Herb and spice brand Schwartz has released a striking new ad to promote its Flavour Shots products. The ad sees several tons of black peppercorns, cardamon, turmeric, paprika, cumin seeds, ginger, chili and coriander explode in time to a piece of music composed by MJ Cole…
The spot is by Grey London and directed by Chris Cairns. The effects in the ad were all shot for real, with Cairns working with pyrotechnic designers Machine Shop to create the installation, which was built at Pinewood Studios in the UK.
While explosive blasts of colour in an advert will inevitably always bring to mind the Sony Paint spot, the inspiration for the Schwartz ad came from a more complex source, as Grey creative director Andy Lockley explains. “Our creative challenge was to dramatise flavour,” he says, “a sense that is invisible and silent. I read an article a while ago about a neurological condition called Gustatory Synesthesia, where the brain converts words and sounds into tastes, a fusing of two senses. I always thought that it would be a fascinating premise to bring to life filmically somehow.”
“This is a visualisation of the intense sensory stimulation you get from herbs and spices,” agrees Chris Cairns. “We wanted to make the invisible, visible. While the finished piece appears effortlessly in sync, triggering 140 separate explosions to within a millisecond was incredibly complex. It took a lot of testing, trial and error.”
Photographs from the shoot
The spot is highly unusual for this sector, which often falls back on traditional family scenes in ads, or relies on celebrity endorsement. Lockley admits the client took a little persuasion to come on board with the idea. “Our client acknowledged that many ads in their sector tend to take place in or around a kitchen, often with mum preparing the meal and families enjoying the end product,” he says. “They were keen to do something disruptive but it was still quite a challenge for them to leave behind what was a tried and trusted formula. Several rounds of research convinced them that our proposal would work against their criteria.”
The team approached MJ Cole to compose the music that the explosions of herbs and spices would be choreographed to. While known mostly as a house and garage producer, Cole was classically trained at the Royal College of Music, and the piece he contributed is a delicate piano arrangement.
“We then took the digital ‘midi’ from the music which gave the pyrotechnic designers the precise timings for the explosions, and each note and chord was then translated into an eruption,” says Lockley. “Different herbs and spices were assigned to different notes based on their different characteristics and colours, while the size and volume of each eruption was also painstakingly adjusted to reflect the sound that it represented…. Essentially, we created a ‘3D soundscape’ with herbs and spices.”
The ad had to be shot in one take. “It was a fairly high-pressure shoot because we only got one go at getting it right – once the explosions happened the set was destroyed, so there was no room for technical error,” says Lockley. “Fortunately, a period of testing before the actual day meant that we had calculated the amounts of explosives required to achieve the desired effect from each herb and spice.
“Different inertias and weights had to be carefully considered and the explosive charges adjusted accordingly. It was a bit like tuning a giant piano. But as with any shoot, there is always room for technical failure. In real time, everything was over in the blink of an eye and it was only when we watched it back at 1,000 frames per second could we be sure everything was in sync. Thankfully, it went precisely as choreographed!”
The making-of film below gives more info on how it was all done:
Agency: Grey London
CCO: Nils Leonard
Creative director: Andy Lockley
Creatives: Pauline Ashford, Mike Kennedy
Director: Chris Cairns
Production company: Partizan
Music: MJ Cole/Soho Music