Guests of Miles Aldridge Photo Event Become Subjects of 180 LA's Kim Crawford Ad Campaign

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If you've got a vanguard heritage, communicate it with vanguard advertising.

New Zealand wine company Kim Crawford, along with creative agency 180 LA are doing just that with "Undo Ordinary," a new campaign that kicked off last week in a seriously cool event that was anything but ordinary.

250 guests from New York's media, advertising and art scenes were invited to what they thought was a special exhibit featuring work by famed photographer Miles Aldridge: an evening of art, accompanied by Kim Crawford wine and music by model and DJ Alexandra Richards.

But while those things were all present, there was more to it than that. Miles Aldridge himself was there to turn his camera on the guests, who would become the centerpieces of the wine company's 2012 campaign. "Kim Crawford has pushed boundaries and challenged routine, and last night was no exception," said Kate McManus, VP of Marketing for Constellation Wines, the parent of Kim Crawford. "We wanted to get back to the roots of Kim Crawford by encouraging people to live a life that is anything but average."

And that's not just your everyday brand manager talk. Gavin Milner, creative director at 180 LA, said the history of the brand embraces that same level of unexpectedness. Launched in the 1990's by husband-and-wife team Kim and Erica Crawford, the brand has played a huge part in shifting the focus to New Zealand as a wine producer--something that was "revolutionary at the time," said Milner. "They used wonderful new production techniques and new ways to source wines."

Unconventional Roots Call for Unconventional Campaign
With a brand identity like that, 180 LA was charged with doing something that had the same spirit--creating a campaign that was unconventional not only for what it was, but how it was produced as well.

The agency played around with the idea of creating a campaign in an innovative way, and wanted to find a photographer-partner who would be smart, capable and flexible, said Milner. "It was less about their body of work, and more about someone who was a performer and would be there with us." Aldridge was chosen because he had the playful, fun aesthetic that would easily adapt--and he'd be able to perform without a safety net.

The event was held at Cedar Lake Studios on the far West side of Manhattan. Guests walked in to find three specially designed sets and scenarios, created by Eleventh Street Workshop, that were to become the scenes (and inspirations) for Aldridge's photography. Each set was different--in one all-white scene, brightly colored "butterflies" fly across the room carrying bottles of wine to guests sitting by a pianist. Another is a fuschia=colored room, where a character emerges from a painting to pour wine for a model sitting on a swing. The final set showed friends mingling at a dinner party in a kitchen.

As guests entered, the 180 LA team fanned out to spread the word about what was really going to happen. "When they heard that the guy whose art they came to see wants them to be in the art, people were so excited," said Milner. "We had more people wanting to go on than we could have." There was no extra styling done on the guests, but William Gelner, ECD at 180 LA, said many of the guests were dressed already in interesting, stylish clothing. "Something you'd only see in New York," he said. As guests agreed to go on and be photographed, people from the business side showed them a quick contract that they could sign right then and there.

The scenes were built so each set had a chair or a couch that had something going on around it. That way, guests could easily figure out what they could do in the scene without much direction. "By design, we made it easy for people to find a place to sit or stand," said Milner. On the walls were LCD screens that would show what was being photographed at that given moment.

At the end of the day, this was a campaign shoot, albeit one with no retakes and no chance of a redo. Gelner said the budget wouldn't allow for anything to be redone. "It was our one shot, and surprisingly, it went really well."

The biggest challenges were managing what the creatives are calling the "three ring circus," the three sets that had to be managed so everything would flow smoothly.

The pictures shown here are just images from the event. (Aldrige appears below, with a model.) The final campaign will appear in June, on a variety of platforms--print, digital and outdoor. Each iteration will indicate the ad's genesis and the fact that it was shot by Aldridge, and features party guests, not real models. Digital agency Organic will handle a socially driven effort that will "inspire people to break out of routine," according to a statement.

While there is no plan on the books right now to replicate the event anywhere else, Milner said that it's definitely an idea that could travel. "We've shown [Kim Crawford] how this idea could work in a more interesting way, but we could do the same undoing of the ordinary through different outlets, through art."

The live portion of the campaign, which took six months to put together, went off surprisingly well, said Gelner. "The biggest thing that happened was that I spilled a cocktail on someone," he said. "The thing is, we ad folks are control freaks. It's in our nature to have an editing floor. So this was a little nerve-wracking."

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