May 7, 2021 | Blog

Viral Extra gum ad: How they pulled off a massive pandemic video shoot

Agency’s clever plan to ensure safety of cast and crew on set

When you’re making a short film about the euphoria of post-pandemic life, it’s really important you don’t cause a COVID-19 outbreak on set. Really, really important. 

Earlier this week, Extra gum released this now viral video entitled “For When It’s Time” depicting a day, in the not too distant future, when lockdown measures are lifted. Set to Celine Dion’s power ballad “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” the spot features men and women of all walks of life emerging, dishevelled, from their quarantine quarters to meet one another in public spaces — armed with Extra gum. The kissing escapades that ensue are punctuated with moments of sheer joy (a young couple meeting for the first time after a long online courtship) and moments of great humour (the reluctant condo dweller clutching his last roll of toilet paper). 

Timely, poignant and emotionally charged, it’s no wonder the commercial is racking up millions of views online and counting. But it got us here at Strategic Content Labs wondering, how the heck did they pull it off? Shot in Santiago, Chile, this past March, the video features what seems like hundreds of people in very close proximity and of course there’s the kissing. All that open-mouth kissing.

So we reached out to Chicago-based Energy BBDO, the agency behind the ad, to learn more. 

“Safety was our top priority and we followed all COVID guidelines,” Maeve Zolkowski, communications manager at Energy, said in an email to SCL. 

All crew and talent were tested for COVID-19 before initially arriving on set and every couple of days throughout the six-day shoot. Social distancing and PPE were required for everyone involved; masks were only removed for talent while cameras were rolling. 

But the secret to the safety protocols — and emotional impact of the ad as a whole perhaps — was that any talent that was required to be in close contact with each other, like “Pizza Girl” and her boyfriend, were required to be from the same household. Yup, they’re all real-life couples. 

“At one point we had a couple of inconclusive tests, and those were handled with extreme caution. The person in question was removed from the production and quarantined, as well as anyone who had interacted with them, until they could be re-tested and all test results were confirmed to be negative. Then they were re-integrated into our production,” Zolkowski said.

The measures worked. There were zero positive tests throughout the production period.

Turns out this ad is not only an example of impressive storytelling, it’s an example of impressive production planning too.

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