For its latest campaign, Ireland’s leading decorative paint company, Colourtrend turned to creative agency Boys+Girls to reimagine the standard paint ad. Pushing aside the usual shots of people painting their walls, the brief was to reveal the beauty of how paint is formulated before it reaches the shelves, highlighting the quality of materials and processes that Colourtrend prides itself on.
Calling on the help of director Brian Williams (represented by Ntropic London in the UK) and composer Denis Kilty, the team formed to create the most beautiful paint ad on TV. In this interview, LBB’s Sunna Coleman speaks to the talent behind the work to find out how this stunning ad was brought together, from experiments in a bespoke lab in Germany through to the inspiration for the overall mood and music.
LBB> What was the brief from the client, and what were your initial ideas and thoughts?
Laurence O’Byrne, creative director, Boys+Girls> Colourtrend is family-owned and highly innovative so the brief was to make them stand out in a category that is filled with a lot of ‘sameness’. For us, the interest in the brief was about what happens behind the paint process. How is paint made?
We didn’t know this at the start, but through really close collaboration with the client’s paint technicians, the MD and marketing team, we got a real insight into how paint’s made, and fundamentally, the quality difference that goes into Colourtrend’s paint right from the start.
Brian Williams, director, Ntropic London> The agency wanted to create a commercial that explored the process of paint making from the get-go. The original brief was abstract, and one line caught my attention straight away: ‘paint ads should be the most beautiful ads on our screens’.
Denis Kilty, composer> The brief for this project was simple - ‘celebrate the story of colour’. Making paint is dynamic, natural, and vivid, so I decided that the soundscape should also be a blend of euphoria, energy, and excitement. When I saw the pictures, I immediately wanted to immerse the listener and absorb them into every scene.
In addition, Colourtrend wanted to acknowledge their Irish roots in a contemporary way, so the score has a fluttering, almost tribal energy that feels cinematic, with a nod to traditional Irish music.
LBB> Laurence, the paint shots were created with real paint and no CGI - can you tell us about some of the creative production decisions made on this project?
Laurence> This is one of the most important questions we asked ourselves - why use real paint? Although it would have been easier to do this on a computer, we simply had to be authentic. Why create paint on a computer when paint in the real world is so beautiful? The world is tired of fake images and too much CGI.
The real question for us was how to capture the beauty of real paint on a camera in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s all about craft. We had to find a director and a production technique that would allow us to do that, and that came in the form of Brian Williams who is one of the most creative directors in the advertising space. He has an amazing background in motion graphics and art - he’s super visual. He went around the world looking for the right person for this job, landing on Roman De Giuli from Terracollage who produced world class work.
The passion and the people behind the project took it to the next level. It’s always about the collaboration.
LBB> So Brian, from an aesthetic point of view, what was your vision for the overall look and feel of the ad?
Brian> I work in live action and CG. I’m happy in both worlds as it doesn’t feel like a job and I love geeking out in both. But while we could have explored CG options with the likes of Houdini to create the commercial, I felt it would run contrary to what the commercial was about, real hand craft. So, I never explored any CG options. I went straight to my mad scientist folder on my Mac and started to look at fluid art. I love working in-camera and I’ve done a lot of in-camera experimental work before, but it was clear we’d need to work with an expert on this.
LBB> What were some of the more technical elements on this project?
Laurence> First and foremost, there is nothing generic about how Roman’s lab in Terracollage is built, everything is bespoke - machinery, custom setups, super macro lenses, periscope cameras… But it’s not off the shelf, it’s tailor made to bring out the best detail in paint and colour. He has a deep knowledge - this is what he does day in, day out. He is a true specialist and with that comes equipment that you won’t find anywhere else.
The craft level that both Brian and Roman brough to this bring out the best in the visuals through sheer expertise. These guys are artists, using the paint in a way that tells the story.
Brian> It was ALL technical. One thing we had on our side was time. We had a long run in so I knew I might be able to push my luck on getting somebody really good to collaborate with. I approached Roman De Giuli of Terracollage and did a presentation with all my style frames and look development I’d worked on since the initial pitch. I thought ‘no way will he be up for this’… He said yes straight away once I told him we had TIME. He works out of his immaculately neat studio in Nuremberg (a haven for OCDers like me, we both agreed that in order ‘to make a mess, one has to be neat’).
Roman has developed his skill and equipment over the years. Some of his secrets will remain so, but he builds his own machines and pumps to automate some of the processes. These pumps are things of beauty with pulsating hospital pumps and gamers lights twinkling all over the rigs.
