“The Telephone” Commercial: Behind the Scenes
When Phonexa leadership decided that it wanted to include a B2B commercial into the company’s Q1 plans, the task fell to our company’s creative team.
Phonexa is no stranger to video production. Our video library is full of content that highlights company culture, provides overviews of our platforms, and chronicles past events. Plus our first commercial, The Small Things, gave people insight into our company’s focus on the details that matters most to clients.
But for this new ad, the directive was to focus on Phonexa as an innovator—and to inject the spot with some humor.
Spearheading the development and supervision of the commercial were Phonexa’s creative director Armen Karaoghlanian and content writer Mark Kosin. There was one idea that had been on Karaoghlanian’s mind for some time: a look back at the confusion that might have been caused by the heralding of the invention of the telephone. How might people learning of such a revolutionary way of communicating respond to the news? The concept appeared to be a great way to tell a funny story while still drawing attention back to Phonexa’s innovations in the call tracking and analytics space. With experience in comedy writing, Kosin was able to quickly turn the concept into a complete script, and it was ready to be handed off to the production-savvy team who could bring the words to life.
In order to turn the two-page script into reality, Phonexa tapped a pair of talented filmmakers who had experience in everything from comedic web shorts to feature-length films. Director Andy Landen and producer Giles Andrew—a pair of USC alums, like Karaoghlanian and Kosin—were brought in to work with Phonexa to put their own spin on the idea and manage the complexities of planning, shooting, and delivering the video.
One of the first steps was casting the spot. Landen had enjoyed a working relationship with comedian and actor Barry Rothbart who could be previously seen in The Wolf of Wall Street and as a lead on the ABC sitcom Downward Dog. It was decided Rothbart had the prefect sensibilities to play “Phillip,” the pompous man-about-town who would fail to grasp the significance of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone invention. Cast opposite Rothbart would be comedic actor Davey Johnson (seen on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, as well as other short films), whose fervent energy as “Cornelius” would be a perfect foil to the aloof Phillip.
With deep ties to local production circles, the producers were able to pull together a stellar crew including award-winning cinematographer Damian Horan, experienced costumer Gregory Metcalf, and art director / production designer Dave Duarte whose credits include the feature film Swiss Army Man and the Grammy Award-winning music video This is America. Such a stacked crew was necessary as Phonexa and the producers were determined to have the historical period of the 1870s jump off the screen for the ad, now officially titled “The Telephone.”
Shooting took place in the middle of January at Los Angeles’s historic Heritage Square Museum, a terrifically-preserved collection of homes and buildings that chronicle the first 100 years of California’s statehood. While the script was originally conceived as a brief stationary chat between the two characters, the opportunity of the location pushed the team to create a more sweeping setting that would whisk viewers from a busy 19th-Century street to inside an apothecary.
The costume design for each character sought to highlight the differences of each. The self-important Phillip was given a particularly ornate wardrobe that might characterize him. The prescient Cornelius would be dressed in more simple clothes.
It was a full day of shooting, taking roughly 12 hours from sun up to past sunset. Luckily everything the team needed to get in was checked off the list, while leaving plenty of opportunities for the comedy duo of Rothbart and Johnson to work in some improvised lines.
Wrapped and Released
Post-production brought the core team together to work on the edit and make some final decisions about how to best transition from the 1870s scenery to the intuitive Phonexa platform user interface. An original score was commissioned to help underscore the momentous spirit of invention that Cornelius keeps trying to convey to Phillip. The color was tweaked and final sound touches were made to fully fill out the historical world the team had sought to create.
“The Telephone” made its way to YouTube at the beginning of March, and was soon to be followed by a press release and a Phonexa blog post about the rationale behind a B2B company investing in a comedic video ad. Response to the commercial has been unanimously positive, with so much interest being generated that we thought it would be fun to share this peek behind the scenes to let everyone know how it all came to be.
The good news is that with “The Telephone” being such a success, we’ll likely be gearing up again to put out more video content over the course of this and next year!