News | SEYI PETER-THOMAS | MUSE BY CLIO

Sesame Street, which knows a thing or two, jumps into Farmers Insurance ads in a new campaign from Seyi Peter-Thomas.

The puppets of Sesame Street tend to wreak their fair share of havoc in the world, which makes them a fun addition to the Farmers Insurance campaign from RPA, starring J.K. Simmons.

RPA and Station Film director Seyi Peter-Thomas have crafted three new commercials—an intro spot of sorts, along with two more ads featuring real-life Farmers claims reenacted by the furry Sesame Street monsters.

Station Film’s Seyi Peter-Thomas, the director of the campaign, recently won a Daytime Emmy for Nickelodeon’s “Black History Month” campaign and a Webby for Motionpoems’ “How Do You Raise A Black Child?” He also directed a Youth Ambassadors PSA campaign (see below), through VMLY&R in Kansas City, that also featured puppets—though not from Sesame Street.

Seyi Peter-Thomas talks about the Farmers work in the Q&A below.

Q> What was it like bringing new, albeit well-known, characters into this established campaign?

SPT> I love the Farmers campaign, and Sesame Street was a huge part of my childhood. So, I was very excited to see where we could take this mashup. I told the creatives early on that I saw this as kind of a Twilight Zone episode of the campaign. The spots had to do everything we expect Farmers spots to do, but in the unmistakable voice and tone of Sesame Street. Same goal, new set of rules. Creating that world and pushing these well-loved characters to bring out the more adult side of their humor was tons of fun.

Q> How was working with J.K.?

SPT> J.K. Simmons is one of those actors you can’t take your eyes off when he’s on screen—he pulls you in. Of course, so does Cookie Monster. The character J.K. plays in the campaign has a breezy, seen-everything demeanor. In these scripts, however, he is taking Bert under his wing as his apprentice. So, I wanted to bring out a slightly more nurturing side to the character. If you watch J.K.’s performance, he very subtly brings out a warmth we haven’t seen, but that is still very much in character.

Q> When directing puppets versus people, what is the biggest difference for capturing engaging dialogue and performances?

SPT> Unlike with humans, you can threaten to set the puppets on fire if they don’t do what you say. It helps.

My process, regardless of who’s in front of the camera, is to talk with the performers. I talk with them about the beats, the emotion of a moment, the best way to land the joke. There were some surreal moments, though. Like the time I asked Ernie, the puppet, to roll his eyes at something and he started yelling at me because, of course, his eyes don’t roll. Then I look down and the guy with his hand up Ernie is grinning at me. And on the next take, somehow he did actually convey an eyeroll.

Read the full article and Q&A HERE.

Watch more of Seyi’s work HERE.

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