A meticulously choreographed, slickly edited sequence of fruit and vegetables being peeled, chopped, mashed, and more for a striking new TV commercial for Danish butter brand Lurpak required a dizzying array of film tricks, animated shortcuts, and sleight of hand stunts.
For the last several years, agency Wieden + Kennedy London has created a mouth-watering body of work for Lurpak that departs from standard butter fare; the ads have showcased food in a hunger-inducing way, but with a style that the tabletop world has generally lacked. The new 60-second film launched earlier this month to kick off a £10m national launch campaign for Lurpak Lightest Spreadable–the brand’s biggest new product launch in 10 years. Almost entirely live action, the ad features an eye-popping visual tour of food prep; it also features an original song composed for and sung by actor Rutger Hauer.
“We set out to challenge a number of widespread approaches and assumptions made about food,” explains Helen Foulder, head of account management at Wieden + Kennedy London, which has handled U.K. advertising for Lurpak since 2006 and won the global account for the brand from Saatchi and Saatchi in December.
“Healthy food marketing tends to be worthy and bland with health claims many can find confusing. The work we have done over a number of years with Lurpak, however, has been all about celebrating the joy of food. So for the launch of this new product–an even lower-fat product that doesn’t compromise on taste–we knew we had to do something different.”
The idea that eating a variety of natural foods spanning the vibrant colors of a rainbow keeps you healthy was the inspiration for the creative work, according to W+K London creative director Dan Norris. “We wanted to produce a sequence that would take the viewer through a rainbow of different colors and feature a variety of people preparing fresh foods in different ways,” he explains.
“The starting point, however, was to write a song (‘Cooking up a rainbow’) in praise of food for Rutger, the voice of the brand, to sing in his own inimitable way.” Hauer has been a key element of Lurpak’s U.K. advertising in recent years thanks to his distinctive enunciation, Norris explains. The song’s message is a simple one: “Healthy doesn’t have to be humdrum.”
At the same time the agency approached Dougal Wilson, who, though an award-winning commercials director working through London production house Blink with a track record in music videos, had not previously filmed vegetables or fruit. This was important, as Lurpak avoids specialist food photographers/directors to stay fresh and guard against visual clichés.
“The creative team at W+K gave quite a few examples of the sort of things we might see in the ad–many of which ended up in the final film. But there were still a lot of ideas that needed to be worked out–along with just how they would fit together interestingly and musically into a correctly color-ordered sequence,” Wilson says.
Song, with a simple piano melody composed by Michael Russoff, and storyboard evolved simultaneously as Wilson filmed numerous tests on video to see what felt right and what didn’t work. “Some ideas I thought would be brilliant turned out to be terrible,” he confides.
“For example, we tried rotating a Phantom camera (shooting extreme slow motion) with a macro lens inside a Perspex cylinder while spraying vegetable pulp away from the lens and an actor staring in through the Perspex. It was supposed to be a ‘blender’s eye view’. It actually looked like a scene from a horror film.”
The aim was to make a lot of small things feel big and dramatic, Wilson adds: “So many of the shots were filmed using very small and wide (boroscope) lenses on a Phantom Gold camera which runs up to 1000fps at full HD. We also used an Iconix mini camera which also has quite a wide lens but you can put it in very small places – this is the one we attached to the chopping knife and to the masher of the sweet potato.”
Two regular 35mm film cameras were also used. Yet while the majority of the finished sequence is live action – another important aspect of Lurpak advertising, Norris says, as an over-use of animation techniques undermines the integrity of the food – time-lapse animation was required for elements such as the baking fish and the strata-cut red cabbage.
Stop frame animation, meanwhile, was used to shoot potatoes being peeled. And a 3D pea was needed in the pea-dropping opener after attempts to shoot the sequence for real floundered when the team found the pea they liked in the second shot falling away from the camera didn’t quite match the shape of the pea in the first.
The greatest challenges, however, involved exploding an aubergine in an oven on demand and filming bread dipping into boiling beetroot soup.
“We’d seen amazing pictures of genuine exploding backing aubergines in people’s ovens but none of our aubergines ever exploded,” Wilson reveals.
Predicting just when the explosion would occur was also difficult, so the team was forced to resort to an artificial explosion with a compressed air pipe. Hidden pipes, meanwhile, were used to blow air into cold soup as shooting over genuinely hot, bubbling soup proved highly dangerous.
The effortless end result is, surely, proof that all that painstaking prep work in the kitchen really can pay off.
Watch more great Lurpak work below (not before lunch though).