V stands for vitalise. It’s an energy drink containing guarana and caffeine developed by Frucor Beverages in New Zealand, after the success of Red Bull in Europe and Asia. V was launched in 1997 and quickly caught the imagination of a younger generation, becoming the energy drink of preference for two thirds of the market. In 2002 Frucor was bought by Danone, the company behind Evian and Volvic. Since then the drink has been launched in several countries, including Britain, South Africa and China. In China the drink has been reformulated with the addition of a lychee and grapefruit twist. Only problem with the name is that “V” doesn’t do so well in the search engines. It’s not specific enough.
The advertising campaign for V is clearly a major part of its success. Colenso BBDO, Auckland, have coordinated V’s publicity over eight years. The ads featured a revitalised lizard, an energized fly that flies throught the windscreen and rear window of a car, and a large spider having a go as disk jockey. But the ads that caught the imagination of the public were the Gnomes, Termites, Cockroaches and Beetles.
An old careless driver backs his Morris Minor into his garden, knocking over the rubbish bins and the garden gnomes in one foul swoop. As they lie there they set their eyes on an upright can of V. Next thing they’re in action, picking up their women, hijacking the Morris Minor, knocking over the old man and swerving out onto the suburban street. “Ignition. Check. Gas. Check. Tunes. Check it! On comes the mambo number – “Baby loves the mango” The girls in the back seat call out “Hurry he’s coming!” Boot it Bill! Geronimo! Goodbye! I’m driving! No I’m driving! Are we there yet? The final word: “It all starts with V”.
Colenso creatives for the 2003 Gnomes ad were Toby Talbot and Leo Premutico, with agency producer Jen Storey. Filming was shot by director Nathan Price via Silverscreen (now represented by Sydney Film Company), with producer Mary Wall and director of photography Aaron Morton. Post production was done by Oktobor, Wellington. Animator was Stephen Lambert. Editor was Jono Woodford Robinson.
The ad is available as a wmv at Danone’s site. V’s New Zealand site has a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Gnomes ad, with three quicktime videos featuring the storyboard stage, the offline cut and the final cut.
The second wave of V commercials features termites and cockroaches.
In “Freefall” two cockroaches, Rocky and Mort, stand on top of a can of V. “Ready”. “Ready”. They jump down to the “floor”. “One, two, three, leg lift”. They dance around together, synchronising their moves. “Four, five, six, keep it tight”. “Starfish”. “Six, seven, eight, then come together. Ten, eleven, twelve and pull.” We hear the hand dryer come on. The camera pans out to show we’re in a public toilet. “Ready? Yeah! Woohoo!” The two cockroaches jump into the jet stream of the dryer, making their formations in freefall. “Starfish! Five six come together! How do you turn it off?”
In “Benchpress” we’re with the cockroaches once again. One of them’s bench pressing. The other’s coaching. “97. Come on! 98! Push it! Come on! Come on Bean! V-ness is your friend! Try to improve! 99! Give me one more! 100! The weightlifter now breaks out into quick lifts. “101, 102.” The camera pans out to give us the view of an officer worker attempting to squash a cockroach with his shoe.”Nah, don’t get cocky!” says the roach coach. “7″.
“Jam” features Mort and Rocky flying to make the most of a dripping jam doughnut. They launch from the top of a can of V. “Do you think we can make it?” “Piece of cake”. They fly to the ground, under the shoes of an officer worker and then up to become the appendages on the ears of a woman enjoying her lunch. In the meantime, the jam is close to falling from the chin of the doughnut eater. Our hero roach bounces off a desk stapler to get to the floor beneath the ‘jam drop’. “Come to Daddy!” The jam drops. The music stops. And Rocky is encased in jam. “I’ve got it”, he says from inside.
Paul Middleditch, from Plaza Films, Sydney, directs the three cockroach ads. Animation is done by Fuel, a visual effects company who won awards for their work with “Benchpress”. The ads are available in quicktime at V’s site, www.v.co.nz or www.v-energydrink.com.
Silverscreen director Adam Stevens (now at Robber’s Dog) worked with producer Mark Foster on the latest V commercial featuring two beetles working to park their V can alongside others. The animated beetles brave the attention of a dog, a pedestrian foot, and busy traffic before taking an ‘offramp’ to land beside two other cans under a park bench.