It’s so exciting when a campaign breaks out of the norms for its category – and that’s a human response, not just a trade journalist’s response.
In the flu shot commercial for cold and flu medicine, Theraflu, by Saatchi & Saatchi UK and Great Guns director, Olly Blackburn, there is no serious warning nor an authoritative “headmaster” voice. The spot is fresh, fun and relatable. The campaign recognises that one tiny moment of discomfort is worth it and delivers it in a very friendly, very human way.
For director, Olly Blackburn, the essence of the spot was to perfectly capture the feeling of discomfort or sheer nerves before the procedure – followed by the relief or realisation that you’d had the shot and not even realised. The performances of the actors were therefore central to the ad, embodying the natural human reactions to an experience of which everyone is wary. In order to cast actors who reflected these ideals and appealed to a distinctly American audience, Olly used photojournalism images from photo essays about the American mid-west as references, asking casting director, Kharmel Chochrane, to source a pool of people that embodied an authentic and relatable approach to flu shots.
Blackburn commented, “I’m a very performance-based director, strong casting and performance are at the heart of everything I do. Connecting with my characters and joining them in their journey will always be one of the most important elements of the job for me. Casting is a really tricky thing to get right, and I insisted on spreading our net very wide. I’d look at the tapes and for the actors who seemed ‘in the zone’ I’d start building little stories in my mind, like which region or city in America they might be from. I’m a British director living in California who’s travelled a lot in the US, and have family here too, so that was a perfect fit for a UK agency-led shoot aimed at an American audience.”
Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the shoot took place in London while Olly directed remotely from Los Angeles. Olly moved between the producer, agency, and 1st AD after each take via Zoom, receiving feedback and relaying messages to each with minimal disruption to the shoot. These separate, one-by-one processes evolved into a formal routine for those on set, helping to structure the shooting day and maintain clear conversations between everyone involved.
Blackburn added, “We were really well prepared for the shoot and I knew everyone on the team so we went into it with a really good head-on. The whole basis of this campaign is that fear of getting a shot and the relief as soon as it’s done, so we had to think about methods to replicate those feelings in really believable ways. Interestingly the fear of a needle isn’t due to the shot itself, which is often so slight you barely feel it, but the anticipation. I’ve directed a lot of thrillers so know a bit about suspense – we had a few different forms of stimulation ready from ice cubes to a fork to an elastic band. I’d play with anticipation times once the camera was rolling and the actors couldn’t be sure of what type of feeling they were going to get… or when.”
Creative Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Creative Director: Lauren Dyer
Creative Copywriter: Katy Stanage
Business Leader: Richard Sweetman
Account Director: Isaac Hickinbottom
Producer: Maja McIntosh
Production Company: Great Guns
Director: Olly Blackburn
Executive Producer: Kate Phillips
LA Executive Producer: Oliver Fuselier
Producer: Tim Francis
Casting Director: Kharmel Cochrane
DOP: Nanu Segal
Music: Maveriq Asia
Composer: Paul Morrison
Global Marketing Director: Francesca Viganò
Brand Manager: Tamara Savitz
Global Digital Marketing Director: Niloofar Farmand
Global Design Director: Tom Shuttleworth
MRA Global Production Consultant: Zora Gabrovsek