Your Shot: Schwartz’s Sound of Taste
When this ‘sonic flavourscape’ landed last Friday it was music to ears, eyes and mouth in one hell of an explosion. For UK spice brand Schwartz, Grey London, Partizan director Chris Cairns, pyrotechnic experts Machine Shop and house music producer MJ Cole have made the invisible visible. With a carefully choreographed series of bangs and clangs setting off to the timing of Cole’s bespoke classical music piece, the creative team have left us believing the explosion’s contents taste as delicious as they look. Grey London’s Mike Kennedy and Pauline Ashford talk about this labour of love with LBB’s Addison Capper.
LBB> What kind of brief did Schwartz approach you with? They must have been open for some experimentation and fun!
MK&PA> Looking back, there wasn’t actually a brief for this project per se, bar simply to launch Flavour Shots. There were several areas that Schwartz wanted us to look at and one of the areas was about the product being big on the senses.
They were very open to seeing scripts that differed from the usual mum in a kitchen, cooking a meal.
LBB> What was pre-production and planning like for the spot? I’m guessing pretty meticulous…
MK&PA> Yes it was! Although getting Chris Cairns on board at an early stage really helped as he smoothed out a lot of the details pre-production-wise. We were heavily involved in the testing stage at Machine Shop, the pyrotechnic designers. We made decisions on which herbs and spices exploded more beautifully than others, which colours and textures worked best together and which note of the music they were attributed to.
There were also many meetings with Schwartz and they were keen to be involved all the way through, since it was new ground for them.
LBB> The ad interprets taste using sound and vision - did the idea of synaesthesia influence the creative in any way?
MK&PA> Yes, while brainstorming ideas it became clear that we were effectively trying to create an audio-visual depiction of taste.
Much like synaesthesia, we wanted to use one sense to trigger another. In our approach, the piano notes triggered the herb and spice explosions, which became a cue for the sensation of taste.
LBB> In the spot you give a metaphor for 'what flavour looks like' to the viewer, which is essentially making the invisible, visible. How many other metaphors were discussed before you decided on the explosion idea?
MK&PA> There were a load. Several rounds of scripts from other creatives and at least three rounds of creative from us alone. We had scripts on alchemists, magicians (don’t ask), snow globes (again, don’t ask) and one using the tilt shift photography technique.
While we’re aware that the idea of using visual explosions isn’t a totally new thought, by making sound design integral to the idea, we've actually come away with something quite unique.
The art direction was also important on this project as we wanted the soundscape to evoke the feeling of a spice market and purposely kept the set and props very natural. Scrapping the hessian sacks and replacing them with metal buckets was suggested a few times but ultimately we wanted to keep it organic.
LBB> Why was Partizan's Chris Cairns the right man to bring 'The Sound of Taste' to life?
MK&PA> Chris has a great track record of doing very technical projects and shooting them brilliantly. We wanted to shoot absolutely everything for real and Chris rose to the challenge.
When we met him, he mentioned a project like this had been in the back of his mind for a while, so for him to show a personal interest in the project was a massive reason for choosing to work with him.
LBB> And house music producer MJ Cole composed the spot's music - what was it about him that suited the project?
MK&PA> We were really pleased when we heard he wanted to collaborate on the Sound of Taste. A lot of people don't realise he's a classically trained pianist. It was this trait that made him a perfect fit for the score we wanted to achieve and his status within the electronic music scene meant he gave the project a very credible music angle.
LBB> Each explosion differs from others and is representative of certain piano notes. What kind of factors influenced the representations and how closely did you work with director Chris and composer MJ in making them?
MK&PA> Our brief to Chris and MJ Cole was very simple - create a piano based track that can be cut to different lengths, and also builds to a crescendo. I guess it sounds simple to us, but an incredible amount of work went in to the score, to get it hitting the right visual cues for Chris’s vision and for MJ Cole to create a beautiful standalone piece of music.
When they came back to us with the finished piece of music, we could instantly visualise the ad, so we knew it was perfect.
LBB> Did you ever have any concerns of feasibility regarding the spot?
MK& PA> Yes there were challenges at every stage. When we initially sold in the idea, we didn’t want to get too excited as it was such an ambitious project.
As the ad passed more and more phases of the process, the more hopeful we became. When it eventually passed the testing stage - and we finally felt it was happening - we threw ourselves at making it the best it could be.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
MK&PA> Without a doubt, the budget. It is pretty unbelievable what we’ve managed to achieve on a tiny budget. Because a lot of people believed in the project, they bent over backwards to make it happen. The account team, Schwartz, our producers, and management team were all hands-on, asking for favours left right and centre.
We also had our in-house editors at Hogarth involved, doing bits and pieces for free. They did a fantastic job on the ‘making of’ video and documenting the whole process from beginning to end.
Vice President of Marketing EMEA: Jeremy Shute
Marketing Director: Paula Jordan
Creative Agency: Grey London
Chief Creative Officer: Nils Leonard
Creative Director: Andy Lockley
Art Director: Pauline Ashford
Copywriter: Mike Kennedy
Producer: Katherine Maidment
Assistant Producer: Charlotte Marshall
Managing Partner: Philippa Baldwin
Business Director: Camilla Ashenhurst
Planner: Matt Buttrick
Account Manager: Lucy Gregory
Account Executive: Rowenna Trevellyan
Creative Producer: Georgie Moran
Director: Chris Cairns
Production Company: Partizan
Music: MJ Cole / Soho Sound.
Post Prod: MPC
Sound Design: String and Tins
Air date: 13th Jan 2014