IDEA: Zombies crave braaaains, but they're also fond of heaaaarts. Your heart keeps you alive, after all, and zombies need you alive to devour you. So, it stands to reason zombies know CPR—to resuscitate heart-attack victims and not let that good food go to waste. That's the amusing premise behind this tense and gory PSA for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Advertising is soaked in zombie blood already, but given the target (young people) and the timing (Halloween), Agency59 couldn't resist. It got cult horror auteur Vincenzo Natali on board. The Canadian director turned in a mini masterpiece—a ferocious three-minute spot that packs in great special effects, an entertaining twist and even a short CPR demo. Eat your heart out, America!
COPYWRITING: The client liked Vinnie Jones and Ken Jeong's CPR videos, both set to the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive," which famously has the two-beats-per-second rhythm you're supposed to use for CPR chest compressions. "I think they were expecting us to use 'Stayin' Alive' as well," said Agency59 chief creative officer Brian Howlett. "But we decided to tell this other story." In it, a woman is caught up in a zombie apocalypse when she has a heart attack and drops to the ground. The zombies, step by step, use CPR to bring her back to life. "CPR makes you undead," says the on-screen copy. Soon enough, this is true in the darker sense—as the horde descends on the woman and turns her into one of them. "We wanted to bring a bit of sly humor into the zombie genre," Howlett said of the script. "And the client didn't change a word."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Natali shot over a weekend in August, shutting down parts of downtown Toronto. The film has a cinematic and intensely grim look. The greenish color grade adds to the sense of rot. Natali, who had never shot an ad, was drawn to the material and got several Hollywood friends involved at a fraction of the normal cost, including the special-effects team at Alter Ego—who spectacularly ruined the Toronto cityscapes with CGI and gave the zombies oozing wounds and glowing eyes. Even the length is cinematic, almost trailer-like. "We knew that the longer we set it up, that the turn [i.e., the plot twist] would be pretty funny," said Howlett.
TALENT: Canadian actress Michelle Nolden, another frequent Natali collaborator (she stars in his upcoming movie Haunter), donated her time to play the lead. She deftly conveys raw fear. "We were looking for someone of a certain age where it was possible she could have a heart attack. She couldn't be a teen," said Howlett. "But she's also athletic and strong. She's not really a damsel in distress." Many of the zombies are people who belong to zombie clubs and often dress up and play undead parts. "We used our casting sources, but we definitely tapped into the zombie pool as well," said Howlett.
SOUND: Cyrille Aufort, another Natali favorite, composed the score. "It had to convey suspense and speak to the genre, but also inform the turn when it happens," said Howlett. It also keeps to two beats per second during the demo. The Foley and ambient sounds were done by RMW in Toronto.
MEDIA: It's primarily an online campaign, based at TheUndeading.ca, but the film premiered at a live event in Toronto's Dundas Square and aired in its entirety during a show on Canada's Space network. A scripted initiative on Twitter has 20 characters desperately trying to get from Dundas Square to a zombie-free "safe zone" at Canada's Wonderland amusement park—where, at the conclusion of the campaign, the client will hold live CPR training.
Client: Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario
Agency: Agency59, Toronto
CCO: Brian Howlett
CW: Ketan Manohar
AD: Naeem Walji
Agency Producer: Maggie Kelly
Production Company: Cartilage Inc.
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Executive Producer: William Cranor
Producer: Matthew Kloske
D.O.P.: Jeremy Benning, C.S.C.
Visual Effects: Alter Ego
Editing: Married to Giants
Music: Cyrille Aufort
Sound Design: RMW
Starring: Michelle Nolden