#AreYouReady for fame via Dwayne

Our latest project for Universal is now live in 14 countries across the globe. In the Fast & Furious spinoff, Hobbs & Shaw, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are up against the only baddie that might be badder than the both of them - Idris Elba, obvs. 

We wanted to put audiences right into the heart of the action, to see if they have what it takes to help our heroes win the war. Using pioneering tech, never-before-deployed in a user experience, yet universally available off the shelf and smoothly integrated into our custom monolith. 

Asked #AreYouReady for battle, participants throw their best badass pose for the camera, then in-built True Depth function instantly cuts them out and drops them into a high octane movie trailer.

The test results were so impressive that Dwayne himself shared our promo video. Some say the best PR is word of mouth. So when @TheRock tweets about something you made, that’s the best publicity money can’t buy.
After all, 13.6M followers can’t be wrong.


For further audience immersion, we created a screening toolkit for markets to create a raucous boxing match environment in which fans could pick a side and watch the film rooting for their favourite eponymous hero. Watch this space for the kickass results.

Fly with Toothless around the world

Over the Christmas holidays, while Santa was on his way home, we were making even more dreams come true. With How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World due for global release, we launched a campaign that transports fans to the legendary place where all dragons are from.

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Throughout the much-loved franchise, one audience desire remains: to ride their favourite dragon, Toothless. To make their experience shareable, each user’s flight was captured in bespoke content starring them leading the dragon army in victory against Grimmel the grisly.

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The activation itself is a full 4D, 360 degree sensory experience. A light show, soundscape, wind machines and projectors create the sensation of flying into the Hidden World. But at the same time we are capturing real user reactions to render into a high quality personalised trailer of their adventure.

With a campaign rollout to the four corners of our world, from USA to UAE, watch out for Toothless flying somewhere near you this winter.

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Poppies in the Annual

Producing the Poppy Appeal launch with our client The Royal British Legion is one of those dream jobs the Stellar team can't wait to work on every year. But 2017 was made extra special when our press launch was awarded Silver in the Integrated category by those lovely chaps at Creativepool, along with a glowing inclusion in their coveted Annual 2018.

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Yes, you heard right. An integrated award for a press launch. Find out just how we managed that.

The dotted line

The line between entertainment and advertising is like the one between all forms of art and communication: Fuzzier than ever, but not going anywhere. Creatives need lines to cross, blur and redraw. But should it be the content creator or the audience that defines it?

Accessible production tools means not only low budget admakers but anyone with an eye and an idea can be a director. When Steven Soderbergh shoots an entire movie on an iPhone he is shifting the line between high and low brow to suit his purpose.

Think of the modern jingle. What once was an annoying earworm is now Flaming Lips penning songs for Hyundai. Kinda turns that whole frustrated songwriter seeking any outlet on its head. But if it’s produced by an artist, doesn’t that make it art?


Galleries are brimming with unexpected inspo for graphic designers, from communist propaganda posters to entire schools of functional furniture and social housing. I’m sure there was a point even Le Corbusier needed to pay the rent. Modigliani kept himself in absinthe by selling his paintings as porn, the purest form of Parisian social currency.

Returning to humble beginnings for the cash was traditionally termed selling-out. We’ve come a long way since then. Big in Japan went even bigger when the internet leaked Leonardo DiCaprio’s “cool bourbon”. The world became a better place when Tommy Lee Jones turned out to be bossing it for Suntory.

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Just last year the US repatriated Clooney’s Nespresso man, previously lurking on European screens since 2006. And about time. He and Malkovich already redrew the lines of the campaign by improvising their way out of a cliche in their genius b-roll right there on god’s sofa.

Because what is entertainment after all? It’s being caught off guard, captivated by a momentary loss of understanding. That desperate scramble within the rational mind to join the dots. Then, as with all good story arcs and music tracks, there’s a reveal. A drop. That’s where unexpected relevance lies.

Done right, this drop is the moment it all click into place and you throw your hands in the air. It’s found in surprising partnerships that make cultural sense to your audience. It’s when Netflix engineered a Reeboks X Ghostbusters collab for Stranger Things, and Universal briefed Central St Martins students with the Minions fashion collection.


Perhaps the first step on the path to achieving unexpected relevance is realising the line is not ours to draw. If we put the dots in places so wrong they’re right then the audience might just join them for us. And then join in.

Award winning work

We're generally happy in the Stellar studio that our creative work wins the minds of our clients and hearts of their audiences. But when somebody suggested we enter one in for an award we thought what the hell, could be fun! Then forgot it as quick as a Lottery ticket. 

So we were somewhat dazzled to wake up today to find a shiny Davey Award sitting in our inbox. Stellar's global campaign for Fast & Furious 8 had only gone and won silver in the Online Film/Video-Live Events category!


This year's judging panel are a veritable "who's who" of media, advertising and marketing from Condé Nast, Disney, Publicis, Microsoft and Yahoo!

