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Into the Library with Traktor

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The spectacle-mongering Scandinavian directing collective personally guide us through their output over their years, with the help of Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx and a host of advertising luminaries

Into the Library with Traktor

'The Creative Library' is LBB’s exciting new launch. It’s been months - years, probably - in the making and we reckon our re-tooled archive will change the way you work, whether you’re a company looking to store and share your work, or a marketer or creative looking for new partners or inspiration for your latest project.
 
This isn’t a dusty old archive. It’s an easy-to-search, paywall-free library where all our members can store and share all of their reels and creative work.

To coincide, we’re also launching a new regular feature called ‘Into the Library’ where we catch up with the industry’s most influential directors to talk about their directorial highlights past and present. Think of it as a director’s reel showcase with a big dollop of personality. We interview directors about their favourite commercials and music videos from their reel to find out about how these works shaped them as a director.

Today we're over the moon to kick off the series with legendary Scandi comedy pioneers, Traktor.

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Hello and welcome to this little MATINEE SHOWING from the depths of our shallow output over the years. We’d call it a Happy Hour, but all hours should be happy. And hopefully the next ten minutes of your life will be. 

Some of these films, much like Rod Stewart, are from simpler times. Others are ripped from the headlines and deadlines of modern living. 

But all of them are recession-proof (three downturns, September 11th, a pandemic and counting). And hopefully none of them are boring. If you like them, please send us a postcard, or invite us to that thing as your plus one. Or plus five. We’re not precious. 

There are some guests over by the craft service table who will expand further on some key contractions. Glad they could make it. And glad they could make these. With us. 

Here we go:

Miller Lite – Evil Beaver



Because life is short and commercials are long, we’ll start with this one. It’s the favourite commercial of the mighty Dougal Wilson (who had nothing to do with the project) so we’ll leave the floor to his kind words: 

“I remember, as a young creative at the Leith Agency in Edinburgh in the mid-’90s, unsuspectingly putting on the Shots VHS tape to see what the big guns of international advertising were up to. My life would be changed forever when ‘Evil Beaver’ began to play. My first reaction was confusion, even fear. I gathered courage, and played it again… and again… and again. New delights and mysteries were discovered on every viewing. The idea. The casting. The performances. The cinematography (frame cutting? bleach bypass?). The in-camera techniques (leaf blower+sawdust?) The editing (repeat motorbike circling shot with jump cuts?) The gags (e.g. the wooden leg – attached to what must have been a dummy?) The song of course. And equally of course… the beaver himself. What a performance – and possibly my favourite end-shot of all time. Decades have passed, but it still remains my unsurpassed favourite. I’m not sure the clients were as amused as I was (I think the agency lost the account shortly afterwards), but if I had lived in America where Miller Lite was available, I would certainly have bought some. When times get tough, I look to the genius of Traktor, and the enduring joy and wonder of their Evil Beaver.”

This commercial is also the reason why a generation of enthusiastic East Coast creatives with fetching baseball caps got into advertising. Little did they know that a beaver that evil only comes along once in a generation. On a motorbike…


The same goes for an athlete of Serena Williams’ world class classiness. A Wonder Woman indeed, and we are thrilled we got to work with her before her rumoured retirement. 

DIRECTV – Wonder Williams


We had to shoot in France where professional tennis player Serena Williams was supposed to practice for the French Open, but it turned out the French weren’t really that open at all due to covid. 

We had everything ready to go… except our real super heroine. Bribery, blackmail, and many hamstrings were pulled in the chain-smoking and oxymoronic French Ministry of Health until finally Circus Serena™ and her considerable entourage were let in through the out-door. A sacré bleu-job indeed…

Former global creative directors at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY LA, Bruno Acanfora and Ariel Abramovici, who are now both executive creative directors at GUT LA, remember: “It was a crazy campaign shot in crazier times. A nine-hour time difference between Nice and LA on quadruple Zoom windows. And we won’t lie, a few of us took a couple power naps at 4AM. Hope the DIRECTV clients don’t read this. Even during trying times, and especially then, shooting with Traktor is always a breeze and super fun. When we work together the fun happens in front and behind the camera. And that’s why we love it. Hold the Polaroids!”
 
