The makeover of wild animals into twentysomething "Millanimals" in Taxi's first ad for Kraft's MiO Energy water flavoring is a bit off-putting at first. That's probably because the animated cheetah, rhino and gazelle feel more like dudes than animals when dressed, groomed and gelled. Doesn't take long, though, to get sucked into the bar they inhabit.
Called—appropriately enough—The Watering Hole, the space feels like a less freakish and more suburban version of the famous cantina in Stars Wars (seen, of course, most recently as the coda in Volkswagen's latest Super Bowl ad). Instead of liquor bottles, clear water bottles line a shelf behind Rhino, a muscular guy with glasses who wears a tight T-shirt that says, "Animal." Naturally, there's product placement: bottles of MiO on tables and in the hands of characters, a neon MiO sign on the wall, even MiO coasters. The sign and coasters are subtle, though, and blend into the surroundings.
As guitar-driven rock plays in the background, Cheetah, in a black leather jacket, grouses to Rhino that "this MiO Energy is completely crushing my game." Cheetah further explains that "everyone is more energized, more alert" after they mix the stuff into their water. As a result, he's no longer the fastest beast around.
"Remember when I used to be it?" Cheetah continues, almost crying into his clear glass of water. "I was the man. If you needed to track a gazelle down for dinner, you came to me." The ad closes with Gazelle, dressed in a jean jacket, literally laughing in his face.
"Cheetah" is the first of series of :30s and :15s that begin to roll out today. Look for a giraffe mixing it up with a loris in a future spot. (The animals are reminiscent of the Orangina beasts in Fred & Farid's work for that brand.) The campaign also includes print and online ads and a presence on MiO's Facebook page. The tagline is, "MiO. Shake things up."
Client: MiO Energy
Agency: Taxi, New York
Executive Creative Director: Dave Clemans
Creative Directors: Stephen Leps, Michael Pierantozzi
Copywriter: Tim Wassler
Art Director: Phillip Cho
Producers: Joyce Lee, Holly Flaisher
Production Company: Psyop; Smuggler
Creative Directors: Eben Mears, Jon Saunders
Executive Producer: Lydia Holness
Producer: Michael Neithardt
Assistant Producer: Anu Nagaraj
Designers: Naomi Chen, Ram Bhat, Annalisa Swank
Lead 3-D Artists: Pakorn Bupphavesa, Alvin Bae
Lighting Lead: Jonah Friedman
Lead Animator: Pat Porter
Lead Nuke Artist: Nick Tanner
3-D Artists: Zed Bennett Jr., Bryan Eck, Dave Chen, Joerg Liebold, Shant Ergenian, Andy Hara, Lee Wolland, Will Robertson, John Payne, Phill Avanzato, Denis Kozyrev, Larry Leung, Dan Fine
3-D Animators: Stephanie Russell, Anthony Travieso, Kevin Scott, Douglas Litos, Danny Speck, William Frazier
Nuke Artists: Thomas Panayiotou, Jason Conradt
Editor: Cass Vanini
Storyboard Artist: Robin Nishio