That made sense to me. Schnucks is where Bro Mark works in St. Louis and The Arbor Group is a production company run by his friends and next door neighbors, Deeds and Wally Bonham. I remember that he was proud of a batch of commercials he had made and sent me copies.
Mark is on the left in the photo above, by the way. Bro David is on the right.
The launch of Super Soda
I started working for Schnucks in 1992. My boss at the time came to me and said that Schnucks was going to start making their own soda and wanted a campaign for it. So I banged out some creative and the next thing you know they bought off on my wacky ideas for a campaign. We shot everything on 35mm film and even shot some with a high-speed-frame-rate camera so we could have slow motion of ice cubes and soda pours, very sexy stuff in my production world and very expensive since the film flew through the magazine at about a 1,000 frames per second.
Mark learns to spin quarters
In one commercial spot to promote that a can of soda was only 25 cents, I wanted to show a can of soda and have an actual quarter spin towards and around the can. So I devised a way to strike a quarter just right with my finger to get it to shoot across the table and then circle a can. I demonstrated the technique to the DP the day of the shoot many times so we could get the prop can and the lighting just right before we burned through thousands of feet of expensive film. Everyone was impressed. Loaded the first magazine with film and started the camera, when it got to “Speed” I shot the quarter and it went off the table. Bust. All that film, wasted. It took a couple more times but we got the shot and afterward everyone thought we had done it in post and faked the shot.
How high can you stack those cans?
We did several spots and one of them was taking 6-packs of soda and stacking them up as wall of soda. When a garage door opened it revealed a wall of soda.
But try stacking 6-pack cans of soda (all with the face of the cans facing forward) 8 feet high and you suddenly realize that it is very unstable. When it came time to shoot the footage the door opened and at half-way up a gust of wind blew in and the entire wall of soda peeled off and went everywhere. Soda was spraying all over the place and we had to re-set the shot (shooting 35 film with a large crew is costly) as fast as we could.
Unfortunately, too many of the cans were damaged to make the full wall we needed. I got on the phone and called my boss at the time and said, “Quick, we need all the soda you can send over to us!” They agreed to send over a truck load of it on one condition, that we return the soda to them as production of the soda was just starting and they needed all the soda they could get to have on hand at the store for the debut of the soda. “No problem.” I told them. The soda came and we stacked it again and it fell over just as the shot was in the camera. Ooops.
Mother shows up
We shot all over St. Louis for the locations and I told Mother to come to St. Louis and watch one of the spots being made (we shot all the spots in one week). She came with some of her friends to watch and the Director (Deeds) and I decided that we needed more people in the dancing scene and she agreed to do it. As you can tell, she is a natural.
We had custom music composed and recorded in Nashville for the spots. I think we ended up with 7 full TV Image spots, about the same amount of radio spots.
Was all the expense worth it? I won’t give you the exact numbers, but the campaign was so successful that we doubled the projected sales figures. In fact we had to pull the TV spots at one point because we were selling so much soda. Even with production running at high speed, the demand was so great it cost us more to make it (cost per can) than what we could sell it for.
Mark and his Spitfire in cameo
In the end we sold a LOT of soda. We ended up breaking several glasses while shooting the ice cube and glass shot. We had to throw the ice cube at the glass so it would look right when the high speed film was slowed down. We had kids cutting paper dolls into the shape of the cans, we had flowerbeds in the shape of the “S”, we had folks in hot tubs, roller skating, dancing, talent from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and one person had been featured in a men’s magazine and I even got a cameo out of it when I was driving my Spitfire in one spot.
All in all, the client was happy, sales were great, I got to be creative and we won some awards for the spots in the end. It really doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to advertising.
The finished product
Here are four of the commercials. We’ll start with the one with Mark and his sports car trying to pick up a hot chick on the side of the road. She, obviously, would rather have a Super Soda than Mark.
Commercial with Mother in it
She shows up at about the 21 second mark.
Flowers, splashes and construction paper
The wall of soda
All of that work and the wall of soda shows up for all of three seconds.