Creative: Sweating The Details

A Canadian and his animation company: Now, that’s Brisk, baby!
He’s put the twinkle back into Frank Sinatra’s baby blues, given Sylvester Stallone a knockout punch and supplied Babe Ruth with an out-of-the-park swing. It would seem Ken Lidster has hit a home run.
A Canadian expat living in London, Lidster is making a name for himself and his animation house, Loose Moose, with his eerie portraits of American pop icons for Lipton Brisk Iced Tea and J. Walter Thompson, New York. In the most recent Brisk spot, the Babe is dragging his feet and sweating up a storm due to an all-nighter. As the legendary hitter falters at the plate, George Steinbrenner looks on anxiously from the dugout. “All he’s doing is sweating. I’m not sweating and I’m wearing a turtleneck!” he barks. Reggie Jackson saves the day, offering the Babe an iced tea. “Ah, that’s Brisk, baby!” says Ruth. After he hits a home run, his bat flies out of his hand and knocks Steinbrenner over in an exaggerated tumble.
“Lipton is an iconic brand,” says Mickey Paxton, senior partner and group creative director at JWT. “We devised this idea of sweaty icons, starting with Sinatra, who are off their game. Iced tea is chuggable; it lifts your mind and your spirits. The ads are homages to their careers.”
The agency and production team rely on extensive video research to create accurate-looking models and true-to-life body language. “We have all the Rocky tapes,” says Lidster, referring to the spot featuring the voice of Sylvester Stallone. Paxton describes it as “a cross between Rocky, Raging Bull and Bugs Bunny.”
The spot opens in Round 15 of a boxing match, and Rocky is “taking the beating of his life.” “It’s over, Rock!” cries Mickey the trainer. “There’s nothing on Earth that’s gonna save ya now.” Nothing that is, except Brisk. Gulping down the iced tea, Rocky says, “Yo! That’s Brisk, baby!” as he heads back into the ring with full force. To heighten the intensity of the action, Lidster mimicked the stylistic elements of Raging Bull, including the smoke in the arena and the camera angles.
Filmed on miniature sets, the commercials are created by stop-frame animation of 20-inch-high latex puppets (created by U.K. modelmakers MacKinnon & Saunders) with metal armatures. Despite the painstaking process of shooting stop frame (three seconds of film per shooting day), Lidster hardly notices. “When you’re shooting, time goes quickly,” says Lidster, a Vancouver native who emigrated to London to attend the National Film School and never left. “You know you have to get a shot or two in a day. You are concentrating so much, making sure that the details, such as the swagger, are correct. By the end, you are really quite knackered, as they say here in London.”
Two weeks of production is followed by five days of post production to smooth out movements, enhance facial expressions and make final adjustments. In the end, the color film is drained to black and white, so that the only color left in, say, the Frank Sinatra spot is the singer’s brilliant blue eyes and the Brisk can. “Almost 20 percent of the finished ad is post effects,” notes Lidster.
Since the Brisk campaign debuted in 1996, Loose Moose, which Lidster formed in 1994 with producer Glenn Holberton, has received much of its sustenance from the U.S. Though the shop works on a number of award-winning British campaigns, including Peperami snack foods for Ammirati Puris Lintas and Energizer’s “Never say die” for Bates Dorland, 70 percent of Loose Moose’s work is generated stateside, says Holberton. In addition to the JWT Brisk ads, Lidster has directed a Target spot for Martin/Williams, Minneapolis, featuring “Funny Bones,” a skeleton doing stand-up, and a Raisinet commercial for Dailey & Associates in Los Angeles. “We’re happy we’ve gained a foothold in the States,” says Lidster.
Paxton promises to keep Lidster busy. Though the art director won’t reveal what sluggish celebrity Lipton will serve up next, he says the possibilities are endless. “I hope it catches on like the old Batman [TV] series [which celebrities clamored to star in],” he says.
That would fit Lidster to a tee.