The legendary E*TRADE babies are back, this time in a seven-spot campaign produced from start to finish by Click 3X. John J. Budion, working closely with Grey NYC, led Click’s in-house team as director, creative director, and lead flame artist, shooting, directing and handling all VFX. While the basic concept and characters will be familiar to any E*TRADE Baby fan, the campaign evolves significantly behind amusing character developments, unique new settings that go beyond the traditional nursery, and tie-ins to both the company’s sophisticated online trading tools and the NFL Playoffs on CBS.
The team at Click 3X has contributed memorable VFX to previous E*TRADE baby campaigns, making the babies’ lips appear to move as they spoke. The campaign marks an important moment in Click’s evolution, as Grey awarded the company a dominant role in creating the new spots, an acknowledgment of their enhanced technological capabilities and expanding talent base.
“Campaign after campaign, Click 3X amazes us with their productioncapabilities. This year’s E*TRADE Baby campaign is a brilliant interplayof media formats that come together seamlessly for the audience,” said Nicholas Utton, CMO E*TRADE Financial. “From creative concept through post production, Click 3X has been an integral partner in the success of the E*TRADE baby campaign.”
Click 3X Managing Director Jason Mayo adds, “Click is moving aggressively to establish itself as a soup-to-nuts operation. It says a lot for John (Budion) and the rest of our crew that Grey and E*TRADE would entrust us to collaborate with them on so many important elements of such a major national campaign. John really shows his creative and technical capabilities in enhancing the long-running Baby campaign without sacrificing the legacy of the engrained themes and characters.”
The new settings create unique opportunities for Baby to show off E*TRADE’s features. Lottery features Baby in a convenience store, mocking an adult who is fiercely focused on his scratch-off lottery ticket. “You know your chances of winning are the same as being mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear in the same day?” he asks, encouraging his friend to stake his retirement instead on E*TRADE’s extensive planning tools. In First Class, Baby takes to the skies, lounging in the plane’s cabin on his way back from a bachelor party, sipping a glass of milk and bantering with a friend, bragging that E*TRADE automatically triggered his stop-loss orders while he was living it up on vacation.
In Girlfriend, the campaign returns to the nursery, this time for a hilarious two-way webcam chat in which Baby explains to his girlfriend that he wasn’t able to call her last night because he was on E*TRADE diversifying his portfolio, emphasizing the importance of this sort of immediate direct control in such a volatile market. Baby’s credibility takes a hit, however, when his girlfriend grills him on whether the “milkaholic” Lindsay was over, and the troublemaking tot, upon hearing her name, dodges into the lens.
E*TRADE had a very specific vision for the campaign’s look, and Budion chose a variety of cameras to meet this challenge, including a Sony F23 that shoots in 1920 x 1080 HD and a P2 cam that shoots 1280 x 720 in standard def. In order to reach a middle ground and get the exact film texture that E*TRADE sought, he sharpened the P2 footage and degraded the HD footage.
Barbershop, a :15 featuring Baby and his three friends sitting in a study singing a goodbye diddy to their overpriced brokers, perhaps best represents the disparate elements that Click brought together to assemble each final spot. Budion shot each baby in HD individually against a green screen so that they could be reused in any spot, a technique he followed for each shoot. He then transposed the babies against the still background shot and added animated fire to the room’s fireplace.
Shooting a series of spots that had to be assembled from disparate pieces to look like fluid live action presented special challenges. In Lottery and First Class, for example, the two characters are shot at different times, against a green screen, so Budion had to carefully plan the height at which to shoot each and consider how their eye lines would match up to one another as they conversed. Both spots feature a mix of CG, live action, and stills, a challenging cocktail for even the most experienced production teams.
“Luckily we have a lot of experience in composite and post, so we knew exactly what to do to optimize the live-action shoots,” noted Budion. “Grey was very clear from the beginning on what the final spots would look like, so we arranged the production process around it. This is emerging as a clear advantage for Click as we move more and more into production – we understand post so well that we’re able to plan ahead better than most studios, saving everyone time and money in the end.”
The campaign features extensive tie-ins to both the league and CBS. In My Mind is a :10 in which Baby clutches a football and spells out his dreams of one day leading a team to victory on the gridiron. CBS NFL Today Interview features a game-day webcam back-and-forth between the CBS NFL Today show’s James Brown and Baby, in which they break down a matchup between the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts.
Two of the :30s debuted during Super Bowl XLIV, which aired Feb. 7 on CBS, and an additional promo aired during the pregame show.
Outtakes, a 1:16 compilation of “bloopers” is currently running in theatres and on E*TRADE’s YouTube channel.
About Click 3X
New York-based Click 3X produces cutting-edge visual solutions for commercials, feature films, television, music videos, and broadcast clients around the globe. Founded in 1993, Click 3X has become one of the preeminent providers of innovative media content, housed in an environment led by artists, yet supported by one of the most technologically advanced digital studios in the industry. With award-winning design, powerful visual effects, and a visionary animation team, Click 3X has worked on array of diverse highly-recognizable projects, including a series of films from academy-award winning directors like Jonathan Demme and Davis Guggenheim, a recent multimedia package for eight HD Time Warner spots, My Home 2.0, a five episode reality TV series for Verizon Fios, and a long line of recent commercials for major brands such as Sharp, Ford, and Goodyear.
Spots Title: Outtakes 1:16, Lottery :30, Barbershop :15, First Class :30, Girlfriend :30, Tears :15, CBS Interview :30, CBS “In My Mind” Promo :10
Air Date: 1/16-2/7
Creative Director(s): Paul Behnan, Rob Baiocco
Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
Executive Producer: Bennett McCarroll
Producer: Kim Kietz
Account Executive: Jon Holding
Prod Company: Click 3X/Sparks
Director: John J. Budion
Managing Director: Jason Mayo
Visual FX: Click 3X
CD/Lead Flame Artist: John J. Budion
Flame Artist (s): Mark Szumski, Sophia Avgousti, John Ciampa, Amanda Amalfi
CG Artist (s): Anthony Filipakis, Rob Dollase, Grace Hwang, Sung Kim, Tyrone Perry
Managing Director: Jason Mayo
Head of Production/Producer: Jared Yeater
Production Coordinator: Diana Chang
Live Action Producer NY: Rob Mackler
Editorial: Vision Post
Editor: Alex Cohan
Producer: Suzie Rosenthal
Telecine: Nice Shoes
Colorist: Gene Curley
Sound Design: Vision Post
Sound Designer: Dante Desole
Shoot Location: Toronto, ON