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Dancers at the End of Time: Behind CP+B’s Apocalyptic Jose Cuervo Campaign

Creative director Paddy Fraser on a bold client, perverse optimism and how Ringan Ledwidge flipped the script

Dancers at the End of Time: Behind CP+B’s Apocalyptic Jose Cuervo Campaign

We don’t like to resort to unnecessary hyperbole, but we reckon it would be fair to say that the beginning of 2017 has been feeling distinctly ‘end of days’. But this new Jose Cuervo spot from Crispin Porter + Bogusky  LA and Rattling Stick’s Ringan Ledwidge may offer a pathway through these troubling times. Don’t worry; dance. 

As meteors crash into the desert and howling winds rage, a group of drinkers crank up the jukebox and shimmy along to the strains of Elvis’s ‘It’s Now or Never’. After all, as the tagline suggests, ‘Tomorrow is Overrated’.  

The Four Horsemen of this apocalypse are the CP+B LA team, Ringan’s killer eye for detail, Electric Theatre Collective’s cataclysmic VFX and The King himself. All the cast can do is dance their way through destruction. 

As strategies go, it’s defiant, and it takes a brave brand and a clever creative team to tell a story about the end of everything – especially at such an epic scale. So how did they do it? LBB’s Laura Swinton asks CP+B LA Creative Director Paddy Fraser.

LBB> Can you talk me through the strategy and insight underpinning the creative?

PF> Enjoy right now, because tomorrow could well be worse.  An oversimplification that’ll have strategists rolling in their graves. But that’s the essence. It’s a Tuesday night out. You really should be in bed. You’ve a 9am conference call. Screw it. Get the tequilas in. It’s YOLO, a bit of FOMO, and other young people’s acronyms about just doing what feels right. ‘Tomorrow Is Overrated’ as an idea is essentially at the heart of Jose Cuervo. A brand that’s existed fearlessly, without compromise for 222 years. ‘Last Days’, as a film, is the purest manifestation of that idea.
 
LBB> I can't help but think that the spot really chimes with the prevailing mood in 2017. It’s not taking any political stance but it encapsulates that feeling, regardless of political viewpoint, that everything's getting a bit crazy. Did that factor into your thinking at all? 

PF> We pitched the idea and launch film early last year. So it was somewhat prophetic. In terms of Armageddon, none of us could’ve predicted we’d be entering such a confrontational time. But in terms of people's 'tomorrow' being less than great, there were signs, even pre-this age of uncertainty, that things were hardly fantastic for everyone. Millennials particularly.
 
LBB> And what was the client's take on the story?

PF> We can’t give enough credit to the client team. It was a bold, brave strategy and launch film to go with. The work was based on truth, though. And truth is a compelling thing. Throughout, as a collective team, we all knew what we wanted to get to. A story that brought to life Tomorrow Is Overrated, with a fine balance of feel good and Armageddon. For us, it was always that wonderful symbiosis. 
 
LBB> The spot strikes a really interesting tone that I'm struggling to put into words. It's not melancholic but it’s not exuberantly reckless either. It's a bit freer and both dark and weirdly uplifting at the same time… So, how would you describe the mood and the tone of the spot? What sort of conversations did you have with Ringan about that?

PF> “Screw it”. Which isn’t an adjective. But it’s the nearest thing I can get to. That’s the kind of spirit we wanted. That ebullient feeling when you’ve decided that you’re just going to jump. And see where you land. Myself, Jeff Dryer & Andrew Jasperson (the creative team who wrote the spot) and Ringan would talk about getting to that feeling. A balance of seizing the moment in the face of it all. As you say not sad, but also not saccharine. I find it perversely optimistic.
 
LBB> The moment when the jukebox stops and then the girl takes over on the piano is inspired. Was that always part of the story or did it come along the way?

PF> This is where I get to kiss Ringan’s arse in the hope he’ll work with us again. Honestly, he flipped the script on its head. And elevated what we had to something we hadn’t thought of. He loved the idea of everyone coming together at the end. And that Blitz spirit of persevering throughout.
 
LBB> What were you trying to evoke with the art direction, the aesthetics?

PF> Jose Cuervo is iconic. In a hundred years time we’ll all be dust. But someone will still be drinking Jose Cuervo. So, we wanted to be authentic, timeless and cinematic. Set ourselves dead against the blandified, shiny veneer of most spirits advertising. We wanted nods to our Mexican heritage but also our American home, in a Paris, Texas and Stephen Shore sort of way. Ringan got an incredible DOP called Adam Arkapaw to bring that to life (he shot the first series of True Detective). 
 
LBB> Why was Ringan the right director for the job - what did he bring to the project?

PF> His storytelling, first and foremost. Specifically, for this story, the fact he can do epic, witty, cinematic and emotionally connecting, often all in the same film. 

In terms of what he brought to the story, as I mentioned he flipped the whole script in his treatment. Originally the guys had it starting outside in the Armageddon, discovering the bar later. He thought it would be better to start inside, then reveal the impending doom outside progressively over the spot. He also brought a welcome collaborative nature. He was happy to listen to our daft builds on his treatment, things like blowing away a guy who just stole a tip.
 
LBB> What was the casting process like?

PF> Fun but awkward. There’s nothing worse than seeing sober people dance badly. We fell in love with Christian (the main actor) early on. He was cool, likable and can dance. His father is Michael Madsen, so maybe it’s in the genes. Balancing him against a girl was trickier. We didn’t want her to feel passive. Arielle was perfect in the respect she had better moves than him and a naturally fun spirit. This created a dynamic of Christian punching a bit above his weight. When we brought them together in casting, they naturally fed off each other. The other roles were great fun to cast too. Except the screaming “It’s Coming” women in casting. Those genuinely scared me.
 
LBB> It seems like there's a really interesting mix of live action and in-camera stuff along with the wild VFX of the apocalypse - what were the trickiest or most interesting elements to realise?

PF> Electric Theatre Collective, Rattling Stick and the production design team did an incredible job of staging the in-camera action then augmenting it in post. 

The trickiest on set were definitely the telephone pole smashing the jukebox in our replica bar and a giant concrete cinder block being dropped 100ft onto that pick-up to replicate the asteroid. We also ripped off some roof and shook the real bar for three days straight just for added measure. 

The most interesting element was all the crazy work ETC did. From the asteroids, the clouds, the desert vistas, the dust, to the door and the roof whipping off into the sky. That end shot of the bar, particularly, still confounds me. From blank canvas to insane Armageddon.
 
LBB> How do you reckon you'd handle the Apocalypse?

PF> Get baptised (just to hedge my bets).
Eat a good kilogram of Calamari.
Retreat to my lead lined bunker in Scotland.
 

Category: Alcoholic drinks , Spirits

Genre: In-camera effects , People , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight , Visual VFX