Axe / Unilever

Virtual Hair Action

Banner Campaign
BBH New York had a unique challenge: How to create a more immersive first-person experience for their client, Axe, that involves the company’s new initiative called “Hair Action.” Luckily, Luxurious Animals had demoed to a small BBH audience months earlier a project they had been working on with their audio partner, Antfood. Part of this project involved 3D sound that gave the listener the sensation of being in the center of the action. BBH thought this would be perfect for their next Axe campaign which they called “Virtual Hair Action.”

Part of the inspiration for working with 3D sound goes way back to when our Chief Creative Officer, Garrett Nantz, was a wee lad vacationing in Disney World. There, he was smitten with 3D audio when donned a pair of headphones and listened to a recording called “Virtual Haircut.” In those few moments, he sincerely believed a barber was actually cutting his hair. The sound of the scissors snipping around his head felt so real, Little Garrett had to check his hair to make sure none of it was missing. He later learned this type of 3D sound was called binaural audio.

So what is the difference between regular audio and binaural audio? While standard stereo gives a left-right illusion of sound, binaural audio reproduces the spatial accuracy of how our ears register sound in a complete 360-degree environment when played back through headphones – to not only the left and right, but also above, in front and behind. This is why binaural audio is the most realistic possible emulation of natural sound. Surprisingly, despite today’s amazing digital tools, using this analogue method still is the best way to recreate this type of binaural sound. The binaural recording device resembles a mannequin head with microphones perfectly positioned within each ear canal. The particular model we used for the audio recording was named “Fritz.”

BBH and Luxurious Animals collaborated on three scripts that maintained the Axe sexy allure while pushing moments of 3D-ness in the performances. Once the scripts had been finalized, we realized there was a big technical challenge. Many elements in the scripts called for larger-than-life sound effects, such a tornados and tigers. Binaural audio works best with live sounds surrounding the binaural head. Since these are definitely not the easiest of elements to work with on a soundstage, Luxurious Animals and Antfood devised some tests. The best solution turned out to be moving a hand-held speaker with pre-recorded sound effects around Fritz to match the location and direction of the object. Now that we had that figured out, we were ready to do the final recording.

The two-day recording session took place at our soundstage in Manhattan. The voice actresses wearing high-heels were directed to run around and interact with Fritz as if he were a real person throughout all of their movements. Then separately, action sounds were recorded, e.g. “whooshing” sounds of ninja stars, glass breaking, and beastly tiger growls.

However, audio was only half of the equation. We created an attractive video experience to seduce the online user. After Luxurious Animals directed a one-day live action shoot with three gorgeous actresses, we were ready to start assembling the pieces of the project together.

In the final expandable rich media banners, the user is instructed to put on their headphones and click to begin the 3D holophonic experience. Three girls representing three unique scenarios – “Battle Royale,” “Tiger” and “Twister” – patiently await being selected. Once a girl is chosen, she seductively walks towards “you” as the user and places a blindfold over the entire screen. Then, the Hair Action experience really gets going.

In “Twister,” a girl tries desperately to convince the other to leave before the two are caught in the storm. Refusing to abandon the Hair Action, the other girl stays right by your ear. In an unexpected “twist” of events, you hear the cautious girl snatched by the whirling tornado. The girl left behind, having been loyal to Hair Action, knows she’s rewarded when she says, “I thought she’d never leave. Looks like I got you all to myself…”

The second scenario, “Tiger,” may actually frighten you. Before two sexy girls get a chance at some serious Hair Action, an escaped tiger breaks in, causing panic among the ladies. The animal’s movements are so clear, you’ll shudder from the low rumbles of the tiger when it comes close to sniff your hair.

In “Battle Royale,” two feisty women unsheathe their swords in a fight for Hair Action. You aurally witness every clash of their swords and the steps of their feet as they struggle around you in the room.

This campaign touched upon two very important senses – sight and sound – to bring the Hair Action experience to life. Give it a luxurious look.

Interactive and video production – Luxurious Animals
Creative Director – Garrett Nantz
Executive Producer – Robert Bengraff
Producer – Ali Baranker
Associate Producer – Lauren Erickson
Flash Programmer – Justin Schrader
Designer and Animator – Rich Brilli
Designer and Animator – Rebecca Stoehr
Designer and Animator – JB Ayers
Production Designer – Ewen Ku
Binaural and Video Director – Garrett Nantz
Director of Photography – Steve Becker
Gaffer – Marc Labbate
Key Grip – Chris Lally
Binaural Concepting – Garrett Nantz and Robert Bengraff
Binaural Sound Design and 3D Audio Techniques – Antfood