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Last week saw the launch of the brilliant - even if we do say so ourselves - shots Awards 2019 campaign, Hot Praise Hotline. 

Created by Uncommon, and launched with a hilariously retro film directed by Biscuit Filmworks' Daniel Warwick, the campaign includes a real chatline recorded by London's top CCOs, which promises to perk up the most deflated creative ego with profuse praise and lavish laudations.

With the option of having - among others - Uncommon's Nils Leonard, Droga5's David Kolbusz, BETC's Rosie Bardales or Leo Burnett's Chaka Sobhani gently blow smoke up your posterior at the cost of a flat white (ok, a fairly spenny Fairtrade one, with some fancy latte art, but hey, all the money goes to charity), you might now be finding that you simply can't start the day without a little pick-me-up. Or is that just us?

shots – Hot Praise Hotline

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Want more? Well, you're in luck: below, we take a peek behind the phones with the creative team and director, to find out how the job came together. 

Step into a world of peacock chairs, crimped hair, sax appeal and lashings of lamé... and don't forget, for genuine validation, you can enter the shots Awards 2019 right here.

Tom Houser and Christopher Keatinge, creatives, Uncommon

Above: Tom Houser (left) and Christopher Keatinge 


Tell us about the concept for the campaign – where did the inspiration come from? Any particular references?

For creatives like ourselves, dealing with crippling insecurities and the vague notion they might actually be terrible, nothing beats your creative director telling you that, actually, they quite like your idea.

Trouble is, getting that validation can be a bit tricky at times - so we made a number you can call 24/7 to get instant praise and glowing feedback from some of adland’s best loved creative directors whenever you need a little ego boost. And it’s all for charity too, just in case you feel a bit seedy afterwards.

We had a nice time pillaging London phone boxes for tart cards and yes, we brought anti-bac hand gel.

We have a non-ironic love of terrible 90s chatline ads, full of stilted acting, bad lighting and dodgy sets, so when it came to making our promo film, we thought they’d be a brilliant reference for our Hot Praise Hotline. We wanted our promo to look as wibbly and grainy as something you’d find buried in your dad’s filing cabinet on a dusty VHS.

We had a nice time pillaging London phone boxes for tart cards we could use as references for our own, and yes, we brought anti-bac hand gel.

Of course, after going to all the trouble of setting up a genuine chatline, we realised creatives could also get instant industry recognition by winning a shots award instead - the kind of genuine validation that can’t be bought.

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Above: Nils Leonard, CCO, Uncommon; Dave Monk, ECD, Publicis; Laura Jordan-Bambach, CCO, Mr President; Tom Houser, creative and Jenny Grant, producer, Uncommon. Images by Christopher Forrester


The scripts are laugh-out-loud funny and must have been a lot of fun to write – what are your top lines from the campaign?

To hear the best bits, you’re going to have to call 0901 888 20 99. Maybe from your agency work phone. Maybe a couple of dozen times. But they won’t mind. It’s for a good cause. 


How important was the charity element to the whole concept?

Very. We didn’t think it was worth doing unless we could all raise a bit of money for Creative Mentor Network.

Laura Jordan-Bambach let us crimp her hair. That she would willingly let us do that to her was quite possibly the most surprising thing on the day.

What was the atmosphere like on set?

Our talented director Daniel Warwick conjured a suitably early 90s atmosphere on set; soft jazz, strangely shaped leather furnishings, shoulder pads and crimping irons. It was excellent.

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Above: behind the scenes on the shots Awards campaign. Images by Christopher Forrester

 

Which ECD gave the most surprising performance on the day? How much ad-libbing was there?

Laura Jordan-Bambach let us crimp her hair. That she would willingly let us do that to her was quite possibly the most surprising thing on the day, and testament to her goodness as a human being. That being said, we are super grateful to all of our ECDs for giving up their time and their fashion sense in the name of wibbly 90s nostalgia.

 

Who would you call to get your ego massaged?

We would call 0901 888 20 99 over and over again until we ran out of 20 pence pieces.

Daniel Warwick, director, Biscuit Filmworks

Above: Daniel Warwick, pictured left, with Publicis' Dave Monk


What was your reaction on receiving the script/brief?

