In advance of its global espionage series, Rabbit Hole, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Paramount Plus took over billboards in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Austin, Toronto, London and other global markets.
The campaign featured images of Sutherland falling, running and standing still against a bold yellow background. In Times Square, many of those images were digital and occupied the entire sides of skyscrapers. In Los Angeles, Paramount Plus took over billboards on Melrose and at the Beverly Center. In Austin, images of Rabbit Hole papered the airport as well as Paramount’s SXSW on-site activation, Paramount Plus Lodge.
“It’s a competitive marketplace these days,” said Kevin Bjelajac, Paramount Plus’ vice president, creative. “In the streaming wars, our media team looks for the most visual media to showcase our work and they do a tremendous job scooping up as much of that as they can.”
The campaign – and the series – starts with one idea: You are being manipulated.
From there, it dog whistles many modern concepts, including the cynical notions that “deception, exploitation and misdirection are used consistently for personal, political and corporate gain,” according to Paramount Plus.
Paramount Plus’ internal design team partnered with Los Angeles-based design agency Rhubarb to develop the global 360-degree campaign. Bjelajac and his team landed on the creative concept they wanted to pursue very early in the process, said Andrew Irving, Rhubarb’s chief creative officer.
“Usually we go through many rounds of concepts with a client before landing on the final concept,” Irving said. “In this case, it didn’t change too much from what we initially presented. I thought that the concept they went with was a long shot because it was pretty unusual and the typography was unconventional.”
The campaign includes multiple action poses of star Sutherland, who plays private espionage operative John Weir. The black-and-white photography is framed against a background of bold yellow, evoking imagery of a “caution” sign. The font looks like it’s drawn from an 8-bit video game of the early computer era.
“When you watch Rabbit Hole, it’s all about digital manipulation,” said Irving. “Even though we’re past the 8-bit thing, it’s a good way to convey digital activity. Sutherland’s character, Weir, is very old school. He’s very smart, he tries to stay under the radar and do as much analog stuff as possible. The 8-bit font recalls a time when things were not to the point where we are being completely manipulated.”
In some markets and particularly Manhattan, the still imagery becomes active, with Weir running across three screens in a New York subway station or falling down the side of a Manhattan skyscraper. It also features rows of security cameras constantly turning in search of their subject.
“The ground and buildings around Weir shift, which signifies the ever-changing ground that the character is on in the show,” said Bjelajac. “The Times Square takeover is a great reference for how a bunch of different design work can come together.”
Paramount Plus’ internal team was able to capture the motion they needed for the digital out-of-home campaigns during a six-hour shoot in Toronto with the show’s talent in which they got 3D body scans and did motion work against green screens. Other shoots captured the motion of a body double falling into a giant cushion.
The end result was a bold campaign that grabbed viewers’ attention, whether they were driving in Los Angeles, strolling through Times Square or hanging out in Toronto’s Dundas Square.
“Kevin Bjelajac and creative director Steve Chan are very decisive. I think that their decisiveness makes really good art happen,” said Irving. “Often, the more rounds you go, the art gets watered down. You are only going to see great art if the client is bold and visionary enough to say ‘yes, let’s go with this.’”
Client: Paramount Plus
VP, Creative: Kevin Bjelajac
Supervising Producer: Vanessa Brandon
Marketing Manager: Devin Rome:
Project Managers, Design: Aurora Albi-Mercier, Tara Marin, Jaling Bohannon
Manager, Campaign Project Management: Ally Cerutti
Campaign Manager: Cody Plumlee
Director of Operations, Design: Scott Regier
Designer: Moravia Roman
Lead Designer: Kelly Bolton, Chris Hawkins
Senior Director, Design: Chris Kneller, Steve Chan, Kelsey DeWeerd, Michael Sutton-Long
Editor and Audio: Joe Lorenzetti
VP Content Strategy: Yetee Osunsanmi
Director, Marketing: Joey Franklin
VP Marketing: Jen Hanulak
SVP, Head of Design: Matt Hernandez
SVP, Program Marketing: Shawn Silverman
EVP, Creative: Terry Minogue
CMO Marketing Streaming: Domenic Demeglio
Photographer: Brian Bowen Smith
Chief Creative Officer: Andrew Irving