For 101’s first cam­paign for Zoopla, Au­gusto Sola and Ryan Dele­hanty de­camp to Costa Rica to show how her­mit crabs are as mad about mov­ing house as the UK pub­lic

Campaign UK - - FRONT PAGE - Au­gusto Sola is a part­ner and cre­ative di­rec­tor and Ryan Dele­hanty is a cre­ative at 101

Read how Zoopla con­vinced the stars of its new ads to come out of their shells

“We open on a beach…”

That was how our script started when we pitched to Zoopla.

Weeks ear­lier, Zoopla had come to us with the goal of be­com­ing the first name peo­ple think of when it comes to prop­erty, and our an­swer was a very de­tailed treat­ment about… crabs.

Hav­ing met the clients a year pre­vi­ously and dis­cussed ideas, we were able to jump right into ex­e­cu­tions. We spent the next three weeks re­fin­ing scripts, draw­ing crabs, re­search­ing crabs, defin­ing what makes a “cute” crab and find­ing the best house-to-shell pro­por­tions for her­mit crabs, which move between scav­enged shells. You know, typ­i­cal pitch stuff.

And the Zoopla team loved it!

But there’s a rea­son there aren’t many her­mit crab-based films. They’re not par­tic­u­larly good on cam­era. They’re er­ratic, in­ca­pable of be­ing trained, only ac­tive for five hours a day and most of them are weird-look­ing.

But, de­spite all this, we still wanted to shoot the ads for real. And af­ter speak­ing to wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers, marine bi­ol­o­gists, pro­duc­ers from the BBC’S Planet Earth se­ries and any­one else vaguely con­nected to the world of her­mit crabs, we started to be­lieve it could be done.

Now, all we had to do was find crabs that were cute but big enough to put a house on, make shells with houses on top that they would ac­cept, and get them to stand still and walk in a straight line to­gether. Easy.

That’s when pro­duc­tion com­pany Riff Raff came on board. They started by scour­ing the world for crabs. They searched Thai­land, Belize, Mex­ico and Peru (where the crabs look like blue aliens) be­fore even­tu­ally set­tling on some crabs from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Then spe­cial-ef­fects com­pany Artem got in­volved. We shipped a shell from Costa Rica; they laser-scanned it, made a cast replica that was the same size and weight as the orig­i­nal (but with a crude house on top), sent it off to Costa Rica and crossed their fin­gers.

Mean­while, the marine bi­ol­o­gists were help­ing us cast our crabs from the ones they had un­der ob­ser­va­tion.

This helped us plan which crabs would be right for which roles. But none of that mat­tered if they didn’t get into the damn shells. And that re­spon­si­bil­ity – all the hopes of our shoot and the en­tire cam­paign – rested on the shoul­ders of Crab 8. Lit­er­ally.

It was late af­ter­noon in Costa Rica and re­ally late in Lon­don. We had a live broad­cast of the ex­tremely nerver­ack­ing/bor­ing event: two hours of watch­ing a crab look­ing at a shell. Look­ing, crawl­ing, look­ing and then… our crab climbed in and hid. Suc­cess! But then it wouldn’t come out. More wait­ing. Fif­teen min­utes later, it popped its head out and walked around with a house on its back, like it was no big deal.

Now we knew we weren’t to­tally screwed. So, over the fol­low­ing weeks, Artem con­tin­ued to turn crude pen­cil draw­ings into 21 amaz­ing lit­tle shell-shaped art pieces. They fin­ished just in time to hop on a plane to join the pro­duc­tion team in Costa Rica a week be­fore the shoot.

Cut to the reg­gae-drenched town of Puerto Viejo. The team, our marine bi­ol­o­gists and khaki-clad di­rec­tor of photography Doug Al­lan spent the next week wak­ing up at 4am to the sweet sound of howler mon­keys. They were only sup­posed to recce lo­ca­tions and prep things but, since they had ev­ery­thing they needed to shoot, they shot (which was for­tu­nate, as the weather turned the next week and f looded one of our lo­ca­tions).

Then came the ac­tual shoot. When we needed the crabs to stay still, they walked. When we needed them to walk, they stayed still. Some­one along the way told us the crabs would write their own scripts – and they did. Ev­ery five min­utes, we switched out the crabs so they didn’t get tired or hot. It was re­ally bor­ing – but then they’d do some­thing per­fect. We had to be flex­i­ble, adapt

to their be­hav­iour and be very pa­tient. For five days, in a trop­i­cal par­adise. Poor us.

We re­turned to Lon­don, where we re­viewed the rushes and scratched our sand­fly-bit­ten legs in uni­son. That’s when we de­cided to change the en­tire launch script. The script we shot was one scene with three crabs but, thanks to the amount of footage we had, we de­cided to try to launch with a film that showed a world of crabs, all of them as crazy about mov­ing house as the peo­ple of Bri­tain.

We pre­sented the new idea and Zoopla agreed with us. As the old maxim goes, you write one thing, shoot an­other and edit an­other.

Once the edit was ap­proved, an army of ro­to­scop­ers and on­line ma­gi­cians at MPC gave our crabs a CG makeover to get them TV ready – and fi­nally the spots went out.

We still have five ten-sec­ond ads and a whole new 30-sec­ond one to fin­ish. So we bet­ter get back to it.

Crab 1: Ac­tive, calm and con­fi­dent.

Crab 2: Shy. Very shy. Crab 7: The kraken.

Zoopla: film­ing took place in Puerto Viejo, with marine bi­ol­o­gists help­ing with cast­ing

Artem turned pen­cil draw­ings into ‘shells’

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