Derek Howard, Executive Director said, “The agencies awarded this season truly reflect the notion that small agencies produce big ideas”. Why thank you Derek and Davey. It was a damn fine idea to be fair.   

Judge it for yourself.

What's your NOS face?

Fast & Furious is Universal’s unstoppable, high octane $1 billion blockbuster franchise. But what fuels it? NOS. Nitrous Oxide Systems to the uninitiated. The lifeblood coursing through every speed junky’s veins.

Limitations of internal combustion mechanics aside, that moment when Dominic Toretto hits that red button, fires the engine and streams ahead to win the race is the jump lead of many a heart stopping scene.

Entering the lexicon and now entrenched firmly in popular culture, the concept of NOS - of unleashing physics-defying horsepower to save the day - inspired a generation, spawning countless memes and multiple teenage fantasies.

So for the launch of Fast & Furious 8, how did we further boost the (far from flagging) franchise? We wanted to find out how it feels to suddenly go from 0-160 in less than 2 seconds. And, more importantly for today’s Insta audience, what does your NOS face look like?

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How we did this was so simple it defies logic. To simulate the effects of supersonic speed on the human physiognomy, we initially experimented with slow mo film techniques and SFX. But no amount of digital trickery achieved an extreme or realistic enough appearance. We needed real reactions.

Enter 2x 2,000kW Black & Decker leaf blowers. Positioned, full-throttle, just 2ft away from a participant seated in front of a green screen. Yes, that’s right. Our client allowed us to blast a 170mph jet of air directly at people’s faces.

We then whizzed the captured slow motion footage through our automated post-production process, editing and grading to the requisite high-production levels and rendered into a mini Fast & Furious 8 trailer starring you, ready for sharing.

On leaving the experience, participants would report a surprising feeling of exhilaration as the rush of endorphins evaporated leaving them wondering what the hell just happened. Some likened it to a rollercoaster. None would forget it in a hurry.

A few minutes later, an email would ping into their inbox giving them a selection of three download formats, for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. Most chose two different sizes, revealing a trend of sharing across multiple platforms.

Because our client is international, we knew that if our idea was good enough it would be activated by all their territories from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America to Asia.

When it did, some fundamental anthropological observations emerged. 40,330 reactions, from the discombobulated Europeans to the irrepressible Southeast Asians, highlighted a beautiful global diversity.

The conclusion drawn as to why HIT THE NOS was such a successful concept, is that NOS is the greatest leveller. No matter how cool and collected you are when you enter that booth, everyone’s Charlize Theron in a heatwave (a hot mess) when they leave.

Watch the case study video  here

Watch the case study video here

The customer is always first

Two years ago marketeers were all talking about disruptive ideas and emotive storytelling. Last year was all about customer / brand co-creation. Now, if you’re lucky, it’s a struggle to keep up with all the content your audience is creating for you. And with some UGC outperforming branded content, is it time we just sat back and let them get on with it?

We all look forward to the Christmas ads. Mainly for the internet backlash when one brand inevitably goes overboard on the schmaltz train. 2015 probably hit peak emote when EDEKA literally poked us in the eye with the corpse of a lonely grandfather. Last year, the cuteness prize arguably went not to a brand but to the 17-year-old maker of that spoof John Lewis ad.

Putting aside the thought that if a student can make a believable alternative to a £1m Christmas campaign in one month then the days of big budget content could be numbered, I’m left wondering if audiences are starting to crave emotion right when brands are cutting sugar out of their strategy? After all, even John Lewis itself decided to go all quirky trampolining dog that year. Because that’s what the internet wants, right?

Clients often think they need to engage Gen Z with bitesize irreverent content in sharable shapes. Being so blatantly ‘disrupted’ as if you’re a vacant click-junky only concerned with trading social currency must get annoying. Perhaps the response of the marketed has been to become the marketeer.

Recently, a film student created an unsolicited weepie for adidas. Which the brand ignored before it went on to clock up 13 million views - almost half as many as the official ad. Whether this old-fashioned emotive ad was targeting the right audience, in line with the overarching strategy or likely to cause a spike in Gazelle sales is another matter.

What matters is that while Gen Y created scam ads for awards. Gen Z seem to be winning the popular vote. And since nobody ever goes outdoors anymore, this next generation are even faking billboards from the brutally simple school of advertising.

The point with these UG ads is that there is a point, a non-frivolous semblance of a creative concept and a meaningful message. Right or wrong, they’re not twerking ponies.

These kids are more emotionally and politically engaged than the cynical marketers who’ve belatedly decided to chuck out the schmaltz. And maybe they’re trying to tell them something: Stop bombarding us with interactive, idiotic content and expecting us to share it. Yes we’re creators. But it goes deeper than an emoji - 2017 is emotional!

A sign of their troubled times then? If (snow)flakey account execs and hardened Gen X creative directors are over the emotional advert, are we seeing a sobfest revival from a new champion? Are Gen Z audiences seeking human empathy in this brave new Brexiting, Trumpeting world and on finding none, creating their own?

