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How a Dirty Talking Polar Bear Will Fix Everybody’s ‘Climate Change Kinks’


In a debut, disruptive and really odd ad for Wild cosmetics, BBH have taken a truly new approach to climate change activism, and to cosmetics - LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to the spot’s creative director Adam Newby and senior strategist Joy Molan, to find out more

How a Dirty Talking Polar Bear Will Fix Everybody’s ‘Climate Change Kinks’

“A woman and her seven-foot-tall polar bear boyfriend get in the mood for love by talking dirty about their shameful ecological indiscretions” - this is actually just the beginning of the campaign film for cosmetic brand Wild by BBH. For such a daring concept, one wouldn’t even dare to think that this is actually Wild’s first brand campaign. The film is aimed at an audience that is keen to choose sustainable products, but is still unsure about the effectiveness of natural deodorants. BBH’s mission here was to change that once and for all, with a bang, and by also laying the foundation of Wild as the disruptive brand they are. And because “we are all living in seriously sweaty times,” as Adam Newby, creative director at BBH, put it, the team decided to sprinkle everything with a generous pinch of absurdist humour.

It’s hard to explain, but try to imagine exactly this - a couple, woman and polar bear, in a dusty, dim-lit, retro hotel room talking about the girlfriend’s ‘climate change kink,’ after her polar bear boyfriend has walked in on her watching a film about melting ice caps. This quickly spirals into a series of confessions about all the little naughty acts that we all might be to blame for (like leaving the tap running, or not recycling properly). BBH were aware of the fact that their audiences are already quite ‘well-versed’ in climate change issues, and what they actually need is a bit of empathy and humour, done in a disruptive and unique way, under the backdrop of hundreds of dull climate change campaigns. This film comes as a shock not only to the climate awareness scene, but also to the cosmetics one, where we see hundreds of commercials (especially to do with deodorant) placed in sterile environments that couldn’t possibly resemble real life. 

After engaging in some climate change kinky role play, the couple is met with a hurdle - Sarah has asked her polar bear boyfriend to spray her with deodorant, but he is strongly opposed. This is when he doesn’t only break up with her, but also takes some time to explain why Wild is the best alternative to the classic deodorant. A genuinely humorous, effective and brand-defining film, laced with relatability, but also extreme weirdness - this is probably only half the things that this campaign is. LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Adam Newby and Joy Molan, senior strategist at BBH, about why they took this weird approach and why it was so incredibly effective.

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and what were the initial conversations surrounding it?

Adam> The initial brief was to make an informative entertaining YouTube first film, but we didn’t want to make a ‘flash in the pan’ short-sighted piece of work. We wanted a strong base for Wild as a brand. So the first thing we did was take a step back and think about a brand platform. A bigger point of view, relevant to our audience. We knew if we could nail that then the creative work would be much stronger. The World Stinks is a platform that’s both personal and big, from global issues to daily struggles. We are all living in seriously sweaty times. This felt really exciting creatively, giving Wild a clear role in the lives of its audience.

Joy> Whatever we made, we knew it had to disrupt. We would be up against big players with big budgets. But our competitors’ blindspots came in the form of boring, safe work. Personal care was ripe for a bold, brave challenger with purpose at its heart. So, in responding to the brand brief for a campaign that generates an unfair share of voice for the brand, we knew that we had to break the mould. The brand itself challenges the status quo: excess plastic, more metals than your laptop and synthetic scents. We decided to channel all this fresh thinking into the work and aim for fame.

LBB> Climate change is at the forefront of everybody's agenda (as it should) but it is rare that it is approached with humour. Why did you decide this was the best approach and how did you strike the balance between keeping it hilarious, while still getting a point across?

Adam> It feels like right now, the world is A LOT to process, and if we’re not laughing we’re crying. People don’t need us adding to their fear and anxiety. So if we can encourage positive behaviour change without making people feel terrible and even at the same time making them laugh, then why wouldn’t you? Despite the absurdity of the scenario, there is a lot of truth in what’s going on and not just related to climate change. From modern dating culture to sex positivity there’s a lot of our audience’s lived experience in this film. The more relatable the humour is the more likely our audience is to respond positively and take action.

