I’m shooting a series of IBM commercials with the same team that I had worked with on APPLE.  The spots are identical to the Apple work.  I challenge the creatives on how to make the work different but no response.  I tape an extreme ‘letterbox’ frame on the monitor and discuss this with the art director.  I explain that the letterbox will achieve several things.  It will make the look of the spots different from Apple and will allow for more adventurous composition.  We are in a location that allows us to film in an extreme manner, people at the edges of frame, etc.

I had been warned by a previous creative director that the IBM client was nervous and neurotic.  He had asked me to be kind to her.  What?  True to form she panicked when the agency told her of the idea.

‘It’s too dark and forbidding (of the black borders).’

‘It gives you a look that is yours.’

‘ It’s too dark and forbidding.’

‘Then make it BLUE. You own BLUE. As soon as people see the commercial, they’ll know it’s an IBM spot and it will save you time in storytelling.  Add mystery.  Where is this IBM commercial going?’

She got it.

The blue letterbox has been used, copied, and praised for over fifteen years. GRAPHIS magazine hailed it as one of the most important design elements in the history of advertising.

Ironically, if the nervous client hadn’t complained about this element, the idea wouldn’t have happened. Good things from bad.