Case Study: Tractor Supply Co.

It’s been difficult to keep quiet about our work with Tractor Supply Co. All of the buzzing emotions after conference calls, ideation meetings, and dailies made it even harder. If you’ve watched TV in recent weeks, you might have seen one of our many spots that we’ve collaborated on with Tractor Supply Co (TSC).

Our work with TSC is a bit different than other extensive campaigns like Audio-Technica’s Gamer Monk or Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. We were tasked to produce several spots that rebrand TSC and leverage emotional storytelling to engage a broader audience of new and loyal customers. TSC faced a challenge — some of their stores were built in areas that are, nowadays, suburbia. So, there was an issue of people not knowing that TSC carried products that applied to them. For example, many people didn’t know that Tractor Supply’s best-selling product was, in fact, dog food. Today, we’ll go through the process of how we worked alongside TSC to tell their story to prospective customers while re-engaging its loyal base.

 

Branding and Ideation
We worked hand-in-hand for months to develop concepts for a brand anthem that communicated the right tone and feel for their company. The concept of ‘For Life Out Here’ was such a strong idea that we even commissioned a driving anthem song written by Nashville songwriter, Dana Jorgensen, which would later be implemented throughout the brand campaign.

Once we landed on the right concept, we tapped Josh McGowan, the director, to help shepherd the visual direction and bring the ideas to life. TSC loved his style: intimate relationships between characters and charming, stunning visuals from previous work.

Josh then built an extensive shot list that included all of the different areas of life out here that you could capture, visually. We imagined horseback riding, farming, fishing, gardening, kayaking… All activities that TSC has products for and that are beautiful when captured, cinematically. McGowan says about the project: “One of their goals was to appeal to a broader demographic and so [we] really wanted to create something that celebrated people anywhere in their journey… be it with a family outside having fun or doing the hard work at the crack of dawn.”

Our plan was to create a longer form anthem spot that would feature gorgeous imagery with a driving, compelling voice-over script that delivers an emotional punch. Then, we’d cut that piece down into shorter, Spring-focused spots that feature products tied to the visual story. For example, there are shots of farmers taking care of their chicken flock, which ties into their Chick Days promotion. Later in the year, there will be Father’s and Mother’s Day pieces. Those will feature the more character-driven, parent-child relationships, such as the shot of the daughter running into the arms of her father, who’s in the military, as he returns home. Those pieces will promote gift ideas for fathers and mothers.

Pre-Production
We would shoot all of our footage over the course of two days with multiple locations, actors, and scenarios. It was an earnest undertaking, but the visual and story rewards would be huge.

After the ideas are agreed upon, the extensive planning goes into effect. Revolution put together a strong team to pull the project forward, like Melissa Michalak (who’s produced many projects with us, such as Valvoline, Audio-Technica, and Folgers) to implement the creative vision.

One benefit to our 20-year presence in Nashville is our connection to all facets of production needs. This town boasts an array of gear rental houses, a deep casting pool, and seasoned professional crew people. Part of the appeal of working in Nashville is that people here aren’t just talented––they’re good people to work with, too. Since we’ve been around for years, we all know that we can do good work together. As an added bonus, we know all of the most beautiful outdoor locations from our years in the country music video business. All of the farmers know us.

The weeks of pre-production flew by and we were ready for our first day on set. Let the fun begin.

 

Production
The shooting schedule was ambitious, but we’re experienced with projects like TSC since we’ve done spots for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Audio-Technica, and more. In the end, the locations and cast were extensive, ranging from a few different ranches and farms and dozens of cast members. In fact, even a few of the people in the spots are real farmers. Keeping it real. We ended up shooting over 30 setups at 8 locations with more than 60 actors over the course of two shoot days.

The director and cinematographer relationship is a symbiotic collaboration that, hopefully, produces great looking shots. We couldn’t have asked for a better duo in Josh and John Matysiak, the cinematographer, who have worked together in the past. You’ll experience their expertise in how they maneuvered the camera, lighting, and grip gear to create authentic, nuanced shots that place you, emotionally, within the story that we set out to tell. It takes a special kind of filmmaking ability to create such wonderful moving imagery, like the girl’s hat flying off as she rides the galloping horse.

On set, it’s imperative that you capture the storyboarded shots and do what you’ve set out to do, which we did. However, there are moments of discovery and improvisation that spark a creative idea. It’s a fine balancing act between those two modes and we had the most fun on set with TSC. For instance, McGowan says: “[T]hey wanted to show a girl feeding the family dog. I said, ‘what if it’s too heavy and she spills it…?’ I kind of just put myself into those scenarios and the things I thought would represent the unpredictability of life and see how people would embrace them.”

Post-Production
There’s a saying in filmmaking that bears an absolute truth: “There’s the movie you make in pre-production, the movie you make in production, and the movie you make in the edit.” Simply put, the editing process can usher forth a grander story than you originally planned. Josh drove the anthem spot to the finish line and pulled together everything that TSC could imagine. After the longer piece was completed, Harrison Riggs, our in-house editor, took the massive amounts of footage and created 11 Spring-focused, niche spots that ended up going to broadcast. These 30-second pieces feature the same messaging of the ‘For Life Out Here’ anthem but drive a more focused call-to-action via the promoted products and story-driven tie-ins. The end-tags feature different promotions from TSC, such as discounted pet food, Chick Days, etc.

In building these spots, Harrison Riggs maintained that “the focus of the spots were how the TSC products and brand story interact with the people who live their lives outdoors and how that influences how they live indoors. We had some beautiful outdoor shots thanks to Josh and Matysiak, so it was a blast to piece together these spots.” When you have so much wonderful footage, it becomes like choosing between your children which segments of footage you’ll use to piece together the story.

For finishing, we brought together a phenomenal team of creatives. Joel Robertson animated the elegant end-tags that communicate the promotions at TSC. Cody Twitchell worked extensively on the sound design and blending the anthem song and the focused voice-over. Randy Brewer, the Executive Producer, says: “This is the stuff that we do well at Revolution Pictures. We bring together the best creatives to tell your brand story. We listen and collaborate with our clients to create the greatest outcomes, and Tractor Supply has been no different. It’s been exciting to work with them.”  

Results
We are proud of the broadcast spots that we’ve done with Tractor Supply Co. They are beautiful to look at and inspire people that TSC is the place to go for their needs. From their emotional storytelling, they will communicate their company’s branding to consumers and ensure that their products and stores are for folks who ‘live life out here.’

Our turnkey capabilities made it possible for this project to resonate, emotionally, with a wide audience. We started out with a problem, got a story-driven plan together, worked with a great director to implement the vision, and created an engaging, cinematic brand anthem campaign. As always, we’d like to shout out and give our thanks to all of the crew and the cast for their extraordinary hard work for this project.

We seek to create compelling, innovative content and look forward to the next challenge. It’s always exciting to tell brand stories. (Hopefully, with more horseback riding because it was like we were filming some Gladiator stuff out there.)

By Benton Olivares