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Lexus Pops Off

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With it's latest spot "Pop-Up Book," Lexus continues its journey through moveable landscapes that started with Hydrant and Hospital as part of its "Actively Safe" campaign. Wisely choosing not to get pulled into a back alley cup holder-related beef with Hyundai, Lexus took the high road and brought in Stylewar to remind us just how fun pop-up books can be. Especially 30-foot pop-up books. They're so fun, in fact, that the agency is in the process of producing actual Lexus pop-up books to plant smiles on faces in Lexus dealer waiting rooms everywhere. We spoke to art director Kevin Smith and copywriter Dave Horton about staying actively safe, the gargantuan play book and why car ads don't have to be boring.

This seems like a natural extension of the campaign from "Hospital" and "Hydrant"–was that the idea from the start?
KS: Well, safety is an emotional issue and we wanted to keep that human touch, so to speak, in the spot without repeating the same trick. The pop-up book seemed like a nice way to do that.
DH: It was really a matter of figuring out how to undo accidents in a visual way and the pop-up book lent itself to that idea.
KS: It also had that innocence and sweetness that the other spots had. We didn't want to lose that but also wanted to keep the idea fresh and do something that looked innovative.

What was the ratio of real footage versus VFX?
DH: It was really important to keep everything looking practical so we wanted to shoot everything practical. Obviously we had to make a few concessions, in terms of what was actually possible to build, but we did shoot everything practically in different scales. So it really was a matter of putting that together and A52 did a great job.
KS: Yeah, "a matter of putting it together" is somewhat of an understatement. It looks practical and the better A52 and the editor did their job, the less visible their work actually is. It's a bit thankless. But they made it so realistic you can hardly tell there is a lot of CG going on. They did things like keeping the wire in at the top of the page, which were used to turn the pages, and they added some air pockets and kept some of the imperfections in there so the pages looked like they moved and sat naturally.

What were some of the biggest challenges in putting this together?
KS: Well, one challenge was figuring out at what scale we were going to shoot it. There was about a month of R&D before the spot was even made. The actual framing is as big as you're seeing it on the screen, with 20x30 foot pages. It was a giant set of green screen pages that those people did actually hold and turn.
DH: All the tabs and wheels were also built into the pages so they were actually moving that stuff. [Another challenge] was that the story had to change a few times because we wanted to do it within one shot. So for the people to turn the pages and have the story unfold in a reasonable amount of time, a few adjustments had to be made.
KS: I think initially we had a couple more spreads and they ended up not making it in. It took us a while to figure out how long it would take one or two people to swing a page that large. It ended up being about eight seconds per page turn.
DH: Yeah, and that was more than we had anticipated. But it makes sense once you see the pages were 30 feet wide.

Automotive ads, in general, don't have the best creative reputation. Are you guys conscious of that when you're devising ways to get a message across?

DH: Yeah, I think it's hard not to be aware of the challenges in automotive advertising. We're fortunate that Lexus is confident enough to allow us to break out of that without having to show their car running on a road for 30 seconds.
KS: That said, there's nothing wrong with having the car there the whole time. In this spot, the car's there for the entire 30 seconds. So you can embrace what the client wants–which is usually to see their car–without sacrificing the goal of trying something new and different.

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