PA Day the Westfort Way

Harnessing that PA Day Energy

Story Time… It is 1988 and you are opening your elementary school binder (I was fond of the classic Trapper Keeper) taped to the inside of it is a pink or green piece of paper, the school year calendar. It probably has doodles all over, but it is also has this coming Friday circled and highlighted because it is a special day. It is one of the 6 or 7 additional gifts you were given from the school board throughout the year …. it is a PA day. In the 80’s a PA day simply meant a day off. A day of Neebing Avenue baseball, street hockey on Francis or 3 v 3 hoop on a Brock St back lane. It was riding bikes, raiding gardens and scrounging up loose change from your older brother’s room for a 7-11 shopping spree. One day I made the mistake of asking my grade 7 teacher, Mr. Gerrie what he had planned for his coming day off. Mr. Gerrie took the opportunity to explain (lecture) to the class that even though a PA day was a freebie for us, he and all the other teachers would be participating in Professional Activity. A day where teachers learn and become better at their profession. 

Present Day…

However, many years later over here at Westfort Productions we have tried to be diligent at instituting the same PA day philosophy. On every project we are learning, we are developing, we are searching for ways to be more efficient and more creative. There are times though that we need to intentionally sit back, be still for a second and consider where we are and where we are going. A lot of our PA is looking at what others in the industry are producing, and explore where creative trends are heading. 

About a year ago we subscribed to Masterclass. If you haven’t stumbled across it yet you should really check it out. For us, the reason for watching these classes is two-fold, they have many episodes on creative types, storytelling, directing, advertising which we can use as reference for our work. Additionally, the videos are so slick and well produced that watching each video is a direct tutorial on how to shoot, light, edit this type of talking head content.

Recently we watched the episode on Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein and their class on advertising and creativity. Goodby & Silverstein are the principals at GS&P a San Francisco based ad agency. A quick look at their home page will show marquee clients like Doritos, BMW, Pepsi and Adobe. Every year a handful of the Superbowl’s top performing ads will most likely have been produced by GS&P. Goodby & Silverstein are also responsible for what is probably the most recognizable instance of advertising becoming pop culture with the 90’s Got Milk? campaign. 

As we watched their Masterclass episode, we could both feel each other settling in and nodding along in agreement with everything Goodby and Silverstein were saying. They were tossing out nugget after nugget of marketing gold. Everything they were offering could be directly applied to what we are trying to accomplish, if just on a smaller scale:

1. How to work with a brand
2. Anatomy of a campaign
3. How to tell a story in 30 seconds
4. Selling a crazy idea

Yes, yes, YES!!! PA day was in full effect, we were locked in, all we needed now was a half Coke & half Cream Soda Slurpee. Then the chapter titled “Is it funny enough?” popped up, we both looked at each other, here we go. Humour and incorporating some funny into our projects are things we have really focused on at Westfort Productions, especially in the past 3 years. Here’s 1 example:

Now to be clear, incorporating it and forcing it are two very different things. Not every project will lend itself to being funny, there is definitely a time and a place. BUT if we see an opening for funny in the creative development, we are absolutely running through it. There is so much great content in the Goodby & Silverstein Masterclass lessons. Moments like Mr. Goodby’s point when he shared why he and Silverstein like funny commercials – “Life is not that pleasant and so having a funny commercial is really a relief and people appreciate it” his partner followed up with this gem, “You have no right to go into someone’s home and not entertain them or give them something of depth” 

Absolutely, a rule we should all follow in advertising implicitly is to avoid insulting our audience’s intelligence at all costs. Don’t waste their time with drivel. With humour you can give them a classic setup and punchline, a parody, use of exaggeration, or a surprising reveal. You have their attention for 30 – 60 seconds, make it worth it.

Make ‘em think and make ‘em laugh. It was refreshing to hear leaders in the advertising industry discuss the same things we do within the walls of Westfort Productions. In our concept development “Is it funny enough” is something we will continue to ask ourselves. Our goal to produce a video that both gets our clients message out and leaves the audience with a hint of a smile. If they can walk away thinking “well that was somewhat clever” then we have succeeded.

That is a PA day the Westfort way.

Video Production Thunder Bay

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