When life gets unbearable, you need an escape claws.
If you're thinking such silly wordplay heralds a campaign with ursine imagery, you're right. In "Bears," a delightful minute-long TV spot touting Center Parcs' holiday villages in the U.K., the titular beasts stand in for a typical family of four. They shamble through dreary days at home and in the office, disconnected from one another and thoroughly beaten down by the drudgery of urban existence.
"The brief was to tell a story about how Center Parcs creates family togetherness," Andy Fowler, executive creative director at ad agency Brothers and Sisters, tells AdFreak. "Bears felt like the right choice because they're a little bigger than humans, so they fit awkwardly into our world, and somehow we imagine them having very close families."
A team of 25 animators put in more than 10,000 hours over four months to create the realistic and affecting CGI visuals, which depict the bears driving cars, riding crowded subway trains and shuffling through workplace cubicles. Once the family escapes for a holiday at Center Parc, they begin to unwind, interact ... and even chase a few butterflies.
"When you see these huge brown bears trying to live a modern city life, it breaks your heart," says Fowler. "It really shows you how crazy our lives have become. Then, when they go back to nature, back to their natural selves, it has double the emotional impact." (Sky Atlantic's giant polar bear seems stressed by London, too. Maybe he should join them.)
Initially, Brothers and Sisters filmed actors skilled at mimicking animal movements as "reference points" for the motion, scale and emotional responses of the CGI bears. "Seeing a bunch of human actors running through a meadow, pretending to be bears, makes for an unusual sight," Fowler admits.
Still, the resulting commercial, directed by Ben Liam-Jones via Mustard Films, has most viewers roaring with approval: "It seems to be making lots of people cry on Twitter," says Fowler.
The spot will run through March, targeting families who might have previously been skeptical about giving Center Parcs a try. Of course, barreling off to one of the client's bucolic destinations won't solve every domestic problem or existential crisis. But it probably beats a trip to the maul.
Client: Center Parcs
Agency: Brothers and Sisters
Creatives - Ollie Wolf, Indy Selvarajah, Malcolm Duffy
Executive Creative Director - Andy Fowler
Director - Ben Liam-Jones
Production Company - Mustard Films
Visual Effects - Electric Theatre Collective
Sound - Grand Central