Inside Philips’ Lovely, Time-Traveling Stop-Motion Ad Showing How Lighting Has Changed

One family and 150 years in 85 seconds

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: Still using that same old incandescent lightbulb that was invented in the 19th century? Get with the program, Luddite.

That's the basic message, told more charmingly, of this expertly constructed stop-motion spot from Iris Worldwide for Philips Hue lighting.

The wireless bulbs are connected through WiFi and can dim, change color (to any in the spectrum), flash, pulse and more at the touch of a finger. To showcase such impressive modernity, Philips went way back into the past, as a fixed camera shows the same family in the same room through six time periods—the Victorian era, the 1920s, '40s, '60s, '80s and today. The lighting remains the same until the modern scenes, when the family can change the ambience dramatically for all kinds of different activities.

"Our job was to raise awareness within the mainstream: people who are into everyday technology, design and interiors," said Chris Baylis, executive creative director at Iris. "You wouldn't write a letter on a typewriter, so why would you still use a 19th century lightbulb?"

COPYWRITING: The spot opens with the text: "How many years does it take to change a lightbulb?" Then we see a Victorian living room with a father on a stepladder screwing in a lightbulb as his wife, son and daughter watch.

The same family is then seen living in the room as the years quickly tick by—socializing, dancing, cleaning, watching TV and more—until today, when the father changes the lighting to Philips and its huge range of atmospheres.

"All of these eras felt iconic, and what we played on were the hangovers between eras—how old phones stick around, how technology changes but furniture doesn't, and then everything jumps," said Baylis.

The spot ends with the simple line "Lighting has changed" ("Why overwrite an end line just because you can?" said Baylis), followed by the new brand positioning, "Innovation + You."

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Director Martin Stirling shot the ad in two days. "It was always going to be stop motion," said Baylis. "It was a style we thought would grab people's attention and get the film shared, and it's a very forgiving technique that allows us to tell a complex story quickly."

Production company Unit9 brought in set designers and stylists to make each period authentic. "There are some real vintage pieces in the film—none of it is fake. It was all carried into shot, filmed and carried out again for real," Baylis said.

"The lighting transformation was really the point. We could have just filmed a simple before-and-after story, but we know the Internet likes interesting film techniques, and how we got people to the big reveal was what mattered."

TALENT: "The actors had to have a certain timelessness," Baylis said. "We rejected men who were carrying too much muscle because that's a very contemporary look. If you ever look at pictures of the '80s, it's always amazing to see how slim everyone looks. We were also looking for people who could dance, and had a good sense of their own bodies and physicality. It was a demanding, intense shoot, and there wasn't much room for mistakes. Our cast nailed it."

SOUND: Each period has its own music, but it's all the same rhythm and beat, which makes the transitions seamless. "We love how the music flows. People are getting a bit sick of hearing it played all over the office, though," Baylis joked.

MEDIA: On TV in the Benelux market in Europe, and online elsewhere, including on smart TVs. Stills and digital outtakes are also running in out-of-home and online ads.



Client: Philips Connected Lighting

Agency: Iris Worldwide

Executive Creative Director: Chris Baylis

Deputy Creative Director: Matt Hallett

Creative Team: Pete Sanna, Matt Weston

Producer/Production Company: Dale Healy & Charlotte Dale, Unit 9 & Iris

Director: Martin Stirling

Brand Planner: Mark Hadfield

Account Director: Adam Wyatt

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.