It’s been a tough year, right? I think we’ve probably all dealt with stuff we never imagined possible, and faced some pretty dark days. It’s bought two things into sharp focus for me - how we need nature more than ever for both solace and survival and how incredibly lucky I feel to have a safe place to call my home.
Our Christmas ad this year taps into that feeling and tells a magical story of a young girl following a mysterious trail on her way home from a music class. She sees hints and glimpses of an elephant in her town which culminates in a poignant ‘meeting’ of the two - one with the power to change the world for the other.
The concept highlights the serious issue of elephant habitat encroachment and the need for people and elephants to have homes where they can thrive.
Here’s a peak behind the scenes to show you how the team brought the story to life.
The first time we saw the elephant it was a hovering grey blob. Not quite the emotional hook we needed, but once we’d agreed how many ‘cushions’ they should have on each foot (toes to you and me) and how much hair an elephant has on its tail, the computer wizards at MPC created our beautiful creature.
Shooting in a covid world
We’ve never filmed a whole ad ‘virtually’ before but it was necessary this year to keep as many people at home as possible. The crew and actors had to be on-site observing social distancing measures, and the rest of the team watched on our screens through the night.
Here’s a few pics showing you the crew on set and the team watching from their homes. Many snacks were eaten to keep the energy going.
Didn’t think we’d cleared the streets of London for our shoot did you? Well we had to be as efficient as as possible with our costs, so instead it was all shot in an existing ‘UK city’ set in Bulgaria. So if you thought you recognised the pub or the greengrocer’s shop... I’m afraid that’s all part of the magic.
Cold winter night filming
We stayed up for the shoot til 4am on two not-so-cold nights in September to achieve the winter evening vibes. Quite a feat for someone who loves their kip... Then we decided to grade the whole film in black and white to give it that real cinematic feel, to fit with our black and white brand palette of course, and to stand out from the crowd.
Spot the clues
We didn’t want to spoil the ending by revealing the elephant too soon. But look closely and you might spot a few hints dotted through the full ad.
The girl’s trumpet case (a nod to the elephant right there) has a WWF panda sticker on it.
A newspaper headline that the young girl walks past highlights the catastrophic decline of nature (from our 2020 Living Planet Report which found a shocking 68% average drop in global wildlife populations since 1970)
Sadly, our favourite fake Minicab brand “Panda Cabs” hit the cutting room floor.
Music & sound
We were played a track called Them by Nils Frahm as a guide for the tone of the ad. And we fell in love with it. Thankfully we were able to secure the track for the final ad - it’s a beautiful piano piece with a haunting string section.
The sound design adds to the suspense as the girl follows the elephant trail, is that an elephant call you can hear? Or a car horn? And then suddenly we cut all sound as the elephant (and the magic) disappear.
We reached out again to the vocal talent of musician Ghostpoet to provide an intimate, gentle performance compelling the viewer to protect elephant habitats, and join the fight for our world.
We could not have created this beautiful ad without the creative genius and high standards of the guys at Uncommon, (independent agency of the year 2020). They are the creative force behind the concept and worked alongside Bafta award winning VFX company Moving Picture Company – MPC.
They helped us bring to life the connection we all feel to home, particularly in these turbulent times and remind us that we all have the power to change things for the better – for wildlife and people.