Super Moments


Fallon Minneapolis

Creating EDS’ new Super Bowl spot—squirrels mimicking the bulls of Pamplona—was like, well, herding cats.

“Squirrels are not to be messed with. We found that out,” says Dean Hanson, art director at Fallon Minneapolis. “Some realities about squirrels made [shooting] difficult.”

The third commercial in a campaign built on animating grand metaphors—herding animals, building an airplane in midflight—suggests that businesses should worry about their smaller, nimbler competitors just as much as the large ones. In the spot, Spanish men dressed in traditional garb—white shirts with red scarves—race down the street chased by squirrels.

“As long as I have legs,” says one man, “I will run with the squirrels.” Nurses and old-timers offer their appraisal as well, “I have lost many friends to the squirrels.”

“Running with the bulls is the ultimate race,” says Hanson. “You get hurt when you lose.”

Running with the squirrels, however, is no picnic, either.

Despite being trained, squirrels don’t take direction well and arefar more unpredictable than domesticated animals, such as cats, which starred in EDS’ first animal extravaganza. “If they lost sight of their trainer, they would kind of lose it,” says director John O’Hagan of Hungary Man, who helmed all three EDS ads for Fallon.

Though everyone was instructed to stand motionless if the squirrels couldn’t find the trainer, two crew members were attacked and needed stitches, O’Hagan says. Squirrels can jump high and aim for the neck. “They were hungry and mad,” he adds.

Complicating matters even further, each rodent had to be filmed separately due to its tendency to fight for dominance when in a group. Eight squirrels cast by animal trainer Karin McElhatton, who provided last year’s 20 cats, were filmed against a blue screen in Los Angeles. Some specialized in running, others in jumping or facing the camera.

Like most animals, squirrels respond to food rewards. They were weighed daily over the three-week training period and three-day shoot to ensure they were not gaining or losing too much weight.

To inject a sense of realism, the Fallon team went to Pedraza, Spain, for four days of filming Spaniards running in the streets. Like their previous EDS efforts, the agency cast nonprofessionals to run with the tiny terrors.

“A lot of these people have run with the bulls and can give insights on how it works,” says copywriter Greg Hahn. For instance, if you fall when running from the bulls orsquirrels, don’t get up. You’re less likely to be seriously injured if you stay on the ground, he adds.

To provide color, the agency began with a series of lines that had to be in the spot, but let O’Hagan and the actors improvise questions and answers about the difficulty of running with squirrels. “As long as they apply to the analogy … and they’re funny, they had a good shot of making it,” Hahn says.

To put the action together, special-effects company Sight Effects in Venice, Calif., spent more than 830 hours duplicating and inserting the squirrel footage into the film shot in Spain. The company also created additional computer-generated squirrels to depict mass. Cut from the final edit: CGI-produced flying squirrels landing on runners.

Despite all the technical work that went into creating “Squirrels,” the key to its charm, says Hanson, is the actors’ performances, for which he credits the director.

“There are people in the effects community who can figure anything out,” says Hanson, “but there’s nothing like hiring a director who can handle human performances.”

—Aaron BaarVolkswagen of America

Arnold Worldwide

The Super Bowl may be full of great expectations, but for Volkswagen of America’s first entry into the big game as exclusive car advertiser, Arnold Worldwide wanted a tease.

Three commercials, each advertising a different car model, offer funny storylines that pay off with a surprise ending. In the 30-second “Big Day,” directed by Dante Ariola of Propaganda Films, a man speeds along twisty roads in his Volkswagen Jetta VR6. Nervously looking at his watch, he passes a slow-moving trailer and gets stuck at a railroad crossing; wedding bells play on the soundtrack. The spot cuts to an anxious bride. When the Jetta driver finally arrives, the bride is already at the altar, standing with the man she is going to marry.

In the 30-second “Woods,” also directed by Ariola, a city dweller is clearly out of his element in the forest. As he swats at flies, he sees his buddy jump behind a tree, followed by the flash of an instant camera. The spot then cuts to the two men running from something unseen. They finally reach their car—the limited edition Wolfsburg. One guy takes a photo from the other, sees a snapshot of a baby bear. It’s apparent the two men were running from the cub’s enraged mother.