Here she is. She knows where you live:


FOX Sports — Turkey and China


We’ll stay in the world of sports for a moment, and from the commode labelled “Political Correctness & International Relations” we bring you this true story of sporting prowess:

Turkey


There were more where this came from. In fact, here is one:

China


When we moved to America, we used to sleep next to the fax machine. It let off a little purr. We heard it start and we saw it was from a man called Cliff Freeman. We stood around the buzzing machine and read the scripts as they came through. By page three we were on the phone with Cliff, who turned out to be an advertising agency, and said “we take travellers cheques. Let’s go!”

We shot the campaign in Cape Town, South Africa and cast it largely by emptying Turkish and Chinese restaurants and the like. The lax safety routines of the southern hemisphere in the noughties were also key to the sense that people and animals were routinely harmed. But not really, constable. We swear!

Rosie Bardales, former CF&P associate creative director who is now global executive creative director at BETC Paris/London adds: “We were making something fun, pushing all the buttons normal people would have told us not to. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”

And here is Eric Silver, a former executive creative director at CF&P and the father of all that is fun in advertising, with some words: “I was lucky enough to work with Traktor on Fox Sports and win a Grand Prix at Cannes back when there was only one Grand Prix... And I worked with them again on FedEx and won an Emmy and a Clio for a Super Bowl commercial with a disgruntled caveman.”


FedEx — Stick



The Emmy win was a bit confusing, but very important to our sceptical parents with their annual Clockwork Christmas Question (CCQ): “Do you still just make commercials?”. This has been tough on them. It still is, in fact. Coincidentally our parents look remarkably like the gentlemen in this commercial. Maybe therein lies the rub…


Tide – It’s a Tide Ad



The Super Bowl doesn’t do much good for our parents either, as they abhor violence and tight ends. But the Super Bowl is very important to us. ‘Tis the season to pull out all the stops. We’ve been on it a dozen times, and have “won it” on a couple of lucky occasions, including in 2021. Here is our Super Bowl contribution from Saatchi & Saatchi NY that took on a stain-free life of its own, as it hijacked so many commercials that in the end you’d be forgiven for thinking the whole Super Bowl was a Tide commercial. 


Nike – Angry Chicken



We have been blessed to work with some stellar cinematographers through the years – Fred Elmes, Emmanuel Chivo Lubezki, Linus Sandgren, Hoyte van Hoytema and many more. Here is a commercial we shot in Paris with the late great Harris Savides. 

Harris thought we were just “a bunch of mamalukes” and frequently gave us a swift smack over the back of the head. Deservedly so. Wish you were here, Harris…
This was shot when Parkour was more of an "idea" than a worldwide movement. The original group was only a handful of people who lived in a suburb of Paris. Here we see one of the founders, a young Sebastien Foucan. Next time we saw him he was being chased by… James Bond in a neck-breaking scene from Casino Royale. A pretty good next step - with some added biceps.

The "simultaneous translation" was something we grew up with on the Tundra when watching cheap programming on state television (because subtitling was more expensive). It would be from Polish or Russian to Swedish. The programming was largely jittery stop motion claymation featuring a duck quacking a moral message (“Don’t leave your friends by the frozen well!”). Suffice to say we didn’t get to see much Disney. Except for a free promo-reel broadcast on Christmas Day showing us snippets of how the other half lived. No wonder we had to leave Sweden. 

The former Wieden + Kennedy creative director and now founder and global creative officer at Anomaly, Mike Byrne, remembers: “You have an idea about an angry chicken and le parkour before anyone knew about angry chickens. And this is for a Nike commercial? Who do you call? Traktor! Not only did they take something perceptibly silly they made it convincingly believable. Always my cap off and a delicate yet refined curtsy to the genius of Traktor."


LEGO – Rebuild the World



We have really enjoyed playing and rebuilding the world, brick by brick, for Lego for their first worldwide brand campaigns. We recently just wrapped our third year of doing so. We love LEGO, always have. To be grown-up and be allowed to still play with LEGO fills us with unbridled happiness. You couldn’t make it up. But they did. 
On a related note (but not really) it seems that “transitions” have been the order of the day in advertising of late. Most commercial scripts have them, nobody has been fired for doing them, and all meetings eventually include the line, “How do you see the transitions?” Well, punk! How do you see them??

According to Stanley “TikTok” Kubrick, the answer should ideally be “a cut.” But just to satiate the contemporary desire and prove our emerging abilities, we did our second brand campaign for LEGO made up entirely of transitions. 

