Gyro's Puma Vibe

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Two youthful Puma campaigns, from Philadelphia-based Gyro Worldwide, keep things clean and simple. A watch campaign, shot by Philadelphia-based Adam Wallacavage, a noted skateboard shooter, is copy-free with an in-your-face wristiness. An underwear campaign, shot by Katrina Dickson, takes a retro-copy approach, working off the "I see London, I see France . . ." rhyme, with contrasting photography that has a casual and contemporary feel about it.

The watch ads look as if they might be heavily digitally manipulated to make the product pop, but Gyro CD Steven Grasse downplays this angle. "The only digital enhancements on these shots were to make sure the watch face is visible - I think we played with that a tiny bit. Otherwise, this is the ultimate lo-fi campaign." Why the absence of copy? "What would we say?" Grasse wonders. " 'It's a watch, go buy it, dammit!' Words are overrated - speak visually."

Gyro art director Ron Pushkar did the digital enhancement, says Wallacavage. "He tweaked the perspective just a little more than the fisheye." What's up with the watermelon licking, which seems incongruously sexy compared to the other ads? "The model with the watermelon is my friend Rose, an actress who's in three of the ads," explains Wallacavage. "I like using friends as models, and this shoot didn't call so much for professional models, because the shots are so out of focus. We thought a lot about locations, but in the end we used simple places. The watermelon photo was shot on Rose's back porch. The positions of the models were determined mainly by the strange angles I needed to shoot the watches. We used the watermelon simply because it looked good with the watch." As simple as it may all seem, "It was a bit of a challenging shoot, because what would normally be done in a controlled studio setting was done outside with lots of distractions and lots of people around." All the ads were shot with a 37mm lens on a Mamiya RB67, says Wallacavage, "and the other problem for me was letting the focus go. I got into fisheye lenses in the first place because of their incredible focus range - you can focus so close that I had a problem with the lens blocking the light on the watches at times - and shooting the watches with the background so soft felt strange to me, but it all worked out great."

The 34-year-old Wallacavage started shooting skateboard photos in the late '80s "which taught me to shoot fast, close up, in any situation and with challenging lighting, by playing with multiple flashes, crazy angles and bright colors." He's presently putting all this experience to use, shooting on the set of his friend Bam (Jackass) Margera's new MTV show Viva La Bam.

On the subject of the underwear campaign, which is also art directed by Ron Pushkar, the first thought that comes to mind is these really aren't very sexy for the category. "No, these ads aren't really all that sexy for underwear," agrees CD Grasse. "It would seem out of place for Puma to be sexy, don't you think? The shots are fun, playful and have a definite Puma vibe - to be overly sexy would make them just like every other underwear ad." Moreover, the print ads were actually adapted from another medium. "These shots were all done as packaging shots for the underwear boxes," Grasse explains. "The photos wrap around the sides of the boxes. Most underwear packaging just shows you a crotch shot or a closeup of a girl in a thong. We did a playful lifestyle shot that wrapped all the way around the box. Another big distinction is the way Puma broke out the categories for the underwear into Naughty, Daily and Action bodywear. These categories are very different for the world of underwear, and they make the product unique to Puma. There's a definite Puma vibe here, too. We had roughly 60 unique boxes to create, with an average of four photos per box. We then simply took the packaging photos and turned them into ads."

PMI-repped Katrina Dickson, 35, says, "I like my shoots to feel like you just went to a really good party, but there will be no hangover in the morning," though that may apply more to her rock photography than to an underwear session. "I think the main thing we were trying to avoid with Puma was the standard underwear shot of someone's insanely buff, nicely lit torso with the perfectly retouched crotch. We presented little slices of life instead. The models we used are good looking, but I don't think they're unattainable. They're all models, not real people, but they're as close as you're gonna get to real people in an underwear ad. Breaking it into three different lines gave us a theme that was easy to play off of. We shot all the packaging at the same time, so I never really knew what the ads were going to be. I love Gyro, because they have a very shoot first, ask questions later feeling. On the day we shot the Action line, we changed locations and started over halfway through, throwing everyone in a pool. Gyro gives you a lot of leeway as far as changing what you feel isn't working." What about the mysterious narrative of the guy with the dollar-sign belt buckle getting the drink thrown in his face? Is this a subtle critique of capitalism? Well, no. "That's for the Naughty line, and since we had about 23 different items to shoot, we had to come up with 23 different scenarios of seeing someone's underwear in a bar. It was every thing that you would do because you're naughty, but also everything that would be done to you because you were being naughty. Overall, we wanted everything to be very playful and fun - nothing precious or highbrow, because, after all, we're selling underwear."

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