A blend of Blade Runner and Dr Suess: Andy DiLallo on Woolmark's blockbuster

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 11 September 2018

Advertising set in a post-apocalyptic world isn’t a new genre but it’s one that TBWA Sydney wanted to make its own for its first global campaign for The Woolmark Company, chief creative officer Andy DiLallo said.

DiLallo described the TV ad, the first for Woolmark in seven years, as a mix between Blade Runner and Dr Suess.

The spot follows a woman in a futuristic city ripped straight from Blade Runner’s aesthetic. After being given a box from a mysterious figure, we see the woman pull out a Merino wool jumper and begin to jog past the plastic clad city slickers, neon lights and sheep that are growing plastic coats to emerge on a mountain surrounded by sheep with real wool coats.

With its Apple-esque 1984 edge, it is designed to celebrate wool as a breathable material in the burgeoning athleisurewear category, also tapping into the trend towards sustainability and the shift away from fast fashion.

These two trends, as well as the plastic bag furore in Australia and the global plastic straw boycott, have created a “perfect swell” of mindful consumers that Woolmark hopes to connect with, DiLallo explained.

“Most people associated wool with a material that’s itchy but they’d be surprised to find out it’s the most breathable material on the planet,” he said.

“Our challenge was to connect with an audience, being millennials, who really hadn’t grown up understanding wool in any other way. Strategically, we had an opportunity to connect with cultural trends and emerging values within this target market that are more mindful and seek meaning from their purchases.”

Specifically targeted at Chinese and American consumers aged 25 to 35, but also running in Australia, London and Tokyo, DiLallo said the creative had to rely on strong visuals and no dialogue to tell the story.

The most powerful image in the film is that of the plastic covered sheep, growing coloured cutlery and tooth brushes from their once-wool coats.

Each sheep wore a plastic-embellished coat for the scene and veterinarians had to be present during the filming.

With Woolmark being Australian, it was a prerequisite the ad be shot in Australia, with it being filmed near the Blue Mountains in NSW. The coats and the location were just some of the challenges TBWA Sydney and production company Good Oil faced in creating the blockbuster.

At more than two minutes long, the ad is one of the few longer form campaigns we’ve seen emerge from Australia in recent months. For DiLallo, he said the length of the film was not a vanity decision to “make something cool”, rather a way to achieve cut through with a small media budget.

“It doesn’t feel like there are a lot of clients out there spending money on production,” DiLallo said.

“The total media spend for this particular campaign, being global, was a challenge. So we knew we had to create something that was stunning enough to stand out, have people share and have people spend time with.”

Global campaigns for John Lewis and Nike inspired the approach with both brands often creating longer form content.

“When you look at the most successful campaigns, you find that length. Six or 15 second ads is not the way to connect with people. You don’t forget a relationship and make someone care about something in six seconds.”

The Woolmark win for TBWA was the first major piece of business won by the new Sydney leadership team, including DiLallo, chief strategy officer Matt Springate and CEO Paul Bradbury, in a global pitch against agencies from New York and London.

woolmarkThe sheep in the ads wore coats of plastic cutlery and bottles

What the brand says

After a seven year hiatus from its B2C advertising, Woolmark managing director Stuart McCullough said the brand saw an opportunity to connect with younger generations that have become more aware of where their clothes come from and the impact they have on the environment.

McCullough is also hoping wool will be embraced by the athleisurewear industry that is expected to become a $567 billion industry by 2024, which is why the brand created a capsule collection with designer Pip Edward’s activewear range, PE Nation.

“We’ve been covert about tendering wool and selling its benefits. We haven’t wanted to create too many waves with the manmade industry, but the awareness of plastic and manmade pollution is out there so it was the right time to take it head on and confront it,” he said.

“We didn’t set out to take a swipe at fast fashion but we understand it could be read that way.”

McCullough said the ad is the first step into changing the perceptions of wool around the world and “modernising” the fabric.

He admitted the brand has a “long way to go”, but “won’t take the foot off the accelerator” with its focus on the US and Chinese markets.

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