by Ashley Csanady
In only three years, Toronto's Holiday Films has found success in branding both their clients and themselves through their memorable TV commercials
Holiday Films’ trademark red pops against the slick white sheen and exposed yellow-brick of the three-year-old production company’s reception area. Although still a nascent upstart, Holiday enjoys a trendy downtown Toronto office, a growing portfolio of quality work, and both commercial and critical success in the ad world. “We’ve been pretty busy. The first year was good, the second year was better, and the third year is better,” says Derek Sewell, executive producer and co-founder. “Our business has doubled every year.”
Most companies in the advertising industry are much better at promoting their clients than themselves, but Holiday has found success in both arenas. Josefina Nadurata, executive producer and co-founder, explains that the whimsical name and the signature red are part of a larger branding effort that has accelerated Holiday’s growth over the past three years. “Everything is branded and we hope people remember us that way,” says Nadurata.
And it appears to have worked.
“It’s not necessarily about the quantity of work but the quality. We wanted to really stand out,” says Nadurata. “Our first year out of the gate we won a silver Cannes Lion for a General Mills campaign that we shot (with the help of ad agency Cossette Toronto), which was a very proud moment for us and it helped put us on the map internationally.”
Both Sewell and Nadurata match the hip business-casual vibe of their downtown Toronto office, which sits across from the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre in the city’s trendy west end. Their success, however, is not the fruit of a slick exterior, but grown from the pair’s connections and combined 35 years of experience.
Nadurata comes from a creative stills background, working her way up from the ground floor as an assistant on the executive side, before managing Reginald Pike, a now-defunct production company that promoted Canadian directors. She took a brief hiatus before connecting with Sewell in 2008 to open their own shop. “We wanted to build a company that was based on being a very creative shop, being a small boutique shop and very hands-on,” explains Nadurata.
“I didn’t know there were production companies that just did commercials, I really stumbled into it.” says Sewell, who graduated from theatre school only to learn he didn’t like acting. He moved into production and also worked his way up from assistant to executive producer. “It has really served me well to have a background in production.”
“A lot of [our success] has to do with the support in our community and the contacts Derek and I have,” says Nadurata, but their body of work suggests it’s what they do as opposed to who they know that’s helped them grow so quickly.
In the midst of an office renovation, Holiday Films has a full-time staff of four, include Nadurata and Sewell, but they freelance everything from their accounting to their production staff, so there can actually be up to 20 people working in their space on any given day. They also boast an impressive cast of directors, including Steven Tsuchida and Luis Gerard. “We wanted to put together a diverse roster that didn’t overlap,” says Nadurata. “If we don’t think we can do a good job of it, we’ll pass on it.”
Holiday’s work benefits from the holistic and hands-on approach the pair embrace. Everything from the music to the humour is in sync, although they modestly credit a lot of their funnier scripts to the creative directors who wrote them at their client agencies.
Nevertheless, their canon boasts spots familiar to even the most infrequent Canadian television viewer, from the Fallsview Casino “Lucky Dog” ad that promises “anyone can get lucky” or the McCain hashbrowns “Sleepy Mom” ad, where a woman rolls over and offers her husband 100 bucks to make breakfast. Their work is familiar, but it’s also often funny.
Sewell notes that although “people like comedic spots,” they try to ensure they have a director for every genre so they can pitch to any style of campaign. Nadurata adds, “We only put forward a director if we feel that they’re the perfect fit for the project.”
Sewell says the pair are evaluating options to expand beyond commercials — they’ve dabbled in online promotions in the past — but that market is still too financially shaky to entice this still-growing company.
In June, they’re off to Cannes to make connections, maybe pick up another award and add a few candidates to their list of directors. A few of the spots they’ve produced have been submitted by their client agencies, and an ad they produced with Agency 59 for Amnesty International won the United Nations Department of Public information’s award for public service advertising.
“We’re three-years-old and it’s fair to say we’re keeping our eye on the ball,” says Sewell. “We have our eyes open for the next thing.”
Video Production Company
May 10, 2011 02:51 PM
My question would be the future of the commercial industry as whole. I know that production budgets have been getting smaller and smaller (correct me if I am wrong). Is it that, we will see only a few commercial production companies, with fewer directors? Or will agencies themselves develop their own production studio?