Whenever a production company representative tells you that ‘you’ll never see where the joins are’, you know that there’s been a fair amount of special effects wizardry involved in the said advert.
However with Frame’s new TV ad for Bulmers, the techy stuff isn’t where you’d think.
Bulmers is mounting an unenviable attempt at regaining some market share from cider supremos, Magners, with this new campaign. Building on the premise that Bulmers is chilled from origin rather than chilled when poured over ice, the ads aim to regain some of the market stolen by its Irish counterparts.
“Magners has been a phenomenon,” Paul Bartlett, Scottish & Newcastle’s UK consumer marketing director admits. “The key difference is the way our product is made. The Bulmers’ product has been around for a decade but we’ve not pushed it in the UK.”
The ad opens on a container spilling hundreds of bottles into the ocean, after which the bottles ‘swim’ upstream, narrowly avoiding a hungry bear but finally being caught by a young couple to enjoy. Shot over two weeks, on location in Cuba and Canada, despite what you’d think on viewing the ad, the parts that look as if they were done with special effects, weren’t.
“When you shoot these things, you use all the tricks,” says Simon Mallinson, managing director of MTP, which filmed the ad for Frame with director Martin Wedderburn. “The skill is to mix up the 3D, 2D and live so people can’t see the joins.”
“Or you put the join where you wouldn’t think it would be,” interrupts Angus Walker, Frame’s creative director and the creator of the ad.
“We did consider doing the whole ad in CGI. There are two reasons for using CGI, if you want it to be better and you’re willing to spend a lot of money, or you don’t have too much money and you have to accept a compromise. It was actually an improvement to not totally use CGI. Where we did use CGI, we spent money like the French do; concentrate in certain areas. When the French build hotels, they spend all the money on the reception. You walk in the door and go ‘oooh’ and then you go up to your room on the fifth floor and it’s not as good. So we spent money where it really matters, and in things we couldn’t have achieved like the big shoal of bottles going past a whale. But in other scenes, surprising scenes where you wouldn’t imagine [that CGI was used], where you’ve 10 or 12 bottles all jumping through the water where a boat tracks them in the ocean. That was all shot for real.”
One of the shots where they used CGI, was where a bear makes a passing attempt to bite a bottle of Bulmers. However the educated guess that the bear was computer-generated was unfounded.
“We found this bear shot, which had a salmon leaping up and a bear going for it,” says Mallinson. “The bottle was bigger than the salmon so that was easy. The next moment we were in Canada shooting bottles underwater. We kept thinking ‘how on earth are we going to map around that bear’? But we actually used the bear and the water, and shot the bottles in the waterfall then put a layer of water over the bear. The join’s not where you’d expect.”
Walker’s pragmatic about why they used a library shot. “The two shots we really wanted we’d seen in library archives,” he says. “If you actually take the snobbery out of it, the ‘I would never use library footage’, it’s a bear and it’s doing exactly what we wanted a bear to do. We could have spent another day trying to get a real bear to do what we wanted. A lot of it’s about limiting the risk and saying we know what we’ve got and we know what we can get. I know some creatives who’ll say ‘it has to be a real bear, I’ve got to shoot a real bear or a man in a bear suit’. At the end of the day, you know you’ve got the shot, so why waste those two days? One of the bottles was real, but one was put in with CGI. [That effect was achieved using some fishing line].”
Walker’s quick to point out that the whole process – despite using over 4000 bottles of Bulmers – was completely environmentally friendly. “The snow effects and ice effects didn’t use any chemicals or anything,” he says. “When we filmed in Cuba, at a time we were dropping 4/500 bottles. When we dropped them in the water we had nets in the water and tarpaulin. We got all the whole bottles to take up for another shoot, and binned the broken bottles.”
“We picked up every single one,” laughs Mallinson. Mallinson admits on a production of this size, even experienced production people like him have their moments of panic. “You do go through the process of ‘where am I going to get a sea container from?’ and then you find one, ring Angus and send him a picture,” he says. “You then get a quote in and you find out they want £75,000 for it and you go ‘Oh fuck, hope plan B works’.
Also a veteran of TV work, Walker is always over-critical of his TV work. “I’m the opposite of Simon,” he says. “With two exceptions; Irn Bru ‘Baby’ and this one. Although there are still things that annoy me about them, the problem is you can never see an ad with fresh eyes. What you see on screen, was never what was in your head.”
Walker cites the strategic help from Scottish & Newcastle as being paramount to achieving the brief.
“We were given a lot of help from S&N, really good, helpful processes,” he says. “I’ve been in companies where the processes are quite tricky, but these [S&N’s] are actually quite liberating. Even the strategy to start with; “We are better over ice because we’re chill-filtered’ so therefore the perfect state for it is over ice. So we started from ‘perfect’ and ‘natural’. You want something that’s very simple and very straightforward.”
Bartlett coyly lets on that Frame shot two different films, one of which is yet to air.
“We research quite heavily before briefing an agency,” he says.
“With Bulmers, we had a range of research. The ad we’ve launched focuses on the functional rather than the emotional.
“Frame were fantastic about it. They were working on two films even though they knew one wouldn’t air. Frame won the pitch after we put a brief out, got some work back and theirs was the winning idea.
“We needed an agency that was fleet of foot and, in particular, one that had an understanding of Magners, which has been in Scotland longer than in England.”
This new Bulmers ad cements Frame’s relationship with S&N, following its work on McEwan’s Special. Let’s see if the migration continues with some of its other big brands.