Feature

The six ads that made... Traktor and Rattling Stick

Following their signing to Rattling Stick the Scandinavian directing collective Traktor, along with the production company's Daniel Kleinman and Ringan Ledwidge, share the stories behind some of their signature campaigns.

The six ads that made... Traktor and Rattling Stick

SAS ‘odyssey’

An early appearance (but not the first) of our steam-driven hero Little Micke pointing to a map (main picture). Spot him in a commercial further along and you can win a hammock with sherry service. We won our first gold Lion for this in Cannes and that made us very happy and more secure in our pantaloons about travelling.

Miller Lite ‘evil beaver’

This was conceived by our friends from school, Paul [Malmstrom] and Linus [Karlsson]. They had moved to America and only had our number. Instead of sending a script, they called us and sang the song. And what a song it was! This was an early contribution to vigilant environmentalism.

Unfortunately, hundreds of copycat "evil beavers" started chasing loggers all over the Bark Belt and Miller had to pull the spot. But, before they did, America got treated to a novel commercial experience, for no reason whatsoever, and Miller’s powerful "red state" bottlers would leave conventions in angry droves. Much like the settlers in the film.

MTV ‘Jukka brothers'

This also came from the bursting, bountiful briefcase of Paul and Linus, and Linus even provided the voiceover: "Far, far away from the busy streets of New York, Chicago and LA lived four brothers." God bless them. We built the houses for real from the ground up, in a forest outside Stockholm, and had a twisted week celebrating the wide reach of MTV while it still played music videos and impacted passions and fashions. The Jukka brothers ended up with a double-page portrait in Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame that year and sat next to Whitney Houston at the MTV Awards in Dublin, where they handed out an award.

Fox Sports Net

These scripts came through the fax machine and were spotted by Patrik [von Krusenstjerna] while sharpening pencils. We had set up a call before the last page came through. We had a very slow fax machine. We shot all five films in a 20-minute radius from the hotel in Cape Town. Scrambling for ethnicity, we had to close all Turkish restaurants one day and the Chinese for another. Spot the oldest extra we ever worked with – 102 years old! And for the "Turkish" film, we had to go back seven times as it was too windy to do the jump (as it was done for real). This was pre-Borat, pre-viral – and led to our second Grand Prix in Cannes, which should have gone to Daniel Kleinman’s John West "bear". He was robbed. We was drunk.

Malibu ‘bus’

This was a campaign that we followed and directed through three different agencies in its lifetime. But the first two were written by Charles Inge, and we have tremendously fond memories of the two weeks in Carriacou flying low on Jack Iron rum fumes and casting the whole island from the customs inspector to a recently released passion criminal. Charles would fly over to our office in Stockholm and sit there writing scripts like these and Labatt Ice. He would sit quietly in the corner and shuffle over when he had something funny. We would hear the giggles first, then look up to see Charles handing over a poignant picture of a man hugging a man. Purely for warmth. We still quote these Malibu ads on a weekly basis at Traktor Towers: "Total gridlock!"

Three ‘#SingItKitty’

We cast for six-year-old girls all over London and Manchester. We literally saw hundreds. And the last girl at the last session in Manchester was five-year-old Jolie Forrest and, suddenly, it was no longer a story about a singing cat with added girl but about a magnificent girl with bonus kitty action.

Boddingtons ‘mansion’

This spot kick-started the career of Melanie Sykes and did me some favours as well. While I’d done a lot of comedy before, and despite my amazing reel, Bartle Bogle Hegarty wasn’t totally confident that I could pastiche the look of Herb Ritts and that absurd Pirelli fashion look that was current at the time. Actually, it was easy, as I hired the late, lamented Harris Savides to be the director of photography and he was very much up for lampooning his own work.

Boddingtons' 'mansion' from Rattling Stick on Vimeo.

John West ‘bear’

This was particularly memorable as we were working on a very tight budget, but it did have a great script from Paul Silburn. I’d collaborated with Paul on John Smith’s Peter Kay campaign, so knew he would be good on a product with "John" in the name. I was trying to bring this in cheaply as I was under the impression that John West was a small company with small resources, so I decided to keep it to one shot and do it as if a wildlife photographer had been waiting for days to capture this bear’s behaviour. With no close-ups (I refused to shoot any), there was a lot of nerves about, but a wide shot worked and helped disguise the dodgy second-hand bear suit. The spot did well and so did Heinz, which I found out afterwards owned "poor little" John West.

Guinness ‘noitulove’

Describing the creation of this as "difficult" would be an understatement. I wanted it to have its own look – a sense of humour and a bit of wow. So almost every shot needed a complex special effect and the edit required a particular leap of faith from all concerned. But it was a lovely idea and, like all the best scripts, it was only a paragraph long – giving me lots of room for "stuff". Stephen Blackman, yet another late, lamented director of photography, shot both John West and Guinness.

Lynx ‘getting dressed’

Written by the very talented Nick Gill, this was a big step up at that time in my career. Nick had already passed on three treatments of mine previously so, on receiving another project from him, the stupid, arrogant side of me wanted to tell him to poke it. Thank Christ I didn’t as, on reading the script, I realised I’d been sent a wonderfully simple and beautiful idea. It then went on to be one of those rare jobs where things just seem to come together in the way you’d hoped they would. The only time I slightly lost my nerve was when Nick first watched the cut – "It’s bloody quick, isn’t it?" being the first words out of his mouth. I later came to learn that, more often than not, a commercial not dragging is a good thing.

Puma ‘after hours athlete’

Droga5 has an inclination for really great work. The voiceover on this leapt off the page. The budget wasn’t great but it forced us to think creatively and freed us up into not being too precious with the scenes. It was all about the atmosphere and the energy of the moment. Ben Seresin, my director of photography on the project, also ran with that and we somehow did 20-plus locations in two days. As is often the way with the good stuff, we stumbled upon something that enhanced the film. As I said, the voiceover is fantastic. We’d been through many reads until we tried the lead singer of Urge Overkill. He read it to us standing on a street using his mobile and it sounded fantastic. Something about the quality of the sound added a little bit of magic.

Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for sharing’

Maybe a controversial choice but definitely one of the pieces of work I’m most proud of. You can argue the ins and outs of a brand using the Christmas truce in conjunction with its name but, if we’re honest, you could level accusations of some kind at pretty much everything we advertise. I have a great uncle who died in the war so I was sensitive to how it could be perceived. Tim Riley, who wrote the script, also had family members who were involved. The Royal British Legion was our barometer throughout. We got to make what is basically an anti-war piece and play it on primetime TV. Judging by the public’s response and the many e-mails Rattling Stick, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Sainsbury’s have had, mainly from kids, it was a risk worth taking.