Well, of course I was the perfect match. Whenever this line boils up: “Let’s get a really shit director to direct this so it will look as terrible as those original phone hotline ads…” ... there’s only one name on the list. Daniel Warwick. “He’s really shit, yeah, perfect…” That’s probably closer to the truth than I’d like to admit.

Honestly, though - after flicking through the beautifully written agency deck from Uncommon, my baroque body felt inner standing ovations for the people that actually wrote it - Nils Leonard and his team. It was an absolutely hilarious read. A clear case of picking up my phone, calling Rupert [Reynolds-Maclean, MD/EP, Biscuit] and telling him immediately that I’d love to do it. 

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Above: Rosie Bardales, CCO/Partner, BETC London; Chaka Sobhani, CCO, Leo Burnett London; Stu Outhwaite-Noel, CCO, Creature. Images by Biscuit Filmworks.


Tell us a bit about the shoot. What was it like directing non-actors? 

I do have a fair amount of experience with non-actors, but this was different. These creatives are all normally on my side of the camera. The executive creative quality control fraction. Some of the best creative brains in the industry, so as you can imagine, the pressure was on. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and then play around with the ridicule of the genre. 

We were obviously striving for pretty bad acting as a concept of these hotline films, which isn’t always the easiest as you need to understand the comedy of that, plus drop your vanity... But all of them were lovely and really got into it. I eventually got out of the mode of thinking about who they were but more into what characters they felt like as properly cast actors. It was really a fun shoot. 

It was very tempting to be overly comedic in this genre, but I think treating it all quite seriously made it funnier.

Was it a challenge to stay serious behind the camera?

I do believe there was quite a bit of spluttering and wheezing and other trying-not-to-laugh sounds that had to be cut out in the rushes. I really had to laugh so much, especially at Stu [Outhwaite-Noel, CCO, Creature] playing the sax.  


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Above: behind the scenes on the campaign. Images by Biscuit Filmworks.


Were there any specific influences or inspirations in terms of the aesthetic?

It was a joint effort, of course. Our wonderful production designer Sarah Jenneson and I did a fast session of reference ping pong and general moods. The cheap sets with three ‘90s props was sort of the dogma we set ourselves. Sarah and her team did an amazing job. Then Neeraj Singh sourced some unbelievable ‘90s wardrobe options and Emily Newson gave everybody the perfect hair and make-up treatment: crimping, gel and banana clips. Say no more.

Then to capture this perfectly, we went down the road of the original look of those ‘90s erotic hotline ads. Our fabulous DOP Alex Melman and I had a chat about the whole disgrace of those fast lighting setups that felt genuine to the format. Plus we shot on an old studio tube camera from the ‘70s/’80s that really gave it that video look right there and then. 

The real hotline ads of that time in the ‘90s were slightly disturbing to a certain degree. 

There was quite a bit of improvisation on set, were there any bits that got cut that you wish had stayed in?

Tons, I mean really tons. It was a real struggle in terms of “kill your darlings”. 

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Above: the all-important retro phones. Images by Biscuit Filmworks.


Why was it important to maintain a looser vibe in shooting and play with different deliveries?

The real hotline ads of that time in the ‘90s were slightly disturbing to a certain degree, especially in terms of performance. It feels like there were quick 15-minute slots where, for a hundred bucks, so-called ‘California Dreamgirls’ would just say a sentence that was written down. Really badly performed but incredibly straight-faced. And that’s where the comedy lies in my opinion. It was very tempting to be overly comedic in this genre, but I think treating it all quite seriously made it funnier. 

One day of prep was the craziest part. I’ve never slapped a job together so quickly. 

What was the most challenging aspect of the process? And the most rewarding?

One day of prep was the craziest part. I’ve never slapped a job together so quickly. But it was perfectly produced by Biscuit with Toby Courlander and Roma Nesi Pio. The most rewarding - apart from that pint after the shoot - was seeing the first edit that Jo Lewandowska put together at Cut + Run

And needless to say that without the huge amount of favours we got from the prime crew, post, and first and foremost Biscuit, Rupert and Hanna [Bayatti, EP], none of this would happened the way it did. So huge thanks to everybody! 

 

Who would you call to get your ego massaged?

My mum. It’s only her and James Blunt who actually really think I’m beautiful. 

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