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Are You a Reckless Idiot Online? There's an App for That


IDEA: Are you a reasonably sensible person offline, only to act naive, stupid or flat-out reckless on the Internet? You're not alone.

"People have the same password for every device. Some people even have a folder on their desktop labeled 'Private Documents,'" said Brad Berg, creative director at McAfee, the Internet security company. Well, there's an app for that—or rather, a whole new suite of McAfee services called LiveSafe, offering identity protection, secure cloud storage, password management and more. It protects you from yourself—your digital self, who probably isn't careful enough online.

"This idea—that the threat actually isn't from without but from within—allows people to see themselves and say, 'Wow, that's my behavior.' That suddenly makes it relevant," Berg said.

McAfee tapped Venables Bell & Partners to bring the idea to life creatively, which the agency does in three new spots showing ordinary people talking with their more comically oblivious digital selves.

TALENT: Casting was crucial. The agency considered using twins, or siblings, or even single actors doubled through CGI. In the end, they cast people who looked a lot alike.

VB&P showed Berg a study that had been done on doppelgängers. "The second I thumbed through this little study, I was like, 'This is funny,'" said Berg. "I just knew immediately that it was the way to go. For me, two people who are awfully similar but not the same is not only funnier, it's just fresher."

Lee Einhorn, a creative director at VB&P who also directed the ads, said it also brought more energy. "I don't think we would have gotten the same sense of a comedy team [using CGI]," he said. "These are dialogue-driven spots, and having both people there let them hit on what we had in the scripts, but also improv a lot of stuff."

COPYWRITING: The agency wrote six scripts, producing the three. (More spots could come soon.) The finished dialogue was 90 percent scripted, with "a line or two" improvised in each ad, said Einhorn.

The banter has each protagonist pleading with his or her digital self—a mild antagonist—to be more vigilant with personal data online. "Do you have that digital copy of our taxes?" a woman says to her online version in an ad about cloud storage. "I have a lot of things to do for us, like keep our 800 friends amused," replies the woman, who's playing around with cat videos.

The spots close with two on-screen lines—the first a product feature, and the second the tagline, which is: "Protect yourself from your digital self." That is followed by the McAfee LiveSafe logo and URL.

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Einhorn shot the spots over two days in Marin County, north of San Francisco. They're structured as interviews, with the two selves addressing an unseen interlocutor. "The reference points were Christopher Guest to camera stuff like Waiting for Guffman," said Einhorn.

The visual style is "filmic, but also casual and simple," he added. He went with basic camera angles—deciding against doing cutaways while keeping a straight-on view. The characters are dressed the same—they are the same person, after all—but with little flourishes that indicate a bit more daring on the part of the digital self. (She's literally more unbuttoned in the storage spot.)

SOUND: A short, mischievous piece of originally scored music opens and closes each ad. "It's like tucking in the viewer and letting them know something's coming," said Einhorn. He had the opening to Curb Your Enthusiasm in mind—"the five notes you play before going right into the funny."

MEDIA: Online video and display units. The campaign also includes a website redesign, microsite and retail point-of-sale displays.


Client: McAfee
Brand: LiveSafe
Spots: "Gregg," "Justin," "Megan"
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Executive Creative Director: Paul Venables and Will McGinness
Creative Director: Lee Einhorn
Art Director: Greg Damiani
Copywriter: Craig Ross
Director of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Agency Producer: Adam Battista
Production Company: Lumberyard
Director: Lee Einhorn
Director of Photography: Andy Lilien
Executive Producer: James Hagedorn
Producer: Tom Ruge
Editing Company: Lumberyard
Editor: Daniel Figueroa
Post-Producer: Anna Fields
Color: Company 3
Music: Mophonics
Mix: M Squared Productions

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