VMLY&R Illustrates a Couple's Growing Divide in Beautifully Crafted Viagra Ad

An intimate love story for modern times

In VMLY&R's sweet animated short film for Viagra Connect, we watch a man and woman spend time together in bed.

Despite their proximity, however, they drift father apart emotionally. The stresses of work and modern life take a toll. When they try to connect physically, it simply won't work. Soon, the bedclothes between them form a seemingly insurmountable space they can never cross.

Or can they?

This is a commercial, so it's no spoiler to reveal that it all works out fine in the end.

Don't let life get in the way of your love story

That slow, dirge-like cover of the Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," performed by Sleeping at Last, sets a somber mood. Indeed, the bed expands to such an extent that the man and woman appear, at one point, to be sleeping miles apart. The lyrics, about a man traveling a vast distance to join the one he loves, seem poignantly on brand.

Directed by Zombie Studio's Paulo Garcia and produced by BlinkInk, the two-minute spot effectively mixes 2-D and 3-D animation to subvert category clichés and shift the conversation around erectile dysfunction. The problem has nothing to do with a lack of masculinity. Rather, it's a health issue, caused or exacerbated by anxiety, diet and other factors. Viagra understands, and can help.
 
Below, Muse chats with VMLY&R creative director Tamryn Kerr about the campaign, which broke this week across TV and digital platforms in the U.K.

Muse: Why create an animated film?

Tamryn Kerr: The facts about erection problems are veiled under a cloud of misconception and stigma. We wanted to educate about the real-life causes of the problem, which in turn would shift the blame from men's perceived failure as men and onto modern life itself. Animation was the perfect vehicle to dramatize the life causes of erection problems, but still retain that human element. It also allowed us to create a unique and ownable look.

Why will this approach appeal to the target audience?

Although we set out to change a broader cultural conversation, our primary target audience is men over 35. When we investigated erection problems, the research showed us that men wait a staggering three years on average before they seek treatment. Overwhelmingly, the factor that most makes them seek treatment is the breakdown of their relationship. This insight was the north star that guided our thinking. We wanted to tell the story about a regular couple who let their life get out of control. We aimed to make the film as insightful as possible so that everyone would see a little bit of themselves in the characters and the challenges that they are facing. We hope that showing their struggle in an honest way opens up a path for partners to start an important conversation.

Is it difficult to find new ways to present this subject?

The category has always focused on the victory of the man being able to have sex again. You only need to Google it to see that it all looks similar. No one had told the story about the people behind the problem. I say "people," because we know that this problem doesn't just affect men. Their partners also have to deal with the lack of intimacy that erection problems can cause. We wanted to tell a story about both people in the relationship. And not just about sex, but about intimacy and other aspects of a relationship. So we opted for a longer film length to give us time to build a proper story arc.

Can you discuss making the ad?

The original script was three pages long, written in full paragraphs. We wanted to paint a vivid picture of this couple in our client's minds, so that they could see the potential. And they did.

At the treatment stage, BlinkInk and Zombie presented concept art and characters that blew us all away. Paulo and the BlinkInk team understood the level of craft that we needed to make the film as human and emotive as possible. The Zombie team from Brazil flew to London in February. We shot the ad as live action for the animation team to be able to use the facial movements, gestures, and the couple's interactions as reference for the film. The final film is a mix of 2-D textures on 3-D animation, which gives it a unique look. All in all, with research, concepting and animation time, the whole process took a little over a year.

Why that choice of music?

We needed a track that was going to heighten the emotion of the film. I was about seven tracks into the first search when I played that cover of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." Knowing the original well, I was amazed that I'd never really considered the lyrics before. This version completely changed the meaning of the track for me, and I instantly knew it was the track that was going to be on the film. We presented it alone without a backup, and luckily for us, the Viagra Connect team loved it.

Do you think the work will resonate a bit more in the Covid era?

The central theme in the campaign, which are the strains and stresses of modern life, is globally relevant. And they have been amplified by the current lockdown and remote working situations that couples, and everyone else, have had to deal with. So, highlighting them as causes of erection problems and shifting the blame now is incredibly timely. We set the film in the bedroom to dramatize life invading the relationship, and I think that we can all relate now more ever.

CREDITS

Client: Viagra Connect - Upjohn
Commercial Lead: Stephen Harrison
Marketing Director: Rob Elliott
Marketing Manager: Teresa Lau
Marketing Manager: Paula Taylor
Trade Marketing Manager: Toygan Yamanel
Medical Lead: Justin Nnawuchi
Digital Marketing Lead: Paul Withers
Digital Marketing Manager: Hayley Perez
Pharmacy Business Director: Alison Dixon

Agency: VMLY&R
Chief Creative Officer: Laurent Simon
Creative Director: Tamryn Kerr
Chairman: Mark Roalfe
Chief Strategy Officer: Sophie Lewis
Strategy Director: Josh Taylor-Dadds
Strategist: Ollie Chakraverty
Senior Producer: Charlotte Davis
Global Brand Director: Nick Burstin
Senior Account Director: Siobhán Woodrow
Senior Account Manager: Karolina Dovgialo
Design Director: Chris Willis

Production: BlinkInk
Executive Producer - Bart Yates
Producer - John Woolley

Animation and Visual Effects by: Zombie Studio
Director: Paulo Garcia
Account Services: Stefanie Diaz
Creative Direction: Daniel Salles, Marcelo Garcia
Producer: André Carvalho
CGI Supervisor: Rafael Segnini
Technical Director: Wallan Oliveira
Technical Supervisor: Isaac Buzzola
Storyboard and Animatic by: Saulo Brito and Gabriel São Marcos
Animation Supervisor: Patrick Botton
Lead Modeller: Mauricio Sampaio
Lead Look Development: Claudio Junior
Composition Supervisor: Leanndro Amorim and Guilherme Sarinho
Color Grading: Psycho n' Look

Sound: Factory
Sound Design, Mix and Music Arrangement: Anthony Moore
Audio Producer: Lucy Spong

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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