The new brand ad above for CVS Beauty is something of an anomaly in the slew of user-generated, stock footage, emotionally heightened montages that have come out in recent weeks.
It captures a variety of women having fun with their beauty routines at home, primping before mirrors, exercising and running through hallways. With its mix of playful shot angles, crisp photography, clever scene transitions and upbeat vibe, it feels as if it were made before the coronavirus halted film production across the country earlier this year. But, from start to finish, it was created in under a month, smack dab in the middle of the pandemic.
According to CVS Health Senior VP-chief marketing officer Norman de Greve, the original brief to its agency Standard Black nearly two months ago “was to communicate our ‘Beauty in Real Life’ positioning in a way that celebrates authenticity but also creates some aspiration.”
CVS had tapped Standard Black back in 2018 to introduced that brand platform, the centerpiece of which was the brand’s much-buzzed-about initiative to go airbrush-free with all of its campaigns. For this next round of the effort, Standard Black Founder and CEO Michael Sharp explains, “we started out concepting, and one of the things we wanted to focus on was getting more real depictions of people. What if we shot real people in their spaces?”
Little did his team know, however, just how real it was going to get. A week after the idea was approved, the virus took its toll on the country so to shoot the ad as initially imagined—requiring a full production crew and stylists in various locations, seemed like a near-impossible feat.
But “we decided to keep going,” Sharp says. “We thought, what could be better than shooting people in their own spaces, but with their own clothes, furniture, dogs and roommates doing their own makeup? It couldn’t get any more real than that.”
Working with production company division7 and directing team Similar But Different—aka Charlotte Fassler, former visual editor and producer at Man Repeller, and Dani Girdwood, a protege of veteran director Reed Morano (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “I Think We’re Alone Now")—the agency came up with an alternative plan to produce and shoot the entire spot remotely.
“They did all the legwork to make it happen,” de Greve says.
Every aspect of the shoot, from the casting and location scouting to the styling, directing and post production, was done with everyone staying safely at home.
But from the outset, the team vowed the ad wouldn’t aesthetically appear that way. “From the get-go, we wanted to create something that still feels like we’re replicating the traditional scope of what we would do on a traditional shoot,” Fassler says.
Real world, replicated
“With a client like CVS Beauty, we wanted the beauty to be front and center,” Fassler adds. But the look had to be elevated. Seeing people perform their beauty rituals at home has become commonplace, thanks to YouTube and its sea of beauty tutorials, so the agency and directors wanted the spot to stand apart from that vibe. “We really didn’t want people to feel like this was a selection of influencer footage put together,” Fassler says. “We wanted it to feel more curated and designed.”