PromaxBDA creativity and that Canal+ bear

Olivier Schaack, Creative Services Director of Canal+ was one of the key speakers at the PromaxBDA conference in Sydney, the second largest Promax held outside the USA. Schaack, wearing a French rugby jersey after losing a bet on the World Cup, compared his work to that of a vampire feeding off the creative energy of his wonderful team. While wonderfully entertaining as a speaker, Schaack is also responsible for some 25 TV channels in France.

Canal+ has changed much since its beginnings, initially and for many years the company had little to no competition. Since 2005 it has worked hard to establish its creative branding and fought hard to compete with not only direct rivals but direct access to the internet. Since most Canal+ program gets translated, it delays overseas content by 2 to 4 months from appearing on Canal+, which is a huge window for French viewers to just view content directly but in English online. Canal+ has responded with hard hitting creative content that has succeed on air and in the awards. Canal+ openly modeled itself on HBO in the USA, and during the presentation Olivier Schaack showed many brilliant examples for Canal+’s unique French humor and the team’s outstanding creative talent.

One key spot Schaack discussed was the new Bear promo, which premiered on the weekend of the conference, Sunday 16th October in France. The brilliant promo was directed by Mathijs Van Henningen. A comedy on creativity, dreams, imagination that will definitely charm the audience with this beautiful modern tale of ”once upon a time there was a bear rug who was a director” brought to life by Mikros Image in France. The Promo’s brief was to create a photo-realistic brown bear, but as slim as a rug, to fit into the story imagined by Matthijs. “He had to move and be fully integrated into the shot footage. The challenge faced by our CG team was to animate a bear rug made from scratch and make him move lightly in a slimmy manner while aiming at a full photo-realistic look”. Flame artist and on-set supervisor (and actor!) Laurent Creusot says “we knew from the start we had a good project in our hands, excellent references to create high-end digital bear rug character. I’ve no intention to brag about it but what I’m particularly proud of is the bear’s acting : you can truly relate to him while he’s speaking.”

CANAL+ work was created with the advertising agency BETC Euro RSCG,. This campaign aimed to promote CANAL+’s position as a leading content creator. The film unites quality, humor, originality and a touch of impertinence inherent to the CANAL+ : Never underestimate the power of a great story!
Note: We have more on Canal+ Bear ‘behind the scenes’ coming up on fxguide (update – for for info check out: Mikros image: the making of the Canal+ bear)


The last Canal+ campaign – “The closet” – with same director, agency, production and post-production house had gained a huge success and several awards. Among them can be listed the Grand Prix Stratégies 2010 and Cannes Lions.

The film was shot by director Matthijs van Heijningen. Visual effects were also produced at Mikros Image.
The film won the Gold Lion at Cannes 2010.

Interestingly the director Matthijs van Heijningen has just released a new feature film The Thing (VFX by Image Engine – coming up in fxguidetv #123).


Creativity was a strong theme at this year’s PromaxBDA conference. The papers were split between those directly addressing creativity such as Idea Bodega’s Creative Masterclass and others addressing the logic and theory behind why promos and ads work.

Directing Masterclass

Lectures included a hands-on demonstration of directing promo voice-over artists with a dozen of the country’s finest promo talent by Internationally honored NY-based director Marice Tobias. It is refreshing to attend a lecture by accident, assume you would learn nothing and find the content so engaging that you enjoy sitting through the whole session and genuinely learning a great deal about maximizing a performance. It is little wonder that similar PromaxBDA lectures overseas have been standing room only.

Another highlight was an inspiring display of award winning typography work by Alt Group creative director Dean Poole. The Alt Group’s work was breathtakingly inspiring, having won over 250 international and national design awards. Poole, while humble and genuine, is also member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) – an elite group of the world’s top graphic designers who design many if not most of world’s top corporate identities. Poole showed a range of work while commenting that “Living a creative life is all about the end, creativity is a sport without an umpire”. An ex fine artist, he jokes that the difference between a fine artist and a pizza is that “the pizza can feed a family of four”. He advocated working ideas out on a social context. Their work for Hudson Gavin Martin was some of the most awarded typography shown at the conference.

Nicole Velik : Idea Generation masterclass

Nicole Velik’s Masterclass outlined 10 key steps for Idea Generation, including several idea generation techniques such as “River Jump”, “Connected Worlds” and others. Such approaches seek to find ways to creatively solve problems by connecting random concepts and ideas to form powerful new ideas. Velik normally does this presentation as a full day seminar and works with many large TV stations, advertising agencies and marketers.


Adam Ferrier, Naked Communications - Founding Partner.

One of the most interesting speakers was Adam Ferrier from Naked Communications who addressed the issue of how ads work, touching heavily on Cognitive Behavioral Psychology.  Ferrier is a gifted communicator – a once under 12 chess champion, he has worked in psychology including a time assessing serious sexual criminals in the local jail/correctional system. But away from our immediate industry he is perhaps most widely known for his regular appearances on the Gruen Transfer TV show discussing media on the national broadcaster ABC.  While fully valuing brand persona and brand identity, Ferrier argues that instead of aiming to make promos and ads that seek to change our emotional response, we should be making communication that changes our behaviour directly. He argues that thought and emotion follow your actions, as the primary force in behavior change and not the other way around.

Instead of trying to make us feel something, hoping we will think about this and thus change our actions, Ferrier points to the power of making us do something and then how we will post-rationalise our thinking in line with this adopted behavior. This is called cognitive dissonance: once people act in a certain way, they strive to align their thoughts and feelings accordingly.  Far from being an abstract concept his company has had vast success turning sometimes small PR budgets of say $60,000 into an estimated $6,000,000 worth of nation wide free publicity, all built on getting people to do something – to engage, and not by appealing to people emotionally.

This does place him at some odds with the traditional model of change from emotional engagement, but Naked’s massive campaigns and their stunning results are further backed up by actual research especially work currently coming out of Stanford University in the USA. And this builds on what is known as the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), developed by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen (1975, 1980), derived from research on attitude and behavior. The theory was born largely out of frustration with traditional attitude/behavior research, much of which has been found to show a very weak correlation between attitude measures and that of actually making different conscious decisions.

When probing why more people don’t adopt this approach Ferrier accurately pointed out how much harder it is to formulate communication strategies along the lines of starting with an action and having the thoughts/feelings look after themselves, compared to just making a funny or heart warming spot. But in the end “you just have to ask people in a compelling way,” he explained.

Note: We have much more coming up with Naked’s Adam Ferrier.

Another speaker looking at what makes spots work or not was Peter Pynta of Neuro-Insight who presented an excellent run down on the importance of matching the style of promo, especially with the lead position in an ad break to the style of program it was in the middle of. Neuro-Insight found vast gains in recall and long term memory of spots when the match fitted vs one that ran against the gain of the themes of the primary show. This research was explored through actual empirical testing effectively matching what one can call left brain thinking vs right brain thinking. So deep emotional, big picture programming allowed for much higher recall of promos following in style, as did matching detailed or numerical focused say current affairs with promos discussing scheduling or more detail focused issues .

To promote a creative atmosphere the conference was very professionally presented in a Fun Park