A few weeks ago an unsuspecting cinema audience at a screening of Paranormal Activity 4 got the shock of their lives as two cheeky characters, Gaz & Leccy, ran riot around the theatre. Cheeky Gaz and naughty Leccy were created for Smart Energy GB to represent the out of control experience of buying and using gas and electricity. The troublesome twosome have already wormed their way into the UK’s consciousness in social media, regional radio and out-of-home, but the stunt was a chance to truly bring them to life with a bang.
The creative was devised by AMV BBDO, who collaborated with HeLo (visual and audio production), The Dogs (film production), Les Enfants Terribles (theatre production), Picasso Pictures (visual design animation) to create the energetic event. Factory were also on hand with some boundary-pushing sound design, created for the pioneering Dolby Atmos audio set up.
LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with the copywriter Phil Martin and art director Colin Jones from AMV BBDO to find out about sparking things off with Gaz and Leccy.
LBB> Tell us about Gaz and Leccy - where did you draw inspiration from when developing the characters?
The idea for Gaz and Leccy was drawn from the fact that currently we (the British Public) don’t feel in control of our energy use. Smart meters will bring an end to this situation showing us in pounds and pence how much we are spending, and bringing an end to estimated bills.
LBB> What inspired their existence? Why was it fitting for Smart Energy to birth a pair like those two?
Developing two animated characters Gaz and Leccy, that are ‘out of control’ in our homes, was a simple, interesting and fun solution to the brief.
The two characters had to be loveable. They need to connect with a broad audience, across the whole of Great Britain.
LBB> Why did you decide to stage the stunt at London’s Picture House?
We decided to stage this event, bringing Gaz & Leccy to life, at the Picture House in Soho as a prelude to the nationwide TV launch of the characters next year. Staging an immersive, interactive event allowed us to interact with an audience in two distinct ways. The first was through the event itself which was an unusual and unique experience for the five or six hundred people that were in the cinema, who will then spread news of the event by word of mouth. But it also allowed us to capture live audience reactions and produce the film about the event which is now all over the Internet via sites including YouTube and Facebook.
LBB> How does the idea fit in with Smart Energy’s brand values?
The approach fits in with Smart Energy GB’s brand values because it is cheeky and playful, like the characters of Gaz & Leccy, and it seeks to entertain the audience in exchange for the short intrusion into their daily lives.
LBB> How was the reaction from the audience? Did any take you by surprise?
The reaction from the audience was amazing. Live events are always fraught with potential danger. Will it work? Will people like it? Will they understand it? Will they get annoyed? On all these points the audience reaction exceeded our expectations. We had pyrotechnics and hi-pressure CO2 cannons going off. The audience, who thought they had just come for a normal evening out, watching a film, could have been shocked. But they loved it.
LBB> You worked with Factory to bring Dolby Atmos sound to the project. How do you feel the technology affected the outcome?
The involvement of Factory and their knowledge of the new Dolby Atmos sound was crucial in making it seem like these two fictional cartoon characters had come to life and were actually running around in the audience. The unique sound system allowed us to pinpoint sounds all around the theatre, up in the roof, along the aisles of the seats, and in the projection room, in a way that conventional cinema sound couldn’t match.
LBB> You also worked with Les Enfants Terribles on the project. How was it working with them? And how was it for you, as a creative, working with live actors? Did you have to change your approach to the job at hand?
Working with Les Enfants Terribles was brilliant. It was a really different experience to the usual way of making a commercial. There were no re-takes here. Everything had to be done live, and that’s obviously extremely nerve wracking and not without a lot of risk. Their performance was also directly synced with the Dolby sound and so had to be choreographed to the second. No room for mistakes and no time for any rehearsal. But because of their vast experience in staging live theatre Les Enfants carried it off without a single mistake or missed cue.
LBB> The part with Gaz and Leccy in the box is super smart. How did you achieve that?
The moment when we reveal Gaz & Leccy in the box, captured by the cinema manager brought a great conclusion to the evening. It looked fantastic but was surprisingly simple to do. A little bit of brilliant thinking from Picasso, the animation company: simply make an animated sequence of Gaz & Leccy trapped and forlorn in a box, play it on a laptop, and put the lap top in a specially made box with bars on the front. Then loop the action to give the cinema manager time to make his speech.
LBB> What were the trickiest moments during development and how did you overcome them?
The trickiest moments in the production were probably making the 3D Gaz & Leccy exiting the screen look good. It was a key moment in the event, helping the audience to believe that these two characters had actually left the screen and were now in amongst the audience. The special effects were key to helping this work. By installing a popcorn cannon at the front of the auditorium, rigged to fire the moment Gaz was shot out of the screen really made the 3D aspect come alive. And when we added the Dolby Atmos sound at exactly the same time it really made it feel real.
The other tricky moment came with the whole live nature of the event and the fact that we couldn’t rehearse. Nerve racking at the best of times but made infinitely worse by the fact that there was a power cut across the whole of Soho moments before the event! You couldn’t make it up. No one knew for sure that all the lighting rigs, pyro’s, and audio synch were going to reset after the power went out. But luckily for us it did.
LBB> And how about the most memorable?
The most memorable part of the evening was the audience reaction. It was truly joyous and unrestrained. After all the hard work that everyone had put in over the months that it took from start to finish it came as a great relief and a great reward for everyone that took part.