A tough looking guy in a studded leather vest gets on to a public bus at night and sits down behind a mother and her crying young boy. One might think this is a recipe for disaster or a setup of a crime drama, but in fact it’s a heartwarming tale.
Johan Stahl directed “Bus Ride,” a spot by Ogilvy Singapore for Cadbury Chocolate featuring those characters. The spot, which highlights a sweet twist on the old “don’t judge a book by its cover” adage, debuted recently in Asia on TV and online.
The 60-second spot continues the action when the mother reaches down to pick up her dropped shopping bag, which has spilled its contents. Her son turns around to stare at the man, who stares back intently. The man suddenly reaches into his vest and eats a Cadbury chocolate bar, eliciting a smile from the boy and his mother as he grins with chocolate in his teeth—and makes silly expressions before sharing a chocolate bar with the duo. The spot ends with the tagline, “Goodness That Melts Your Heart.”
“The whole core of this concept was to build tension up to a certain point and then do a complete 180°,” said Stahl, who is represented by production company Reverse in the U.S. for commercials and branded content. “To make this work, we needed perfect authentic performances from all of the actors, especially the young boy.”
Stahl spent time casting in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok for the “intimidating man” character. The team eventually landed on an actor by the name of Rabbit who could convincingly shift from menacing to funny.
The two-day shoot took place at night in Kuala Lumpur with a floating police escort to allow the crew to move around the city’s heavy traffic.
“Maybe it was the tropical heat with no air conditioning, but by the end of the shoot, we were howling with laughter when Rabbit made the switch to the funny guy,” said Stahl. “The agency and client were incredibly collaborative and gave us the utmost trust to pull off this concept. It was great to see everything come together so well.”
“This spot exemplifies what Johan does best—simple yet efficient performance-driven storytelling that creates a strong emotional connection to the characters and the product,” said Thibaut Estellon, Reverse founder and executive producer.
CCO: Nicolas Courant
ACD: Rachel Chew and Sonali Ranjit
Account Director: Bowie Tiong
Regional Business Director: Kanika Sood
Chief Client Officer: Giri Jadhav
Production Company: Hanzo Films/Dubai
Director: Johan Stahl
DP: Werner Maritz
Producer: Chippy Babu
Executive Producer: Hijaz Moosa, Gemsheer CC
Offline Studio: BaconX/Copenhagen
Editorial Company: ArtOfficial, CPH
Editor: Jeppe Bødskov
Music: Anton Eger & Johan Stahl
Sound: Reda El-Kheloufi
Grading Studio: Cameo/Copenhagen
Colorist: Lasse Marcussen
Service Production: Biscuit Films/KL
Local Producer: Magen Appathurai, Daniel Wee
Head of Films APAC: Rebecca So
EP: Zyra Khiruddin
Producer: Thinesh Muniandy
Program Manager: Nigel Pinto