The Story of Omer, the Admissions Guy

 
Omer’s evil twin steals the punchline of King’s Academy’s 2017 video about their Academic Program.

Omer’s evil twin steals the punchline of King’s Academy’s 2017 video about their Academic Program.

 
 

Omer the Admissions Guy, Our Greatest Claim to Fame

This series of videos is the reason we make videos for schools today. We made seven videos of the same style for King’s Academy, each has been wildly successful in their own right. King’s has seen unprecedented growth in admissions numbers and their international profile has proliferated.

It started with a wacky idea.

In 2015 we were making some videos for King’s Academy, Robert’s alma mater, none of which were particularly noteworthy. The work was time-consuming and quickly draining our passion for filmmaking. There was no way we could develop a long term career on foundations like those. After watching dozens of admissions videos, our only real takeaway was that private schools around the world felt uncomfortably similar to one another. When Vera Azar, Director of Communications and PR at King’s wrote asking if we’d be interested in making a ‘yield video’, she did not know what lay in store.

 
Hi Rob and Alesi

What are your plans for the coming few weeks – interested in coming to Jordan to do a short (one to two-minute) “yield” video to send out to newly admitted students in early March? Let me know your thoughts.
— Vera Azar, January 18, 2016
 

We resolved to make a different, more memorable video, for two distinct reasons:

  1. Every school was producing the same style videos. This left space for King’s to go the other way to stand out.

  2. Efficiency. There is rarely a guarantee of strong phrases with the right intonation in interviews (without scripting), and the editing process can take weeks, or more. There was definitely a much quicker (and better) way to make videos for schools.

 
TFG_OTAG2.jpg
 

With its selective program, vast campus, and substantial tuition (especially by local standards), King’s was developing a reputation of exclusivity around the small Kingdom of Jordan, a reputation it did not deserve considering its inclusive mission. To address this, I intended to use tongue-in-cheek humor for the yield video. Humor is disarming, memorable, inclusive, and most importantly, it speaks to the kids. They were, after all, the target audience.

The idea for “This Could Be Your School Too” resulted from my team researching marketing campaigns we enjoyed and decided to pay homage to. With an eye on Volvo’s Jean Claude Van Damme truck stunt and Old Spice’s “I’m on a Horse” spot, I approached Omer Khalayleh, admissions officer and international student recruitment manager at King’s, with a bold proposal: “Omer the Admissions Guy.”

Initially, there was some apprehension about our script. It was so out-there that King’s didn’t really know what to make of it. The greatest wind in our sails came from the late MacGregor Robinson, who was then the Director of Admissions at King’s. He saw a gem in Omer and had a sense of humour even wackier than ours. Greg (as we called him) is one of the single strongest reasons we are where we are today and we owe our growth and success to his faith and endorsement.

 
The issue here was getting two golf carts of different makes to drive exactly the same speed. Had we really tried, I think Omer would have done the full splits.

The issue here was getting two golf carts of different makes to drive exactly the same speed. Had we really tried, I think Omer would have done the full splits.

Our Jean-Claude Van Damme Inspiration

Our Jean-Claude Van Damme Inspiration

 

What makes Omer such a perfect choice is not necessarily his British accent, though is sure helps. Omer is through and through Jordanian on his paternal side. He grew up in Zarqa, a region of Jordan that is far more traditional and far less ‘westernised’ than the capital, Amman. Omer’s Arabic is of a clear local dialect and his family is very well respected. Jordanian audiences can be sensitive to the whitewashing of their culture and King’s was treading carefully to make sure that wouldn’t happen. Having Omer in front of the camera was a safe bet, because no Jordanian could claim that Omer was not one of them. The result was that Jordanians and non-Jordanians alike were delighted at the video.

Imagine Omer traveling around the world to admissions events, playing these videos and standing quietly next to the screen as the audience watches this professional, experienced admissions officer take on another persona on camera. Day after day he turns stone-faced audiences into paparazzi photographers. Cameras or not Omer is certainly one of the most charming people to work with.

“This could be YOUR school too” was our first entry into the Omer oeuvre. We shot it on a photo camera (Canon 5D Mark 3) and were let loose to design and put to the screen our newly found style, something we gravitate to naturally. Every video explores a slightly different direction.

We plan to do many more videos within the same style, perhaps in Arabic, perhaps in song. Omer is versatile and always willing to put himself through various hurdles to get the shot done.