The Spot: Chewing Is Believing

A guy finds the confidence to be cool with his ex in W+K's first Stride ad

IDEA: For years under JWT, Stride was "the ridiculously long-lasting gum." Wieden + Kennedy in London, which took over U.S. ad duties in December, felt that positioning had lasted a bit too long—that the product benefit had been encroached by rivals. W+K decided to explore the emotional benefits of gum instead. "We chatted to a load of gum chewers," said creative director Sam Heath. "A common theme was how gum gives you just a little boost of confidence, a little nudge to be more comfortable, more 'yourself' in any situation. It's a little bit epic in that way. It helps you be a little more epic sometimes, and I suppose the gum is itself a little piece of epic-ness." W+K's first spot for the brand, directed by Traktor, illustrates the new tagline, "A little bit epic," by showing a guy in a coffee shop who panics when his ex-girlfriend walks in. After popping a piece of Stride and having some ludicrous daydreams about how he should approach her, he handles the situation with aplomb.

COPYWRITING: The agency wrote many scripts but liked the tension of the ex-girlfriend scenario. "We loved the idea of focusing on small, believable wins," said Heath. "A tiny stick of Stride isn't going to help you win the day, get that new job you've always dreamed of. That felt like ad land. But a little stick of gum might just give you the presence of mind to be normal and uncomplicated the moment you bump into your ex."

The dialogue is mostly in voiceover—it could be the guy's thoughts or possibly the gum talking. "Hey, isn't that the girl who tore out your still-beating heart?" the voice says as the girl walks in. The voice wonders how the encounter will go, anxiously cartwheeling from romance to horror to camp scenarios, based on old movie-genre stereotypes. "We loved the idea of the voiceover kind of spilling over, being carried away and uncontained," Heath said. "We tried to keep that stream-of-consciousness feel to the writing and find a way that words and pictures could riff off each other." In the end, the guy suavely opens a door for his ex and says calmly, "Hey." With a smile, she echoes his reply and leaves. Streamers and confetti fly as the voice speaks the on-screen tagline.

ART DIRECTION: The spot has a washed-out, vintage look to it with poppy elements. Heath describes it as "bubblegum David Lynch or Mad Men on acid … warm and nostalgic but with a twist of bright-colored pop-culture surreality." The fantasy scenes are humorously imagined period pieces. "We went spinning with immaculate mustaches and flailing limbs through '20s silent films, made a brief splashdown in '50s B-movie land and then rampaged through dodgy '80s Wall Street, Working Girl blockbusters," said Heath.

FILMING: The shoot took two days in and around Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Traktor brought "a sincere love of film, a bottomless sense of humor, a winning way with actors, synth-pop-littered iPod playlists and boundless energy," Heath said.

TALENT: The agency wanted a "puppy-dog vulnerability from the guy, but he didn't want to come across as a loser," said Heath. The girl "needed to feel a little out of reach for him but also down-to-earth enough for you to buy that they might actually have been together." The voiceover is a different male actor who had "the right amount of nervous energy."

SOUND: Cartoony sound effects reflect the hero's emotions—an arrow hitting a target as he stirs the heart shape in his cappuccino foam, or a