Shots: giffgaff on Modernising Horror for Halloween

After making us jump out of our skins with schlock-horror pastiche The Music Box last year, mobile network giffgaff has unveiled a more modern, millennial-influenced campaign for Halloween 2017.

As well as 2am, a four-minute filmic yarn about creepy clubbers and clones [below], the brand has created a custom Snapchat filter and will be running a raft of events over Halloween weekend, including make-up tutorials and nail art sessions. 

shots caught up with Tom Rainsford, giffgaff's brand director and director of the spot, and Abi Pearl Ward, head of advertising, to find out more about the stylishly spooky short.

What was the inspiration behind the campaign?

Tom Rainsford: What we’ve done in the past, with ads like The Music Box, is played on classic horror films. So what we tried to do this year – because there’s such a massive focus among our target audience on going out for Halloween – was to make it ‘horror’ in a modern way. With the influence of things like Black Mirror and Electric Dreams we wanted it to have a bit of a dystopian feel. It’s very different from what we’ve done before.

It’s meant to be fun and silly, not taking itself too seriously, and the end is really over the top. We like the fact that the main character has a choice and it’s not a classic [horror] narrative of, ‘this happened to my boyfriend, boo-hoo.’ [The female lead] makes up her own mind, and that’s the message we’re trying to convey with the brand.

Abi Pearl Ward: We knew that lots more brands would be jumping on the Halloween bandwagon this year, so we wanted to do something different. We found this Mintel study which found the top thing for 18-24 year-olds to do for Halloween was go out or have a house party. So we thought playing on that vibe made sense.

How did you tie the concept into the tagline, Free to Go, Free to Stay?

TR: There’s no piece of horror [film] that I’m aware of where someone actually wants to stay – you run away from the person chasing you, you run away from the house, from the scary hotel. So it was a challenge throughout the whole process to get to two endings that both make sense, and is a stay or a go situation - in a genre where people generally ‘go’.

It’s a fairly long film at over four minutes…

TR: We looked at the edit and played with lots of different versions, but it felt like you’d have to start taking a chainsaw to it to get it down to three minutes. Because it’s a social campaign, in the end, it didn’t matter.

APW: And that way you’ve got time to sit with the story. We thought, let’s let people really get into the story and feel emotionally connected to the main character.

Tell us a bit about the production of the film.

APW: We filmed the club segment at [London super club] Ministry of Sound at 5pm in the afternoon, with 200 extras.

TR: It’s really hard to shoot club scenes, because all the actors are sober! But the lights and the sound system there are so immense, that with a proper DJ and the music we were able to really go for it. The room at the end was a soundstage which we built specially, there was a lot of dry ice and I wanted to keep it as symmetrical as possible so we could frame it in this box-like room.

The makeup was really important too. I was really inspired by that whole make-up subculture on Instagram, with people doing these tutorials - what they’re achieving is incredible. And also, having spent the summer at various festivals, that whole glitter thing felt very ‘now’.

What inspired the choice of music [Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me]?

TR: It’s such a brilliant track, an 80s classic, everyone knows it, but it also feels really modern. In the taxi scene, we tried to make it sound as close to the original as possible, and then take the same track, but play with it in the club context, with a club mix, and then later play with it in a completely different way. It’s the same track woven throughout the whole film, it’s just the instrumentals that are different.


What else does the campaign include beyond the film?

APW: It was really important for us to have an idea that had some stretch, so you can do some stuff in the real world. So we’ve created a special Snapchat filter and we’re also doing make-up tutorials – which is quite odd for a mobile brand.