Dropbox takes on the complicated nature of teamwork in its new sci-fi infused campaign

17 October 2018

For its latest campaign, Dropbox is exploring the concept of flow, “that feeling of total focus where the world slips away, and your brain is free to do what it does best”, as creative director Michael Jeter describes. Working with advertising agency 72andSunny and film director Rodrigo Saavedra, who Michael describes as having “a great balance between otherworldly whimsy and human connection”, they produced Stay Golden, the first in a series of shorts, which tells the story of a team of astronauts building a sort-of “golden brick road”. The concept was that the astronauts would work on something with a step-by-step process, which would benefit from people working as a team: “We want it to feel like each contribution a team member makes, contributes to a larger meaningful purpose. That’s the most valuable feeling we can have in a team. That’s the feeling of staying golden”, says Michael.

Dropbox recognises moments of total focus, whether on an individual or team level, as the time when “we create, innovate and problem-solve”, and as much as it wants to celebrate effective workflow, Dropbox also recognises that it’s a fragile thing. “People interrupting you or pulling you into unnecessary meetings makes it near impossible to achieve flow,” Michael says. “This tension is something that we all know too well. With this campaign, we really wanted to explore what it feels like when teams flow together; to show how Dropbox builds tools that help us find the focus we need by keeping all of a team’s work and collaboration in one place”, he continues.

The film, and the larger brand campaign, is intended as a reminder of the collaborative solutions available via Dropbox. “In the campaign, we use visual metaphors to capture the feeling of teams when they’re in flow—when collaboration comes naturally and everything just…clicks” Michael tells It’s Nice That. “We then show our team getting distracted and their flow broken by the common workplace frictions that threaten it—like the need to switch to different programs to view various file formats or being unsure if you’re working in the final, final version.”

Stay Golden has notes of science fiction and radical design, with Rodrigo Saavedra citing “[everything from] Gravity, to retro-futuristic collage work from the 70s, like Superstudio, and actual Nasa sketches from the 60s and 70s, which predicted future platforms in space”, as key references. Sci-fi was also a key influence for Dropbox: “There’s this idea that sci-fi writers throughout history have been the creative force behind most major technological progress. They are free to paint an idyllic picture without constraint, and those big ideas inspire others to turn ‘what-if’ into reality”, Michael tells It’s Nice That. And Rodrigo’s balance of realism and “otherworldly whimsy” proved the perfect approach for communicating the feeling of flow: “You’re working, but your mind is free from the normal constraints of the day-to-day”. “[It’s] a world where the way we work can feel enlightened, where process can be beautiful”; where the storytelling tools of fantasy “paint a picture of that world, and then connect that what-if to the very real tools Dropbox designs to help teams work in better ways”, he explains.

Working with moving image also provided unique opportunities to explore the principle of “flow”: “It’s all about the journey of getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. That can either be a smooth enjoyable experience, or a bumpy one full of fits and starts. With moving image, we were able to build worlds that helped us convey not only the concept of flow, but more importantly, the feeling of flow” says Michael. Similarly, Rodrigo describes his intention as “wanting everything to seem somewhat choreographed, and for things to literally click, down to the way the gold bricks actually fit with a sort of magnetic pull”. The element of choreography was key: “It enhanced that idea of a state of flow, the voice over here just had to fit that – it had to be calm and effortless and just help the viewer understand the metaphor.” Stay Golden was shot at a studio in Prague, where they “pretty much shot the astronauts and a full-size platform” says Rodrigo. “The astronauts were all on harnesses that allowed us to simulate low gravity, and the galaxy and platforms beyond were applied in post-production by the wonderful folks at Kevin in LA” he explains.

The conundrums dealt with in the film, of various instances of broken workflow, are commonplace in professional environments, “it’s just a direct lift from real life” as Rodrigo says. “Say you’re working with a crew across various countries, and you’re all flowing on Dropbox. You’re sharing files with ease, and commenting on each other’s work, and things are fitting together” Rodrigo describes. “Then a new person joins and decides to send a file in some bizarre format, and worst maybe they do it over email… You get the gist. Well, that’s the frustration we wanted to capture, this feeling of helplessness when suddenly one piece just doesn’t fit the rest of the work.”

These are workplace trials and tribulations that people and teams all over the world will recognise and want to resolve. “Honestly, when I started working for Dropbox, I had no idea how powerful its tools really were,” says Michael. “But now my whole work ecosystem is connected in a way that saves me crazy amounts of time and effort. I’ve eliminated so much wasted time digging for emails, switching through apps to find info, and waiting to solve things in meetings.”

For Michael, and for Dropbox more broadly, the priority is creating the right circumstances for individuals and groups to do their best work. “Information and communication need to flow [between people] without bottlenecks; teams can move like water towards a destination” Michel describes. “When you pull all of these ideas together, you start to see a complete picture of what work could be like. This ideal is a north star for a better way to work, and we want to inspire people to strive for this ideal.”

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