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The Art of Getting Down With Younger Generations

The Art of Getting Down With Younger Generations


In an exclusive feature, Sweetshop Directors Damien Shatford, Jakob Marky, Mark Albiston, Nick Kelly and Andrew Lang talk to The Stable’s Candide McDonald about crafting work that really speaks to the younger generations.

Adland is not especially good at engaging older audiences. It does, however, show sparks of brilliance when it comes to engaging young audiences – no doubt a combination of enthusiasm and resources.

The following examples all come from various agencies as well as various Sweetshop directors, beginning with Damien Shatford, who confesses to spending a lot of time doing what young people do – “eating and drinking memes”. That’s why he understands the pace of cuts (rapid), the length of content (short) and that traditional advertising doesn’t apply or appeal, he stated.

That understanding is nowhere more evident than in the V Energy commercial that he made with Clemenger BBDO Sydney.

Damien Shatford and Clemenger BBDO – V Energy ‘Make It Happen’

Shatford commented,“For the Tik Tok generation everything is throwaway. It’s fun, often silly and it’s unexpected. Things are constantly being invented and dying, and that’s fine. With V, we just wanted to make something that felt a little bit new at the moment it appeared. Something not seen before. All of us who worked on the commercial live and breathe these things in the same way as young people do. We were just using the language of the internet that we knew. A whole lot of the references were only a few weeks old at the time and now they feel ancient. The only thing constant about the internet is that it’s frequently changing. We wanted to create something that felt a bit silly that embodies that feeling.”

Damien Shatford and DDB NZ – L&P ‘Best Day Ever’

Shatford’s second young audience commercial is for soft drink brand, Lemon & Paeroa (L&P). Oddly, the brand is 112 years old, but it is finding a cult following with people nearly a hundred years younger. Commercials like this teenage-rebellion-meets- zombie-apocalypse-fantasy, made with DDB New Zealand, are doubtless helping that along.

Nick Kelly and Special Group – Uber Eats ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating’ with Kim Kardashian West

Kim Kardashian, it seems, would promote a postage stamp if she was paid to do it. Young people don’t care. She has 152 million Instagram followers. She isn’t an actress and she takes herself very seriously – in fact, serious meltdowns are part of her trademark – but Nick Kelly has managed to get two really wonderfully subtle comedic performances from her for Uber Eats. This is KKW seen in a whole new light. That’s a pre-requisite for under 25 y.o. audience success.

Nick Kelly said, “I recently heard a boomer refer to millennials as ‘Youngsters’. Brilliant, I’m using that. Youngsters are pretty cynical about advertising. So when we engaged Kim Kardashian (a youngster icon) for Uber Eats, we went a step further than featuring her as a spokesperson. By pairing Kim so unexpectedly with Magda Szubanski’s very down-to-earth Sharon character, we were able to subvert her appearance, putting her in a neck brace for one film and giving her a horrendous bowl cut for another. It was the Kim that youngsters love, but a version of her they’d never seen. I think this self-deprecating humour is so essential as it lets you feature celebrities, while also poking fun at the very culture of celebrity. The writers at Special Group really nailed this dynamic, and on set, I encouraged Kim to lean right into it. She was a great sport.”

Vidal Sassoon ‘Do As You’re Told’

For the Vidal Sassoon spot, Sweetshop borrowed director, Maxime Quoilin, from Good Company in New York. The sub-titles are in Mandarin, but don’t fret – the only part you need to understand is the mood of rebellion against doing as you’re told. If you’re over 25, missing the internet references and being bamboozled by the film’s pace are unimportant.

Quoilin stated, “I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to shoot all around Shanghai in such interesting settings with such interesting people, where we were able to create this disruptive film about human empowerment. Shanghai has so much to offer, providing us with the perfect backdrop and a fearless cast for VS to tell this poignant story that challenges conventions.”

Mark Albiston and Colenso BBDO – Spark ‘Play’

Granted, Spark’s audience for its Play by Spark campaign is grown-ups. But let’s talk about communicating to adults the relationship that kids have with games, turning Colenso BBDO’s idea into a film that carries real weight for a subject that is being thrown about lightly in everyday conversations and getting the performance of the year from a very small boy.

Albiston commented, “When I was directing this spot, I really was channelling my kids. In fact, just this morning my son was having a bit of a meltdown because I told him he needed to have breakfast before he got on his phone. He loves Minecraft and was really into Fortnite and was dancing around the house like his avatar. He loves it because he can play online with his mates.

“There is a level of love for gaming kids have that is undeniable. I was keen not to trivialise this in the film. Kids have an affinity with games that we adults – like me who hasn’t grown up with them – often underestimate. Kids breaking up with their avatar carries more weight than we realise and I wanted to make sure we empathised with them both.”

Andrew Lang and Ogilvy – Dove ‘I’m Fine’

Teens tend to hide their problems from adults, especially if asked “How are you going?” or “How was your day?”. Behind the answers, “I’m fine,” and “It was fine,” can be a completely different story of insecurities, anxieties and conflict. And even if you’re fifty, you can imagine how unreceptive teens would have been to being “counselled” about this by a brand. But Dove ‘I’m Fine’ speaks their language.

At some point in a child’s life – usually at about twelve – his or her parents stop being superhumans and start being annoying. Mostly, parents annoying because they tell their kids to do things. This doesn’t diminish as kids advance through their teen years. By the time they’re driving, anything adults advise is unwarranted and unnecessary – at best. Now they’re the superhumans.

Jakob Marky and Clemenger BBDO – NZTA ‘Distractions’

Getting young people not to text and drive is a Herculean task. Jakob Marky and Clemenger BBDO also had a legacy of powerful NZTA advertising to live up to when they took on the task.

Marky stated “To take a traditionally strong storyteller such as NZTA and try to emulate the broken down fabric of today’s constant disturbance was a huge challenge. A challenge we proved ourselves able to tackle head on. Put down your phone and have a watch.”

This article was first published by The Stable on 30 November 2019.