IDEA: It's a brutal irony of the automobile: Speed and power are its strengths, yet they combine to make its occupants ever more vulnerable. It's true of any driving, and especially true of drunk driving, when you are prone to errors that can have shattering consequences.
Iris Worldwide's new responsible-driving spot for Johnnie Walker—tied to the brand's sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 racing team—expertly captures this dance between strength and fragility through a potent metaphor: a glass car. The 90-second, almost completely CGI spot shows hundreds of drinking glasses flying out of boxes, magically assembling in the shape of a race car and then breaking into a thousand shards—before coming back together in a powerful, beautiful plea not to drink and drive.
"The film acts as a reminder of the fragility of human life," said Grant Hunter, Iris creative director for Asia-Pacific. "Ultimately it's an alcohol brand stepping up to its responsibilities. And I like to think we've delivered it in a beautiful and considered manner."
COPYWRITING: The spot takes place in a spare white room—a reproduction of a space at the McLaren Technology Centre in England, where F1 cars are built.
As the glasses fly about, a male voice says: "When you're racing against the world's best, in the quickest machines on the planet, control is everything, just as it is every time you get behind the wheel. A split-second decision can be the difference between finishing first, last"—this is where the glasses shatter—"or not at all. Make the right choice and stay in control … and help us get the world home safely." The hashtag #ImNOTdriving and JoinThePact.com appear.
"The voiceover has to tread a fine line," said Hunter. "We have an alcohol brand sponsoring very fast cars promoting a never-drink-and-drive message. I think the voiceover connects those elements in a believable, emotionally powerful way. … I think it was draft 11 when we were all really happy."
F1 driver Mika Hakkinen, a brand ambassador, appears at the end—letting a glass float out of his hand in the ad's only non-CGI moment.
FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Director Russell Appleford painstakingly built everything in CGI. The visual look is modeled on McLaren's facility.
"It's a futuristic, minimal, architectural masterpiece," said Hunter. The CGI room is accurate to within 3 millimeters of the real room. "But it ran the risk of being too sterile," Hunter said, "so we were keen to add a filmic quality to the CGI. We achieved this by creating shallow depth of field to many of the shots."
It took 1,750 glasses to create the perfect scale model of a 2013 McLaren MP4-28. The smash simulation, created using Houdini software, took over a week to generate.
TALENT: Scottish actor and screenwriter Louis Mellis, who has narrated ads for Guinness (including the famous "Surfer" spot) and F1 itself, does the voiceover. "We all felt Louis' voice has gravitas but also depth and a certain warmth," said Hunter. "It was crucial that the voiceover was delivered without lecturing the viewer. Louis being a Scot felt a natural fit for Walker's Scottish heritage and he's also a recognized voice in the world of Formula 1."
SOUND: Gavin Little at Echolab did the music and sound design, which are simple but dramatic. "The soundtrack to the film Solaris was one of our references," said Hunter. "I particularly like the use of the glass sounds at the start. We were conscious that the music was just as important as the amazing visuals, but we didn't want the sound effects to overpower the voiceover."
MEDIA: The film's release on YouTube coincided with the final F1 race of 2013 in Brazil. It has also run on television in Latin America and will reach other TV markets in 2014.
Client: Johnnie Walker
Agency: iris Worldwide, Singapore
APAC Creative Director/Writer: Grant Hunter
Director: Russell Appleford
Production Company: The Other Side Creative
Producer: Louise Oliver
3D: Russell Appleford
2D: Garrett Honn, Victor Perez
Editor: Peter Booth
Music and Sound Design: Gavin Little / Echolab
Sound Mix: Rich Martin / Envy Post
Creative Group Head: Jonathan Cockett
Senior Creative: Shawn Foo
Creative: Lam Nasril
Planning Director: Paul Gage
Board Director: Hannah Dogger
Senior Account Manager: Prema Techinamurthi
Senior Account Executive: Cheryl Chan