You meet the strangest people on vacation.
For example, the talky trio in Droga5 London’s cheeky new ads for Secret Escapes, a members-only service that sells discounted luxury hotel accommodations and travel packages.
These intense folks, enjoying holidays in sun-splashed climes, just can’t refrain from sharing waaay too much with anyone who’ll sit still long enough to listen. And my, what amazingly melodramatic, death-defying adventures they’ve had!
“I shouldn’t even be here,” each one proclaims, before relating long-winded tales of their trials, tribulations and triumphs in the spots below.
First up, a guy with haunted eyes tells a fellow vacationer in a beach-side bar that he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and “subjected to a sustained, decade-long campaign of physical [and] psychological trauma, administered by a sadistic warden with a cold, black heart. But in time, I learned that if you can push fear down far enough, you lose the capacity to feel.”
Sounds like someone’s been watching too much Netflix.
Same goes for the dapper dude in the next spot. “This time last year, I almost died,” he confides to a total stranger. “My ship was hijacked by pirates, and I was … taken. They tied me up in a boiler room, a dirty rag in my mouth, total darkness for days on end.”
Sure, he had it rough, but at least he didn’t have to battle a wild-eyed wolf like the star of the third ad. “As I prepared to welcome death’s warm embrace, something came over me,” she says. “My eyes filled with fire, and my teeth sank into the beast.”
That rumble sounds just like what we can expect from the Mayweather-McGregor fight, if Mayweather shows up in drag as a middle-aged American tourist and McGregor turns out to be a werewolf.
In each case, the listeners’ casual, intentionally anti-climactic reply at the end—that THEY “shouldn’t be here, either” but couldn’t resist Secret Escapes’ getaway deals—amusingly delivers the brand proposition.
So, how did Droga5 devise such an odd approach for its first Secret Escapes campaign after adding the business a few months back?
“Time off seems like a luxury in and of itself,” David Kolbusz, chief creative officer at Droga5 London, tells us. “When you show up to a nice hotel and someone hands you a glass of champagne upon arrival, or hotel staff fold your clothes for you when you’re away from your room, you feel like an imposter. That’s where ‘I shouldn’t even be here right now’ came from. Then the team had the idea of contrasting that sentiment with the stories of people who cheated death—people who actually shouldn’t be here.”
That setup is a tad convoluted, but the ads score anyway, carried by the delightfully overwrought performances and sharp scripts.
“Because we used long takes and push the camera in slowly, the characters suck you into the action,” says Kolbusz. “The long ones [each lasting about 90 seconds] work best online and in cinema, where you’ve got a captive audience. But there are 30-second versions that work really well for television.”
All three commercials were shot in a single day at a luxe resort in Croatia. But the pressure-packed process turned out to be anything but a vacation for the cast and crew.
“Because we tried to get each of the monologues in a single take from a variety of different angles, it meant delivering one great [acting] performance after another in the baking sun,” Kolbusz recalls. “Add to this the fact that they had to contend with the noise of passing boats in the distance blowing take after take, their feats were truly Herculean.”
He adds: “By the time dusk rolled around, we had about 90 minutes to shoot our last spot. Tim, the mustachioed actor in the ‘Incarcerated’ spot, nailed his lines every time. We were shit-scared of losing daylight, but he came through for us. I don’t think any of us had ever shot a commercial in an hour and a half before.”
After that harrowing experience, they’ll need a few weeks in the tropics to recover.