Chronicles of a Campaign That Was Never Meant to Be

The making of Absolut's 'It's in our Spirit'
March 2020: The dream brief

The world goes into lockdown due to the pandemic. Around the same time, a small agency in Singapore is asked to relaunch iconic brand Absolut in 23 markets. It doesn't make any sense. But it's 2020. The year when nothing much makes sense and anything's possible.

April 2020: Let's get cracking

As we start digging for that magical idea, our social feeds are filled with inspiring moments of human spirit finding a way, no matter what shit cards it's dealt. 

When life gives you lemons, make a caipiroska (preferably with two shots of Absolut), as the saying goes. After six intense weeks of WFH, we have a new approved tagline, "It's in our spirit," and a platform that's a rallying cry for Gen Z.

Now, we just need 23 markets to get on the same page, or at least, on the same Google slide. We prayed—Nikhil to his 10,000 Indian Gods and Gaston to his Peruvian God—and 20 Zoom calls later, we were ready to roll into production.

May 2020: The Plan

Our big launch film will use animation to bring four influencers and their obsessive virtuality to life. Four spectacular worlds in anime, 2-D and 3-D, that they want to escape from. In the end they'll break out of their screens to take a breath of reality and share a moment of togetherness #IRL.

June 2020: Treatment time

Reading the treatments, we are already feeling the goosebumps. Then we get a glimpse of Todd and Kylie's stellar vision and we know we have found our partners-in-crime. Psyop gets on board.

July 2020: Pre-production

We are in Singapore. Our client is in Stockholm. The production house is in L.A. 
Three time zones doesn't hinder, but packs more hours into the day.

It starts with 7 a.m. animatic reviews with Psyop before they go to bed, followed by internal catchups through the day. At 5 p.m. SG time, we review with our clients and finally provide consolidated feedback to Psyop before we go to bed at midnight. All in a day's work.

July 2020: Remote shoot in L.A., Taipei and London.

But ... there's always a but.

Our four influencers live in three different continents.

Covid restrictions mean we will have to shoot remotely in L.A., Taipei and London and make it look like they're all in the same place for that moment of togetherness.

Enter green screens, body doubles and more Zoom calls. We're winging it.

Not being present at the shoot leaves us all with a strange feeling. As if life is happening in 3-D and we're all stuck looking at it from a 2-D screen.There's only so much reality that virtuality can compensate for.

August 2020: We'll fix it in post (not)

The post-production process is relatively bumpy. Simple things like offline edits, color grade, music and sound design take a whole lot more time when we're working via Zoom calls. A lot gets lost in translation. 

September/October 2020: Magic in the making

Over the next six to eight weeks, the script goes from rough scribbles, to detailed shootboards, to full-blown animation renders that's so delicious, you wanna eat it. Besides the main film, we have four backstories where the influencers share personal anecdotes. Everything needs to be ready for launch in November. 

Four different animation worlds and all the CGI in live action, coupled with a looming deadline, means Psyop has animators working magic in Buenos Aires, Ukraine, U.K., Italy, Germany, Thailand and the U.S. Despite the sleep deprivation, the potential of what we are all creating together keeps all 56 members of the production team on a high.

November 2020: It's showtime

We couldn't have imagined 2020 would turn out the way it did, and while we were working all year on this campaign, some geniuses were working on something bigger and far more significant: finding a vaccine for Covid.

Just as news of a possible cure got out, we were ready for launch. Call it serendipitous, but it couldn't have been more timely.

The irony of it all

It's a campaign urging people to step out of virtuality to experience togetherness #IRL. Created entirely over more than 600 Zoom calls #WFH. The irony is not lost on us.

Absolut | It's In our Spirit | #togetherIRL

But it was all possible because we had an amazing client, a resilient agency, and a never-say-never production house. We all had the same goal: to not be content with good enough, always pushing to get closer to greatness. The odds were stacked against us.

It's amazing what we can do together when we put our minds to it.

It's in our spirit.

Profile picture for user Nikhil Panjwani and Gaston Soto
Nikhil Panjwani and Gaston Soto
Nikhil Panjwani and Gaston Soto are creative directors at BBH Singapore.

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