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The story of One Night: how Absolut captured the history of the universe on film

Released today (14 September), Absolut’s global hero film for its ‘Create a better tomorrow, tonight’ platform catapults the viewer through time and space, starting at the moment of the Big Bang and arriving at a London night out in 2017. The Drum spoke to the brand’s agency BBH London to find out how it took on such an epic brief.

Creative development for ‘One Night’ began at the tail end of last year, after the agency won the vodka brand’s account in October. While it follows on from July’s homage to kissing, ‘Equal Love’, the immense task laid ahead by the hero spot’s concept meant production began earlier than the Pride-inspired film.

Absolut briefed BBH to create a global film of epic proportions that would explain the concept of ‘Create a better tomorrow, tonight’, prove that creativity is the key fuel of progress and let consumers know that the vodka was very much back on the creative scene with a bang.

There has clearly been no better bang than the one that created the universe – so that was chosen to launch the film’s visual exploration through history.

“There was a night – an endless black void – and from out of this darkness, or night, came the idea of life,” explained Ian Heartfield, executive creative director at BBH London.

“Our planet formed, evolution happened, humanity came along … humanity learnt to write, make art and think for itself, and now here we are today.

“This film is about summing up the fact that there was one night that led to amazing things happening. Now it’s over to us to keep that going, to keep forming ideas, and keep moving mankind on. It’s a very simple concept, but hopefully one with a very spectacular impact.”

Narrated by rock star Juliette Lewis, One Night propels the user constantly forward, only pausing for breath when Elvis Presley and Monty Python arrive on humanity’s scene. As such, cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki was selected to direct the film, rather than a traditional advertising director.

“We were trying to look for a director who was an artist in their own right,” said Victoria Keenan, producer and partner at BBH London. “Lubezki has won Oscars for Gravity, The Revenant and Birdman, and we thought that he would be great for this film because the pictures are so important. We needed it to look so beautiful and so epic.”

Lubezki’s understanding of post-production was also crucial to the film’s creative success. While some scenes were shot for the ad, many were discovered in stock and archive or created in computer graphics (“You can’t film the Big Bang,” Keenan astutely noted). BBH therefore required a director who understood how to seamlessly merge these divergent rushes, all the while keeping the camera moving forward on a thrusting Z-axis.

Heartfield may describe the concept as “simple”, but there’s no doubt that the subject matter is also imposing. The film’s music was key to preventing the visual journey from appearing too grandiose or heavyweight.

The production team worked with music supervisor Peter Raeburn at Soundtree to help select a soundtrack that would juxtapose the epic nature of the picture with the playful nature of Absolut. As such, it’s not Wagner or Holst that takes us through time, but disco legends Boney M.

‘Create a better tomorrow, tonight’ will act as Absolut’s creative platform moving forward. The concept aims to showcase how the brand has celebrated – and always will celebrate – creativity and progress.

Absolut has additionally collaborated with five artists to launch a global out of home and print campaign, which aims to bring to life their personal ideas of a ‘better tomorrow’ under five of Absolut’s brand beliefs. These partnerships will spark an ongoing series of creative collaborations on the same theme that Absolut will continue into next year.

The brand platform will also run across social, with Absolut collaborating with seven additional artists on a digital campaign of a similar ilk.

“‘Create a better tomorrow, tonight’ is an exciting moment for us, as we feel it beautifully encapsulates everything we stand for as a company”, said Gaia Gilardini, Absolut’s global communications director. “Absolut has always believed in the power of creativity to spark progress in the world, and that’s something we want to bring to life in everything we do.”