Your eyes deceive you. As the manta ray slowly drifts through the dimly lit water, it's not immediately clear that this isn't the ocean. And that ray is actually a blanket. When a scarf disguised as an eel emerges from a coral-like knitted sweater the idea behind this Ariston spot becomes clear?someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make everyday clothes bear an uncanny resemblance to underwater ocean life. That someone is Leo Burnett/Milan, director Dario Piana and Parisian visual effects shop Buf, who made the spot. It could be easy to write off such stunning visuals as just more computer-generated fluff, but the reason these cloth creatures look so real is because most of them are. That scarf is a real scarf and those socks are indeed socks. Footage was shot with the fabrics in a large pool and the visual effects were added later to tighten everything up.The deft combination of CG and live action results in a seemingly perfect recreation of what any kid might imagine the inner workings of a washer to be, but the music, "Ask The Mountains" by Vangelis, also plays a significant role in establishing the spot's dreamy, emotive mood. The spot certainly raised the bar for creative thinking in household appliance advertising, high enough to land a Gold Lion at Cannes in 2006 and to earn a well-deserved seat among the Creativity Awards winners.
Q&A with Leo Burnett/Milan executive creative director Enrico Dorizza
How did you arrive at the underwater theme/idea for this product?
Enrico Dorizza: It was quite simple because we started immediately working with the washing machine's biggest feature, which was the room available inside. Then the name of the project was called Aqualtis, so we kept that and worked from there because it's an inspiring name that works with the machine's feature. From there came the idea of a big ocean with wonderful creatures swimming around, with the creatures made of socks, shirts and other clothes. So the idea was very simple and quite immediate. The real difficulty was figuring out how to make it. Because you can have this idea and make it in a funny, cartoonish way but we decided to make it realistic, make it big, make it surprising and make it dreamy. The water can be portrayed in many ways and we decided on the most calm and sophisticated way to give more value to the product. It's not a toy, it's an expensive machine and we wanted to communicate the value of it. During this whole process we continually said, "Stick to the product." We wanted to communicate the richness of the product, the design is sophisticated and so should the communication be, so we settled on this tone. From the first moment we wanted the impression to be, "Wow, that is a real manta or that is a real fish." Then we wanted the viewer to slowly realize there is something that is not real and discover the creatures are clothes.
What was the biggest challenge in making this spot?
Dorizza: Well, God is in the details but so is the devil! The difficulty was in the beginning, choosing the right fabrics and textures. We needed to find out how the fabric reacted underwater so the casting of the fabrics was a challenge. Then the big decision was whether to make it on real film or do most of it in post-production. In the end, we decided on both because there are many things you can do with puppets underwater and then we had to make some stuff in post-production with the help of Buf in Paris. In the beginning the idea was to do more of it in post but when we were shooting we realized the effect was immediate and worked well on film. So we decided to keep it as real as possible and then make adjustments and retouching in post. We shot it in Spain in a big swimming pool built for the shoot.
What was the reaction to the spot? Is it what you expected?
Dorizza: It was magic. We were very diligent with all the details and I think this is why the commercial was a success. Another point of success was the music. We chose this music from Vangelis and the client understood the value the music added to the spot and decided to buy it. From the beginning, we got calls asking about how we made it, so we knew right away it was something special.