Kissing Is Contagious in Absolut’s Lovely First Ad From BBH Celebrating ‘Equal Love’

Intricately choreographed number timed to London Pride

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Absolut is a brand with one of the longest, proudest histories of supporting LGBTQ rights. And its first work from BBH, which was named lead global creative agency last fall, celebrates that heritage in style—with a provocative, beautifully choreographed two-minute spot featuring a kissing relay among a variety of diverse people.

The spot, directed by Aoife McArdle, is wonderfully set to the 1962 track “There’s No Other” by the Crystals, which provides a joyous backdrop and has a throwback quality that nicely communicates the brand’s message here—that it’s been supporting “equal love” for decades.

See the film here:

Ian Heartfield, deputy executive creative director at BBH London, told Adweek that the brief was simple: “Tell people what the brand stands for. Make it meaningful, and connect emotionally with a new generation.”

The BBH creative team of Felipe Guimaraes and Lambros Charalambous said a kiss was the simplest visual metaphor of acceptance they could think of. “Then it was just a matter of working out how we could demonstrate acceptance across a number of social groups,” they said. “We discussed various techniques such as match-cutting, but ultimately the relay provided the strongest emotional reaction. It became one kiss shared by all, the ultimate form of acceptance.”

Casting was obviously a big piece of the puzzle.

“As well as the obvious requirement that the cast were happy to kiss the person they were scripted to kiss, we also didn’t want to fall into the trap of casting stereotypes, something that would have been very easy to do,” Heartfield said. “This had to be authentic. We wanted believable, open-minded, interesting characters that were straight off of the streets of this real, crazy, beautiful, mixed-up world we live in.”

McArdle, the director, added: “I love the process of casting, and this script provided an opportunity to work with a large, diverse and striking cast. Because of the message of the film, and Absolut’s history of supporting LGBTQ and diversity in general in their marketing, this process was front and center rather than a branding afterthought. Andy Warhol has done work on Absolut, as have Keith Haring and Tom Ford. It’s great to work within this tradition, push boundaries and experiment on film.”

The choreography was also a key challenge. The idea of one long, seamless, flowing kiss was on the page from day one, Heartfield said. “Aoife was the director who embraced it the most enthusiastically,” he added. “Her own warm, collaborative style of directing enabled her to work intimately with the cast, rehearsing the dance like moves with each of them one on one.”

Then there’s the great song.

“First and foremost it was chosen because it makes you smile from the moment it kicks in,” said Heartfield. “It’s just a perfect fit in terms of atmosphere and lyrical relevance. But secondly, yes, a nod to the brand’s past was intentional, too. This is a brand with such a great legacy of being brave and open minded, it would have been rude not to.”

Client: Absolut
Anna Malmhake, CEO
Craig Johnson, VP Global Marketing
Gaia Gilardini, Global Brand Director
Sina Neubrandt, Global Marketing Manager
Oscar Danielsson, Global Brand Manager
Fredrik Thorsén, Head of Digital Marketing
Agency: BBH London
Creative Team: Felipe Guimaraes & Lambros Charalambous
Creative Director: Ian Heartfield, Paco Conde, Beto Fernandez
Deputy ECD: Ian Heartfield
Strategist: Raphael Bittner
Strategy Director: Melanie Arrow
Business Lead: Kate Roberts
Senior Account Manager: Aymara Blanco
Account Executive: Janki Shah
Producer: Victoria Keenan
Assistant Producer: Zaf Choudhury
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Aoife McArdle
Executive Producer: Lou Hake
Producer: James Waters
DoP: Tom Townend
Post Production: MPC
Editor/Editing House: Final Cut
Sound: String & Tins

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
Publish date: July 6, 2017 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT