IDEA: "Good things should last forever." The core idea dramatized in Grey London's new Vodafone ad couldn't be simpler. The spot has a relatively mundane offer to make—unlimited talk and text through Vodafone Red. But it gets there in grand, cinematic style by imagining something else you'd like to be unlimited—a kiss with the love of your life. "We asked ourselves, 'What things in the world do you wish could keep going?'" said Grey executive creative director Nils Leonard. "We noodled around with ideas about roller coasters and stuff. But we said, you know what? It's got to be something emotional. And we landed on a kiss. If you could have a kiss forever with the person you love, that would be amazing." The 90-second spot, directed by Frédéric Planchon, follows the same couple kissing through time, from childhood through old age, as their love endures—a tribute to the everlasting in a world (and a category) filled with endings.
COPYWRITING: Leonard wrote the spot with planning chief Leo Rayman. There's no dialogue, so the scripting process became a collaboration with Planchon about how to evoke raw emotion from scene to scene. Five sets of actors play the couple. "The teenagers are nervous," Leonard said. "The couple in their 20s are just raunchy. And then it gets slightly more forgiving and meaningful as the kids happen. And then it gets tender, because life throws some shit at you. And then it comes full circle [with the elderly couple]."
The narrative is sometimes ambiguous. In one scene, the woman briefly has a tear in her eye. "No life ever is just a rock 'n' roll kiss from 16 to 80," said Leonard. The spot wraps with the on-screen text "Good things should last forever," followed by the product offer, the line "Vodafone Red. A good thing," and then the logo and tagline, "Power to you."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: The spot is cinematic but intimate and not overly constructed, with the handheld camera getting in close to the actors, almost chasing them through the film. "The way most people would have done it is some rotation thing that keeps going round," said Leonard. "But we wanted it to feel properly observed. There's a lot of door frames, in and outs, and you feel the proximity of their movement." Leonard didn't want any of the clichés—having it be "overlit or lens flare-y. We didn't want any rooftops." He was influenced visually by French art photography and European cinema, particularly the 2006 German film The Lives of Others.
TALENT: The sets of actors do look alike, but that wasn't the primary goal. "We cared more about the chemistry," Leonard said. "People will forgive casting in light of genuine emotion." The spot doesn't shy away from showing the old couple being physically affectionate—they cling to each other passionately. "No one ever shows anyone over 50 being intimate. They always imply it," said Leonard. "The shock to me is that a lot of people have found it really positive. A lot of the social response has been, 'It's about time people showed that you don't switch off, that life doesn't stop.'"
SOUND: Leonard thought the spot needed a rock track. He put Arctic Monkeys and Cure songs behind it. But then Planchon came back with "Walk," by Ludovico Einaudi, which felt almost like a film score. "It has a theme, almost like a metronomic effect. A piano riff appears every time there's a change, and it builds," Leonard said. "It was just perfect. It took it up a notch where a track, rather than a score, couldn't take it."
MEDIA: The spot is airing on TV in a handful of European markets, but is getting global exposure thanks to a version posted to Grey London's YouTube account.
Spot: "The Kiss"
Global Brand Director: Barbara Haase
Head of Brand Operations: Mel Hopkins
Agency: Grey, London
Executive Creative Director: Nils Leonard
Creative Director: Jonathan Marlow
Head of Planning: Leo Rayman
Media Agency: OMD
Production Company: Academy
Director: Frédéric Planchon
Editing Company: The Assembly Rooms
Editor: Sam Rice-Edwards
Soundtrack: "Walk" by Ludovico Einaudi
Visual Effects: MPC
VFX Producer: Paul Branch
VFX Supervisor: Kamen Markov
Grade: Jean Clement Soret
Audio Post-Production: Factory