Virgin Active's latest commercial is currently flighting on ENCA and in cinemas, endorsing the company's credo, "Active makes you happy."
It breaks from tradition in many ways - from having no specific storyboard, to the way it was shot and the casting process - on the beach in Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Hout Bay harbour.
It was conceived more as a short film, with the lead actors' spontaneity guiding the storyline. The narrative - with a reverse timeline - revolves around a boy from a disadvantaged background who by taking one significant plunge, changes his life. For Thembi Ndlovu (16), the role comes naturally, as he is a passionate young surfer from Muizenberg. The older surfer, who is seen in the opening scene of the commercial, is Kwezi Qika, 25, South Africa's first black surfer to win a national longboard title.
Capitalising on successful ads
Virgin Active's marketing team briefed M&C Saatchi Abel to make the latest commercial follow on from the well-received cycling themed commercial flighted earlier this year, featuring an elderly man taking up cycling again and how activeness changed his outlook and attitude towards life.
Richard Lamb-Hughes, brand director at Virgin Active says, "The new commercial emphasises the role that activeness plays in leading a happy life. We want to get South Africans moving and we know that our clubs play a role in unlocking an active lifestyle beyond four walls. This story presents an inspiring journey that brings to life our brand message of 'live happily ever active'.
"When we decided on surfing as a concept everything fell into place. We wanted a story not a short anecdote. Award winning director, Kim Geldenhuys, was brought in to direct and young surfers were recruited from Muizenberg beach. Geldenhuys moulded it into a brilliant story. He is a visionary."
The casting process was also authentic. "There was no traditional casting agency. To ensure authenticity we went to surfing coaches and schools in Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Hout Bay harbour to recruit young surfers. This is how Ndlovu and Qika found themselves starring in an 85-second 'movie'. Their passion for surfing, life and being active, along with their energy and personalities made them a perfect fit for the brand."
The young men, with little or no acting experience, took to the roles with what is described as "extraordinary power." During the commercial the storyline goes from the end to beginning and, unusually, in real time sequential locations, starting with the famous Dungeons in Hout Bay for some big wave surfing through the narrative to Muizenberg - and surfers corner - and finally Kalk Bay harbour. This is where Thembi takes his first jump into the water - the first step towards his dream of becoming a surfer.
The story was not scripted down to every frame but unfolded over a few days to be almost a 'day in the life of...' Much of the footage is spontaneous interaction between the surfers and director Geldenhuys (an avid surfer) who went as far as getting into the water to film from his surfboard.
Local music underscores narrative
"The music choice was also important," says Alex Brand of M&C Saatchi Abel "We ran through hours of musical scores and opted not to use an anthem or big track song. The background music needed to be delicate - not a song loaded with ideas of its own. Rather than running over the film, we needed it to run through it. We opted for a locally composed piece by Pressure Cooker Studios to ensure authenticity. Apart from which the ambient sound of the kids, beach and waves had to be part of the overall commercial experience."
The result shows a spontaneity and free nature which is in keeping with the brand's quirky, fun, slightly irreverent approach to celebrating life and keeping active.
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