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Work / Advertising

Directors The Sacred Egg on creating surreal and vivid ads for MailChimp

Directors The Sacred Egg, with Droga5 has created three new ads for US email marketing brand MailChimp. The surreal, minute-long ads, were inspired by the wilful mispronunciation of the company name. The creators took this idea and ran with it, pushing the concept to new levels of weirdness and creating JailBlimp, KaleLimp and MailShrimp. Each is gloriously coloured, and unconventionally witty, casting the company in a different light than its more business-focussed competitors. We caught up with the The Sacred Egg, AKA Ed Kaye and Alex Mavor, to find out more about Did you mean MailChimp? one of the most unexpected campaigns of the year to date.

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The Sacred Egg: KaleLimp

What was the brief for the ads? 

It was very open. The only stipulation was that it was a pun on MailChimp. And that they be “delightful”. The clients were extraordinarily receptive to ideas and very knowledgable in what was out there and what they liked. They referenced specific work that had the right feel, including imagery by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari who do Toilet Paper magazine. The client pushed Droga5 to do something original and Droga5 in turn pushed us. 

What were your initial inspirations? How did you develop such a surreal concept?

It was such an open brief that it was a long pitch process, around two months, during which we felt our way forward with Droga5. We wrote roughly thirty scripts before settling on the final three with the agency, who always pushed it into a more original and more interesting place.  Less branding, less explanation. 

The imagery in Toilet Paper is emblematic of a type of imagery that the internet has spawned. It grabs your attention with its unexpectedness and through juxtapositions, but it only holds your attention for a few seconds. We wanted to come up with a central iconic image, like a dog made of salad, and then hold the viewer’s interest over 60 seconds. So we were looking for visuals which had enough depth to explore.

One of the things we wanted to do was create a unique MailChimp universe.  A look and feel that they could own, with stories that felt “MailChimp”, even if you couldn’t rationally define it. Droga5 were very good at approaching this project from a non-rational point of view. It was about doing scripts that felt right even if you couldn’t necessarily explain why. It’s very nice to work with people whose taste you like, and who allow you to define your own. In terms of the look we found one photograph that informed a lot of our colour palette. It was of some ballerinas in North Korea. We had strict colour palettes for each spot that linked the campaign overall and which allowed us to explore clashing primary tones with pastels.  

Where were the ads shot?

The ads were shot in Prague through the excellent local production company UNIT+SOFA. Everything apart from the KaleLimp pool was shot in one building – a communist era business and government conference centre. It was built in the 80s but is actually designed around 60s principles. We liked this strange time scale as we wanted the MailChimp universe to be both of the future and the past. We had Petr Kunc as our art director who turned empty rooms into the restaurant, the mailroom and the children’s party and a public pool in a salad dog holding pen. One detail we love is the yellow carpet which we put in for JailBlimp, with hand painted flowers on it that you only see in a couple of shots but they add another layer of displacement – where is this strange place? Also, the orange liquid in the watercooler for MailShrimp, which probably no-one else will ever notice.

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The Sacred Egg: JailBlimp

How long did the shoots take?

We shot the three 60" spots in four consecutive days so it was a very tight schedule. We were shooting at the speed you do music videos – 15 or more shots a day. Again, the agency and client knew how important it was to move fast, which is the only reason we were able to get it all. Especially as we were working with animals, heavy VFX shots and on one day about 18 children under ten who discovered that everyone was too busy to restrict their access to the food and drink (and sweets) table.

What were the challenges in creating the ads? How did you overcome them?

It was perhaps KaleLimp that posed the most original question: how do you actually create that mythical beast The Kale Dog? It’s one thing to make a dog made of kale, it’s another to create a beast that can walk, swim and shake in super slow motion. It ended up being a combination of in camera practical kale costumes, 2D post work and then a big 3D CGI build. MPC modelled a dog’s skeleton, how his skin moved over that skeleton and then used fractal patterns to mimic the shape and movement of kale on top of the skin. So every layer moves separately as the dog shakes and each kale leaf then reacts to the kale around it.  

How difficult is it to pitch an idea like this? How receptive to more unconventional ideas do you find clients? What do you do to convince them (or was it easy?)

There was a high level of respect between the client, Droga5 and us which made it a very smooth process. Each person was given the space to do the job that they specialised in. The MailChimp universe is made up of details, right down to each individual character’s hairstyle or the colour jelly they eat, for all of which we had a very specific brief. At no point did we have to make any sacrifices or only do something 50%. Basically everyone listened to each other. Sanity, strangely, prevailed.

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The Sacred Egg: BTS