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The Evolution of Evolution

Posted on March 13, 2007 and read 1,265 times

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As the final weeks of winter draw to a close, the annual advertising award show season will soon be upon us. There are the Marketing Awards – perhaps the biggest award show here in Canada – at the end of the month, followed by the One Show, the Bessies and the Clio Awards in May, and finally the big one, the Cannes Lions, in mid-June. Yes, while the rest of society will be enjoying spring in all its rejuvenating glory, the ad world will be busy making shelf space for new trophies.
One spot that has garnered a lot of attention, both in industry circles and in the mainstream, has been ‘Evolution’ for Dove, created by Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto. Will it pick up hardware at the award shows? Who knows? (but it’s pretty likely). We do know that it wasn’t an easy task to create the spot. join ihaveanidea as we sit down with creative director Janet Kestin and art director Tim Piper as they discuss the challenges of bringing ‘Evolution’ from concept to finished product viewed on computer screens and news reports around the world.
ihaveanidea: How did the whole project come about to begin with? It hardly seems like the kind of assignment where the accounts team came to the creatives and said “I have a brief here for a 75 second viral spot.” Was this something you came up with completely on your own and then approach Dove, or was Dove already looking to do something viral?

Janet: Yes and no. There are a lot of terrific people on the client side, in particular Sharon MacLeod, who was what they call the Master Brand Director. At the time, what we were actually working on was not the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Dove was looking for ways to do work around Campaign For Real Beauty, which hadn’t had any work done for it in maybe a year or so. So Sharon was looking for ideas around that.

Tim: Any ideas, in fact.

Janet: Any ideas. They are extraordinarily open-minded at Dove. If you’re not being product-specific, they are always accepting if we come to them with an idea for a television commercial or a fashion show or anything that we feel is a good way to solve a problem. We had had some conversation here at Ogilvy about creating little films, like a series of ultra-short films. We joked about starting up “The Dove Film Company.” Then Tim wound up in a conversation with Sharon and it turned out that she was thinking of almost the exact same thing.

When the idea for Evolution came about, it was one of a whole bunch of films about the beauty industry that were part of an idea called Beauty Crackdown. Eventually the project itself changed; Dove was looking for something to make the Self Esteem Fund more visible to a larger audience, but they had very specific goals, and very specific people they wished to speak to. They wanted to use our ideas to promote these mother-daughter workshops. This resulted in us going back with different thinking, because suddenly we had something that somewhat resembled a creative brief. The ‘Daughters’ film came out of that desire to get people out to the workshops and connect mothers and daughters. They were going to shoot just the ‘Daughters’ film, but then Tim asked if we could also shoot ‘Evolution’ if we could do it within the budget. We asked because we knew that although ‘Evolution’ didn’t meet the brief, we knew we were onto something.

It just seemed smart to do both films, and ‘Evolution’ always felt like it would be a viral hit. To see the before and after, models going from untreated to the finished billboard, it just seemed like something that would be pretty fascinating. And we also felt that ‘Evolution,’ if successful, would draw attention to ‘Daughters’, which it did.

ihaveanidea: How easy or difficult was it to get everyone on board? Did any of your suppliers feel hesitant about exposing the sneaky little secrets that our industry has when it comes to things like photo manipulation?

Tim: That’s a fair question. I chose the photographer, Gabor Jurina, based on his folio, where all his subjects looked far too good to be real. I thought that if we get the right model, and I just give that model to Gabor to shoot and make look beautiful, then all I’d really have to do is capture the retouch artist’s work in progress. I was curious to know how Gabor would respond to the idea, and he was really interested in doing it. He said it was a great thing for his sisters to see, for the whole world to see. So here we have someone who is very much the fashion photographer who does the shooting and distortion and manipulation, and he fully embraced it as an opportunity to do something very valuable and educational to the public.

ihaveanidea: How did the project itself evolve? Did it end up being pretty much as you envisioned? Better?

