Unhinged Talking Fruit Stars in Surprisingly Dark Ads for Stash Tea

Phenomenon opens 'A Little Bag of Crazy'

Stash Tea is known for its crazy flavor combinations. And now, thanks to agency Phenomenon L.A., it may become known for its crazy ads, too. 

The brand just launched "A Little Bag of Crazy," a new campaign running across social media and on Hulu that features talking ingredients having bizarre, often dark conversations about themselves and the tea they inhabit. 

Here are a few spots so you can get a sense of the work: 

There are more than 20 videos altogether, along with GIFs and other social assets. All production and post-production was done in-house by Phenomenon. The characters include a blind pomegranate, a ponytailed lemon, a mildly perverted ginger root and a pop group of Asian Pears. 

"This campaign is what happens when you combine a brave client determined to make category-breaking work, and a passionate creative team determined to put googly eyes on fruit," says Linda Knight, Phenomenon's chief creative officer. "As something we created and produced entirely in-house, part of Phenomenon's full-service offering, it's a campaign that is very close to our googly-eyed hearts." 

Phenomenon creative director Gabriel Miller—whom ad nerds will recall as the inventor of fictional '60s adman Cornelius Trunchpole, as well as a co-creator of the Snickers horror short "Live Bait" and the Sundance short "A Reasonable Request"—told Muse a bit more about the campaign. 

Muse: Where did you get the idea for the characters, and were you inspired by any existing source material

Gabriel Miller: Compared to other tea companies, Stash has some pretty crazy flavor combos, so we wanted to bring that craziness to life through the ingredients themselves. Our aim was to create a world where the ingredients in Stash were sentient, but in a really human and relatable way, not in a childish cartoony way. They have adult worries, insecurities, even urges. They're crazy, but in the same way your friend might be crazy, not cartoon crazy. It makes for a surprisingly dark campaign for a tea brand. I think a lot of the inspiration came from outside the world of advertising. Shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Family Guy, and movies like Sausage Party are amazing at anthropomorphizing inanimate objects in a really mature way.

How did you go about scripting these, and figuring out each character's personality?

Most of the spots follow a pretty simple formula: Have one of the characters make a statement about the tea, and then have that statement trigger a surprisingly human reaction from another character. Creating each personality was the really fun part. Some of it just came from looking at the ingredients themselves. For instance, a pomegranate is pretty big and round, so making it painfully self-conscious about its weight just felt really natural.

Can you describe some of the characters, and what you were going for with them?

We wanted the characters to feel like they existed in a world where appearing in these ads were their actual jobs. They're professionals. They turn up on set, say their lines, but then something always goes a bit wrong: A ponytailed lemon gets offended, a ginger root can't resist the urge to strip, a pomegranate manages to die. I guess not all of them are as professional as they should be.

What was the process of shooting like? And how important is the execution to the humor with something like this?

Humor is probably the hardest thing to pull off in advertising. Everything hinged on the characters, so in order to let them shine we kept things as simple as possible. No CGI, no complicated sets or locations. We shot everything in-house in our agency studio over two weeks, and then edited all 20 films ourselves. It was a lot of fun. 

What did you want from the voice talent?

In order for the characters to seem as real and human as possible we directed our voice talent to be as naturalistic as possible. No silly or cartoony voices that could take the viewer out of the moment.

Do you have any favorite characters or spots?

Personally I'm always drawn to the darkest and most messed up stuff, so the Bergamots figuring out they're about to be skinned alive for the oil in their skin has to be up there for me. Luckily our amazing clients gave us freedom to push things pretty far. It's not every brand that has the courage to have a dead pomegranate, a depressed tea leaf or a perverted ginger root as their spokesperson. 

CREDITS

Agency: Phenomenon L.A.
Chief Creative Officer: Linda Knight
Group Creative Director: Kyla Elliott
Creative Director: Gabriel Miller
Creative Director: Ted Kapusta 
Creative Director: Anthony Alvarez 
Associate Creative Director: Spencer Cook 
Associate Creative Director: Jess Lasher 
Junior Copywriter: Ally Layton
Account Director: Jamie Friedman
Account Manager: Haley Schlatter
Chief Strategy Officer: Jason de Turris 
Group Strategy Director: Abigail Weintraub
Senior Strategist: Chris Kulvik
Chief Production Officer: Kat Friis
Senior Producer: Joshua Abbott
Senior Integrated Producer: Chianne Peterson
Director/Editor/Cinematographer: Evan Sartory
Editor: Matt Kleppner
Production Assistant : Shane Bannon

Client: Stash Tea
CEO: Nami Yamamoto
Global Marketing, R&D and eCommerce Director Daniel Kerbel
Brand Manager Carla Marchese

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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