Who wants to watch 10 minutes of industrial product testing? If Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are doing it, the answer is millions.
The co-hosts of Discovery Channel's MythBusters filmed two long-form Corning videos recently, in which they look at the history of glass and the 163-year-old company's mastery of it—and perform eye-opening tests on the strength and flexibility of the brand's products. The result? More than 1 million views on each of the 10-minute videos—some 2.5 million views total to date—with almost no paid outreach.
"I've always been a proponent of long form. There is no reason to be afraid of it if you've got a great story to tell," said Michael Litchfield, creative director at Doremus.
This agency and client have known that for a while—their 2011 video "A Day Made of Glass," at 24 million views, may well be the most-watched b-to-b corporate video ever. This latest work, titled "The Glass Age," seeks to reinforce Corning's status as an innovator and thought leader—and show off present and future applications of its products like the ultra-strong Gorilla Glass.
COPYWRITING: Litchfield took a script to Corning, then to Savage and Hyneman, who were excited by it. (Litchfield and Savage have a similar tone of voice, it turns out, so the script didn't change much in the final production.)
While talking about the history and physical properties of glass, Savage and Hyneman also get to break the stuff in different ways—simulating cell-phone drops and shooting ball bearings at windshields at 120 mph. (Spoiler: Gorilla Glass, which is used in some cell phones on the market but only in prototypes of windshields to date, performs way better than regular glass.) They also explain what Gorilla Glass is, exactly. And in the best moment of all, they show slow-motion footage (100,000 frames per second) of a tadpole-shaped section of compressive-strength glass exploding.
Overall, the videos are a nice mix of talking and doing. "I felt it important that we put in a little something for everyone," said Litchfield. "Some people respond really well to the history, and others respond really well to smashing windshields."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Litchfield co-directed the videos with Drew Takahashi. They filmed for three days at Goal Line Productions in Pleasanton, Calif. There was one day of prep, one day of shooting with Savage and Hyneman, and one day of doing re-takes and pickups of some of the close–up shots.
The sets are mostly dark, and Savage and Hyneman wear dark suits. "MythBusters has an element of chaos, and I wanted the opposite: a minimalist aesthetic," said Litchfield. "The dark, infinite-space set was all part of striving for beauty through minimalism. And with little else to distract, glass can really stand out. Lit well, it can look gorgeous."
On-screen animation from Spy Post helps to tell the history and science parts of the story. Perhaps most remarkably, all the tests went according to plan. "I cannot begin to tell you how much of a relief that was," Litchfield said.
TALENT: Savage and Hyneman were a perfect fit—they've done all sorts of scientific tests on Mythbusters; they're personable; they have a built-in audience.
"They are not shills," Litchfield added. "They wouldn't lend their voice to a brand that they did not respect or believe in. And I believe their fan base knows this, too. That all adds up to an authenticity that is immediately baked in to the final product."
SOUND: The music was challenging, as the story goes in lots of directions—"everyplace from whimsy, seriousness, curiosity and all parts in between," Litchfield said. The resulting musical bed is a mix of library tracks from Music Orange and some original custom music. For sound design, the live action was recorded on set and enhanced slightly in post.
MEDIA: The only paid media has been the first 10-minute film running as YouTube pre-roll. Litchfield said the pre-roll has gotten a remarkable 39 percent completion rate—meaning that many viewers watch all 10 minutes of it.
Client: Corning Inc.
Director of Corporate Marketing & Branding: Lisa Burns
Agency: Doremus, San Francisco
Chief Creative (Co-writer/Art Director/Co-director): Michael Litchfield
Agency Producer: Stacy Leigh Bailey
Account Director: Kimberley Britton
Production House: Non-Lethal
Executive Producer: Adam Savage
Executive Producer: Jamie Hyneman
Line Producer: Tim Rayel (and Sandra Kimberly)
Director: Drew Takahashi
Dir. Photography: Scott Sorenson
Postproduction: Spy Post San Francisco
Creative Director: Darren Orr
Producer: Lori Joseph
Editor: Alan Chimenti
Animation Team: Spy Post & Odd Fellows
Colorist: Chris Martin
Music/Score: Music Orange