Eric Kallman is currently at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, having previously worked at Barton F. Graf 9000, Wieden+Kennedy and TBWAChiatDay. Unbelievably, he has won two Black Pencils and nine Yellow Pencils at the D&AD Professional Awards. He also acted as Foreman of our Intergeated & Innovative Media Jury and has hosted a copywriting masterclass at D&AD Festival.
In the interview below, Kallman reveals what really happened behind-the-scenes on the shoots for some of his infamous commercials.
The Secret Life of Eric Kallman
I don't know if I've ever coined a term for what I do - I write ads like everyone else. People tell me my style is distinct, but I don't think about it that much. I just do my thing.
I'm a big fan of Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, Tim & Eric. I'm a lucky dude and the stars aligned with the weird part of my brain.
In most cases I enjoy the writing and prep. But with these campaigns, we had surrounded ourselves with A+ people, and are doing stuff that's pretty radical, really different.
The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
We had an established relationship with Old Spice and an existing rulebook for the campaign. But the different insight for bodywash (rather than deodorant) was that men buy their own deodorant, but women buy bodywash for their boyfriends.
We had about five days to turn around a campaign, using the same established parameters, but this time it was aimed at women.
It was myself and my partner Crag Allen penning it. The first thing we wrote was "Hello Ladies". Usually we were visual, but this one came out as dialogue; we thought we had a radio script. We had no idea what it could look like.
We ended up writing six or seven of those scripts. There was a 'hero' version that Craig my partner had, but it didn't have an ending. So we just picked out “I’m on a horse” from a different script and put that at the end.
The director, Tom Kuntz, told us he'd like to try filming it in one take.
So everything you see is real, apart from the diamonds on the hands. It was actually shot outside on the beach. It's a smaller set than you’d think, but was incredibly intricate - to the extent that it was one guy’s job just to rip the towel off.
After The Man Your Man Could Smell Like was released, it blew up. Ian Tait was looking at the YouTube comments, and he said, “usually people comment on the commercial. But here everyone's writing to the character. Let's write back.”
Our first idea was to insert a tiny video player into the comments sections, but that wasn't possible. So we simplified it.
It wasn't a big production. I remember going into it, we were sat behind computers writing things in real time. I remember someone saying 'welcome to the most work you'll ever do for a Pencil'. We were just in a little studio, cut off from everyone. Afterwards we went back to Wieden’s and everyone was celebrating. Craig and I just winked at each other.
This stuff was fun because we already had the character figured out. We were trying to cast a bodybuilder and it was an account guy who suggested Terry Crews.
So on the shoot we were in a garage with Terry Crews, and a green screen. It was an unorthodox experience.
He's a very intelligent, well educated, professional guy. He was very well spoken but he would go back to the trailer, and come out in character: pumped up, eyes twitching, intense.
Beard was the first spot Craig and I did. Skittles already had the Taste the Rainbow campaign; which was epic, but not funny. Skittles was the magical candy; it was always a situation where something magical happened in a mundane situation.
Shooting Touch, the first thing we did was blow up this clear plastic desk that we filled with Skittles. We had a desk built with electric charges, and a million Skittles in it. When we blew up the desk the far end exploded and fell but the bit near the camera didn't. We thought The Mill could fix it in post… but they couldn't. So the effects crew spent the afternoon building another one.
The Skittles themselves were in a million big bags; they send a truck load and someone’s job was to open each bag. I remember shuffling Skittles into this clear desk thinking we weren't going to get the shot. But when it blew up the second time it worked - and a million Skittles hit me in the face.
Those are all real Skittles.
The very next day we were filming Stable. Our actor with the udders looked really out of it. He almost collapsed after the first line. We were in the middle of nowhere, dairy country, and we had to call a doctor out. He came, and saw the guy lying on his back with prosthetic udders on him… The doctor just said he hadn't seen anything like it before. Thankfully the actor recovered, and then we shot through the night.
Those two days were a mixture of blur and confusion.
If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.