Tim: It didn’t end up being better, per se. Soho was showing their animation reel here at Ogilvy at the time we were conceptualizing ‘Evolution’ I showed Stefani Kouverianos and Paul Gowan from Soho the storyboard, and I told them we really want to make this film. I asked how could we accomplish it on our budget and if they were interested in it. That might’ve even occurred before final client approval. But Soho was on board very quickly, and we knew we could do the animation simply by using all the layers that the retouch artist creates.

Soho had set aside three days for their end, but it ended up taking over two weeks. We learned a lot when filming the live action footage about what we could’ve done better to make Soho’s job easier. Things like stabilizing the model’s head in post production, which we probably could’ve done more while filming. There was also a lot of background activity to make the scene look really busy, but we found that when you sped it up, it looked too busy, and you didn’t actually see the evolution of the model’s face. You didn’t get a good idea of the makeup being put on because the shot was so wide, so we had to blow up the image about 150% in post, which caused us to lose some detail in the skin.

There were also some continuity errors with the lighting, but we covered those up by dipping to black to say ‘a Dove film’ and the title of the film.

(laughs) It looks like it was intentional!

Tim: And it ended up helping out when the media picked up on it, because they kept on referring to the spot as ‘Dove Evolution’ so anyone could just Google that term and get hundreds of links. There were a lot of happy accidents!

But it’s fair to say that it came out close to how everyone involved saw it in their heads. The end result wasn’t a surprise, it was the journey that was.

The other interesting thing we and Soho had to work on was that when all the layers came back from the photographer’s retouch artist — we weren’t allowed to watch the artist’s process as he did the layers — there were about 150 files in which everything happened very gradually. The neck didn’t go up in one step, or the eyes didn’t get bigger in one step, but rather the neck would move ever so slightly, and wouldn’t change again until several layers later. We wanted big movements and didn’t realize that we weren’t going to get them by following the exact steps the retouch artist used. So we’d have to isolate the neck in each layer and once we got the neck doing what we’d want it to do, we’d have to go back and erase anything else that changed and start over with another part of the face. Soho went above and beyond to make things right.

I think the music also had a lot to do with the final product. So much time was spent trying to get the right soundtrack for it.

Vapor Music Group sourced about twenty different tracks, and we sat with each one and saw what each musical style did to the emotion of the spot. Sometimes it got comical, sometimes it got really sad. The track that we used had a very nice piano piece, but it originally was a very hardcore, industrial, nasty sounding track. Still, it was the best one if we could get rid of most of the other sounds, so Vapor contacted the artist, who supplied us with all of the individual tracks. This allowed us to remove anything we didn’t want, to add some more hi-hats, and get exactly what we wanted.

ihaveanidea: So how did you get it out to the world? Was YouTube your first thought, did you plan on emailing the video out?

Janet: Well it was placed on the Dove website, and then blast mailed to their rather large mailing list, but it was also placed on YouTube at almost the same time.

I wanted to get it on YouTube pretty early, because we knew you could download the video from the Dove website, and we wanted to post it on YouTube before anybody else did it. That way we would likely be the most popular posting of the spot, we could keep track and respond to the comments people leave, answer any questions, and direct people to the ‘Daughters’ spot, which had a deeper message to action than ‘Evolution’.

ihaveanidea: Now that it’s been around the world and back, are you anticipating any accolades for your work? There hasn’t been this much buzz around a Canadian spot in a while…

Janet: Well if it makes people in our global industry say “wow, they do great work it Canada” that’s wonderful, but I can’t say we did it for Queen and country. We did great work for a fantastic client, and we did great work for ourselves. The bonus is how much good it is doing in the world.

It sounds incredibly egotistical to say that we did something that could make a change in this world, but I was in Montreal for a meeting recently, and a woman who knew our CEO came up and said “your Evolution spot changed my daughter’s life.” We heard that teenage girls were asking for Dove products for Christmas. That’s such an incredible feeling, to have that affect on society.

Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer/SBN2




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