It’s Incredibly Satisfying to Watch This Miniature, Crappy Kitchen Get Remodeled

SoFi goes tiny to inspire bigger projects


Financial startup SoFi wants consumers to know they can get personal loans for home improvement projects—so it built a tiny, run-down kitchen, then remodeled it to prove how much better a life-sized version might look.

A new ad shows the overhaul, complete with a tiny light-switch, a tiny set of tools, tiny appliances, and tiny floorboards. As zippy classical music plays in the background, a normal-sized set of human hands performs the renovations—lifting out the old microwave, tearing out the old cabinets, and sweeping up sawdust and debris with a toothpick broom.

Eventually the work-in-progress gives way to gleaming marble countertops, sleek black fixtures and stainless steel appliances. There’s even a tiny cork coaster for a tiny SoFi mug, and the child’s drawing that used to live on the beaten up old fridge finds its way to a nearby shelf.

Viral marketing agency Butterbar worked with Jannette Le, an architect and model enthusiast based in Melbourne, to create the video, which is aimed at social channels. A behind-the-scenes video offers more insight into the process of making the 1:30 clip, which took about three days of shooting, in addition to about three months Le spent crafting the model with her assistant.

"We were fortunate to have real architects on the team to build all of the details perfectly to scale."
Karen X Cheng, Creative Director, Butterbar

“All of the floorboards were individually stained and laid,” Le, who acted as art director on the video, tells Adweek. “Cabinetry and furniture were hand-carved and then buffed and scratched to look worn. The marble countertops were hand-painted. We tried to use as many true-to-life materials as possible, to make it as realistic, so the doors are made a real wood, we used real wallpapering glue so that the peeling appeared authentic, and the floors were really made of vinyl.”

Adds Karen X Cheng, creative director at Butterbar, “Prior to the shoot, we spent months creating a 3-D model of the kitchen and then building all of the parts to assemble on shoot day. We were fortunate to have real architects on the team to build all of the details perfectly to scale. Though we had a perfect ‘before’ kitchen prepared ahead of the shoot day, the biggest challenge was that prior to the shoot day, no one had seen the ‘after’ kitchen. We of course had a 3-D model of the ‘after’ kitchen, all the components, and had mapped it out so all the pieces would theoretically fit together, but it was not until the shoot that we could see if it would work for real. It was a relief that it all came together.”

As for the video’s goal, Christine Zalocha, director of content and social strategy at SoFi says the company wanted to tap into the popularity of both “tiny scale” videos—viewers might be reminded of Tastemade’s Tiny Kitchen series—and home renovation themes on social platforms.

“It’s not easy to start a conversation on social about a financial product, so we aim to surprise and delight our potential members and then educate them about what we have to offer,” she says.

In the coming two weeks, several variations of the clip will live across YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest (the latter platform being a popular destination for home improvement inspiration and campaigns, like Home Depot’s ads packing full DIY projects into mobile ads).

"If you start with the goal of entertaining people first, then audiences are incredibly receptive to the message you are trying to deliver."
Christine Zalocha, Director of Content and Social Strategy, SoFi

SoFi has already built a following for its social videos, says Zalocha, including spots—also created by Butterbar—that, for example, condensed the travails (and costs) of medical school into a 2-minute story. (SoFi, launched in 2011, initially focused on student loans, and has since expanded.)

“When we launch a new video, our audience and potential members have come to expect something different, and they’re more likely to share it,” says Zalocha. “Additionally, we’ll do a quite a bit of A/B testing with opening shots and different copy before we launch to make sure the experience delivers.”

“If you start with the goal of entertaining people first, then audiences are incredibly receptive to the message you are trying to deliver. It sounds simple, but so many brands just put their TV commercials on social and expect that people are going to want to share it.”

Client: SoFi
Director of Content and Social: Christine Zalocha
Agency: Butterbar
Creative Director: Karen X Cheng
Director, Producer: Emily Yau
1st AD: Carlos Martinez
Director of Photography: Ricardo Diaz
1st AC: Jonathan Bowerbank
Editor: Ryan McDowell
Media Strategy: Stephanie Benjamin
Art Director: Jannette Le
Art Director Assist: Michael Mack
Hand Model: Anthony Puah
Gaffer: Vanessa Woo
Grip: Lance Gegner
BTS videographers: Ryan McDowell and Cole Winokur

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: April 3, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT