When client Carlton Draught first heard the idea for the "Big Ad" spot, parodying overblown and over-produced TV spots, the first reaction was, "This is the script I've been waiting for." And that, presumably, was also just the reaction George Patterson copywriter Ant Keogh and art director Grant Rutherford were waiting for as well.
"We'd explained the whole concept in quite a complicated presentation," says Keogh. "It's a difficult idea to present because of the musical component, so I'd created a rough animatic showing how the new lyrics fitted over the original tune of Carmina Burana. (Grant and I are both musicians.) The client loved the idea and found extra money to do it."
The resulting parody involved over 500 big beefy male extras dressed in gold and red robes, and chanting, "This is a big ad," while charging at each other across a field. But an aerial view reveals this is not some Braveheart-style battle, but that they are actually moving in unison to create the image of a giant head whose mouth is opening wide to drink a golden pint of Carlton Draught. The golden brew, i.e. the gold robed extras, then travels south towards the drinker's stomach.
George Patterson has had the Carlton account for over 30 years, most of that time spent doing more traditional types of beer advertising. Two years ago the agency launched a "Made from beer" campaign parodying over-blown ad styles. In Australia, Carlton Draught is seen as a down-to-earth, mainstream beer, and the favorite draught beer in Melbourne, which has a very competitive beer market. "The brief is basically, 'A good honest beer,'" explains Keogh. "We'd built up the client's trust with the success of two previous TV ads, which had helped increase market share. So, when we presented this new idea of sending up the genre of big ads, the client loved it and the script was approved without research."
Concept to finish took around six months, three of which were spent doing post-production. Director Paul Middleditch had suggested shooting in New Zealand because of the scenery. "Even though there is a big effects component, we always tried to think of the spot as a humor/performance ad," says Keogh. So, when it came to CGI, "We asked the effects guys if they could make the whole thing look more wonky and human, like a whole bunch of beer drinking blokes were in charge, which gives it its charm," he says.
The humor came from pushing everything to edge of ludicrousness. "We jammed in every cliché we could think of. Seeing the inside workings of the Big Man always seemed funny to me, because it's that bit too much information."
The ad was first sent out virally a few weeks before any TV activity. Within a week or so, it had received two million hits (now over three million), and the spot has become an Australian favorite. "It's been played on current affairs shows, talk shows and sports shows," says Keogh. "When they play it at the football, sometimes the crowd starts to sing the words."
George Patterson Y&R / Melbourne