Mountain Dew's "Living Portraits" series is one of the most innovative and intricate short-form campaigns of the year. Who'd've thunk it, especially after the brand's high-profile ad missteps a few months ago? Created by BBDO and Psyop, each 30-second "Living Portrait" spotlights a different Dew endorser—Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., skateboarder Paul Rodriguez and snowboarder Danny Davis. Fun, freaky symbolism is used to capture the essence of each and, for lack of a better term, mythologize their lives. The spots all take a similar approach, with the endorsers seated on stylized thrones and the shot slowly pulling back to reveal bedazzling details.
Davis sits on ornately sculptured ice, slurping Dew and strumming a guitar. The camera pulls back to reveal a wintry jam session with members of his crew, the ice sculptor, birds of prey and wolves in attendance. A yeti plays drums. Snowboarders soar in a rainbow sky. A cute, briefcase-sized eyeball lounges by the fire, diggin' Danny's vibes.
Components move at different speeds, mixing 3-D layering and 2-D animation with live action and matte effects. Yet there's no discord, and the elements combine to create harmonious representations of the endorsers' lives and achievements.
Fans can visit Mountain Dew's website to unlock the secrets behind each portrait's imagery. The outsized eyeball in Davis's spot refers to FrendsVision, where the snowboarder and his crew share information about the Frends brand and disseminate clips of themselves "performing skits, snowboarding, playing music and entertaining the public the best way they know how." So, basically, the eye opens onto another ad. I didn't see that coming.
And we learn that the crew is jamming around a "peace fire," because "Danny lives his life preaching peace." That's a bit precious for me—sounds like an overblown piece of you know what—and I wonder if perhaps the symbols should have been left unexplained, adding to the mystery, allowing fans to debate their deeper meaning.
The yeti's presence isn't explained at all! Smelling a Pulitzer, I sent an email, and a rep for Mountain Dew parent PepsiCo explained: "The Yeti was included as it's part of mountain folklore." Rock on, noble yeti! That furry dude really keeps the beat.
See the other spots below.