And so, we suppose, the answer is: THIS is how we see the transitions. Want some?


Argos – Book of Dreams



In Britain there is no Super Bowl, but the Christmas Wars™ more than make up for it. It’s the time of year when everybody tries to outdo John Lewis, and often fails. But you, and we, can have a lot of fun trying. 

Former creative director at The & Partnership Danny Hunt, who is now creative director at Lucky Generals recalls: “On Argos we had to find the impossible. A young girl who looked too young to drum but could drum as good as anyone could dream up. No mean feat when you’re awake! They cast all over the world for a month and we found her in Ipswich. I still vividly remember the feeling of relief the moment Nandy walked in and picked up the sticks. I walked out and went for a pint. Take a bow, lads, we were on to a winner. 

“Traktor’s treatment for the spot was incredibly simple. They wanted to capture it all in camera. We had crew pushing open kitchen cabinets that turned into speakers. Huge grips moving giant staircases that lit up to music and the sweatiest puppeteer in the whole of Europe stage-diving with a teddy bear. It was such a fun shoot and so smart of them as a this only added to the magic and charm of the spot, in a way I don’t think VFX could. 

“For me during our time working together I always felt welcome into the wonderful world of Traktor Towers. A place where anything goes, everyone is heard, and above all the best idea wins.

“I’m still incredibly proud of the film. Culturally it came from nowhere and made headlines in all the newspapers. Radio shows. It even got on the Ellen show in the US. It was loved by the British public and took the Christmas Super Bowl over here in the UK by storm. Dreamy.”


Discovery.com – Hello Mosquito and Meteor



People are wonderful. Especially if they are not actors. Or have never been anywhere near a shoot in our questionable industry or even Los Angeles. During a strike for the Screen Actors Guild, we could see this at close, gelatinous quarters on a campaign for Discovery. 

The former P&HR creative director Roger Camp, who is now founder and CCO of Camp+King whispers: “I have told people that the Discovery work was some of the most fun shoots I’ve ever been on! We took the client brief, put it in the words of everyday people thanks to the SAG strike. All while wearing the most wonderful insane costumes and on elaborate sets of weirdness. It’s very rare when you’re given a budget this big to bring to life an idea that’s this stupid.”

We cast some innocent bystanders in the union-free Bay Area (turns out there is one!), flew them to the bright lights of Los Angeles, dressed them up with our love and rolled the cameras the moment BEFORE they stepped on set for the first time. 


Their only direction and brief was to read the scripts from giant cue-cards (that were constantly being moved around and hidden by underpaid PAs). Through hardship comes splendour. The approach has since been copied, but without the uncompromising rules of dis-engagement that must not be broken. Because it shows. There are no shortcuts to complete confusion. None. 

We DID have to ask them in advance if they were allergic to cats, since we had a 700lb live lion on stage, unbeknownst to… anybody. 

For most of the "actors", this was their first time ever in Los Angeles. And probably their last.


Fatboy Slim - Ya Mama



An intermission: Or should we say a break from the Norm. Time then for a musical interlude courtesy of Fatboy Slim and our first ever music video.

Norman Cook, or rather Fatboy himself, remembers: “I can honestly say that when I first saw the ‘Ya Mama’ clip I actually weed in my pants with excitement. I had literally never seen a tune of mine so instantly come alive via its video before. I had never seen such excitement, irreverence, and anarchy in a pop video. I was stunned, thrilled, and soiled. 

“I cannot thank Traktor enough for this fine work, which incidentally stands the test of time too, it is truly batshit to this very day.”


Virgin Atlantic – Love at First Flight



Speaking of recessions, here is a film that brightened the darkened screens of Britain last time around. At least one of these stewardesses went on to marry Guy Ritchie. It just goes to show that being in one of our commercials is not always a curse. Mixed blessings are blessings too!


MTV – The Jukka Bros.



The legends that are Paul Malmstrom and Linus Karlsson contributed much blood, sweat, tears, endorphins, liquorice and blind misguided faith in Traktor’s early years. Including the Evil Beaver above. 

Former Fallon creative Linus Karlsson who is now CCO, range and marketing and communications at IKEA writes: ”Pål and I grew up with Traktor. We taught each other. On the first shoots, we would argue about everything. Because we were all learning. It was always mayhem, always chaos but always fun…”

Including this campaign for MTV. We cast three Finnish stage actors and added our steam-driven mascot ‘Little-Micke’ to fill out the foursome. Our then-partner Ulf provided the butt-cheek. We still thank him for this. Slap it!

