Here's a Blockbuster Ad That TV Writers Everywhere Will Appreciate

BETC goes big with 'The Idea' for Canal+

Television writers often work behind the scenes. Showrunners tend to get all the credit, even when they actually write only a fraction of a series' scripts. 

But a new ad from France salutes the creativity of all TV writers in a memorable way. Created by Paris agency BETC for longtime pay-TV network client Canal+, the 1:40 spot plays out like a scene from a sci-fi disaster movie. 

In fact, the real chaos is happening on a much smaller scale: 

Canal+ | The Idea

The spot is full of references to one specific show, The Bureau, whose fourth season premieres on Canal+ this week. (The passports flying off the table, the Afghan prison camp, the police hiding in a truck, and the Malotru Islands poster all refer to the spy drama.) But it works whether or not you've seen that show. 

Bringing a vague concept like imagination to visual life can be tricky. Indeed, BETC chief creative officer Stéphane Xiberras tells Muse he wasn't at all sure how to do so. 

"When we told Canal+ about the script, we were super pleased with the idea but—and it doesn't happen very often—I really had no clue how we should illustrate the concept of the mind and the imagination," he says. "I knew I wanted something wild and epic, but Ivan was really essential in bringing the visual universe." 

That would be Ivan Grbovic of Wanda, who directed the piece. In the end, the spot is full of CGI, though the technical challenges weren't foremost on Xiberras' mind. 

"I have done so many CG films that it doesn't freak me out at all any more," he says. "The real challenge was the illustration and representation of the an idea, like a little flaming thought, like a little fairy that grows and becomes bigger as it picks up things along the way. Thinking about what sound the idea makes was really exciting. I love doing that, imagine everyone who worked hard on 'What does a tyrannosaurs sound like?' or 'What is the sound of a TIE fighter?' " 

The core of the idea, of course, is that the writers of Canal+ shows in particular are a different breed. 

"What sets Canal+ apart is that they create [shows that are] different from what is seen elsewhere," Xiberras says. "There really is a 'Canal+ spirit,' which is really different from the editorial line of other French broadcasters but also from Netflix or Sky. It's a joyous mix of creativity, of show and irreverence." 

It's not just TV writers who rely on the fruits of their imagination. The same can be said of BETC's own creatives, who have been dreaming up inventive marketing for Canal+ for 15 years. This spot is a metaphorical salute to them, as well. 

"People who watch our ads for Canal+ often ask me: 'Talking bears, unicorn balls, 80-year old Spitfire pilots. Where do you get it all from?' " says Xiberras. "The answer is 'from inside our heads,' and that's the whole theme of this film, to show the process of how an idea is born, the mysterious ways in which our minds associate one bizarre element to another. I was really excited about the visual challenge of the script, how to show the inside of a brain, while avoiding the usual clichés. I have actually learned that it takes a lot of imagination in order to illustrate the imagination." 

The spot is part of a new brand platform called "Canal+ Creates." 

CREDITS
Client: CANAL+
Client Management: Mathilde Villette, Eugénie Rodrigues, Céline Pontygayot
Agency: BETC
Agency Management: Guillaume Espinet, Mathilde Lançon, Pierre-Alain Moreau
Executive Creative Director: Stéphane Xiberras 
Art Director: Rayhaan Khodabux 
Copywriter: Rémi Campet
Traffic: Elodie Diana
TV Producer: David Brakha, Isabelle Menard
Production: Wanda
Sound Production: Schmooze
Director: Ivan Grbovic 
Post Production: Mikros Image

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of Clio Awards.