IDEA: You're an intelligent, civilized human who enjoys all the efficiencies of modern life. So why do you use knuckledragging technology to clean your teeth? That's Philips Sonicare's question to its target market. "They've taken the technological leap in every other aspect of their lives, but they're still using a stick with bristles for a toothbrush," said Calle Sjoenell, chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather in New York. The manual toothbrush may still work fine for some, but Sonicare paints it as comically outdated in this 75-second spot, which literally pulls a man through history as he brainlessly scrubs away, from caveman times to now. At the end, he finally sees the (blinding) light, and makes the leap to modernity thanks to a Sonicare electric toothbrush.
COPYWRITING: Ogilvy had a voiceover script, which became the spine of the ad. "The manual toothbrush you're using is 5,000-year-old technology," the male voice begins. "It was first used in the 36th century B.C., before some other useful technologies like writing and law, and remains essentially unchanged through time." The voice then admonishes the viewer for advancing in every other area but this. "It's time for you to leap this technology gap and end the manualbrushing era," says the voice, which then shifts to the product pitch: "Welcome to the new level of clean. Philips Sonicare delivers more brush strokes in two minutes than a manual can do in one month, and up to five times the plaque removal." The tagline is: "Stick with technology."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Jonathan Notaro of Brand New School shot the ad over three days at locations around Budapest. Eight scenes are stitched together to look like one long pull back through a tunnel of time, with the hero at the center, subtly interacting with the environments—a Roman temple, a Victorian train station, an '80s nightclub.
"I was inspired by maps that show time as a corkscrew, like a land mass in a corkscrew elevation shape," Notaro said. "What would happen if you put a camera on that corkscrew and went through it?" Rather than film the actor against a green screen and shoot the backgrounds separately, Notaro put him right in the action—actor and camera were tethered together on two dollies on a track. This presented challenges (the actor stood on a crane for scenes where he ascends or descends) but gave the spot a charming authenticity.
"There's enough perfection happening with the technique," said Notaro. "There's something funny when he spins the girl around and holds on to her arm a little too long. People know it's real." At the end, the hero throws the manual brush up toward the sun, and it becomes a Sonicare—a reference, said Ogilvy art director Lucas Camargo, to the ape throwing the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
TALENT: Some who auditioned for the lead simply overacted, said Camargo, like making monkey sounds as the caveman. It needed to be more subtle. The character does change a bit. "As he goes through the cave, his posture starts to sink down," said Notaro. "As the Roman, he's slightly more distinguished and proud, and the chin is up. … But I think the humor is just in the actor being re-skinned for each environment." The character's methodical brushing (Notaro used a metronome on set to keep the rhythm consistent) and limited expressions also reinforce the message—that things haven't changed for millennia.
SOUND: The music is a rhythmic classical track from Storefront Music that slyly punctuates the hero's brushing motion. Sound design was pared back to a few key moments per scene.
MEDIA: Banners and online video have pointed to a Facebook app, where the spot is a centerpiece. It may also be cut into a :30 for TV later this year.
Client: Philips Sonicare
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York
Calle Sjoenell – Chief Creative Officer
Jason Marks – Executive Creative Director
Craig Mannion – Executive Creative Director
Lucas Camargo – Art Director
Lukas Lund – Art Director
Andreas Hoff – Art Director
Matt Bonin – Chief Production Officer
Sarissa Karnbach – Producer
David Halberstadt – Integrated Content Production Business Manager
Karl Westman and Chris Mazur – Music Producers
Production Company: Brand New School
Director: Jonathan Notaro
EP: Devin Brook
DP: Tommy Wildner
Post: Brand New School
Telecine: Company 3
Color: Tom Poole
Sound Design: Machinehead
Sound Design: Stephen Dewey
Mix: Seth Phillips and Justin Kooy, Sound Lounge
Music: Adam Elk, Storefront Music