Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Your Shot: Orange’s Honest Depiction of the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’

London, UK
Megaforce and Publicis Conseil on their Christmas fail-filled film
It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? The gifts, the family, the food, the crackling fires, eggnog and Glühwein. Buuuuuut, there's a dwindling reality of the festive period hidden underneath the Christmas cliches. The endless organisation, burning the dinner, getting stuck in the snow and fighting fellow shoppers for the final bag of carrots. And it's that side of Christmas that Orange France decided to focus on for its Christmas campaign. Created by Publicis Conseil and directed by Megaforce, it's an honest but far-out depiction of the reality of Christmas. LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Publicis art director Julien Boissinot, copywriter Kevin Salembier, Megaforce to find out more. 

LBB> What kind of brief did Orange present you with and what were your first thoughts when you saw it?
Publicis> A classic Christmas brief. As for many brands at this time of the year, there is a double objective for any campaigns. A sales objective: related to gifts that we offer during holidays. And a brand image objective: Christmas is a crucial time to strengthen proximity between brand and its audience.

Orange tend to favour this second objective for its end-of-year communication. Through the brief, we saw an amazing creative opportunity but also a big challenge: because if a brand’s objectives are rather close to Christmas themes, it is necessary to establish a different style of storytelling in order to stand out between all these communications. 

LBB> What inspired the idea to focus on the more 'negative' side of Christmas? Why was that right for Orange as a brand? 
Publicis> We think that a brand has to maintain an honest tone if they want to be closer to its audience. Without getting too negative, we tried to look at annual traditions with sincerity. As adults, holidays can lose their magic a bit. Between mall shopping, getting the meal ready, family reunions and all related anxiety… if we are honest, Christmas is far from being an easy period. 

At the heart of it all, there is a moment when anybody can find this Christmas wonder again. And this is the moment of gifting. Whether offered or received, gifts have the power to make us forget all inconveniences endured during this period. Especially if gifts are beautiful, like those you can find at Orange.

LBB> Christmas ads are very often sentimental - why did you opt for comedy? 
Publicis> It is true. There are wonderful Christmas campaigns with a very sentimental approach. As for us, the tone imposed itself thanks to the insight and idea expressed previously. We wanted to portray circumstances of failure that are familiar with people. Situations in which everybody can recognise themselves and at which we can all laugh. The comedy increases the liberty we get to illustrate those situations (more or less excessively).

LBB> Once you had the script, how did you decide on who'd be best director to tell the story? And why Megaforce?
Publicis> We were lucky enough to have an impressive directors shortlist for this movie. - very talented people with different approaches to the script for each of them. Some comedy profiles, but also directors with strong visual artistic aesthetics, strong directing and craft. From our side, the challenge was to find the right balance between raw comedy and remarkable direction. A profile who can play with the ‘musical’ style, while being funny and accurate in each scene.

Megaforce appeared quickly as the best choice because they have proved their talent through many music videos and advertising, they master the  connection between song and image… always with a subtle humour. Their visual artistic universe allows a sophisticated and smooth setting to the movie, responding perfectly to the musical style. Generally speaking, we are also big fans of their work.

LBB> And Megaforce, why was this Orange job something that you were keen to get involved in? 

Megaforce> You rarely see commercials talking about the dark side of xmas. Somehow it felt more honest than trying to oversell the magical feeling and excessive happiness of that time of the year. We enjoyed the challenge of telling these Christmas failures where you could recognise a precise feeling you’ve already experienced, even if probably none of us have ever been flattened under a massive pine tree.

LBB> How did it feel to shine the spotlight on the lamer side of Christmas? 

Megaforce> We quite enjoyed it and it was funny to imagine all these failed situations. You end up having the right to say out loud what’s in everybody’s mind when they think about that time of the year.

LBB> Comedy and Christmas isn't a common pairing when it comes to ads... so often they focus on sentimentality and feels. How did you find the challenge of pairing the two? 

Megaforce> Somehow it felt quite natural. We had the feeling that it was easier for us to sincerely describe Christmas through that angle. 

 LBB> Aesthetically, what were your main aims and ambitions with this film? 

Megaforce> Because the rhythm is pretty fast, we needed the scene to be easy to read. In that sense, the best aesthetic was to go for the very classical Christmas imagery. Warm yellowish lighting of the fairy light, the cosy interiors, the cute decorations… basically all these charming details we’ve been raised with. Therefore the contrast with the failures was even funnier.

LBB> It's all obviously quite exaggerated but the scenarios are scarily familiar! Did you draw on your own experiences much?

Megaforce> Ahaha, well none of us ever got electrocuted flying over the whole neighbourhood ! But we liked the idea of having some extremely visual and cartoony scenes mixed with others where the humour was much more in the familiarity of the situation. It creates an interesting contrast in the comedy.

Publicis> All the scenes were written based on the Andy Willams song: by crossing lyrics and fail situations related to the Christmas period. Sometimes, the scene was directly inspired by the lyrics, otherwise a fail previously identified matched the lyrics in an ironic way (taking also the opposite view).

In any case, we aimed to have rich storytelling and form with diversity in the scene structure. Some scenes were very simple in storytelling but also very insightful, others were developed in an exaggerated way, another more related to surrealism. This diversity was key for us and the directors to favour the entertainment in the best way.

LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them? 

Megaforce> Probably having to shoot everything under the snow when it’s early October! After praying to the god of snow for weeks, we turned toward other divinities: SFX and CGI.
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