How Liquid Death's Faux Soft-Drink Launch Cut the Soda Marketing B.S.

No sugarcoating here!

This whole project started with a simple observation: The sugar content in soda is fucking insane. In most cases, it's more than 10 times what's in a comparable can of Liquid Death Flavored Sparkling. And we noticed a lot of people saying they've used Liquid Death to help them cut soda out of their lives. But really, it's not their fault to begin with. They've been fed a steady diet of slick commercials with attractive people drinking soda their entire lives.

So, this brief we gave ourselves was to make something that shakes people awake. It felt like we had to keep this very real. I brought up the "Truth" anti-tobacco work that Crispin did brilliantly so many years ago. That campaign dramatized something horrifying in a way that was darkly humorous but also very real.

At this point, we've done a number of real-life social experiments, starting with our original Blind Taste Test, which was directed by the amazing Sam Cadman. He taught us a lot about creating a plausible world around participants to help explain things that might otherwise seem weird. We've learned to design their experiences to give us the best shot at getting the reactions we want.

In this case, we told unsuspecting actors and models that we were working for a French soda company launching in the U.S. Anything that felt weird or off, we simply blamed on them. It was a plausible cover.

Even finding the right people was tricky. We originally cast folks using a slightly different direction and method, but decided to change course last-minute because we realized we wouldn't be able to get the right results. With a real-person prank like this, there's so many variables. Yet, you have to feel confident that you've designed the experiment perfectly and considered every contingency.

We also had to get the right look. At the last minute, we threw in a PTZ camera—in addition to our two other cameras—that would capture everything from a different angle, almost in the style of a security camera. The purpose of the PTZ footage was to break the saccharine world of the commercial and make the footage feel real.

On the shoot day itself, you're always unsure how it's going to go. But you'd be amazed by how willing people are to go along with something once cameras roll. And in this case, we weren't disappointed.

Most people were genuinely confused once they realized the product was literally pure sugar, but remained polite. A couple even pushed back and asked if it was a joke. They were assured it wasn't. (Spoiler alert: It was.) Ultimately, everyone gave their best auditions for this insane product.

After their auditions, our "director" (really our EP who co-directs our videos with me now) would give them a Liquid Death to "wash it down." The genuine reactions we got from people after they were handed a can of LD were bonkers. Several straight-up said they love Liquid Death (IN AN AUDITION FOR A FAKE COMPETITOR). A few mentioned that they loved how it was very low in sugar. A few just said, "Yum!" after taking a sip.

In fact, most of that footage didn't even make it into the final edit because it almost felt like we had faked the whole thing. (Spoiler alert: We didn't.)

The best part was when our "director" was done, and the actors were led through a curtain and brought to the room where we'd been watching on monitors. They were informed we were all with Liquid Death.

Almost everyone was genuinely stoked to learn who we were and what we were up to. In fact, the kid in the final shot who tells the viewer to not be a loser freaked out. He told us he had just been telling his mom about how much he loved Liquid Death ads and wanted to be in one someday.

Well, happy birthday, kid. You're in a Liquid Death ad now.

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