How This Agency Made Oakland a Global Stand-In Location for Samsung

2 months ago 12

When creating global work for brands, finding an international look and feel is an important consideration. While it would be nice to include iconic locales—say the St. Louis arch or the Empire State Building—creating a universal vibe is generally part of the brief. With travel restrictions and remote shooting and production, the challenge is magnified.

Yet, in a new global campaign for Samsung, San Francisco agency Eleven managed to take a small slice of the Bay Area and make it exactly what the client was looking for both in locale and diverse talent. The ad features the brand’s Galaxy Note20 with a positive message of gratitude, with people sharing notes of thanks.

Eleven had a short timeframe (about three weeks) to come up with the campaign. Part of the brief, since the work was global in scope, was to cast diverse talent. Again, due to restrictions, the agency had to look locally in the Bay Area instead of sourcing in usual places like Los Angeles.

Dotun Bello, a copywriter on the project, said the creative team was pleasantly surprised at how well each actor pulled off the concept.

“There was some worry about the skill of talent here because Los Angeles has so many good actors and actresses,” noted Bello. “We were worried about what we would get, but we found a diverse set of talent that performed exceptionally well.”

The other main issue was to ensure that locations had a universal feel. Bello said it was important not to give off “American vibes.”

“We wanted people to think that this could be Venice, Italy or Paris or somewhere in Asia,” continued Bello. “We were lucky in that San Francisco and the Bay Area has very good architecture and landscapes.”

According to Paul Golubovich, Eleven’s director of production, the scouting team looked in Marin County, the San Francisco peninsula and South Bay. They eventually landed on two homes in East Bay: one in Old Town Oakland and another in Kensington, just outside the city limits.

“It’s a beautiful, classic old home that was completely refurbished,” said Golubovich, referring to the former location in downtown Oakland. “But you could feel the truth of Oakland surrounding you.”

Shot with a small crew due to Covid-19 concerns, director Kevork Demirjian used the phone to film the entire spot. Golubovich noted that Demirjian had never used the phone and had only a couple of days to train with it. The end product was not overly produced, to show its capabilities.

“The classic snowball fight from iPhone was nicely done, but obviously created with some blending and filters,” said Golubovich, who has a two decade-plus production tenure working with a long list of established agencies and brands. “It was beautifully done, but there were some bells and whistles beyond the capability of the phone. We stayed true to the phone without getting overly technical.”

But the star of the show is Oakland, an incredible stand-in for an international location. Talent and opportunity can come from anywhere.

“I’ve lived in Oakland for a long time,” said Bello. “I didn’t know there were parts of the city like this, and it is cool that this authenticity gave us the global feel we needed.”


CCO – Mike McKay
Senior Art Director – Emily McNulty
Art Director – Jeremy Diessner
Copywriter – Dotun Bello
Director of Production – Paul Golubovich
Producer – Christopher Kasper
EIP – Nicole Nantista
AIP – Elena Miller

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