Close-Up: Brylcreem goes slack in 'effortless' campaign

WCRS takes a morning routine to a new level and uses MySpace to recruit the actor for this slick ad, James Hamilton reports.

WCRS's new spot for Brylcreem pulls off a rare trick: appearing effortless, while being nothing of the sort, at least from a production angle.

For those who haven't seen the ad, it follows the morning routine of an everyday-looking twenty-something. Rather than suffer the petty traumas and irritations that befall most of us - making tea to find no milk - our hero glides through his apartment like a non-stick figure-skater: think a flesh-and-blood Honda "cog" set in the kitchen.

The ad was the brainchild of the creative team of Oli Beale and Tori Flower, who began with a thought based on what men do when they're bored, lounging around the flat and trying to perfect a random, pointless task - like throwing a peanut into a mug on the other side of the room. The script builds on this to encompass the ultimate slacker's guide to getting ready in the morning, and includes a spot of male grooming with Brylcreem's new b: range.

In keeping with the brand's new "keep it real, keep it simple" philosophy, and no doubt to raise a bit of interest in the ad in the process, WCRS opted to use MySpace to cast for the lead actor in the film.

WCRS's sister Engine company, Alltogether, created a Brylcreem-branded page on the social network site, on which visitors could upload videos of themselves executing tricks and could comment on others' efforts. The winner would star in the TV ad and win £10,000.

Yan Elliott, the WCRS joint creative director, concedes it was risky: "The process was quite nerve-wracking; you've no clue whether you're going to get 300 responses or none. And if you're not going to be doing any other casting, you just hope people will be interested."

Hundreds of hopefuls were. The brylcreem.com website has many of their "audition" films to view, displaying everything from an uncanny knack for throwing milk cartons into the fridge to perfecting the pointless task of bouncing a ball across five tin cans and into a glass.

Ten finalists were invited to the WCRS offices to meet the ad's director, Fredrik Bond. Quite how "ordinary" the winner, Sam Veale, is, is open to question - he's been a professional juggler since 1997, according to his website - but he's a good choice nonetheless. Some of the effortless tricks from his casting video, including a crossbow mounted inside the freezer door that catapults an ice cube into his apple juice, make it into the final film.

After three weeks of rehearsals, the ad was shot in London in two days, with 205 takes to get it perfect. No-one knew if a particular attempt would be the successful one, each take had to be shot, so it meant it wasn't the cheapest ad to make.

"It was a very complex shoot, probably the most complex I've ever done," Bond says. "We spent around ten days in the actual flat ... long, sweaty and tearful days where we got him into the rhythm and skill of the tricks. We realised that some of the tricks had to be helped by wires for some things to land on a specific mark, but other than that, it's a one-take thing.

The result is, fittingly, effortless, though. "The worst thing you can do is have 'effortless' as your end line, then have something that looks really laboured," Elliott says.