Sipsmith is launching its first-ever brand campaign with a stop-motion animation starring Mr Swan, a feathered host who reveals the uncompromising craft behind the gin.
Created by Ogilvy UK, the film introduces a new brand character inspired by the swan on the Sipsmith logo. Mr Swan is a dapper, swaggering bird who tours a distillery that demonstrates an over-the-top commitment to making the best gin.
British comedian Julian Barratt is the voice of Mr Swan and many of the animators on the ad have worked on Wes Anderson films, including Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr Fox. The work was written by Jonny Durgan, art directed by Ilka Mourao and directed by Jeff Low through Biscuit Filmworks. Zenith is the media agency.
Activity will run across TV, cinemas and social media.
The ad’s concept represents the great lengths to which Sipsmith’s founders went to create their product. The brand was launched in 2009 by two childhood friends, Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall, who fought to overturn a law against small-batch distilling in London and set up the first small-batch gin distillery in the capital in more than 200 years.
In the film, Mr Swan shows off the labour and care that goes into each batch of Sipsmith, such as selecting the finest junipers and sealing bottles with wax. The technique of the ad itself mirrors this elaborate process; Low proposed using stop-motion animation because it also involves a great level of time and craft.
"[The agency] kept going on about the handcrafted nature of the gin itself, but everybody says that," Low said. "If [the ad] just looks that way, you don’t have to say it."
Low, who had never made a stop-motion animation before this, envisioned Mr Swan as a character with "baseless confidence", like Alan Partridge or Roger Moore's James Bond. "He’s like the model they put on the bottle, and now he saw that and thinks he runs the gin company," Low said.
The dry-witted Mr Swan also imbues the brand with a humorous tone of voice. "He’s a character you’d want to have a drink with," Jules Chalkley, executive creative director at Ogilvy UK, said.
The animation is meticulously detailed and filled with handcrafted touches that are not visible to viewers. For example, an inside pocket was stitched into Mr Swan’s jacket; the paintings on the sets’ walls are replicas of the founders’ actual photos; mini flasks were made from hand-blown glass; and a mini pair of scissors held by one character could actually cut paper.
"The founders did ridiculous things to make gin. You go: why would you do this? No-one would ever know. But they knew," Chalkley said. "So we did things in the film that you’d never know about. We were trying to mirror the lengths they went to make their product."