The Spot: Rhapsody in Vegas

The Cosmopolitan hotel maintains its witty, surreal edge with a spoken-word homage to an iconic Queen song

IDEA: An artful, highly curated hotel, more urban and less contrived than many of its Sin City peers, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas caters to what it calls the "curious class"—a psychographic of people seeking experiences, not just amenities, and emotional connections, not just parties. "They have a real openness—a willingness to try new boutique hotel concepts, to try new food, to travel," said CMO Lisa Marchese. "They have a less traditional view of the world." To reach them, the hotel needed a less traditional ad campaign—one that would stand out in a crowded (and recessed) market, mirror the property's approach to contemporary luxury, and pique curiosity with evocative, eccentric stories about what transpires inside the hotel. Fallon's 2010 launch spot, a decadent concoction that showed packs of animals roaming the hotel's halls, introduced the tagline "Just the right amount of wrong" and put the Cosmopolitan on the map. This year's spot, which broke on the Grammy Awards, is a musical—an absurd yet stylish tale of a rakish man courting a tough guy's woman at the hotel pool, with all the dialogue taken straight from the lyrics to Queen's 1976 anthem "Bohemian Rhapsody."

COPYWRITING: "We always thought musicals were kind of wrong, when someone sings instead of just saying what they mean," said Darren Spiller, Fallon's chief creative officer. "Stealing someone's wife or girlfriend is kind of wrong as well. That's where we started." The spot opens with the protagonist sliding a drink down the bar to a woman. She smiles back, but her boyfriend notices. "I see a little silhouetto of a man," he tells two henchmen, who walk over and confront him. The showdown becomes farcical, then downright operatic, as the two sides argue by speaking, then singing, the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody." The song was perfect, said Spiller—iconic, with a surreal quality that reflects the hotel's sensibility and a narrative of conflict that matches the action (though at times ambiguously so). "Combining humor and luxury requires a degree of wit," said Marchese. "To take this iconic song and reinterpret it in almost spoken word—it really is the right amount of wrong. It hit the tagline without hitting you over the head." The ad wraps with the song moving into its heavy-metal section, the guests head-banging obligingly to it, then the tagline, logo and Web address.

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Director Steve Ayson shot with anamorphic lenses, which gives an interesting depth of field. Blues and pinks are the dominant colors in the grade, giving the spot a rich, elegant look. The shoot took four days— some of it on site, some of it on sets built in a studio. (The agency couldn't close down the hotel pool for filming.)

TALENT: The suitor needed to be vulnerable yet daring. "There's a naiveté there, but also a cockiness," said Spiller. The girlfriend, with her blond bob and shy smile, "isn't your typical femme fatale," he added. "We wanted her to be slightly left of field, a little bit eccentric." The thugs just needed to be "rough and gruff and ugly."

SOUND: Securing the rights to the song was fairly easy, said Spiller, partly because the agency re-recorded it rather than use the original. (The cost for the rights "wasn't ridiculous," he said.) Having the protagonist break out in a falsetto, which Spiller called "almost Farinelli-esque," adds to the sly humor. Plenty of sound design was layered on top, including atmospheric sounds from the pool.

MEDIA: A 30-second version aired on the Grammys. A :60 is posted online. Both versions are running nationally and locally in 10 markets.