Showtime Travels Far for New Image Spots

Iceland may not be the end of the earth, but its otherworldliness and dramatic black beaches attracted the attention of Showtime Networks Inc.'s in-house creative team, which chose it as the backdrop for the premium network's new image spots.

Next month, Showtime will unveil the latest generation of its four-year-old "No Limits" campaign. The network plans to use the new creative, produced during a week-long tour of Iceland last July, for the next two years.

Iceland is "very production-friendly," in terms of the varied and beautiful settings it offers for shoots, as well as its affordable production help, said vice president and head of production Howard Sherman. The network also considered Hawaii and Greece — which also boast black-sand beaches formed from volcanic ash — but they proved less affordable than Iceland, said senior vice president and senior creative director Dan Bragg.

Showtime chose to shoot in mid-summer because Iceland has 22 hours of daylight at that time.

"We shot until almost two in the morning one night, and were back in business at 6 a.m. the same day," Sherman noted.

Since black and red are the focus of Showtime's No Limits color palette, Red Group — the programmer's in-house creative team — decided it wanted to use black sand beaches as the backdrop for its new image spots, in which a lone person appears dressed in red.

"People are used as a reference point to communicate a mood or a storyline," said Bragg.

Showtime selected Iceland primarily for its beauty and range of locations, which included icebergs as well as sunlit beaches, he added.

The new ads look more "organic" than the previous spots, which created dramatic environments using more layered post-production techniques, he said.

Showtime executives would not disclose the new on-air budget, but said overall spending would likely change over the course of the next two years. Spots will be used only on-air, rather than as the basis for an overall consumer-ad campaign. The production crew brought a still photographer, who captured images that Showtime may use in print trade ads.

The network plans to intersperse the new images within footage from its original programming and exclusive Hollywood movies in 15-second spots running prior to a new show.