In the 60-second spot called “Tree,” directed by Mike Mills of Directors Bureau, two young men throw sticks, rocks, a ball and one of their shoes into a tree. A GTI finally drops to the ground. One man says to the other, “Next time, let the clutch out easier.”

From a style perspective, the goal of the spots, says agency producer Keith Dezen, was to “make short, European movies.”

Chief creative officer Ron Lawner explains the story-driven ads hope to convey honesty and humanity and demonstrate that VW knows its consumers. “We’re showing variety,” he adds. “There’s a joke, and you’re sort of in on it.”

Every joke was tailored to the model advertised. “Each car has its own little world where we draw inspiration for creative,” explains group creative director Alan Pafenbach. “The GTI and Jetta Wolfsburg are performance-oriented and tend to skew toward males who are a little younger. The Jetta VR6 has a more general audience.”

“Tree,” shot in Vancouver, required a great deal of planning to ensure the car would not hit the actors, explains agency producer Bill Goodell. Using a construction crane, an older car was dropped as a test, prior to dropping the GTI. The agency also had to provide some extra sod to protect the root system of the tree.

“It was all done live,” reports Goodell. “There was no trickery.”

“The GTI has so much get-up-and-go,” adds Pafenbach of the concept. “If you’re not careful, it could actually leap off the planet.”

All three spots end with “Drivers wanted,” the tagline Arnold has used throughout its five-year run with VW. —Rebecca Flass

Arnold Worldwide

Like an overburdened college student taking off for spring break, Arnold’s Super Bowl ads for cast aside the seriousness of past messages and concentrated on fun.

When Arnold took over the account from Mullen, Wenham, Mass., in September, the agency recommended the online job site take a more lighthearted approach to its advertising.

“They were coming off a more serious campaign with Robert Frost,” explains creative director Peter Favat, referring to the client’s Super Bowl effort last year, featuring Frost’s The Road Not Taken. “The name ‘Monster’ is inherently fun,” he says of the shift in tone, “[and the company] gets people cool jobs and their lives are made better.”

Arnold’s first major campaign for the Web site, themed “Job Good. Life Good,” includes five humorous vignettes illustrating the difference a great job can make. The message, says Favat: “Life happens so quickly. Get yourself a good job, do what you want to do and make yourself happy.”

Two 30-second spots directed by Kinka Usher of House of Usher Films in Santa Monica, Calif., explore that theme. “Business Card,” which aired during the first commercial break, shows a twenty-something guy admiring his first business card. He stares at the card, caresses it, puts his nose to it and takes a happy sniff. “Happy?” the spot asks. “Post your resume now.”

In “Happy Guy,” which aired during the fourth quarter, an undertaker preps a deceased man for his viewing. As he makes sure the crease in the man’s pants is perfect and his buttons are fastened, the mortician is stymied by something the viewer can’t see—the corpse is sporting a huge grin. It’s fixed, but as he lets go of the dead man’s face, the smile snaps back into place. “Life is short. Be happy,” urges the on-screen text.

The first execution in the five-spot campaign, “Assistant,” broke about a week before the game. It was slated to air twice during CBS’ pregame coverage. The ad shows a young man waiting in traffic who is so thrilled with the idea of having an assistant he makes prank calls to his own office and hangs up when she answers the phone.

“These are celebrations of things that happen to you once you get a really good job,” says Favat.

The spots end with Monster’s 3D-mascot, Trumpasaurus, who scampers across the screen and provides viewers with a call to action. The tagline “You the Monster” appears in most executions.’s Super Bowl debut came two years ago with the spot “When I Grow Up,” which featured children professing their career ambition to claw their way to middle management and be “yes men.” While the commercial was widely considered among the year’s best ads, the Frost follow-up was greeted with a cold reception.

