Add Stella Artois to the list of zoetrope marketers, only its elaborate spinning take on the genre is for a noble cause—as seen in a new ad that builds on "Buy a Lady a Drink," a partnership campaign with Water.org to bring clean water to communities in need.
The minute-and-a-half spot, from Mother London and 1stAveMachine, opens on a tower of Stella's iconic glasses. Soft piano music plays in the background, and the tower starts to spin. A voiceover touts Stella's commitment to the quality of water in its beer, then describes the story taking shape on the glasses, which show painted stills of a woman who's traveled hours to carry fresh water home.
When the woman gets access to a new local pump, she carves out more time for farming, education and even dancing. In the final shot, the glasses—once empty—are full of water.
It's a slick and hypnotizing spot at moments, even if Stella's impulse to trumpet the purity of water in its own product feels a little awkward. It feels unnecessary; it would have been enough to spotlight the crisis and—since it's advertising, after all—celebrate the brand's significant contributions, which include bringing clean water to 290,000 people last year.
The A-B InBev-owned brand joins marketers like Airbnb and Coca-Cola's Fuze in using variations on a zoetrope to pitch viewers. In this case, the ask is more worthwhile than a visit to Paris or bottle of iced tea: Head over to buyaladyadrink.com to do some good (despite the smarmy name) by donating $25 to guarantee five years of clean water for one person in the developing world.
That gift will also get you a limited edition "chalice," as the brand calls its glasses (a fact made all the more memorable by Newcastle's classic piss-take from Droga5). These special versions of the glasses feature designs by artists from countries like Haiti, Kenya and Peru.
The website also includes a plea from Matt Damon (directed by Luke Scott of RSA Films) delivered alongside the zoetrope. And on Stella's YouTube page, there's a documentary-style version of the spot capturing the story of Guillermina Hernández, a 35-year-old mother in Honduras who describes how access to water improved the lives of herself and her family.
In other words, the arc of this ad is not a fairy tale.
Lastly, a behind-the-scenes video (below) captures the substantial effort that went into creating the contraption. 1stAveMachine has a history of practical-effects wizardry. The new spot's directors, Bob Partington (whose past work includes Google's "Speed Tests" and OK Go's "The Writing on the Wall") and Tim Brown (who helmed Google's "Extensions"), explain the process that went into creating it.
These include building a base strong enough to support the tower's weight, laser-cutting plexiglass planks to hold the chalices in place, and tracking the camera upward to create an effect where the shot doesn't even seem like it's rising.
Perhaps the most telling moments are when Partington notes the difficulty of creating the helix, and Brown characterizes the work as a sort of "three-dimensional flip book." But as is often the case with complex physical productions like the tower, the final ad is too zippy to do justice to the craft that went into constructing it.
Still, maybe that's fitting when the pageantry is meant to be altruistic at heart.
Client: Stella Artois (AB InBev)
VP Global Marketing: Todd Allen
Global Marketing: Ben Butler
Head of Brand Partnerships: Julia Laguardia
Agency: Mother London
Creative Director: Kit Dayaram
Creative: Jess Reynolds
Creative: Chris Vernon
Mother: Andy Ballentyne-Gilbert
Agency Producer: Sam Dowling
Production Company: 1stAveMachine
Director: Bob Partington
Director: Tim Brown
Producer: Isabella Parish
Production Manager: Kerry Smart
DOP: Ed Wild
Editor: James Rose
VFX Supervisor: Tony Landais
Post Production Producer: Chris Allen
Spanish Service Co.: Palma Pictures T.M.P.C.
Line Producer: Dani Rotstein
Production Coordinator: Marta Jimenez