Your Shot: The Scoop on Snickers' Brady Bunch Super Bowl Spot
Snickers’ Brady Bunch spot was easily one of Little Black Book’s favourite Super Bowl spots. It seems it was one of the industry's too, as the spot won the first ever 'Super Clio' for Sunday's best commercial. And how it could not have been? We mean, come on. Danny Trejo playing a super OTT angry, axe-wielding Marcia and Steve Buscemi making possibly the perfect cameo as Jan. What’s remarkable, though, is how the team behind the spot placed the two of them so flawlessly into the show. We had to know how it was done. LBB’s Addison Capper caught BBDO New York ECDs Peter Kain and Gianfranco Arena, O Positive director Jim Jenkins and The Mill senior compositor Nathan Kane to find out.
LBB> The spot takes a proven campaign and really notches it up a level. Where did the Brady Bunch brilliance stem from? Both the Super Bowl and the Brady Bunch are proper American institutions - did that play any part?
PK&GA> Knowing we were coming back to the Super Bowl was exciting and terrifying. We didn’t want to deviate too much from the structure that’s made the campaign successful, but we also had to find a way to bring something new to it. So that’s what led to the idea of telling a ‘you’re not you’ story within the context of a famous TV show. Even though The Brady Bunch is four decades old, thanks to reruns and those ‘90s movies, it has endured. People in a wide range of age groups all seem to remember those characters, that living room, and that famous episode.
LBB> I’m sure jobs like this don’t come along too often! Jim and Nathan, what were you thinking when you first saw it?
JJ> I’ve been lucky enough to work with Pete and Gianfranco on prior Snickers spots (Pesci, and the sharks focus group spot for Snickers Peanut Butter Squared) so I was happy to know I’d be working with them even before I read the script and realized I would actually get to film Danny Trejo slamming an axe into Mrs Brady’s coffee table.
NK> Our first thoughts when we were reading the initial script was that this spot has real potential to be an iconic Super Bowl Spot. If executed correctly we could have something really special and memorable that the audience will really enjoy. We all immediately recognized that this was going to be an incredible challenge, but at the same time a real excitement of how good the final spot could be.
LBB> Why was Danny Trejo perfect to helm the spot? He really seemed to take the role in his stride!
PK&GA> We wanted Marcia’s alter-ego to be someone instantly and visually the opposite of her persona: someone, for example, really angry and violent – someone who just looks that part without needing to do much, and Danny does that – with his look, his voice, and his ax. And once we gave him long straight hair he was the perfect hungry Marcia.
LBB> And Steve Buscemi. What a brilliant cameo! How did he get involved? Both actors are pretty off the wall choices. Brilliant, though.
PK&GA> We figured he’d never be interested in commercial work. But Jim felt he would bring so much to that ‘Marcia Marcia’ line, and we couldn’t think of anyone who could more perfectly convey the internal angst of a hungry Jan. So we reached out to him and fortunately he was into it.
LBB> Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi seem to really take the roles in their stride. How were they to work with? What kind of conversations were you having with them to coax out those performances?
PK&GA> They were great. They both seemed genuinely excited about the idea and they gave us a broad range of performances and variations on dialogue.
JJ> BBDO’s work is so consistently smart. While talking to both Trejo and Buscemi beforehand I realized the ‘You’re Not When You’re Hungry’ campaign had kind of sold itself to them. They were excited, and they knew going-in that they were going to be part of something funny, so they embraced the humor and went for it. I guess I’m saying I didn’t have to work hard to get these guys into it. The concept did that for me.
LBB> There’s a particular style to The Brady Bunch. How tricky was it for you to mimic that? What kind of research and techniques were involved?
JJ> Honestly, it’s all about getting the little things right. The recreation of both the set and the bad polyester clothing, the harsh lighting (we used lights from that era), dirtying up the film and coloring it to match, the old 4:3 aspect ratio – it all adds up to a believable recreation of the show.
NK> One thing we noticed from watching a lot of The Brady Bunch episodes was that the color actually changes quite a bit from episode to episode. This could be down to the fact that the footage probably has been transferred through so many different mediums over the years – from 35mm film to tape to DVD and finally to Pro Res quicktime. Our colorist Fergus McCall did a great job matching the plates we shot on an Alexa to the original film from the show. This gave us a great base to work from. As we were working with shots from multiple episodes, Fergus also did a final color correct over the whole spot at the very end to balance every shot and give it the continuity you get from an episode in the original show.
LBB> Nathan, how involved were you guys in the initial production?
