How BBDO and Doug Liman Got Inside One of the World’s Biggest Waves for Visa

Kolohe Andino rips up a gnarly spot for Checkout payment service

IDEA: It might not be the smartest idea to order pizza via smartphone while surfing an enormous wave off Tahiti. But it's good to know you could.

In advertising's latest crazy product demo, pro surfer Kolohe Andino one-handedly pays for a Pizza Hut delivery while cruising through a barrel in this 60-second BBDO ad for the Visa Checkout digital payment service.

The inspiration for showing such ease of use actually came from Visa talking to a longtime partner, United Airlines, about the latter's app—designed for airport travelers who typically have only one hand free.

"That unlocked a creative concept for us," said Chris Curtin, Visa's chief digital officer and svp of innovation marketing. "Whether it's a dramatic, extraordinary, theatrical ad like 'Surfer' or more tongue-in-cheek, like some :15s we did over the summer, we always want the hero image to be a phone in one hand being used by an everyday person."

Yes, it's a product demo, but it's also brand work.

"One of the reasons we got into this in the first place is we felt like entering 44 fields of information on a phone was off brand for Visa," Curtin said. "Visa's physical swipe has stood for many things over the years, but one of them is simplicity. We want to make sure that sense of simplicity is replicated in e-commerce."

COPYWRITING: The scripting process was mostly about finding the right scenario for the demo. After that, "the script writes itself. You just have to document it the right way," said BBDO executive creative director Toygar Bazarkaya.

The spot opens with Andino on his board in the ocean, waiting for a wave in the pounding surf. "Looks like the whole ocean's, like, about to fold on itself when it's coming in. I think people get hurt every day out there," he says in voiceover.

Then, we hear longtime spokesman Morgan Freeman: "Visa Checkout is the easier way to pay online. But can Kolohe Andino really pay for pizza inside one of the heaviest waves in the world?"

He can, of course, as a dramatic surf sequence ensues—including a few taps on Visa Checkout at the critical moment—followed by a party scene, as pizza is delivered to a flotilla of boats. The spot wraps with a call to sign up online.

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Doug Liman filmed the spot in August in the days leading up to the Billabong Pro Tahiti surfing event.

"The experience he has from movies like The Bourne Identity was critical, from getting the right helicopter pilot to the three DPs he picked for the job," said Bazarkaya. A big-surf filmmaker also helped out.

Andino picked his shorts and used his own board. Overall, the agency wanted a "filmic, epic look that at the same time is authentic and real. Nothing too stylized," Bazarkaya said.

TALENT: Andino, 20, is a burgeoning star. "We wanted someone who was very well known but not some marketplace name who has endorsed multiple things," said Curtin. "Since this is a fresh new product from Visa and our partners, we wanted it to feel original and not come off as commercial."

SOUND: The soundtrack has three parts—anticipation before he surfs, suspense during and celebration after. The middle piece, mostly percussion, is a stock track. Music house Ring the Alarm composed the front and back ends and blended it all into one piece.

MEDIA: The spot broke during Fox's NFL coverage, for which the brand also sponsors the halftime shows. There is also a "massive" digital push, said Curtin, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.