Emotive’s Charlie Leahy on the anti-ad Ricky Gervais made for Optus

Emotive’s Charlie Leahy on making THAT Ricky Gervais ad for Optus and Netflix

By Sally Rawsthorne

The recent work of Emotive’s executive creative director Charlie Leahy will be familiar to many – over four million Australians on Facebook, 5.7 million people worldwide on YouTube and viewers of Ellen have all seen the work he did for Optus to promote its launch partnership with Netflix with Ricky Gervais.

The much-praised ad has been viewed in 143 different countries worldwide and has generated 52 pieces of PR in Australia reaching an audience of over 4.6 million people, as well being the first ad to receive a full playout and discussion on Ellen. “That was one of the biggest campaigns that we’ve done so far,” Leahy modestly admitted to Mediaweek when we asked about the ad.

Leahy said that the now-famous ad came from Optus’ desire to dominate the SVOD conversation on social channels and challenge perceptions of the company as not just a telco but also an entertainment provider. “The Netflix partnerships already had a major above-the-line campaign, and they wanted to do something on social media that shifted perception of Optus to an entertainment provider. We were given a brief to coordinate outdoor and radio campaigns with social to target the millennial audience on the channel where they spend the most time.

“We wanted a content-led approach that also had social video. The landscape was pretty crowded with Presto and Stan just having launched, iiNet was in the market and talking about Netflix too. We needed to create something that would dominate the discussion as well as change Optus’ positioning. The best way to achieve that would be to find a figurehead for the campaign that would signal entertainment. It became clear that Ricky was a good call – he’s almost more popular here in Australian than he is in his native UK. We wanted to deliver content that was as entertaining as Netflix itself and push the boundaries to give the audience something unprecedented,” Leahy said.

The choice to work with Ricky was based in Leahy’s belief of the importance of connecting with the audience on an emotional level. “Emotive always wants the content that we create to have an emotional driver. We know that a viewer with an emotional connection is 80% more likely to take action off the back of it, whether that’s sharing or liking or making a purchase.”

Leahy attributed the ad’s phenomenal success to Emotive’s unusual, hands-off approach to filming with Gervais, to whom they gave creative control. “We were really handing it over to the talent, which totally goes against any kind of creative advertising mantras. You typically retain a lot of control, but with this we thought ‘Why get Ricky Gervais to read a script when we can get Ricky Gervais to be Ricky Gervais?’ In the social space, we knew that if we could get him to bring his unique comedy style it would be so much more powerful for the brands.”

As Emotive CEO Simon Joyce recently revealed at parent company APN News and Media’s investor day, Gervais and the Emotive team filmed the spot in one day. “We did all the content in one day, and really all worked together on the ad-libbing and throwing ideas around, and ended up with the anti-ad. It was very brave of Optus as a brand to trust us to create this, and trust Ricky with creative control. The result has been fantastic, not only for Optus but for us too. It was the fastest video to reach four million views on Facebook ever. There were over one million leads generated for Optus in the first 24 hours.”

Leahy wouldn’t reveal which brands he was taking his magic touch to next, although he noted Emotive’s slate was full. “We’ve got a number of brands coming on board as partners, and that will be announced in the coming weeks. We’ve had a tremendous reception in market, and we’ve experienced phenomenal growth.”

[blockquote style=”3″]CV: Charlie Leahy

As executive creative director, Leahy runs one of Emotive’s three core pillars. “I look after everything from the creative angle. We have three products – create, advertise and amplify. What I do is everything from content strategy to video production, digital products, sponsorships and integration, talent deals, etc.


“I’ve been in the advertising and television industry for over 17 years. I started out in television in the UK, and I worked my way up to being a producer/director. I worked for BSkyB for a while, and was part of a tech team that launched three new channels for them. I also worked for Endemol UK, where I worked with the digital media studios and created a thing called The Gap Year for Vevo. About three years ago, I made the move to Australia and worked for Ensemble, then I joined Boom before coming to Emotive.”


The Optus/Netflix ad’s success is clear in its watch time – “On YouTube, the watch time for a branded video was nothing they’d ever seen before – around 51 seconds, everyone watched the whole thing, with positive brand sentiment of around 97%,” said Leahy.[/blockquote]


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