Behind the Scenes with SAS’ Big Data Guy

The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus.  The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed.  Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG).  Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.

Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story.  The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team.  The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion.  “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines.  This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”

A Visit From Big Data

 As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership.  Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution.  “Many commercials use this formula.  It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution.  The issue of big data fits this model.  It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”

A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments.  At that point the team ran into an impasse.  The outlines all treated the BDG character differently.  “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson.  “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”

With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work?  David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots.  “The character somewhat wrote himself.  As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”

Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card

 The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered.  At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials.  “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process.  The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”

Scripts complete – check.  Locations secured – check.  Talent hired – check.  The day of shooting finally arrived.  It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data.  From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots.  Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot.  “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence.  “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material.  We had only the one day to get all the shots.  We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later.  It had to be done right the first time.”

Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events.  The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots.  Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.

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1 comment so far

  1. Trudy Tucker Thomson on

    Loved this spot. As usual, it was creative, fun to watch, and its message was clear. I have noted how big data as a concept is the latest emphasis in many ads by computer companies. Weird to me because I know that big data has been around for a mighty long time with SAS.


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