Following up on a hit can be a daunting task. The world is littered with sophomore jinx albums, second film flops and the ad industry can be just as cruel. So there had to be at least a little pressure on Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto to make the follow-up to Dove's oft-awarded "Evolution" measure up. With "Onslaught," the agency chose to address the barrage of beauty imagery assaulting female senses everyday and depict the all too common consequences of that exposure. The spot ends by encouraging mothers to talk to their daughters "before the beauty industry does." While it can certainly be construed as a curious message coming from a manufacturer of said beauty products, the messenger doesn't undercut the importance of the message. Tim Piper, whose credits on the spot seem to include everything but sweeping the floor at night, spoke to us about following the "Evolution" act, how "Onslaught" evolved itself and more.
"Evolution" was such a break-out hit, how did you begin to approach this effort?
This was conceived at the same time as "Evolution" and both were presented to the client in a series of short films for cinema or internet use. They loved the idea of doing these shorts but didn't approve "Evolution" or "Onslaught" right away because they wanted to focus more on the direct mother-daughter relationship first. So both were conceived at the same time but "Evolution" was the cheaper of the two so that's why it got made first. "Onslaught" was too big a production to do at the same time and "Evolution" was a better concept, so I really wanted to get that one made in the early stages. But in terms of pressure for this one, the success of "Evolution" just provided some pressure to make this one as good as possible.
I do feel the story of "Onslaught" is bigger than that of "Evolution." I thought that would get some attention, so from there it was about making it have as much eye candy as possible and stay on the same playing field as "Evolution" since "Evolution" was a much stronger viral concept, being such a before-and-after freak show. Whereas this is more just a really powerful message. The story itself and how it looked, evolved during the edit. We were editing and shooting and then suddenly the music came to me on the iPod. Also, the girl you see at the beginning was always designed to be the ending. She was an alternate to shooting a group of girls that, at the time, had a crossing guard in the shot holding a stop sign which we cropped out because it was too much of a metaphor. But the single girl shot was just going to be a picture of her looking sad as the camera pulls back from her and she sort of vanishes into the distance, and that was going to be the ending. But just as we were shooting her close-up at high-speed I called "Cut" and the DP just asked her to smile for him because he loved the shot so much, and she gave that nice little smile. When I saw that in the edit I put it in as a filler at the beginning and it ended up working magically. "Onslaught" was all just one of those things we knew we would work on over time and not release until we thought it was pretty good.
You wore a lot of hats on this project . What were some of the biggest challenges?
The big challenge was how to not make people motion sick when they saw this thing. All the posters you see at the beginning are actually still photographs taken about 20 feet from a bus shelter, then I'd take more shots of the same poster from the same angle as I walked closer and closer to it. Then I put those frames in Final Cut Pro to see if I could get that effect of the posters rushing towards you. Then the tasks was to find a way to go from the posters to the video dancer sequence. So I used the same technique with my TV to try and get a transitional shot between sequences. So the challenges were going from one sort of technique and sequence to the other, how do you do that in the edit and what kind of rhythm do you use? That's where the song really helped. I was doing the offline edit at home and really just throwing around different ideas with different music tracks and when I heard that (Simian) song "La Breeze" it just became really clear and suddenly there was a format to cut it to. So overall the biggest hurdle was to blend everything together without it making you motion sick or just being too eclectic that it was unappealing to watch.
How did the story of "Onslaught" change over time?
Originally the film was called "The Low Self-Esteem Industry" and it was all about the messaging and posters and making women and girls feel inadequate for some "new, great" product that probably wouldn't do shit. They all know it, all you can really do is moisturize and I guess use some anti-oxidant cream but for the most part a lot of these products just call attention to getting older and "Oh my god, what are you going to do?" Which, thankfully, Dove doesn't do. But that (theme) disappeared when I thought about putting in the sequence with the girl getting on the scale and the obsession with fitness and eating and then going into the plastic surgery. So it went from something about the low self-esteem industry to more a more chronological story of you're a young girl, you see these images and don't really understand them, you get a bit older and realize these images are addressed to you to improve your appearance, from there you get older and find out you can't really improve your appearance and from there it's about the gym and what you eat, and then to the last resort of plastic surgery. So I wanted to show that as a possible path unless you have some guidance from someone to say it's one thing to want to look nice but it's another to suddenly feel you have to change yourself to be acceptable. And that's kind of where society's gotten to. To discuss this article, visit the Creativity Forums.