For its most prominent ad of the year, Pepsi challenged agency Mekanism with a difficult task: create a fan-made halftime intro to Beyonce’s halftime show with production values worthy of the show and the Super Bowl. It’s a mission that looks paradoxical on paper, but according to CEO and executive producer, Jason Harris, the brief could be condensed into two simple words: Social TV.
What social TV looks like, ultimately, is a slick countdown to one of the most highly anticipated halftime shows in years, scored to Beyonce’s own "Countdown." At the top of the spot, a young woman is buying a certain brand of soda from a vending machine. As she begins to guzzle it, her image blends seamlessly into that of a flurry of other people in similar poses. Eventually, their hands take the form of hands on a clock, bringing the countdown theme a clever visual element. The closer we get to the end of the countdown, the numbers are represented more dynamically, with bright lights, soda cans, and fireworks. Finally, the Pepsi-drinker from the beginning returns for a last pre-Beyonce sip.
"Most of the piece is user-generated content, submitted by over 100K fans on Pepsi.com," says. Harris. "There are no SAG actors in it."
Mekanism filmed the beginning and end of the ad professionally to create a wraparound story that leads in and out of all the UGC footage. In order to create the smooth effect of all those fans morphing into each other, though, the team had to utilize a method called "object replacement animation."
"It’s a technique that uses multiple frames of photography which all have one consistent object or focal point," Harris says. "For instance, hundreds of photos come from all over the country with different backgrounds, but they have a Pepsi can in the middle. The eye can easily focus on the consistent Pepsi cans while hundreds of photos animate by."
Once the team landed on this technique, they used Pepsi’s social channels to ask the audience to submit photos that had some consistency. The fans came through in a big way, but it also took some coaxing from the agency’s side.
"We posted a daily "pose" or scene at Pepsi.com that fans could emulate, shoot and upload. The response was awesome. We were able to choose from tens of thousands of photos posted everyday."
Considering the particular challenges of the brief, the finished product seems like an elegant solution—both vox populi and state-of-the-art. When you factor in just how visible this finished product will be on a global level, the tall order seems even taller.
"Because it is being shown on the world’s largest stage, there is much more intensity and focus on every detail by many parties. This one was even more unique because it was introducing the Halftime show," Harris says. "It was Pepsi, Beyoncé, the NFL and CBS. Fortunately, at the end of the day, the collaboration between all groups worked out great."