Uncle Ben's Worlds
The Brief

AMV BBDO London wanted to create an ad campaign for their client Uncle Ben’s, to launch their new product, ‘Twin Pots’. They chose three different flavoured Twin Pots and wanted me to create three different scenes using the ingredients. These scenes needed to also be well known locations for each part of the world that the recipes came from.

The first was a Chinese sweet and sour Twin Pot, which would be the Great Wall of China, the second an Indian curry Twin Pot, which would be the Taj Mahal, and finally a Mexican chilli Twin Pot, which would be a Mayan temple.

Uncle Ben’s had already been running campaigns for different products with a brand identity that used a kind of food landscape, but with a much simpler and naive look to it. The team at AMV wanted to progress the aesthetic on to something that was much more sophisticated and less childlike in appearance, however they still wanted to retain an element from the current look, which was the simple figure and character of a single grain of rice, that makes it’s journey through these food worlds.

The agency provided me with rough scamps depicting the three scenes, and so I took these and elaborated them, by sketching in the details and annotating the ingredient suggestions. Having studied the ingredient list for each product it was easy to see what we would use to build with.

The Shoot

As these three scenes were fairly iconic images of these locations, it was easy to find good reference material to work with. So we began with the Great Wall of China made entirely out of pineapple chunks for the brickwork, but instead of creating the entire scene, we decided to build only one section of the wall and a couple of towers, as these elements could be altered and shot at different angles in order to “step and repeat” the wall as it progressed through the landscape.

Shooting these elements separately also allowed the flexibility for the ad to run in different formats, for both press and poster, as well as internet banners. The multi part layering also enables me to create a sense of depth within the scene, that would only be possible if the set was of a much larger scale. So with practicalities and budgets to consider, I always take the path of least resistance to achieve the best result without compromise.

The Taj Mahal is something I have wanted to do for many years, as the domes on the top always reminded me of large onions, and so I was delighted to be able to re-create this at long last out of food. Paul built the structure of the palace out of block board, and this was then sprayed and coated with coconut. The minarets were made from baby sweetcorn and the pond was lined with baby plum tomatoes, which was a major ingredient in the recipe, but not one we could feature on the palace itself due to it’s colour and contrast.

The Mayan temple was constructed in the same fashion and clad with red peppers and red kidney beans (the two main ingredients). But the hardest part of the picture was going to be the donkey that our grain of rice had travelled on. During the pre-production meeting with the agency it was suggested that we use a different form of transport such as a plane or a helicopter, but the donkey was the perfect form of jungle transportation for our “Indiana Jones” rice man, as you couldn’t land in a jungle by air except by parachute and that would be hard to depict.

Thankfully I saw that cocoa powder was on the list of ingredients, and as a donkey has a brown dusty look to it’s coat, I was certain that model maker Paul Baker would be keen to try his hand at sculpting with cocoa beans. Lifting this wonderful little donkey out of it’s box on the day of the shoot was clearly a very proud moment for Paul and I’m sure you’ll agree it is a little work of art in itself.

With all the elements shot and assembled in post, we added some distant hills and layers of mist to the Mayan scene. The Great Wall was shot with real smokey mist as you will see in the ‘making of ‘ video, which shows us all hard at work on the project. 

As usual the video doesn’t credit my team strongly enough, so I will take this opportunity to mention the great work of Paul Baker, ably assisted by Neil Jones on the model making front, and Rosie Scott our lovely food stylist who all worked so hard to make the vision come to life. I also apologise for my tired delivery on the video, but we were all pretty knackered having finished one of the most exciting and enjoyable projects we’ve ever worked on.