Squarespace's John Malkovich Spot Wins Primetime Emmy

LOS ANGELES -- There’s something to be said for zigging while everyone else is zagging. That’s perhaps a lesson learned from Squarespace’s “Calling” winning the primetime commercial Emmy on Sunday evening (9/10) during the second and concluding night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards weekend at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Created by New York-based agency JohnXHannes and directed by Miles Jay of Smuggler, “Calling,” which debuted on the Super Bowl telecast this past February, marked a departure from its four fellow Emmy nominated commercials which all shared the bond of promoting love, unity and inclusiveness: Ad Council’s “Love Cam” and “We Are America” from R/GA; Google’s “Year in Search 2016” short created by 72andSunny; and Gathering For Justice’s “Why I March” PSA out of mcgarrybowen, San Francisco.

By contrast, the Squarespace spot deployed humor to great effect, showing actor Malkovich in his fashion design studio talking to someone who has already claimed the domain name This raises the question of who is being John Malkovich as the famous thespian tries to convince the other Malkovich to give him back his “rightful” domain name. 

The underlying sales pitch is that you better take care of business and get your domain name through Squarespace--or you could wind up being an angry Malkovich.

Earlier, shortly after “Calling” earned its Emmy nomination, SHOOT connected with JohnXHannes founders and executive creative directors John McKelvey and Hannes Ciatti to gain some insight into the piece. They shared some backstory on the work and how it evolved.

Ciatti related, “Squarespace was one of our first big clients as a creative business and we built their new global brand platform ‘Make You Next Move’--part of this was a partnership with John Malkovich to launch his fashion label in Paris. After we learned how invested John was as a real fashion designer, we wanted to tell an authentic story for him. We had several meetings with him in New Orleans. One of the stories that came out of our interview sessions was that someone took his domain and was selling under his name. When we heard this, we thought this is literally too brilliant. Squarespace just started selling domains that year. So we wrote two scripts and convinced Squarespace to consider another Super Bowl ad to tell everyone to ‘Get Your Domain Before It’s Gone.’”

McKelvey recalled, “We had just left jobs to launch our startup creative endeavor and wanted to make our first work as good as we could. To get closer to talent, production and to integrate brand partnerships with entertainment in better, more modern ways was our goal. It was a great start working with John Malkovich, and a little serendipity in creating a campaign all about entrepreneurs taking their first step. We created Squarespace’s new global creative platform: ‘Make Your Next Move,’ a platform for entrepreneurs to pursue their passions. It was an absolute privilege working with John Malkovich.”

Relative to the production and the selection of the director, Ciatti said, “Our creative model is based on less talking and more making--getting closer to production and not having our production partners that we value, pitch last minute on projects. We want to go on a journey with them to get to better work and both sides being invested in the outcome. We partnered up early for this project and several other Squarespace projects with Smuggler--we have a good relationship with the owners Patrick [Milling Smith] and Brian [Carmody]. They recommended Miles as an up-and-coming young director they wanted to invest in. The piece started off as a beautiful sincere and true story about John’s fashion journey in Paris. Miles’ reel consists of beautiful filmmaking and he was very eager and worked incredibly hard on this. The ‘Calling John Malkovich’ film came out of a true story of John’s and we attached the comedy Super Bowl piece to the long format film shot in Paris.”

This marks the first Emmy win and nomination for JohnXHannes. Smuggler has been nominated five times over the years, with “Calling” securing for the production house its first Emmy win.