“We’ve seen the best and worst of what can be produced for a client,” offers Usher, who directed all five spots in the current campaign. “There’s no question that the [first] Super Bowl ad really resonated with a lot of people and was beautifully written and produced. The second year, with Robert Frost, [the ad] went over everyone’s heads and was too intellectual.”

Usher, who previously worked with Arnold on Volkswagen of America ads and directed Super Bowl spots for PepsiCo. and Nissan several years ago, says the new ads, which were filmed on location in Los Angeles over five days, are “a subtle, yet interesting bit of creative. The scripts were very simple, but sometimes, those are the most challenging. It becomes about the actors’ performance and killer editing to get the moments right.”

Andre Betz of Bug Editorial, New York, edited the campaign.

Whether the new work will be seen as an improvement over last year’s effort, Favat chuckles, “I doubt anyone will ever see a serious Monster commercial [again].”

—Rebecca Flass

Weiss Stagliano Partners

Working with a steel ball presented a challenge for the creative team at Weiss Stagliano Partners when shooting “Gravity Balls,” the 30-second spot for, which aired during the third quarter.

Working with an inanimate object was appealing, but implementing it as the featured character was another matter. “Giving it a personality and creating emotion [and drama] was difficult,” admits creative director Marty Weiss.

The spot opens with a toy gravity ball set on a desk. As the balls swing, one breaks free, rolls out of the office, skirts past a floor polisher and through lanes of traffic to join a marble game on a playground.

The ball’s adventure is accompanied by the song “Go Where You Wanna Go,” by The Mamas and the Papas. It ends with the tagline, “ Onward. Upward.”

In order to create accurate imagery, the Weiss Stagliano team and director Larry Frey, of @radicalmedia, studied a real steel ball rolling over various surfaces, including marble and pavement. The film of those movements was given as a reference to Pixel Envy, a Los Angeles-based CGI animation studio whose credits include The X-Files. In most sequences, the ball is animated.

Shooting the background was completed in three days on the Paramount back lot, Pershing Square Park and an office building in downtown Los Angeles.

“Gravity Balls” marks the third execution in the agency’s campaign. Each one is a metaphor, says Weiss, “for what it’s like to break away from the pack.”

—Scott Bryan


Young & Rubicam

The former Andersen Consulting wanted its new campaign to stress its worldwide reach—a slant that led agency Young & Rubicam, New York, all over the globe.

Since the four Super Bowl spots launched a global effort for the renamed company, they had to be accessible to foreign audiences, says creative director Dick Sinreich.

Each spot ends with a clipping from a newspaper pointing to a high-tech advance and the tagline, “Now it gets interesting,” implying that Accenture can help clients capitalize on new developments.

In one spot, the interaction between a car salesman and a potential customer illustrates the tenuous quality of online transactions. In the middle of a high-powered test drive, the customer disappears. A headline explains: “Sixty-five percent of online shoppers abandon sale before checkout.”

Initially, says Sinreich, the commercial was set in Los Angeles. “People use L.A. and can make it look like anything from Kansas to Spain. But we were using L.A. as L.A.—the car capital of the universe.”

As the idea evolved, says Sinreich and director Bruce Dowad, it became clear they could project a more global image if the spot took place in a foreign city.

The setting could easily have been somewhere in Germany, but because of its fairer weather and inherent beauty, they decided on Rome.

Ultimately that was fortunate, says Dowad; he could use the Italians’ style and mannerisms to enhance the narrative. Sinreich explains, “The car salesman is more than a little bit of Roberto Benini.”

The Rome shoot was part of a whirlwind tour to complete the first two commercials in the weeks between Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday hiatus. A second, shot in Hong Kong and Paris, shows how a doctor uses virtual technology to operate on a patient located on the other side of the world.

The other two spots that ran during the Super Bowl use animals to punctuate their message. Multiplying rabbits serve as a metaphor for the explosion in cell-phone usage, while computer circuits made of single cells illustrate the next step in chip technology.

Adding to their appeal to foreign audiences, each Accenture spot unfolds a narrative without dialogue or voiceovers. “I’d like to say [using no language in the storytelling] was intentional, but it was a serendipitous accident,” says Sinreich.