The advertising world is shifting faster than you can say “YouTube,” and no one knows that better than Blake Heal and Peter Cote. The two pals-turned-business partners launched their commercial & film production company, Conscious Minds Productions, with the intention of creating fascinating content that would generate buzz for their clients. Their latest work (or, as I like to think of them, brilliant experiments) for Levi’s called “Guy Walks Across America” has already garnered more than four million views by becoming a viral sensation on the net. Make sure to check out the video before diving into the interview.
How did you guys find each other?
Blake: Pete and I started doing projects together in film school… basically all of our class projects. When we graduated, we worked separately but always produced commercials on the side together.
Peter: We’re both self-motivated people, we work well together and are able to balance each other’s skills. Blake is more business-oriented, and I focus more on the technical stuff.
Tell me about the “birth” of Conscious Minds Production.
Blake: We officially formed an LLC on September of 2007 and attempted to get our name out there. The goal was to generate content that created buzz online.
Peter: A lot of our early clients were nonprofit companies. A lot of those organizations need video content, but we eventually wanted to attach ourselves to bigger brands.
Blake: To add to that, working with nonprofits gave us a really good base in Los Angeles and the Orange County community in terms of contacts. Many nonprofits don’t have large budgets, so your reward comes from the connections that you end up making.
How did the idea for “Guy Walks Across America” initially come about?
Peter: We actually approached Levis before “Guy Walks Across America,” when they were doing an experimental project and looking for companies like Conscious Minds around the U.S. to create a new viral concept for them. They asked us to develop some ideas and pitch them, which led to the concept in a much simpler form.
Blake: We were absolutely not sure if they would go for it because of the really high concept involved and the fact that it was not going to be cheap. But they really fell for it.
Peter: The basic concept is about watching a journey of a guy who walks from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge via 2,770 still images. He walks past landmarks and all kinds of places across the territory. We wanted to create a visual journey that represented multiple parts of America in a new perspective.
There’s a great video detailing the behind-the-scenes process on YouTube, but just as a refresher, could you tell us about the process of shooting the video?
Blake: It took about fourteen days of shooting – a lot of people say that’s short but we just spent a lot of time shooting every single day. This was during summer, so days were longer and we’d work twelve to fifteen hours a day. We were on the move at all times and hardly stopped.
Peter: There were six of us – including two producers, the actor, the driver, and I had a camera assistant. We had it planned out ahead of time. We’d done extensive testing to get our hold on the style of shooting, figured out some areas where we could make mistakes in hopes of getting rid of those before we started. Since we couldn’t go back for reshoots, planning had to be perfect.
What’s interesting about the video isthat there are no indications of it being an ad for Levi’s… until the very last seconds.
Blake: But that was the purpose behind the project! Levi’s wanted a backseat and to let it be about the experience… In the end, it is more about the journey than it is about the brand.
Peter: We’ve had a total of about four million views, which is pretty crazy. It was a bit overwhelming at the beginning because only a few thousands hits were recorded on the first couple of days. By day ten we had one million.
Where do you see Conscious Minds going as the world of advertising keeps on evolving?
Blake: I think we’re really excited about the change in advertising. We see our company being kind of a new hybrid-type agency; a production company that creates and thinks of ideas for brands to execute, but that also shoots them. There are so many online platforms – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo… – to deliver content, which makes it so exciting.
Peter: We’re really hoping to continue to tell stories. Not just commercials, not just a thirty second ad, but engaging content. Something that people would want to share. Right now we’re developing a lot of new stuff, and new brands have approached. We’re still working for Levi’s, so we might potentially do some more projects for them.
Any chances of seeing “Guys Walks Across Europe” or “Guy Walks Across China”?
Peter: [laughs] Unfortunately, we can’t really talk about that now.
Blake: Right now we’re just looking to conquer the digital space as much as possible and continue to evolve ourselves as online video content evolves. We have to keep moving with the technology.
What is the most exciting aspect of your job at Conscious Minds?
Blake: A cool thing about being part of this online community is that you have to understand what people watch and love. You have to watch a lot of YouTube videos… all the time. [laughs] You have to know the space, be able to predict what the audience will enjoy.
Peter: Major firms are going to tone back their image and integrate themselves into entertainment. They have to brand themselves by putting their names out there to be recognized. You’re going to see a paradigm shift where people want to watch commercials instead of having to watch them.
What are some recent viral videos you were impressed with?
Blake: A recent one I was so impressed with was the Tipex “Hunter Shoots a Bear” video. It was on another level, with being able to interact and shoot so many scenarios. The whole strategy and thought process behind it was brilliant.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Blake: We are looking for creative minds: writers and copy writers. This exposure has allowed us to have a calling card to work with people on all sides.
Peter: We do have two brilliant guys, Brett Friesen and Josh Millage, who recently came on board to elevate business strategy and marketing for Conscious Minds. That said, we are looking to add people on the creative side.