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The Goldstein Awards!

When TBWA-Whybin cast Stephen Mellor cast in the role of Ira Goldstein all those years ago who would’ve guessed that the campaign was destined to become one of the most popular in NZ television history?

Concept-wise the campaign was smart, snappy and enabled the fun delivery of some fairly dry banking product benefits. But it’s doubtful anyone thought it was a high-water mark of originality or creativity. So what was the secret ingredient that lifted the campaign to legendary status, dominating viewer popularity surveys for a decade?

Put simply, Stephen himself.

It was his personal charm, comic timing and sense of character that New Zealanders connected with. It was Stephen they laughed at, his pitch-perfect goofy delivery that they enjoyed rewatching often enough to pick up on the latest ASB interest rate.  He gave genuine personality to the brand, which, in the banking sector, is a real achievement.

This is not to downplay the contributions of the agency team, the production company and the other actors; but the fact is that when the cameras rolled, it was Stephen Mellor’s magic that made it work.

As the curtain is likely to finally come down on the Goldstein era, we here at Motley, Punting & Shiller want to take this opportunity to recognise more outstanding work from actors in local campaigns. We doubt anyone is about to take Stephen’s crown as the most beloved character in advertising, but all of these people manage to lift the material off the page, and in one of the most demanding performance environments an actor can experience, deliver priceless moments.

Ladies and gentlemen, Motley, Punting & Shiller are proud to present…

The Goldstein Awards.

Down the Barrel

Appearing natural while talking to a strange three-legged contraption is no easy task, as many owner-operator spots attest. Even experienced broadcasters and performers can miss the mark and come off as stiff and wooden while trying to look authoritative and credible in areas far outside their expertise. Strange nervous hand gestures, slightly deranged smiles and rabbit-in-the-headlights sports ‘personalities’ abound in this sector. Which is why the fresh, easy charm of our first winner stands out head and shoulders above the competition – no easy feat for a man of his stature!

Jared Turner’s work for EECNZ’s Energy Spot ads is some of the best to-camera presenting we have ever seen. Effortlessly natural, he doesn’t rely on any character veneer to carry him through. He is warmly and bravely himself. His credibility is sold not by props like a suit and tie, frown and stentorian tones, but by his open smile and sincere, direct gaze. Clearly, he believes what he’s saying to be true, so doesn’t need to sell it.

Yes, this may be helped by the public service rather than nakedly commercial message, but even so his achievement is notable. Presenting to camera may be one of those areas where it’s hard to comprehend just how incredibly difficult it is to do well until you try it. Jarred shows how it should be done.

Making it Work

Continuing on the theme of warmth and charm here is one of the highly popular Mitre 10 ‘It’s in our DNA’ spots from Draft FCB.

The performance key to this ad, for our money, is not so much the kids – who are, yes, naturally cute, but also layered in wardrobe in order to sell the gags. It’s their teacher, played by Kiri Lightfoot, who not only has a perfect girl-next-door look, but with her recognisable, totally believable ‘kindy teacher tone’ makes the commercial work, despite relatively little screen time. A credible mixture of warmth plus no-nonsense in her manner grounds the otherwise over-the-top puns and makes them funny. Put simply, because she’s not at all silly, the silly names pay off. It came as no surprise to learn that Ms. Lightfoot has a background working with kids.

But it’s not just for that ad that Kiri wins the Goldstein. It’s for this.

In the shot when the waiter appears she hits a beautifully endearing note of flustered innocence to miraculous effect:  The audience falls immediately in love with the character and forgives a premise so ludicrous it might’ve killed the ad – the idea that anyone would take instant coffee to an Italian café. For making an ad that could easily have been deeply annoying totally lovable instead, she deserves huge credit.

Viral Outbreak

L&P’s ‘Tourism Paeroa’ online campaign from Ogilvy could only work with a couple of consummate professionals in the lead roles. In Cohen Holloway & Peter Hambleton they found two performers whose contribution to the campaign went far beyond simply reading lines. Unlike the other winners they did have the luxury of multiple long videos to work with, but their work is of such quality they had to be mentioned. Clearly containing significant amounts of improvisation the fly-on-the-wall/mockumentary spots played to the strengths of the online channel. The genius of Cohen and Peter’s work is that while extracting laughs from a couple of bumbling small-town idiots they never lose affection for them, and neither do we. It’s a quintessentially Kiwi style of humour which perfectly suits a quintessentially Kiwi brand.

The One-Liner

Our final award recognises a performance which is the distillation of everything difficult about TVC acting. One shot, one look, one line, upon which hinges the entire operation; months of work from scores of people, a set full of crew, agency, clients, money dripping away and the tension rising with each take.

Sound, speed…action!

The final Goldstein goes to Erroll Shand for Stihl Chainsaws – ‘Bequeathed’. The punchline of this ad is a classic reveal, pulling the carpet out from beneath the audience and creating maximum engagement just as we hit the product shot. In order to work as well as it does, the line has to be placed with incredible intelligence and care. The character can’t just blurt it out insensitively or we’ll recoil at the bad taste. He has to walk a tightrope. Watch again and see how much is going on during the line. We know he’s lying, we sense his excitement at his own chutzpah, yet it’s concealed beneath an expression of grief so as not to break the reality of the scene, or give away the lie. It’s a brilliant, complex comedic moment, and the director wisely lingers on it to pick up as much of the performance as he can, as well as the beautiful contrasting support from the other actor.

The busy team at Motley, Punting & Shiller concede we may have missed some other outstanding performances, so are willing to present some supplementary awards on suggestion from the audience. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the winners. We also congratulate those who gave the winners their opportunity to shine, as well as the fine post-production work which complements all of the highlighted comments.

Thanks for visiting.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. November 1, 2010 at 3:09 am

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