Dark Horses creatives Matt Adams and Will Butler and RSA director Adam Smith explain the thinking behind their festive family film for the fitness brand
Dark Horses creatives Matt Adams and Will Butler have spent most of their ad industry careers so far working during a pandemic. They’re right at the start of their trajectories in advertising, but they’ve already passed the threshold of their first TVC shoot. Which they had to do in lockdown conditions. To further pile on the pressure, it was a Christmas ad for a prominent brand - Peloton, the interactive fitness company. It wasn’t a straightforward ad either. As part of the process they had to commission two new tracks, reworking Nina Simone’s iconic number Feeling Good. They also worked with a big name music director in RSA's Adam Smith. So it was quite a big job, all in all.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Matt, Will and Adam to hear more about what went into this music-driven Yuletide treat.
LBB> Where was the brand at with its advertising when you first started thinking about a potential Christmas campaign?
Matt & Will> This is Dark Horses’ third spot for Peloton. Previous spots all have the signature high-energy style, showing members working out mid-class, set to banging tracks, bringing to life the remarkable intensity of the workout you get with Peloton.
Additionally, we knew that the global launch campaign for the new Peloton Bike+, which originated from the US, was set to have been running throughout September and October.
So we knew we needed to do something different but which was fundamentally rooted in the same place.
LBB> How did this idea form? What were the key moments?
Matt & Will> The ad needed to focus on the key benefit of variety by showing the range of workouts available. As a festive ad, the plan was always to do this through the lens of a family, who we felt should each have their own favourite workout - to land the variety point.
Second to variety was music, as a huge part of the Peloton experience, it was always going to be important in the ad and with this script we wanted to make it the core of the idea. We’d seen these amazing videos of musicians swapping seamlessly between genres as they played and we thought this could be an interesting way of using music to add some personality to the different family members.
We wanted to show that even though they’re all different and enjoy different workouts, they’re all part of the same family and they can all find something with Peloton - hence the different music genres that were all still part of the same song.
LBB> When did you land on the song? Why was it so perfect?
Matt & Will> We knew from the start that the song needed to be iconic, both to fit with Peloton’s brand and also for the idea to work - people needed to recognise the original instantly so that they realised when we started changing the genres.
We suggested ‘Feeling Good’ pretty early on and it seemed to tick all the boxes; it’s incredibly iconic, the lyrics themselves capture the emotion of a Peloton class, and it even feels quite Christmassy even though it isn’t a Christmas song.
LBB> How did the song become more of a central part of the campaign?
Matt & Will> Music is such a big point of difference for Peloton, so we knew right from the start that it was going to be important. Every script we presented had a selection of songs to go with it, but obviously the music became even more important once we had all bought into this idea.
Luckily everyone was convinced we had the right track, it just came down to finding the right artists to cover it. We did that with the help of Universal and Peloton’s in-house music team, we knew we wanted the covers to feel distinct both from the original and from each other but that they still needed to be unmistakably the same song.
That was the brief to the artists and once we found Duckwrth and Crown Lands, we were all sold. They got into the studio and started sending us their sections of the song to show how they wanted to treat it. Then we got these bedded into the TV edit, whilst they worked on the full covers for us to play around with on social and radio.
At the end of it we had two full covers and the Crown Lands version is now on Spotify.
LBB> What were the big challenges with the music aspect of the campaign?
Adam> Trying to differentiate between what each character was listening to whilst retaining a cohesive whole for the music, so it worked as a cut up track in itself.
LBB> When it came to the film, what were the biggest challenges?
Adam> Trying to get an audience to connect with a character in seven seconds of screen time, and not being able to have face-to-face meetings in pre-production. Covid conditions meant trying to connect with HODs and actors whilst having half your face covered up.
LBB> What do you think worked particularly well in the film and why?
Adam> It was a great collaborative relationship with the agency based on mutual respect and listening to each other. The aim was for the film to feel natural and authentic. All creative decisions were informed by this.
By working with an amazing casting director, production designer, costume designer, DOP, editor and grade - the cast felt truthful as did the art direction, wardrobe, and cinematography. Plus of course the fantastic and empowering producer and crew.
LBB> What are you most proud of overall in the project?
Matt & Will> How we made the family feel real and authentic whilst still maintaining the premium feel that Peloton has built over the years.
That and the music, this idea really lived or died with the tracks we used, it was so essential that the music clearly represented the personalities of each family member, which we think it does. Plus we got two incredible covers of an iconic track, by two amazing artists in Duckwrth and Crownlands, which is also pretty cool.