“What is that fish, Dad?” the little girl in the video asks, transfixed. Then there’s a scene of another kindergartner jumping up and down in joy: “I caught a fish!” she exclaims.
The two spontaneous moments, caught by Little Rock marketing agency Stone Ward, were part of a public service message from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission promoting outdoor escapes during the pandemic.
It was also an example of work from Stone Ward’s video production company, 360 Filmworks, that won six gold medals in the national Telly Awards competition recently. The competition included 12,000 entries in dozens of categories from all over the country.
“Only the top 3% of silver awards or chosen as gold winners,” said Katy Bartlett, director of video services and production for Stone Ward and 360. “Great work is made possible by great clients, and these awards represent the incredible partnerships we get to be part of every day.”
Four different video projects for the Game & Fish Commission won gold in the 43rd annual Telly Awards, “which honor excellence in video and television production across all screens,” according to the organization’s website. The awards’ 200 judges are all former winners in the contest, including professionals from BET Networks, Bloomberg, Conde Nast, ESPN, HBO, Ogilvy & Mather, Microsoft and Viacom.
Stone Ward was the only Arkansas advertising firm to claim medals.
“I love that the spots we did for the G&FC had no actors,” Bartlett said after showing off some of the spots in one of Stone Ward’s studios in its downtown Little Rock office. “They are just Arkansans who fish and have taught their kids to fish.”
After some outreach by the firm, Arkansans began sending in clips of their children enjoying fishing, and the theme was set. “After those were sent in, we needed a few more things here and there, so we sent out pros who usually use expensive cameras and told them to use their phones and shoot more kids fishing,” Bartlett said. “It turned out pretty cool.”
Even the voiceover artist was a regular kid, Bartlett’s daughter, Aly, who is 12. “I asked her to try it and she did, and it was charming. So I took her over to Lucky Dog audio studio and she went in the booth and recorded the voiceover.” Bartlett said Aly is an only child, “and my favorite crew member.”
Another big winner for Game & Fish was a video introduction to the agency with lush visuals of Arkansas’ outdoor grandeur. Dubbed “Go Natural,” the minute-long video won for videography and cinematography, and as an example of non-broadcast work for nonprofit clients.
“It was a way to showcase what going natural meant to us,” said Danny Koteras, Stone Ward’s creative director. “To Katy’s point, we didn’t want to use actors because that wouldn’t be as authentic. “One of the families fishing was my neighbor’s family, and I knew they fished and had these cute little girls. But we do ty to find people who actually do the activity, because they’ll do it correctly. You want to show real hikers hiking because they wear the right shoes and clothes. The hunters know they have to wear safety orange for modern gun season, and archery people know their sport. It’s hard for actors to get all this right. And when those kids are jumping up and down, that’s authentic. You can’t fake that.”
One of Stone Ward’s other gold honorees was a local TV spot for a nonprofit, “Vaccinate the Natural State” for Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, featuring cadenced spoken-word recitations aimed at today’s urban audiences. The fourth was “Keep On Amazing,” which won for use of music, a gospel-flavored tune now deeply wormed into the ears of the marketing team.
For the vaccine PSA, “we were kind of inspired by Amanda Gorman, who delivered the powerful spoken-word part of the inauguration ceremony,” said Jay Stanley, another creative director at Stone Ward. “Maybe it wasn't direct inspiration, but we needed to reach communities that were very vaccine hesitant. We also needed a bit of a younger audience as well, and we wanted to do it in the language of the community."
Throughout the 30-second PSA, the narrator rhymes, “Let’s set the record straight and vaccinate the Natural State."
“I’m certainly proud of the creative, but also proud of the results,” Stanley said. “The feedback on this says it reached people and moved the needle.”
Beyond the G&FC, Baptist Health and Blue Cross content, Stone Ward won silver medals for work with the Little Rock Venture Center and Sport Clips, the national chain of hair cutters.
The Sport Clips entry, “The Pros in Men’s Hair, focused on the hair chain’s strict training, features a character, Coach Clif, who leads drills, shouts encouragement and offers pointers.
“Sport Clips owns sports, which is in their name,” Koteras said. “Their floors look like basketball courts, they have big TVs with sports on, posters of players. So that was an easy, natural thing. But the other thing that sets them apart is the training that makes them experts in men’s hair.”
So Coach Clif is the stylists’ coach, Koteras said, and his scenes were shot at Arkansas State University, whose red-and-black colors are a match with Sport Clips’ logo.
“It’s basically a training camp for stylists, so the idea works well for them,” Koteras said. “And this actor was amazing. When he came for the audition, he stayed in character the whole time. When we asked if he’d be willing to shave his mustache, he said sure. Then he just pulled it off; it was a fake mustache he’d put on because he thought it made him look like a coach.”
In all the commercials, Coach Clif remains mustachioed.