Margaret Hood hears how Vauxhall helped persuade babies to gurgle to
Vauxhall Motors’ latest epic, the Tony Kaye-directed commercial for the
Astra featuring hundreds of babies, could easily have been a nightmare
The nine-day shoot, at the vast Three Mills studio in east London,
involved up to 947 babies, plus their mothers - and 12- to- 18-month-old
babies are not renowned for their long attention spans or grasp of
But Amy Appleton, the executive producer of Tony Kaye Films, insists
that the experience wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
‘The first day was probably the most stressful, but we had more problems
with babies falling asleep than crying,’ she says. ‘If anything, some
mothers presented the biggest problems.’
During casting, one mother tried to cover up her baby’s chickenpox spots
with make-up. Other babies were just too young to use, being unable to
sit up by themselves.
The 60-second commercial, entitled ‘as of right’, features one lead baby
standing behind a lectern in front of a 50-foot screen, extolling his
fellow baby citizens to demand various properties of a car, including
two side-impact bars rather than one, a pollen filter and plenty of room
The first day entailed shooting the footage to go on the screen, then,
on the second day, the fun started. A team of health and safety experts
advised on building the set, using fire-proof material and making sure
that the right number of exit doors were in place.
A group of nurses and a doctor was also on hand. Three skips were hired
and someone was given the unappealing job of collecting dirty nappies.
Sleeping and play areas were provided, and each mother-and-baby pairing
was given a numbered matching sticker to help identification.
The shoot gradually built up the number of babies used each day,
starting with around one hundred and culminating in almost 1,000. Takes
had to be kept short because the babies had a tendency to got bored or
To keep the babies in their seats, special quick-release harnesses,
similar to car seat belts, were used.
Cartoons were shown on the screen to capture the babies’ attention while
the lead baby’s mother encouraged his acting skills using a toy duck.
Very little of the film was the result of post production, carried out
at the Mill on Harry, bar blocking out the babies’ harnesses.
The Lowe Howard-Spink creative team behind the ad, Phil Dearman and
Charles Inge, chose Tony Kaye because ‘we wanted it to be ‘the Big
idea’, and Tony Kaye makes big ideas happen.
We knew he was the man to pull it off for us.’