Originally a two-man operation, the Society, founded by Jonathan Kneebone and Gary Freedman in 1998 now houses eight people-a mixture of writers, art directors and designers shaping work with a quirky sense of humor wrapped in sophisticated and stylized visuals. The team's efforts on Virgin Mobile's "Warren," through Sydney-based agency Host, gives credence to their approach. It collected the Grand Prix in the Lion's Direct category at this year's Cannes fest and features Warren, a hapless virgin seeking love and attention on a "Romantic Encounter" channel. With Warren offering a 5-cent text for "Virgin-to-Virgin" encounters, the spot not only boosted sales among Virgin's 16-24 customer base but also generated more than 200,000 text messages, 600,000 voice calls and 20 marriage proposals for the featherweight lover.
"We went to Cannes with a healthy amount of cynicism, but we were extremely surprised by the award and the people," says Freedman. "It was a revelation thinking that there's some decent people in this business-not all wankers and bullshit."
Work over the past year has been varied enough to keep the creative juices flowing, as new clients like Mercedes and Elle MacPherson Intimates requested the Society's eclectic touch. "Clients are actively choosing us and buying our unusual thoughts because they're open to radically changing their business and re-energizing their brand," insists Freedman. "We're not wacky creatives who disappear for two months then suddenly re-emerge saying exactly what they should do. We love collaborating with people who want to do something different."
With a diverse range of work capturing attention overseas, it was only a matter of time before the Society linked up with Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The result is the absurdly appetizing "Chicken Fight," an 11-minute Chicken Sandwich World Championship bout featuring the passion of poultry battling it out in the ring. "We shot at an old rodeo stadium with 10 cameras running," says Kneebone. "We wanted it to appear as if it was taking place in Mexico where cock fighting could still be legal. It needed a 'Rumble in the Jungle' quality, as if the cameras of the world suddenly turned up in this small town."
Burger King then bought a time slot for an undisclosed amount from DirecTV to run the fight and shrewdly unveil advertising disguised as content. Crispin Porter + Bogusky "are so walking the talk, and we knew instinctively that we were breaking new ground," says Freedman. "The idea and production were one and the same; the execution was as much about understanding the idea as pulling it off. Everyone involved from Crispin had a valid point of view, so we interrogated the idea intensely."
More feathers were ruffled this year when work for Intimates (a line of lingerie from statuesque supermodel Elle MacPherson) was banned in the U.K. Print and TV work displaying models posed in sexually suggestive situations as seen through keyholes, behind curtains and windows offended the Brit conservative base. Kneebone's answer to detractors? "If advertising is as good as the idea and is created with originality, flair and great execution, it will always create the right impression with the right audience." Of all the spots in the campaign, "Knife Fight" hits the mark. Faces are unseen as deliciously daring glimpses of scantily clad derrieres battle with knives and blood. All plays tasteful as master technician Stuart Dryburgh (Bridget Jones's Diary, The Piano) lenses the action with a light hand. Meanwhile photographer Mario Sorrenti handled the print campaign to great effect.
With Elle MacPherson's lingerie line set for release across North America next year, expect to hear more from The Glue Society. Currently brainstorming concepts for the American market, Kneebone and Freedman are looking forward to the experience. They also foresee a promising future for nontraditional advertising Burger King-style: "The perfect work for us lies in longer-form advertising, which is now breaking ground," explains Freedman. "We're as much driven by creating and writing good stories as we are about executing them. We'd rather make a 20-minute film for a client than a 30-second ad-it's more representative of what The Glue Society is and what drives us as a creative team."