Creatives Benoit Lagalle & Clement Dantzer explain how they managed to team up with rabbits
To launch the new Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch, Ubisoft enlisted BBDO Paris to create a series of new adverts to promote this epic meeting of gaming worlds. The spots see a rabbit being placed in dangerous and unconventional settings that are both humorous and playful, but also incredibly well shot. And paying tribute to some iconic film and games along the way. We thought these spots were really fun and were very surprised to discover they were masterminded by a first-time ad director called Oliver Abbou.
LBB's Jason Caines managed to sit down with Benoit Lagalle & Clement Dantzer, creatives at BBDO Paris, to learn more about the background of the spots and some of the challenges the team faced while creating this campaign.
LBB> What was the initial brief like from Ubisoft and what were you thinking when you first saw it?
Benoit Lagalle & Clement Dantzer> Ubisoft's main problem was that for most people, Rabbids are just a kids' TV show and they needed to put them back on the radar for players. So, we first thought that we had to turn Rabbids' passive stupidity into something really challenging. Something that all gamers could understand and be interested in.
LBB> What inspired the idea to place the rabbits inside these various video game genres?
BL & CD> Well, the concept of this game is pretty funny. This unexpected mix of characters sounds insane. Rabbids in the Mushroom Kingdom? So, we started to think about Mario facing a lot of challenges to make this team work. In fact, he might be the only one who can make this work. So, we asked ourselves what if it was not Mario, but someone else? What could possibly go wrong if you had to team up with a rabbit in real life? So, we came up with the concept that “not everyone can team up with a rabbit”. Then we decided to write different stories that gamers are used to but changing their usual teammate for a rabbit.
LBB> The intention was to create a video game parody world – which games were the inspiration for the films and why?
BL & CD> We tried to find out how to attract gamers in this kind of game. So we decided to get inspired by the games they like the most, like: Farcry, Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed or Ghost Recon for example. We thought that if we make them think that they were looking for the next Rainbow Six, we’ll probably get a chance to catch their interest and make them laugh.
LBB> What kind of research went into this campaign?
BL & CD> We also get a lot of our inspiration from cinema and TV shows. We first wanted to craft the films like they were real scenes from movies. This is why we find inspiration from several movies and TV series like: Braveheart, Game of Thrones, Black Hawk Down, Children of Men, Ocean’s Eleven…
LBB> I really like the first person perspective of ‘Com’on Drive’ – it feels like a video game. What inspired that decision?
BL & CD> As you say, of course, it was important for us to use video game codes. The first person point of view is one of the most iconic gaming device. Moreover, it was important to create a dramatic effect and keep the suspense until you discover the rabbit. The FPS helps a lot when you want to make the audience part of the action, it’s like you’re in command of what happens, so you’re directly involved. It was also an idea from Olivier Abbou – our Director on this shoot. He didn’t want to make a classic robbery scene. So rather than being with the robbers in a bank or in a casino, he decided to make the entire scene in one shot outside, in the car, with the driver, which makes tons of sense 'cause if you make a robbery, you’d better have a good driver to escape. Equally, it increases the drama and feels like a fresher take on the robbery classic scenario.
LBB> Who is the target audience for this campaign? It’s universally enjoyable, but it’s also an interesting decision to use different gaming genres to promote a game that sits in quite a niche part of the gaming world.
BL & CD> As just said before, the main goal for Ubisoft was to put the Rabbids back on the radar for players and not anymore just for kids. So even if you can start playing this game at seven, we wanted to make something enjoyable if you are 20 or more. The fact that this game quite a niche in the gaming world motivated the idea that we had to get the simplest concept for our campaign. We didn’t want to go into the explanation of how it works. You will have to team up with Rabbids. So, what if it was not Mario? That’s it. It’ll clearly make for something stupid and funny that will pique people's interests. It’s an absurd way to explain the concept of our game.
LBB> Olivier Abbou is known for working in movies and this marks his commercial debut – why was he the director for the job and how did you convince him to get involved?
BL & CD> We quickly came up with the conviction that we needed to have a strong cinematography with these films. We wanted them to feel like little pieces of real movies. The audience had to get immediately caught by the action and the suspense. So, we were looking for a fresh eye, someone who never had done commercials before because we didn’t want to do a classic spot. When we discovered the work of Olivier, we were pretty sure that his experience and his universe will match with our direction. I think he found the scripts pretty funny at the first reading and it took it as a bold challenge for him so he decided to part of this adventure. Or maybe he just deeply and secretly loved to shoot with rabbits?
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
BL & CD> Well, rabbits I think… They are adorable creatures but fucking unpredictable. It’s not like shooting with an animal you can train. The only thing you can do is to put the rabbit in place, roll and cross your fingers. For 'Cover me' and 'Com’on drive' we had just one rabbit so we easily managed to get our shots. But for 'All with me', we had like 50 rabbits on the set. And well, when they are together they just do everything but what you expect. So, you have to be creative to try to cover your shots. Like use some food to attract the rabbit on the wheel of the car. But you mostly have to be patient. Post production also helped us a lot to fix some issues. Like the films says, not everyone can team up with rabbits I guess.
LBB> And how about the most memorable moments?
BL & CD> Rabbit fitting! That was the funniest and unexpected moment of the shooting. We had to make tailored outfits for each film. This is the kind of experience you never forget.
LBB> Are there any tricky situations in which you’d trust a rabbit?
BL & CD> If you are sad and want to hug and cuddle they’ll sure do the job, but don’t expect much more from them.