He shoots RED DSMC2 Helium at in 8K DCI with 16-bit colour depth. His macro lens collection covers different focal length and reproduction scales, everything from 12 mm wide angle macro to 180 mm close-up in reproduction scales up to 5:1 microscopic magnification.
We produced so much footage and it was a lot to manage on my own. We did a lot of the selects in the studio in Da Vinci and pre graded them. The colours had to be correct and not have a ‘look’. I took all these homes and edited them over the course of two weeks. It was one of those jobs that had to come directly from me, by the time I’d have briefed an editor on the abstract nature of the job we would have missed the deadline.
LBB> Denis, moving onto the music - it plays a massive part in creating the mood of the ad. Can you tell us a bit about what you needed to achieve and your approach?
Denis> I knew that I would need to treat the sound, music, and visuals as three distinct characters to bring the film to life. So the idea of a kinetic, anthemic dance developed, ebbing and flowing with the liquid to keep it lush yet engaging. In addition, I wanted to bring a vibrancy to the soundscape that matched the paint. Brian filmed actual natural colours being mixed, a massively technical feat too, so that was important to me.
I used surround motion techniques to create a sense of rotational movement with the film - I even blended impacts from actual paint cans into the percussion to develop a unique audio language for the campaign.
I was conscious that the music had to have a sense of lightness and relief between scenes. It would have been easy to get lost in pure sound design territory - it meant negotiating with my own music to make sure that both the sound design detail and musical energy shared the stage.
LBB> What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the project?
Denis> For me, the main challenge was figuring out the right pace of the music - too fast, and it would clutter the edit, but too slow, and it would lose form and focus. Once I cracked that, the visuals guided the rest.
Brian> Keeping the client and agency on board and telling the agency producer over and over ‘who knows!’ I cannot thank both enough because at the end of the day they had to completely trust that we could do it. The client took a giant leap of faith because we couldn’t really produce accurate storyboards as it was all experimental. But one of the big things that helped was we spent a week prior to the main shoot doing R&D experiments, some of which made the final cut. I’d send these long edits through to the agency and client with cool ambient music and everyone got very excited. I’d stressed the shoot was going to be quite dull, but the agency and client all made the long Covid riddled journey and loved the process.
Laurence> I think one of the biggest challenges was not rushing it and asking the clients to give us the right amount of time to complete this work. A lot of ads are shot in a couple of days but this wasn’t a project you could rush. There was a lot of experimentation that needed to be done. We spent 2-3 weeks in R&D figuring out the best ways to get the shots, testing and re-testing. You don’t normally get much time for this in adland. The challenge there is in finding a client that can trust you to do that, and with Colourtrend we did.
LBB> What were your favourite moments during this project?
Denis> I love the opening sequence - you’re instantly submerged into this mesmerising audiovisual world that feels fresh and unexpected - it’s the perfect way to illustrate the complex art of paint mixing - I never tired of watching it as I composed!
Laurence> Definitely the joy of making the work. We had a fantastic team on this - including art director Bairbre McGlade, copywriter Niamh Ryan, ECD Bridget Johnson, senior account director Alan McQuaid and producers Sarah Chawick and Keeva Bolger.
A core team flew out to Germany along with the clients. When you’re on set making things, and seeing the idea from the piece of paper coming to life through the visuals you’re creating, with everybody engaged and excited, we call that the joy of making in Boys+Girls.
The single goal of this project from an executional point of view was to deliver our client the most beautiful ad on TV and I think we have really achieved that. Some people say advertising can’t be art but that’s a load of rubbish. Advertising can be art if you have a brave client and team who can really commit to an idea like this and make it happen.
Brian> Too many to mention but I’d have to say hanging out with Roman and trying something new, utterly unrelated to the job just to see what it looked like.
LBB> Any other interesting insight you would like to add?
Brian> As with many of my favourite jobs over the years, creating an environment where the usual constraints are removed and trusting the creative to do something special is the best gift you can get as a director / creative. None of us want to tank the product, we just want to do something extraordinary and beautiful that really connects with the person at home staring at the screen. It’s not a job then, it’s just my all-encompassing hobby!
Laurence> The aim of this project was to show the real quality that goes into Colourtrend paint and I think we really achieved that. But really, this is only the beginning of the journey with Boys+Girls and Colourtrend. When we were over in the lab in Germany, we shot a lot more amazing footage that’s going to be coming out over the next couple of months. It’s been a dream project.