Joy> When talking about the planet, worthiness is often the go to for brands. But just because we’re talking about a serious subject, doesn’t mean we can’t be a bit silly. Plus, we know the more we get people to feel - to laugh, smile or just feel surprised - the more memorable and ultimately effective our work will be. So, there was a ‘sea of sameness’ to push against and a clear effectiveness case for doing so.

LBB> How did you come up with the idea of the ‘climate change kink’?

Adam> We were exploring the guilt we all feel when it comes to the planet. That feeling of doing our best, but not being perfect and being a bit ‘naughty’ naturally (for us at least) led to role play. Turning that guilt into a kink just felt right in the context of our modern world. It’s recycling teabags, meets furries and ‘Fleabag’.

Joy> It’s an acknowledgement that no one’s perfect, but we’re all trying our best. Our audience is already well-versed in the arguments for climate action and weighed down with the enormity of our collective responsibility. They don’t need education, they need empathy and solutions to help them live more in line with their values. Wild deodorant is one small step in the right direction and an easy solution to a shared anxiety. 

LBB> What was it like working with Wild and how does the campaign ultimately resonate with the pillars of the brand?

Adam> Wild have been amazing to work with and really pushed us to deliver something bold and unexpected. As a brand, their singular aim is to rid the bathroom of single-use plastic, which was a really clear and exciting place to work from. ‘The world stinks…’ construct is built on that point of view and can flex into other products as and when Wild continue their inevitable unstoppable eco takeover of the bathroom.

Joy> Wild were a dream to work with. They are brave, bold clients who bet the business on a seven-foot polar bear called Thorvald exploring a climate change kink with his girlfriend Sarah. Their openness and trust enabled us to create something together that not only has creative stand-out but also supports Polar Bears International to protect not only polar bears but also their habitat.

LBB> The whole vibe of the film is quite interesting - it almost looks like the couple is in an old-school hotel room. Tell us more about the aesthetic inspiration.

Adam> We wanted to create a unique vibe. Romantic, moody, a little retro, and realistic. Something not really seen in the clean, bright and clinical world of other hygiene products. The stage is set for a peculiar subversive seduction, with the vibe enhanced through music with its slightly odd instrumentation to help create a really distinctive feel. We wanted there to be something a little off that the audience can’t quite put their finger on, it’s all part of a mood. We filled the room with little clues of Sarah’s climate change kink such as a polar bear sculpture, an endangered animal calendar and a stack of National Geographics.

LBB> What have the audiences' response been like?

Adam> Overwhelmingly positive! It’s been great to see people appreciating different aspects of the work, from the comedy to the sex positive portrayal of modern dating. It’s all helping to differentiate Wild as a brand and build a strong fanbase.

Joy> Extremely positive. We’ve seen a decline in humour over the past few years in advertising, as our industry becomes more rational and nervous with naughtiness. ‘Dirty Talk’ is an unashamedly cheeky story that tells of a dysfunctional relationship dynamic between woman and bear that people can’t help watching right to the end. There are also enough red flags in this pairs’ relationship to make bunting. This is something our young audience are navigating in their own lives and got a lot of laughs from.

LBB> And what do you hope the ultimate impact of the campaign to be, not only for the brand, but overall?

Adam> When single-use plastic in the bathroom is an archaic relic of a bygone era we will have succeeded. This work is the first step, with Wild leading the way into a more sustainable future. Plus, if we can encourage more work to combine climate change and kinks that would be great.

Joy> For people to realise they don’t have to choose between pongy pits and the planet, thanks to Wild’s effective natural deodorant.

LBB> Any final thoughts?

Adam> We are always always ALWAYS trying to make work that is different, that stands out, that entertains and really works. It’s what drives client success, it drives diversity, it shapes culture and it connects with people. Of course, it’s not easy, otherwise everyone would do it all the time. Getting to great work is an uncomfortable journey for everyone involved. You have to be OK with uncertainty and the very real prospect of failure. And of course it takes a great client. Creating stories that feel uniquely different is our superpower at BBH and when working with clients like Wild, who embrace bravery and difference in a way that results in us making a protagonist out of a seven-foot kink loving polar bear - that's when great work happens.

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BBH London, Mon, 27 Jun 2022 14:46:30 GMT