Close-Up: Why DDB is putting VW money on Glazer's tango

Jeremy Craigen explains how the new Polo spot, in which tango stars dance to hip hop in a disused workshop, came together.

The problem with this idea is it's either going to be brilliant or utter crap." Those words, from Nigel Brotherton, our Volkswagen client, rang loud in my ears. The last time I worked with Nigel was 12 years ago, ironically on the last Polo ad we shot with Jonathan Glazer ("protection"), and he was stepping in for a client on maternity leave. And, right then, I wish he hadn't.

The brief was simple. Do a game-changing ad for the Polo. Make it younger and cooler. Without alienating its older target market.

The Polo had been marketed as a tough little car for a number of years and now it finally had the look that its predecessors lacked.

"Last tango in Compton", written by Dave Henderson and Richard Denney, was to use the analogy of two tough dancers off the streets of Los Angeles but doing a beautiful tango dance to hip hop. A simple enough idea but a very complicated process followed.

If you want an easy ride, don't work with Jonathan Glazer. If you want a rollercoaster ride, with passion, arguments, tears even, then do. The man never stops thinking and is never satisfied with what he has.

Obviously, this can create problems. Like showing wardrobe the night before the shoot and the client blowing it out, and myself and Dave and Rich spending two hours at the Campaign Big Awards on the phone to Jon trying to persuade him not to walk away from this project!

The biggest problem with protecting this idea was always trying to present all the elements in the ad together. And judging one element in isolation, like wardrobe, was always going to create problems.

The dancers were flown in from Argentina along with their choreographer. He was the best male tango dancer in the world, she was a beaten finalist and they had never danced together before. But after two weeks of rehearsal, you would never have believed so. Originally, the script had the two of them dancing on the streets of Compton but Jon wanted to strip back the idea to its bare essentials.

Shot in North London in a disused carpentry workshop, stripped of all clutter and painted black, the attention is focused as the dancers mesmerise in a embrace, cheek to cheek, chests together, their legs intertwined, in a long, beautiful conversation of love and passion.

Fifteen cameras were used to truly capture the magic of the dance and to allow it to flow seamlessly. Obviously, this creates one hell of a problem for the editor, Paul Watts, and any changes could take a full day to make as the whole cut would need to be unstitched and then put back together again.

The dancers actually danced to a piece of tango during the shoot rather than the track used, Don't Stop by Roc C. I never thought hip hop and tango could share the same rhythm, but they do.

So, is this a brilliant ad or utter crap? That's not for me to say, but I know Nigel likes it a lot.

Jeremy Craigen is the executive creative director of DDB UK.


Born in Cordoba, Argentina, Gaspar Godoy is a tango world champion, winning gold for the first time in 2003 when dancing with his long-term partner Gisela Galeassi. The pair has since gone on to tour the world, as well as appearing in numerous films, documentaries and their own tango class DVD.

Godoy's partner in the Volkswagen ad is the 22-year-old Argentinian sensation Manuela Rossi, who finished second at last year's Tango World Championships in Buenos Aires.

Rossi started dancing tango in 2005 and has become a celebrity in her homeland partnering Cristian Correa. She most recently hit the headlines in Argentina for dancing at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.


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