The Spot: Small World After All

Lonely figurines joyfully connect in this sublime broadband and phone ad from England

Headshot of Tim Nudd

GENESIS: TalkTalk sought to meld the practical and the emotional—to suggest its affordable broadband and phone service allows more people to feel the joy of being connected. CHI & Partners began with a new theme, "A brighter home for everyone," combining warmth with the value proposition. Then, for the TV ad, it devised a charming, fanciful conceit of tiny homes within a home, populated by figurines, handcrafted and filmed in stop motion, who envy their human owners and dream of reaching one another. Their variety suggests TalkTalk really is for everyone, while their shared delight at finally, magically connecting—to the rousing crescendo of "Unchained Melody," by the Righteous Brothers—casts a glow upon the brand as a sponsor of enchantment.

ART DIRECTION: The process began with characterization: Who should the little people be? "We definitely wanted a traditional doll's house. That's the quickest read of a home within a home," says CHI executive creative director Warren Moore. Working with a series of animators, they crafted a unique doll family for the house they built. Other doll characters include a superhero, an Eskimo family in a snow globe, a cuckoo in a clock, a station master in a train set, and (in a 90-second version coming soon) a lighthouse keeper and his wife inside an oil painting. CHI hired Adam Berg, whose Philips ad "Carousel" won the Film Grand Prix at Cannes in 2009, to direct. He immediately saw the value of having things look and feel handmade. "We talked about doing it in 3-D [computer animation]," Berg says. "But it would never look real and organic. We wanted it to be obviously stop motion. It's a bit jerky, and there's flaws in it, and that makes it feel human." The lighting had to suggest brightness. When the characters do connect, their homes glow warmly. The only copy is the onscreen tagline.

FILMING: The bit of live action with the humans, who are secondary characters, was shot first. Then came the stop motion. Berg did animatics for some scenes, because the timing had to be so precise. Each second of animation took eight hours to shoot. The whole process took eight or nine long days. "I was told it would be boring, but I thought it was great," says Berg. "You would talk to the animators about how the puppets should move, and then come back an hour later and they were alive. It was beautiful. People walked around and had some tea." The models are bigger than they appear—the snow globe is several feet wide, the cuckoo clock 6 feet by 4 feet. "We pretended this world wasn't small, but that we were just a small camera inside it, shooting it," Berg says. The shots establish the characters' points of view—the doll mom gazes at the human mom on Skype, the superhero watches the doll's house, the Eskimo and cuckoo look at each other, the station master watches the human father and son browsing toy-train accessories online. Moore says the ad still holds up if viewers miss these little narratives on first viewing.

EFFECTS: Ten days of postproduction involved combining live action and stop motion, and adding details like the snow drifting inside the globe.

SOUND: Berg chose "Unchained Melody" for its "perfect balance of melancholy and grandeur that fit the emotions of the film." The client wasn't sold on the song until Moore showed a rough cut of the spot to Simon Cowell (whose show The X Factor counts TalkTalk as a sponsor). "He said he loved it, 'It's fabulous, it's the best ad you've done,'" Moore recalls. "I felt quite vindicated."

MEDIA: The :60 is getting a monthlong run on TV and will be cut to a :30. A :90 will be released soon in cinemas and online. Print, poster, and online ads support the TV.



Client: TalkTalk

Agency: CHI & Partners, London

Executive Creative Director: Warren Moore

Creatives: Matt Collier, Wayne Robinson

Producer: David Jones

Planner: Sarah Clark

Account Handlers: Susie Shing & Olivia MacLachlan

Media agency: mCHI

Media planner: David Jackson

Production company: Stink

Director: Adam Berg

Production company producer: Ben Croker

Editor: Paul Hardcastle (Trim Editing)

Post-production: Glassworks

Audio post-production: Sam Ashwell @ 750mph

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