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SapientNitro's Changes Evident in Work for Ram Trucks

  |  June 30, 2011   |  Comments

Texans talk trucks in documentary-style videos.

ram-trucksA documentary-style series of web videos created by SapientNitro gets real Texans talking about why they love their Ram Trucks.

The relatively low-budget "Proven" campaign follows a decade-old tradition of long-form video showcasing cars - and it highlights SapientNitro's continuing evolution as a creative agency.

Creative director Alan Pafenbach, one of the creators of Volkswagen's "Drivers Wanted" campaign, joined in April 2010. To shoot the nine "Proven" videos, he traveled Texas for a month, working with production company @radical.media New York to find people and stories that embody the attributes of Chrysler's Ram brand. Texas was chosen because it accounts for 20 percent of U.S. sales of the trucks.

"We were literally stopping people in gas stations when they were filling up their trucks," Pafenbach says. "We saw one person driving down the street in Odessa, and we chased him down as he went to work."

For example, "Rodeo" highlights the Ram's heavy-duty towing capacity.

"For the eight seconds they're on the bull, there's probably an 800 to 1200 mile drive that came before that, pulling a trailer full of livestock," Pafenbach found.

@radical.media shot some 200 hours of footage with prosumer digital video cameras, fielding a crew of from 10 to 25 people. Many of the shoots, according to Pafenbach, consisted of "one light, a director and a cinematographer. Everybody else is out hiding behind the barn," so as not to intimidate the interview subjects.

Pafenbach declined to reveal production costs for the series of videos, but said it was around 20 percent of what television commercials usually cost.

While SapientNitro has not released viewership numbers, the total Proven video completion rate is 48.3 percent, compared to what the agency says is the industry standard of 23.4 percent.

The broader TV campaign "Guts. Glory. Ram." was created by The Richards Group, creative agency of record for Ram Trucks. The website and videos were promoted through social media, handled by Meredith Social, as well as a blog on the Ram Trucks website. Meredith Social also produced a CRM mailing.

While presumably SapientNitro has all these capabilities in-house, Chrysler had many legacy relationships in place, Pafenbach says.

But the shop showed its technical chops with the creation of a purpose-built digital player that allows deeper analytics than YouTube does, along with the ability to develop proprietary information Chrysler wanted.

"That's the kind of thing that SapientNitro is perfect at, and that's what sets us apart from a lot of companies that can't do the back-end or even front-end development," Pafenbach says. "As a creative director, at some point I have to turn it over to people who can actually do the development. When I can have direct conversations with the people building the front and back end, we can create more utility, generate more information and have a lot more control."

Sapient acquired Nitro, a traditional global agency network, in 2009. Nitro founder Chris Clarke left earlier this year, and in June, SapientNitro lost Nitro's Dove Chocolate account to BBDO, although it will continue to work on digital strategy, global digital production and support of the Mars website.

SapientNitro retains other accounts that came with the acquisition, including Footlocker and several ConAgra brands, including Healthy Choice and Hebrew National, a business the agency says is growing.

Last week, the agency won a Gold Cyber Lions award for Sneakerpedia, a sneaker community powered by Foot Locker, at the Cannes Lions 58th International Festival of Creativity.

On the plus side, the shop was named social marketing agency of record for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, and it was named agency of record for FirstData, a global payments processing company, handling creative, media and strategy.

Founded in 1991 at the beginning of the e-business transformation as an IT and business consulting services company, publicly-held Sapient handled web development, e-commerce, back-end infrastructure and direct marketing for a variety of clients. Today, it operates three divisions: SapientNitro, Sapient Global Markets and Sapient Government Services.

It acquired Nitro Group in July 2009, and consolidated it with the traditional IT consulting part of the business in 2010. By that time, IT consulting amounted to less than 10 percent of the company's revenues. The bulk of the revenue produced that year (a 26 percent increase year-over-year) came from SapientNitro: The division accounted for 62.5 percent of the $823.5 million that Sapient raked in from the three divisions' services in 2010.

The agency's work for Ram Trucks follows a solid tradition of high-budget, long-form web videos attempting to elucidate the thrill of driving.

In 2001, BMW released five short films on BMWfilms.com, with stars including Madonna, Clive Owen and Mickey Rourke, directed by then-indie directors Guy Ritchie and Ang Lee.

In 2005, back in the day when it was DaimlerChrysler, Organic created a web series for Jeep featuring the Mudds, a family that loved to get dirty. In 2005, Lincoln launched the 2006 Mark LT luxury truck with 60-second movies that expanded on its Super Bowl spot, all by Young & Rubicam Detroit.

Most recently, VW ran a YouTube homepage takeover leading to its Super Bowl spot, playable in the masthead unit. After it played, it led viewers to a page hosting long-form video ads for the Beetle and Passat, created by Deutsch, Los Angeles.

Correction: An earlier version of the story stated New Media Strategies handled social media for the campaign. In fact it was Meredith Social.



Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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