Nissan Juke – Built to Thrill (behind the scene)

The new, integrated ad campaign for Nissan, which launches in Europe in March 2012, reflects the adrenaline junkie inside anyone who enjoys getting behind the wheel of the Juke. 

A 60-second television spot heads the extreme sports-themed campaign from TBWA\London, named “Built to Thrill”, which conveys the high-energy of the sporty Nissan model and features a driver’s car built around him as he performs just about every daredevil stunt known to man. The Juke is shown being assembled by a variety of people as it skydives, jumps ramps and scuba dives before emerging out of a tunnel, set to a musical backdrop, composed by ‘The Horrors’.

The spot was shot in South Africa with most of it as live action. “We first had a guy skydive with a fake car seat strapped to his body inside which was his parachute,” explains Alasdhair Macgregor Hastie, European Creative Director, TBWA\G1.

“The guys building the car in mid air were tied to a crane hanging 100 metres above the ground and we model-made the heavier car parts in the art department.  The landing scene was shot outside Cape Town and again, we used a crane to drop the car body onto the ramp, which was all real. We then built the stadium in post. The scene featuring the bikers is also all real and we had stuntmen jumping from bikes and hanging on to the roof of the car. The water scene was shot in a pool, with real divers. Nobody got hurt – although it aged me ten years!”

Alasdhair says the ad was “very” expensive to make, “but worth every cent.”

“Unlike all other car brands Nissan (and Infiniti) has a very talented core Marketing, Advertising team and a central agency to handle all comms for Europe, Russia, and other regions so the budgets are centralised and therefore more efficient. Instead of doing 5 different campaigns to launch a car, we only do one. Which is more cost effective and gives us access to top talent.”

Building a skydiving car looks surprisingly easily in this Nissan Juke TVC directed by Lieven Van Baelen, with visual effects by Mikros Image. At Mikros, Christophe Huchet was VFX producer, with Antoine Carlon and Laurent Creusot acting as VFX shooting supervisors as well as CG lead and 2D/Flame artist, respectively. We talk to the studio about the ad’s main challenges.

The spot begins with an intrepid driver jumping out of a plane and buckled into a car seat. Soon enough, he is positioned into a car body by skydivers, who get to work – mid-air of course – adding a roof, tires, engine and steering wheel. These plates were filmed against bluescreen with the parachutists and car suspended on wires and the action following detailed storyboards.

“There were two cameras on the set (in South Africa),” says Christophe Huchet, VFX producer of Mikros, “one was with a cameraman standing on track or on a cradle and the other one on a remote jointed arm controlled by three operators. There were a lot of wires to clean up as there were up to nine parachutists shot at the same time. Each of them was hung by four wires plus the car. We had to deal with ‘restore’ on their faces and clothes. We completed an urban matte painting behind the clouds for high-angle shots. To add realism to the shot, we had to add cameras shakes and vibrations to simulate a real skydive, inspired by real shots references.”

Mikros also created CG parachutes for the skydivers, before the half-finished vehicle drops safely in a stadium – landing on a ramp as motor-cross riders add panels and spray paint a red finish. The stadium was populated using Golaem Crowd geometry instancing, generating up to 12,000 spectators at a time. Clothes, shaders and motions for the animated digi-double crowd were established in Maya, with a particle system used to place characters in seats. Mikros then built its own procedural rendering plug-in for Arnold based on a beta version of the Golaem Crowd IO library to render the scenes.

The nearly formed Nissan Juke launches out of the stadium via another ramp and splash-lands in water. Here, scuba-divers secure a windscreen and finishing touches before the car enters a tunnel. Filmed in a tank, Mikros graded the car for readability and added digital bubbles.

Finally, the Juke exits a tunnel before continuing into the city. The tunnel did not exist, so a make-shift surrounding for the car was built at street-level and filmed with tracking markers. “That shot was pretty difficult to tune as there were two opposite camera directions,” says Mikros. “The car is coming towards us and the camera is going the other way. We had to do some research to find a speed that suited the director. We also paid attention to light as the crossover is coming out of a tunnel and is going from dark to light. During the shooting, a truck rode along the crossover with many spotlights to light the car properly.”

The campaign also includes an art installation that aims to show off the Juke as it is being assembled using a variety of sports equipment that inspired its design. A dune buggy (originally chosen for its high arched wheel design) and a motorbike (the inspiration for the interior design and console) are combined to build a 3D image of a Juke. The car seat fabric was inspired by neoprene wet suit material, while a canoe and snowboard are also featured to appeal to the Juke’s target excitement-seeking audience.

“We originally planned to have a travelling installation and may well do so,” says Alasdhair. “The campaign is being picked up by countries not originally interested in a Juke flight (Canada airs it at the end of March) because it is so impactful and brings a whole new perspective to Nissan and the way people see the brand. When we showed the TVC to the Nissan board, the head of Design pointed at the screen and said ‘That’s it, that’s my car!’.”

Nissan and TBWA have also released behind the scenes footage showing how the installation was brought together. This film will also be accessible via QR codes on the outdoor and print executions of the campaign.

“The focus on human emotion plays into the new strategy,” says Ewan Veitch, President of TBWA\G1.“Previously, communications have concentrated on the car and how it interacts with its environment. This campaign has been developed to communicate the excitement and thrill that the driver gets from a premium and high performance, yet accessible, model. ‘Built To Thrill’ celebrates both the truth of the car’s design DNA and the resultant excitement from owning and driving one.”

“Built to Thrill” will also be supported by retail, social media, digital and experiential activity.

Advertising Agency: TBWA/G1, London
Creative Director: Alasdhair MacGregor-Hastie
Creatives: Fabio Abram & Braulio Kuwabara
Director: Lieven Van Baelen
FX: Mikros
Composer: The Horrors
Year: 2012