Creative in association withGear Seven

Iconic Snuggle Bear Uses Movie Magic to Customise Valentine's Day Serenades

Post Production
Chicago, USA
Campbell Ewald, RingSide Creative and Cutters Studios partner up to bring a little love this February

January 21st was National Hug Day, and in honour of that occasion and Valentine's Day, the makers of Snuggle fabric conditioner products have launched a very special website. Now through to February 28th, anyone visiting can easily create custom video valentines featuring unique performances from the brand's iconic mascot, Snuggle Bear.

Two customisable music videos available on the site feature Snuggle's performances of two classic hits. The finished, dedicated versions seamlessly integrate up to four user-provided photos to honour friends and loved ones.

"Snuggle and Valentine's season go hand in hand," said Bibie Wu, Vice President of Marketing, Laundry Conditioners and Home Care, Henkel Corporation. "This year, we can't wait to help give voice to people who want to express their love. Snuggle's customisable music videos are the perfect way to serenade the ones you love."

Working in close partnership with the brand's leaders, credit for the imaginative website and its two customisable music videos extends to full-service advertising agency Campbell Ewald along with RingSide Creative, its partner Cutters Studios, and their divisions: Picnic New Media, Flavor, Dictionary Films, and Cutters Editorial. Directed and creative directed by Flavor's Jason Cook, the ambitious project involved several days of shooting with Snuggle Bear and puppeteers on a set in Detroit. The site uses Cook's lovingly finished editorial sequences edited together by Dave Mariani of Cutters in Detroit. Combining that content with masterful VFX feats and a highly sophisticated online development effort, the results represent video magic being actively performed with every passing hour, providing unlimited opportunities for anyone to team-up with Snuggle and spread the love.

"We were invited to be part of this project by Campbell Ewald's integrated producer Chris Robertson, who is based in Los Angeles," explained Jim Shanley, Picnic's managing director. "With Chris and Flavor's Jason Cook in LA, this was a unique opportunity for us all to collaborate with the agency's creative team in New York, while leading the development of the digital application with the agency here in Detroit."

According to Picnic's creative lead Joe Sciacchitano, the project's deliverables were the two hero music videos, multiple pre-rolls for advertising use, and the responsive, mobile-first microsite… all of which came together in under six weeks. "Creating two amazing music videos on that timeline is a task in itself, but letting thousands of users control the imagery and text within them is a whole different ballgame," he pointed out. "We are very proud of the elegance of our video processing solution. The results make it feel like each user has a team of editors and wizards finishing their videos instantaneously."

From the early going, Cook was inspired by the playfulness and fun of the "Snuggle Serenades" concept. Knowing that Snuggle Bear was created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, the birthplace of The Muppets and Sesame Street puppets, he actively campaigned for a live-action shoot.

"Snuggle was literally born in the '80s, so to me, this was an incredibly fun opportunity to playfully nod to that time with visuals and expressions from the glory days of MTV," he said. After viewing 'tons' of old music videos and pulling countless references, he and his fellow designers produced storyboards for his vision of shooting the video on a real, minimalist set. "I knew this approach would let me tell the story in a simple way without having to rely on a ton of green screen post work," he said.

After getting his boards approved, Cook designed his shoot with director of photography Kevin Hewitt around the use of practical effects like fog, coloured gels, backlighting, neon, slow zooms, diffusion, and double exposures. "These visual tropes added to the whole experience and throwback nostalgia of the videos," Cook added. He also set out to ensure a contrast between the two videos, envisioning "Time of My Life" as a performance piece and "Loving You" as a romantic daydream. Unique looks and storytelling styles were also devised in both cases, while also cleverly featuring user photos and dedications.

Despite capturing so much in-camera, Flavor's VFX artists in Detroit played vital roles in finishing each and every scene. Beginning by removing the puppeteering rods on Snuggle Bear, artists also added smoke and lighting effects, and handled more clean-up, colour correction and polishing. "We did wind up with a few green screen shots that required more intense compositing as well," Cook continued. "We used Maxon's Cinema 4D to create some 3D elements, and Adobe After Effects for a couple of animations. Everything went through Autodesk's Flame for final delivery."

Worth noting, to deliver the mobile-optimised website and ensure that each user-generated video matches the colour, audio fidelity and quality of the originals, Picnic's team leveraged its vast experience to streamline numerous issues. Those ranged from technical (for example, using a hybrid script that "breaks the rules of web video" to present Snuggle along with Alpha channels) to expertly interfacing with YouTube to master the project's copyright and content ID issues in advance. Together, Shanley and Sciacchitano confided that their team's solutions maximised expertise spanning YouTube and Facebook, along with these tools: Cloneless (automated post-production versioning); Community Sift (artificial intelligence social moderation); Twilio; Amazon Web Services; Vue.js; Node; Adobe Creative Suite; and old fashioned pencil and paper.

Director Cook also nodded to many talented colleagues at RingSide Creative, praising Picnic's executives for handling the project's interactive and integration components, and teams at Flavor in LA and Detroit for their masterful touches. "I was also lucky to have Dictionary Films' Robin Tracey as a production partner in Detroit," he concluded. "And after collaborating extensively with Dave Mariani throughout post, I was delighted with the ideas he brought to the table." 

Agency / Creative
Post Production / VFX
Music / Sound