Ballad of the road, land, and sea

It’s said, “you have to walk a thousand miles in a man’s shoes to know him”.

How about 1,000 miles in a 16-wheeler truck with your client. That’s how we tried to look at the business problem our client, NTI – the no.1 Specialist Insurers, had when trying to convey how they’re such specialists to their customers.

You know, truck drivers, big and small (not their belt lines, the size of truck they command); transport company owners, fleet managers; heavy plant and machinery operators and cargo and goods importers and exporters; not forgetting even the smallest logistical parcels.

NTI doesn’t just insure it down the end of a phone line and then collect their premium every month, like other insurers. They care. And yeah, anyone can say they care. I sometimes used to pretend to listen to my ex while the all-important footy results came on the news, and was accused that I didn’t care about how Sam and Tina’s dog can now sit on command… When really… I digress.

NTI as specialist insurers cares. How do I know? They have well documented stories of when their clients have rung when the ‘fit has hit the shan’ and they needed immediate assistance. Stories where you’re expecting them to say, “yeah, the claims agent rang triple zero for their client”. But that’s not how NTI claims people roll. They’re the type of people that get out of bed at 3am and travel a 150kms to an accident to help the driver. How many relatives do you know that would take that bullet for you? I can count them on one hand.

You get the picture, right? From the top down, NTI knows their crowd. Their audience. Their crew. Their tribe. Their fam. And they do accordingly. They look after them. We had to capture this in 30”. In an ad. In a kick ass (excuse my Trench – that’s French for truckie speak) commercial with pre-bought media, to be viewed by a specific audience. A no nonsense audience that knows the road better than most.

The V8 Supercars family. The beer guzzling, petrolhead with peacocked mullet and 80’s mirrored sunnies. Bruce. Shane. Kev. And Trudy. The crew that knows their V8 from a V6. An AB from and AB double (that’s two types of trucks for you Prius drivers out there).

We decided we need to let our audience know (not the few that had already had an unfortunate incident) how close NTI are to them, even if the unexpected happened in the outback. When the driver’s probably closer distance-wise to our cuzzies across the ditch than their own families on the eastern seaboard. How?

We navigated to the most basic human senses. Hearing. Like smell, sight, etc; the things you hear stay with you forever. You never forget the smell of your grandad. Freshly cut grass – even the type if you’ve lived in different places. Same is true for sounds. The first time you heard a cicada, or Mr Whippy. You only needed one listen. You knew how far away it was, which direction it was travelling. And where it parked on your street. All from the noises.

There are a million trucks in commercials. So, what! We needed to make the noises of the things NTI insures, more important than anything. We sourced the amazing musical genius that is Johnny Green, from newly formed Heckler Sound (yeah, the Heckler peeps now do music and sound as well as fantastic pictures).

We gave him the brief to create a song, rather than a piece for our TV commercial, using only the sounds of trucks of all kinds and types; cargo and parcels that come into Australian waters and airspace; everything yellow (stuff that digs, moves, and picks up shit!); and everything in these worlds of transport and logistics including the people and their rugged nature. Oh, and it had to be Australian.

He knocked it out of the stratosphere. It was time to get a director involved. We needed someone tough like the things we needed to shoot. We needed someone that had no problem getting their hands dirty. But at the same time, someone that would look at the ugliness of muddy tires and mundane of cargo container after cargo container, and somehow make it look beautiful. Almost sexy. All aspirational.

Bodhi Films, Brendan Williams, was the director we needed. The type of guy that could probably drive the truck or tugboat better than the owner. Brendan set about imagining, finding, and creating literally 100’s of potential shots that he could match to the music. And then he created his magic music video to work with the track. It made the music sing – like any great video at 3am on Rage does.

And the rest as they say, is a 30” ode to the people that keep Australia moving. The ones you and I never spare a thought for. The ones that delivered all that toilet paper last year, for our irrational asses. The ones that left their families and took the long way home on lonesome roads, while the rest of us stayed home watching Netflix. The ones that never get thanked for their blood, sweat and tears.

On behalf of NTI, and nextThursday_ this one’s for you. You’re never alone on the road. Not when you’re insured by NTI. They know what it sounds like to keep Australia moving. And we were just fortunate to be able to bring that to life.

Lazrus Simons

idea savant @nextThursday