NK> BBDO and O Positive are great collaborators and invited us to be part of this project very early on, as we had to decide what shots would work best for the mouth replacements. We needed to use shots where Mr. and Mrs. Brady or Marsha were actually speaking. This would then give us all the correct face movements that are necessary for a truly convincing mouth replacement.
LBB> How did you manage to place the two actors into The Brady Bunch scene? Face-mapping technology has been around for a while but it’s still evolving and quite infantile. Did you ever worry about feasibility?
PK&GA> We hadn’t seen many good examples of digital mouth replacement. But the Mill felt they could do it, partly because the degraded quality of the footage would help us in this case. We just needed to pick scenes from the show in which the characters faces matched what their expression would be for the words we needed them to say.
JJ> We took a lot of care to make sure The Mill got everything they needed to make the effects work, and they did a great job with it. The set had to match, the mouths and jaw lines for Mr and Mrs Brady and Marcia had to match, so we had to cast just the right people for that – a lot of prep went into it. Their hardest job was the mouth replacements, but they really threw themselves into it, and they were open to tweaking and re-tweaking mouth movements to get it all just right.
NK> A really important part of why Danny and Steve fit into the footage so well, is the way they were lit on set. The DP and his team spent a lot of time matching the original lighting from the show. We also had as much of the original set rebuilt as possible. This gave the guys real elements to interact with and it gave us real shadows and reflections that we could use in the final shot. All of this combined with degrading our beautiful digital footage with subtle softening, matching grain, adding film weave and the odd bit of film dust to match that old school look of the original 35mm film from the show.
LBB> O Positive’s Jim Jenkins was the director. Why was he the right guy for the job and what did he bring to it?
PK&GA> We’ve had success working with Jim over the years, not just with comedy/dialogue, but on spots that were visually challenging – like a commercial with CG sharks we did for Snickers Peanut Butter Squared a few years ago.
Before the shoot, he worked with us and our editor Geoff Hounsell on making an edit using the footage we found. He worked closely with The Mill to make sure the set and wardrobe looked accurate, and that the angles we used felt true to the way the show was shot. He obviously got great performances from the actors. And he stayed closely involved throughout the whole post-production process, all while enduring dozens of late night text messages about important issues like whether Trejo should have a band aid on his nose.
LBB> How was it for you, personally, to bring such an iconic part of U.S. culture back to life?
PK&GA> The show never really went away. Search the hashtag #surejan and you’ll see proof of that. We just hope that people enjoy it and that it makes them hungry for Snickers.
JJ> In my house, the Brady Bunch never needed to be brought back to life. My daughters love that show. They weren’t impressed about Buscemi or Trejo – they only care that I got to meet Florence Henderson.
NK> It was such an honor to be able to work with iconic footage from such a historical television show. The chance to bring The Brady Bunch to the Super Bowl doesn't come around very often and I feel very lucky that we got to be a part of it.
LBB> What were the trickiest moments and how did you overcome them?
PK&GA> We wrote the script from our vague memories of the famous football-nose episode. Then when we watched the episode there was no actual scene in which the parents had a talk with Marcia.
So we needed to find a scene in which the parents were talking to her, blocked in a way that woul dstill make the eye lines work when we changed her to Danny Trejo.
We divided up the DVD set and watched every episode along with our producer Amy Wertheimer, and the help of her production interns, until we finally found a good one set in the living room. But in that scene, the parents were talking to Peter, so we then had to find Marcia from another episode, standing at an angle that could work if we comped her in Peter’s place. Fortunately the scene we found was from one of the later years, so the Dad has a good perm.
JJ> An aspect of this production that seems to get overlooked is the edit, and how much work our editor Geoff Hounsell put into this. One of the trickiest parts of this project was the endless combing through footage to piece this together and make it work so seamlessly.
NK> Our main challenges around this job were the mouth replacements. First, how hard was it going to be to object track Mr. and Mr.s Brady's face on the old, compressed and grainy footage? And second, how would they look once their mouth had been replaced?
Their faces are so recognizable so there was no margin for error. This made the casting important. We had to be particular on the shapes of people’s faces and mouths. Even after doing this there was still a lot of face and mouth/lip manipulation done in post to make our new mouths match the original mouths of the Brady’s.
LBB> And how about the most memorable?
PK&GA> We made a lot of extra content with Danny, including a mural on Canal St, the teaser and some cinemagraphic GIFs, which were all created by Rich Douek and Sei Rey Ho. Watching Danny angrily brush his hair in Marcia’s bedroom while yelling various threats to Mrs. Brady was lots of fun.
NK> The best part of this project for me is seeing the whole spot come together like we imagined it would. And, of course, seeing the positive reaction the spot is getting and everyone trying to figure out how we did it.
Category: Food , Snacks and confectionary