A lone dancer, Maëva Berthelot, gorgeously freestyles her way through London's empty streets. The sun is out, and the scene is bright—not quite desolate—as she twists and weaves across plazas, around street corners, and through the Tube, all devoid of life.
"Alchemy," a 2014 electro R&B track from TĀLĀ (since signed to Columbia), plays in the background, and seems to more than make up for the absence of other humans.
And it all leads up to a product pitch for Bose headphones in this new ad from Grey London.
Yes, in the final seconds of the striking minute-long spot, the view cuts to a product shot, then back to the full scene, where it turns out the city is in fact bustling with people and cars. She just can't hear them; so they might as well not be there.
"We never quite believed we would actually be able to lock down central London in such heavily populated and high security areas," Grey London executive creative director Dominic Goldman tells AdFreak. "We used a helicopter for the ariel shots, which had understandably strict airspace rules. We held back traffic and people for a few minutes each take. This wasn't easy to produce. Most of this was captured in camera with minimal clean-up in post."
It's the agency's first work for the brand since winning the business last year, and it's a strong showing. Jaron Albertin, of the Cannes Grand Prix-winning Gisele Bündchen work for Under Armour, directs, in another riveting display of physical intensity.
"We literally looked at hundreds of dancers from L.A., London, Paris and New York—there's a lot of talent out there," Goldman says. "However, Maëva gave us something very different. We felt she moved with a real emotion and a feeling of poetry."
Visuals of out-of-context dancers moving through public urban spaces—populated or not—make for powerful film, and the general approach here might for some viewers evoke pieces like Girl Walk//All Day, the 2011 feature-length music video set in New York City (that also arguably found fresh, uncredited life in Pharrell's 24-hour video for "Happy" in 2013).
"This isn't meant to feel like an ad," Goldman says. "Our hope is it will be enjoyed as a small piece of entertainment, with a twist."
Regardless, if the headphones really do have that effect, they should probably come with a warning to watch out for traffic.