Romancing the phone: instead of provoking shivers, a spider captured the hearts of viewers (and awards judges). Benjamin Merkel, ECD of Leo Burnett Germany, tells us how the creative team wove their web.
Camera lenses often capture emotions, but they rarely inspire affection. Until one day, along came a spider… Leo Burnett Germany’s film for the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra squeezes warmth and humanity from an insect and a mobile phone, a feat that makes it a deserving award-winner. But how do you get from a brief about a new phone to an amorous arachnid?
Benjamin Merkel, executive creative director of Leo Burnett Germany, says: “The client didn’t give us a very detailed brief – just to focus on the camera and its features, which is always the case with the S series. They added that we could talk about the camera design.”
The “design” was essentially a cluster of lenses. Powerful – and useful – but not obviously beautiful. “As we talked about it we realised the lenses looked like the eyes of an animal, or an insect. Maybe a fly, but more like a spider.”
The result was a script with just two or three lines: a spider looks out of the window, sees an image of the phone on a billboard, and falls in love. “I think the real magic of the idea is its simplicity,” says Benjamin. “To that first magic moment we added a second one, when the billboard is removed and, of course, love hurts.”
A simple idea that nonetheless required a lot of craft. To shoot the film, the agency chose young directing duo Dorian and Daniel. The pair graduated from Germany’s best film school, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Stuttgart, where they’d attracted attention with a spec film for Johnnie Walker called “Dear Brother”. They were also included in the 2017 Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase, setting them on an award-winning career path.
“We felt they were a good fit for us because we wanted a different atmosphere from the usual cool and crisp Samsung film – a bit more moody, with a sort of David Fincher feel about it. Soon it was clear that we’d made the right choice, because they added a lot of scenes, like the spider swinging in the water jug, which enriched the original simple story.”
Post-production was by The Mill. While Samsung Germany was behind the idea the whole way, there was a lot of debate about the character design of the spider. After all, some people are genuinely afraid of the insects. “We felt that it shouldn’t be too realistic – but not too cartoon-like either,” says Benjamin. “In the end we have something in between, with little details that give her emotion, like the way her antenna droop when the billboard disappears, and even the little tears of sadness in her eyes.”
The agency got the original brief at the end of March 2021, with the script emerging only a week later. But the lengthy process of bringing the idea to life meant that the agency missed the launch of the phone it was originally destined for: the S21. Fortunately, Samsung loved the story and decided the film could be used for the S22 instead.
“There was some anxiety because we didn’t know what the new phone would look like – what if it had completely different lenses? Then our story would be dead! We shot the whole film anyway and started work on the character design, and luckily when the phone was released the lenses looked the same, even if some of the features were more advanced.”
The film was launched on Valentine’s Day. “It wasn’t originally planned that way, but since the film took us a long time to create, we decided to schedule it for that day. It worked so well that we were able to say to the client: ‘A lot of agencies own Christmas with their films – so why don’t we own Valentine’s Day?’ As a result, we started working on a successor.”
A third film may appear on Valentine’s Day 2024, too. If all goes according to plan, Samsung phones will be associated not just with sleek design and great cameras, but with romance too.