Political Commercial- "I Promise"

The Big Idea

Relation is into big ideas. This one was based around calling out the typical false promises politicians make and pushing New York’s voters to see through them, realize their own power, and get involved. The campaign was called “I Promise”.

It was high-concept and unlike any political commercial we’d ever seen. The first half of the story was a fantasy sequence with three different mayors standing on the steps of New York City Hall on Inauguration Day, making promises. Relation also came up with the idea of not showing the mayors’ full faces. Sort of a “read my lips” thing.

The twist was, instead of hearing the typical false promises we’ve all heard before, we’d get the truth. 

We love big ideas, too. The thing was, there were a lot of things we’d have to figure out to make “I Promise” happen on time and on budget.

Virtual Production

The biggest hurdle was location. There was no way New York would let us film on the steps of City Hall. Also, the budget couldn’t cover the huge production design needed to make City Hall look like it does during a mayoral inauguration- you know, the flags, the stage, the pomp and circumstance.

But we had an ace in the hole: Virtual Production. Virtual Production is the greatest thing to hit our industry in decades. It’s the production design driver of Disney’s “Mandalorian” series, and it’s being used on tons of big feature films to create impossible worlds and bypass the typically very long post-production process. We knew Virtual Production was the only way we could possibly create this story. As Mando would say “This is the way.”

First, we dove into VP to create detailed pre-visualization and animatics. The kind that political ads typically don’t have the time or the money to create. We knew we’d need this to help sell the idea of using Virtual Production to the end client. We began in Maya, our 3D program of choice, then imported it into Unreal Engine to create cinematics, using its real-time rendering engine to help us quickly try out different shot ideas. 

Then we went to work building the final primary set: City Hall during a mayoral inauguration. We started with two scouting and photo capture trips to City Hall by one of our New York directors of photography. We used his work as base camera projections and textures for the final scenes, along with publicly-available information and building specifications, and even some stock 3D buildings that were modified as part of the virtual set. 

We arrived at the Los Angeles soundstage armed with a deep knowledge of the details so we could concentrate on actor performances and the big idea. 

Once filming was complete, post-production went very smoothly thanks to our Virtual Production pipeline. 

Virtual Production helps speed the process and deliver more for clients. In the end, for the price of one commercial we had a half dozen variations of “I Promise”, allowing Relation to target specific voters based on their hot-button issues.

Made During COVID

Did we mention the whole project took place during COVID? 

We did the usual COVID safety protocol, but we also used remote production to help keep our footprint small: both our producer and Relation’s CEO attended the shoot remotely via Zoom. We had a live camera feed off our DP’s RED plus a behind-the-scenes feed that let us do things like talk with the stylist and makeup artist as she did her job, then bounce right back to the stage to see how lighting was going. 

It’s pretty clear that this way of working has advantages.

That’s Not All

The production side of “I Promise” is just one part of its overall success story. Relation pioneered several industry-firsts during this project in how the ads were tested and then served to the right audiences at the right time during the campaign to get the best results.