Ad agency Burrell Communications recently tapped Chicago-based The Colonie to handle editorial and visual effects for a series of broadcast commercials, web spots and video vignettes to introduce Toyota’s new 2016 RAV4 Hybrid.
The spots, starring Keegan-Michael Key (MADTV, Comedy Central, Key & Peele and Playing House), take a comedic approach to dispelling the misconceptions about hybrid vehicles. Bob Ackerman, creative editor, and partner at The Colonie, along with the boutique’s visual FX and design team took the package from cutting through finishing.
The storyline of the campaign is driven by Key’s character, Ravelle Forman, a wide-eyed, slightly unhinged driving school instructor. The zealous fan of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has come out of retirement on a mission to educate student drivers about a new generation of high-performance hybrids with sophisticated features that rival those of traditional vehicles – while providing a budget-conscience, environmentally friendly alternative.
The :30 broadcast spot, “Why Wouldn’t Ya,” establishes the premise of the campaign with a parody of driving school. It opens with Ravelle in front of a blackboard with “Hybrid Learning” written in bold letters. As the bell rings, he begins the class by posing the question, “Who here wouldn’t consider driving a hybrid?” All of the students raise their hands and respond with a litany of reasons based on misinformation about everything from style, performance and power, to maintenance and mileage.
The instructor proceeds to enlighten his skeptical students – each with a distinct and quirky personality and style that clues viewers as to the features that they most value in a car.
Burrell’s creative team, Elyse Simpson and Derrick Harmon, delivered a series of nuanced, off-beat scripts co-written by Keys.
“Keegan-Michael Key is such a natural, spontaneous comedic performer that it was no surprise he delivered an abundance of golden moments to pick from, which made the editing of this campaign a joy,” said Ackerman.
Director Tucker Gates (Parks and Recreation, The Office, House of Cards) at Independent Media encouraged Key and the talented supporting cast to improvise and play with material, giving the pieces an uncontrived, from-the-hip feel.
Each of the online spots (“Hybrid Learning,” “Acceleration,” “Cost Saving,” “Maintenance,” “Styling” and “Mileage”) took advantage of their longer format to give Key time to play out new directions and interactions between his characters and the pupils. The three :15 spots, (“Dodge Ball,” “High-Price” and “Teachers’ Lounge”) will be posted on the Toyota Facebook page.
The campaign was shot on the Cal State campus in L.A., and both Ackerman and assistant editor Graham Chapman were on location during the production. They took advantage of the opportunity to begin editing the performances during the shoot while the footage was still fresh in their minds. The final cut, visual effects and motion design were completed back at The Colonie’s facility.
While the posting of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid campaign is editorially driven, it also called for a considerable amount of visual effects. Senior VFX supervisor Tom Dernulc took an organic, natural approach when creating the “projected-look” of the videos that needed to run behind Ravelle.
“When I approach an FX shot I always keep in mind the overall needs of the project,” said Dernulc. “The running footage on the classroom screen needed to be blended and finessed to appear natural, but at the same time, the product had to be showcased in the best possible light.”
Dernulc and assistant VFX artist, Ben Pokorny, took a very different approach to the FX created for the chalkboard sequence in the web spot, “Cost Saving.” The comedic pace of this sequence didn’t need subtlety, which provided an opportunity to treat the FX in an almost campy manner and make them part of the comedy.
“Editing comedy is all about accentuating the beats with pacing and rhythm, which can be a struggle if the delivery of the material isn’t spot-on,” said Ackerman. “Thankfully, the caliber of talent, performances and creatives brought together for this job created a perfect storm – a wacky, fun, engaging storyline brought to life by a mélange of fleshed-out characters that deliver the client’s message. It made cutting this campaign as much fun to edit as was to watch the final pieces.”
“There’s so much to appreciate about this package,” Ackerman added. “The mix of spots and videos total almost ten-minute of content, so we were able to really sink our teeth into these off-beat characters and explore comedic options that would otherwise not be possible within the confines of a traditional campaign. The web videos gave me the time needed to focus on each character’s idiosyncrasies and ethos and take their development to a whole other level. It’s rare and very rewarding to work on a project that has so much depth and ambition.”