Luijten, Jorge R Canedo, Yan Jamacaru, Jay Grandin
Cel FX Animation: Jay Grandin
Sound FX: Cory Hawthorne
Music: “Count Your Blessings And Smile” by George Formby, re-recorded by Danny Simmons & team
Agency: TBWA \ CHIAT \ DAY
Chief Creative Officer: Stephen Butler
Creative Directors: Liz Levy & Jason Locey
Executive Producer: Sarah Patterson
President, TBWA Global: James Vincent
Production Company: Nexus
Director: Smith & Foulkes
ECD: Chris O’Reilly
Producer: Tracey Cooper
Production Manager: Fernanda Garcia Lopez
Live Action Production Manager: Elizabeth Trustrum
CG Supervisor: Florian Caspar
Live Action CG Supervisor: Ben Cowell-Thomas
Director of Photography: Simon Richards
Character Design: Victor Georgiev & Max Kostenko
Modeling: Denis Bodart, Sunil Kumar, Justi Romero, Carl Kenyon
Texturing: Sebastien Oliveira de Bispo, Julien Romeo, Arkin Esref
Rigging & Pipeline Technical Director: Pete Addington
Rigging: Mark Tsang, Gaetan Borde, Pauline Le Bris
Animation: Stuart Doig, Sabrina Lecordier, Eduardo Castells Mateo, Christian Johnson, Benoit Moranne, Dominic Griffiths, Edward Sherwood, Benjamin Tron
Matte Painting: Adam Leary
Tracking: Peanut FX
VFX: Hugh Johnson, Camille Fourniols, Corentin Charron, Denis Bodart, David Penfound, Eaton Crous, Liviu Berechet, Jayson King
Lighting & Rendering: Patrick Macdonald, Carl Kenyon, Wesley Roblett, Sebastien Oliveira de Bispo
Motion Graphics: Rob Ward & Alex Dobbin
Compositing: Rafal Kaniewski, Bence Varga, Sandro De Barros Henriques, Stanislav Kolev, Elliott Kajdan, Arnaud Dumeyni
Editor: Paul Hardcastle (Trim), David Slade (Nexus)
Grade: Jack McGinity (Time Based Arts)
Sound Design Producer: Lou Allen (Factory)
Sound Design: Anthony Moore & Tom Joyce (Factory)
Music Composer: Alex Baranowski C/O Siren
Executive Music Producer: Sean Atherton (Siren)
Voice Over Artist: Scott Schiller