'Spy vs.Spy' To The Silver Screen?

Mountain Dew campaign strikes a chord

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% Madison + Vine has learned that a film version of Pepsi-Cola's Mountain Dew "Spy vs. Spy" commercial campaign is under serious discussion. And while neither Bill Bruce, of Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, nor a senior DC Comics exec would comment, it would mark the extension of a campaign that was five years in the making.

According to Bruce, exec VP-exec creative director at the soda pop's ad shop, the idea of doing a Dew ad using the famous Mad Magazine strip was rejected by Mountain Dew five years ago. "I told them I'd bring it back," said Bruce. "And they said 'We know you will.' It was one of those things that I just never let go."

Mountain Dew eventually bought the concept, working out a limited licensing agreement with DC Comics, which owns Mad, and hired the renowned Swedish directing team that calls itself Traktor, to shoot four :30 spots. Two are airing now, and the other pair will make their debut in the fall.

The ad campaign, meanwhile, has the surreal feel of silent-film classics. At the same time, it also looks like sophisticated animation, but Bruce and his team actually shot the film in high-contrast black and white with gray tones, using live-action characters, with only a few discreet brush strokes of computer generated imaging.

Indeed, Bruce and his creative team have created a highly original campaign that is as much art as advertising, effectively updating a spare comic of the Cold War era. "Spy vs. Spy" was created by a Cuban refugee in the '60s. It features two identical, conical-faced, angular characters, distinguishable only by their color—one is black and the other is white—who try to kill each other for no apparent reason. The commercials finally give them their motivation—they both want a can of the Dew and they clobber each other trying to get their hands on it.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Executives at DC comics wanted the cartoon to appeal to a new group of kids. Bruce did not guarantee that teens would know anything about the strip, but he did promise that they would appreciate it. "A lot of cool stuff is timeless," said Bruce. "And if I thought it was cool when I was a kid, I'm sure that kids today will think its cool, because there's nothing out there like it."

Bruce has been working on Mountain Dew since 1993. He was part of the original team that created the still popular "Dew Dudes" characters—young guys who like skateboards, extreme sports, girls and the Dew. Bruce recalled when he finally brought the "Spy vs. Spy" idea to Dew marketing execs. "The managing director on this business, Steve Sears, said to me, 'I don't know what it's going to look like, but I trust you.' That was the best thing I ever heard from a client."

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