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How craft can communicate

Aidan and Laurent from adam&eveDDB talk us through the craft decisions behind the John Lewis 'The Bear and the Hare' commercial.
What would be interesting is just to talk about the process of coming up with the John Lewis sort of ads. And hopefully, it’ll give you an insight into how John Lewis makes such commercially successful advertising. We knew in our heads that we were going to do animation before we had the idea, which kind of helped the idea in a way because animation just frees you up. You can do anything you want. One of the things that they really had to trust us on was animation, because they’d never done anything like this before. And it really made us sort of look back and think about what the brand is and how would you animate a brand like John Lewis.
And I think one of the key things is John Lewis doing things properly. And they are business as you sort of know that they do things kind of in a very honourable way. And they treat people correctly and they give time for briefs, the fact that we’re briefed in February because they understand the process of creation is kind of more than just smashing something out of the park in a couple of weeks. The DNA of John Lewis is that there’s a lot of integrity and honesty, so it couldn’t be CG. It couldn’t be sort of computer generated at all.
It had to have some sort of heart, a sort of craft to it, something that was, you know, a labour of love done with hands. Blinkink came up with a great idea, which was to use a technique that’s sort of never been used before, and sort of using old-fashioned techniques, so sort of hand-drawn drawings like you’ve got in the back. But as opposed to animating them on a painted background, they were like, we can do that in 3D. We can print them and then do the stop-frame animation of all the characters in those 3D models.
Two or three months of character development, which is a whole other, like, thing as well, where you have to go, “Does that bear look too… are their eyes too big, too Disney. Do they look British enough?” And at every stage, you’re working with the client as well, so you think you’ve got it to a good place and then, you present it to the client and they’re like, “I don’t know…” And you’re just like, oh, no. But it was quite a contentious point, because they didn’t want to… obviously, we didn’t want either, but they clearly… they wanted it to be, you know, British not American. And there was long, long chats about expressions.
And what Disney does is just big eyes, big smiles. And that’s pretty much what you get.
As well as having a strong story with longevity (as with the Nike ‘Just Do It’ campaign), there are also more subtle ways to communicate brand values within a story that need to be considered. You can reflect a brand not only in the story, but also in the way it is told. By putting as much attention into the craft and production as the narrative itself, you are able to communicate a brand to your audience using visual clues.
Aidan McClure and Laurent Simon are Creative Directors at adam&eveDDB and work across clients including Volkswagen UK, the AA, John Smith’s and Amstel. The creative duo teamed up at Watford Advertising College back in 2006 and have since worked on a broad range of domestic and global clients as well as numerous pitches. In the past seven years they have won more than 80 international awards.
Here, Aidan and Laurent talk us through the painstaking detail that went into selecting the right animation style and characterisation to visualise the John Lewis brand in the award-winning story ‘The Bear and the Hare’.
This clip is an excerpt from ‘Bringing The Bear And The Hare to Life’, filmed for D&AD in 2014. You can watch the full talk from Aidan and Laurent by following the link below.
Two Minute Task
Watch the video and consider the following:
  • How do you think the visual style in this example helps to strengthen John Lewis’s brand story?
  • Are there any other brand stories which stick in your mind primarily because of their strong visual style?
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Storytelling in Advertising

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