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.

THE SPOT:

CREDITS

Agency: BBDO New York

Client: Visa

Title: "Surfer"

Chief Creative Officer Worldwide: David Lubars

Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn

Executive Creative Director: Toygar Bazarkaya

Senior Creative Director: Scott Rodgers

Senior Creative Director: Tom Kraemer

Senior Creative Director: Jens Waernes

Creative Director/Copywriter: Josh Gold

Creative Director/Art Director: Daniel Aykurt

Executive Producer: Hyatt Choate

Senior Producer: Tara Leinwohl

Music Producer: John Melillo

Senior Account Director: Olivia Farr

Account Director: Jessica Townsley

Account Director: Jessica Sinto

Account Supervisor: Matt Doscher

Account Manager: Amanda Baizen

Assistant Account Executive: Cameron Cullman

Production Company: Independent Media

Director: Doug Liman

Director of Photography: Igor Meglic

Executive Producer: Susanne Preissler

Head of Production: Marc Siegel

Line Producer: Naia Hall West

Editorial: Lost Planet

Senior Producer: Francess Tom-Sahr

Editor: Saar Klein

Editor: Epy Carrieri

Music House: Ring the Alarm

Visual Effects House: Black Hole