The campaign went viral before there were viruses, and the Jukka Brothers were invited to the MTV awards in Dublin to hand out an award. MTV sat them next to Whitney Houston. Some think this was an unfortunate turning-point for Whitney, and a key contribution to her eventual slide. We disagree. Much like Whitney, we believe that children are our future. We should know. We have seventeen of them between us. Which brings us to:


Three – Sing It Kitty



Combining our penchant for unearthing diminutive stars, and casting in remote regions, we found this five-year-old in deepest Manchester. She was the youngest by far of the 200 hopefuls. She practised Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ in her playroom for a fortnight and had it down pat. Then – the day before the shoot it changed to this song by Starship. But, she took it in her stride and she built this city (Watford), and so did her MPC-assisted kitty.
 
The former Wieden + Kennedy creatives Chris Lapham and Aaron McGurk, who are now global group creative directors at Grey London, mutter: “A little girl riding a bike with her pet cat. Sounds okay. But we wanted it to be epic. And somehow it became thus. Every time we had a comment, Traktor would deem the idea ‘pedestrian’. They had obviously just been given a new thesaurus. They claimed in retrospect that they thought the word meant ‘genius’. But in the final instance, the film is far from pedestrian. Although we did have to paint a zebra crossing in the cul-de-sac. Watford. So much to answer for.” 


Malibu – Bus



Another supporter and partner-in-grime of ours was former Lowe Creative Director and eventual founder of CHI, Charles Iinge. He would fly to Stockholm and write scripts in our well-appointed broom-cupboard for brands like Labatt Ice and Malibu. He is an amazing painter now, and will ignore you on Wardour Street, but he still remembers if pressed and paid: “Malibu was a 1970s brand that was about to be delisted. It was the sticky half-drunk bottle at the back of the cupboard that even your parents wouldn’t touch. Traktor saw things differently. They took over a small Caribbean Island and invited me along. We put the inhabitants in front of the camera, and some enthusiasts behind, then recreated and dramatised well-known contemporary stressors juxtaposed with the normally sun-drenched Caribbean chill. The campaign, as well as the excited islanders, ran and ran, through three agencies and counting. And the world got all warm and tipsy off the sweet tipple. Total gridlock!”


Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At



We shot another music video. This one in a working mental hospital in Prague. They have a few. We had an ambitious idea, but nothing worked. The monkeys would defecate and run away. And so would some of the cast. When we left the town we had nothing. The local crew watched us pile into the taxi to the airport, thinking it was heading out of the industry entirely. 

Only through judicious split-screenery from our editor-in-chief Rick Russell and six weeks of Jack Daniels-fuelled night shifts at MPC were we finally, and reluctantly, able to show the band. 

Their first reaction was silent dread. Simon from the band walked off muttering something about “I dunno. Gonna show it to some mates…”. 
Hold the champagne. Hold the career in music videos. 
But over the weeks it seeped into the TV-sphere and got some traction. All the way to an MTV award nomination for Best Video. Sometimes (most times) you just don’t know… anything. 

Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe of Basement Jaxx reminisce: “Where’s your head at? As brilliant and important a question as it ever was – and what a portrayal, the legendary Traktor video. At the time it was a slightly make-or-break financial decision for us – it was so expensive! But we wanted it to happen so much as Traktor’s vision was just so dope/wonderful. It was so groundbreaking at the time – 20 somethings found it very dark and edgy with paranoid overtones – toddlers and my elderly vicar father found it great fun. A small triumph. To celebrate we dressed Traktor up as gorillas and had them join us on stage for a couple of shows. They even jumped off the really high stage with us during our Glastonbury headline slot. That’s dedication!”



This might have been a matinee, but heck howdy the evening is rapidly approaching. To reward patient listeners, we leave you with this celebratory cod-piece we made for Cannes Lions to celebrate the anniversary of their showcase. It was shown in the Palais du Festival to the tipsy hordes who lapped it up. And now you can too – 


Thank you for your time. See you on the Tundra. We’ll bring the minibar. It’s on wheels!


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Stink Films, Mon, 21 Nov 2022 18:56:39 GMT