How We Made Three New Commercials During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many facets of the retail industry, including how companies have been able to market and promote their products.
At Saatva, our creative team used the restrictions imposed by the pandemic as an opportunity to develop imaginative concepts for our latest series of commercials.
In just a few days and on a small budget, we shot three new 30-second spots that demonstrate the "out of this world" qualities of our mattresses. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how we brought our latest creative concepts to life during the pandemic.
The inspiration behind our new commercials
All three 30-second commercials depict individuals who feel blissful escapism because of the comfort of their Saatva mattresses: a couple relaxing at a desert oasis, a woman lounging with a book in a forest, and a stressed-out engineer transported to an outer space observatory thousands of miles from earth.
“We wrote 25 different ideas,” says David Link, creative director at Saatva, who co-directed the commercials.
Watch our outer space commercial:
The 3D environments were created by Dart Frog Creative, a rendering and animation studio based in Grand Rapids, Mich., while the actors were shot in Los Angeles in front of green screens so that the fanciful environments could be inserted in post-production.
How COVID-19 affected production
Many aspects of commercial production typically done in-person—casting, wardrobe, and the set design process—were done through Zoom because of COVID-19 restrictions.
There were also strict rules on set during filming, including on-site monitors to ensure everyone was socially distanced and taking proper precautions.
Steve Stockman, author of How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, co-directed the Saatva commercials with Link and has worked with a variety of commercial clients including Breville, ChefSteps.com, Anchor Brewing Company, and Microsoft. Even with all of his experience on sets, the COVID-19 restrictions were unlike anything he's dealt with before.
“David and I had separate monitors, and everything was zoned with tape on the floor,” Stockman says. “We couldn’t get too close to the actors without wearing a mask and face shield. We used a giant crane so we could move the camera without anybody getting within 10 feet of the unmasked actors. Of course, we had to go for COVID tests in advance and were tested on the set.”
Like the on-set production team, the actors also had to adhere to strict guidelines.
“You have to take a COVID test before everything you do," says Alonzo B. Slater, one half of the couple in the desert commercial. "You take a test after your fitting, before shooting, and sometimes the day of shooting. You just have to be able to be quick on your feet and handle it.”
Casting a real-life couple
The commercial set in the desert oasis stars a real-life couple: Slater, who has appeared in commercials for JC Penney, Facebook, and other national brands, and Mea Wilkerson, who has appeared in commercials for Häagen-Dazs and Ring Doorbell Camera. Slater and Wilkerson have also previously appeared together in commercials for brands like American Express and Chevrolet.
COVID-19 restrictions gave the production team a very practical reason for casting an actual couple.
“One of the most interesting things is that we cast for a couple who were living together for one of the three spots so that we wouldn’t have to put two strangers together on a mattress,” says Stockman. “That was actually the first time I had ever done that, and it worked out great.”
Watch our desert commercial:
Link adds, “We didn’t want to worry about two people meeting each other for the first time during COVID. We wanted people to be naturally in love or have these emotions towards each other just to make the acting easier.”
Though both Slater and Wilkerson have previously acted in film, television, and commercials, one benefit of appearing in a commercial for Saatva was that they were required to do most of their acting lying in a cozy bed. “I loved it," says Slater. "Mea didn’t have to get up at all—she stayed in the bed for the whole commercial! So she was very lucky.”
The biggest challenge: Working with dogs!
Of the three spots, the forest commercial was the most challenging for the production team to shoot because of a furry co-star: a puppy who didn’t always follow directions.
Watch our forest commercial:
“Trying to make a puppy do anything was shockingly hard,” says Link. “When you film dogs or children you usually have to hire twins because while one kid is acting another one is sleeping, or one kid can’t do it but the other kid might. You do the same thing with dogs. But with either of them, the acting was just hard.”
A hidden Easter egg in our forest commercial
Link also reveals an Easter egg in one of the spots: “We have a woman reading a book in her bed,” he says. “On the back of the book jacket is a big 'author photo" that is actually a picture of Saatva CEO Ron Rudzin.”
That Easter egg might be just a small in-joke to people who work at Saatva, but it demonstrates the close attention to detail the production team brought to the three-commercial project, while working in a new way and at an accelerated pace.
“To do all that in a two-day shoot, to turn around the first two commercials in a month and a half—it’s probably a month less than you’d want, but we were able to do it,” says Link.
Ever wondered how a Saatva mattress gets made? Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how a Saatva mattress gets built—and how that process has changed during the pandemic.