Being small, our clients don’t always come to us with huge budgets. This means that over the years not only have we worked harder at the concept, knowing we can’t just throw money at the execution, we have built a reputation for our superstellar contacts.

The result is we’re constantly tapped into bright young things. From student fashion events to pet influencers to our signature blend of specialists, whether in a production studio or their bedroom, assembled bespoke for each individual job.

The benefit to our clients is a rich, intelligent stream of diverse viewpoints and ideas, delivering targeted, stand-out solutions to real business problems.

So it’s encouraging to see that the young creators of both these pieces were snapped up by agencies. As long as they don’t just use them to update their social.

Love in the time of trollera

How we helped OnePlus to redefine phone porn

OnePlus are not just the latest Chinese challenger to the global smartphone establishment. Launching exclusively on social media as the first fully customisable, unlocked handset along with the open invitation to hack it even better, they quickly engaged a cult following among tech-superior, impatient early adopters who believe an iPhone is a smartphone for stupid people.

From the CEO down, the company engages right back at them. By listening to their audience and releasing new handsets seemingly as and when improvements are made, OnePlus seem refreshingly keen to share their latest innovations with the same community that inspired them.

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

But when an under-the-radar tech brand makes phones that compete with Apple and Samsung, their agency competes with multi-million pound marketing noise.

So how do we cut through at Valentine's? Not with more pink wallpaper. But with something to stir things up and get noticed. A physical interpretation of how we all feel for the one we love above all others - one we'd be lost without.

If only we'd employed facial recognition webcams on this one. The reactions videos revealed this polarising Dusk Till Dawn WTF switch to a macro tongue ballet inspired by car ads caused either a spontaneous grin or wide-eyed abject horror. 

But our frenzied phone-licking anti-Valentine, for better or worse in sickness or LOL, made people talk about OnePlus. And renders Marmite about as controversial as Sugar Puffs.

If this seems as strategic as a fart bomb, think again. This homage was to the fans. The words of love in the script were written by Twitter - their real declarations of desire for the #OnePlus3T, its features soliloquised in almost visceral terms.

But it wasn’t for them. Brands don’t pay to preach to the converted. And as one contemptuous commenter pointed out, geeks don’t respond to marketing.

No, this gross display of public affection for everybody's secret object of desire was aimed at a mainstream audience, immune to beautiful marketing from the big players and jaded by the second-rate handsets churned out like clockwork in time for Christmas.

This savvy young audience has the requisite irreverent sense of humour to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek delivery of an off-the-wall message: who's the one you love most, sleep next to, gawp at in public? Now get a room. 

The silent several thousand thumbs-up versus the vocal few hundred thumbs-down for the #LickOfLove on YouTube suggests the majority got the joke. And the actors did such an amazing job of showing genuine passion for a (box-fresh, hygiene freaks) OnePlus 3T that they gave new meaning to the term phone porn.

Haters gonna hate. For a brand that thrives on controversy, if we didn't get trolled we'd be on the wrong bridge.

How many CEOs troll their followers?

How many CEOs troll their followers?

Find your freak


How we’re all individuals now

With This Girl Can the clear winner of 2015’s most mood film-sampled campaign, every brand is clamouring to prove they’re down with the uncool kids and celebrate we’re all different by giving normals the stage.

(Just to be clear. These are not real normal people. Dove flogged that idea to death. But hyperreal ones. Like Birkenstocks lined with fur

It's not been about going the distance or doing the impossible for a while now. This is the age of celebrating quirks and raising your own bar.

Motivational line factory Nike kicked off this trend with the W+K Emmy scoring Jogger. Their epic Find your Greatness campaign went from strength to strength until the concept was weakened by the confusing Find your Fast, with us poor averages finding ourselves up against gladiators again. 

Grey nobly attempted to mobilise Lucozade’s hungover masses off the sofa and Find their Flow. Flawless concept, smooth delivery. So far so Grey. Not sure if the line quite carried enough meaning alone to prop it up in print though. 

Right Move’s Find your Happy neatly, or sloppily depending on your level of grammar pedantry, recognises that a house purchase choice is personal and simultaneously manages to bundle in another copy trend by turning an adjective into a verb.

About their lovely new Axe campaign, 72andSunny Creative Director Carlo Cavallone said, that along with individuality and authenticity, their focus was “inclusivity”. The male dancer in stilettos is certainly a refreshing twist on the Lynx Effect hero.

From a copy perspective, what I find interesting is that a series of campaigns all championing the individual can’t seem to differentiate their messaging.

So trans is the new black. And tokenism and cynicism aside, the fact advertisers are finally catching up with the film and fashion industries in targeting previously marginalised groups ought to be welcomed.

With any trend, there’s always a tipping point. As Carrie Bradshaw might say, how much more normal can we be? Or have we peaked and gone full freak?