Judderman: One of the Weirdest Adverts Ever


This must be one of the weirdest television advertisements ever produced. It touches something deep in the unconscious mind, hinting at a threat or danger embodied by the sinister Judderman. Even if it had not been promoting alcohol, it would surely have been deemed suitable only for the television post-9pm watershed.

Produced in 2000, the advert takes us to a darkly theatrical fairytale world, inhabited by the wonderfully creepy ‘Judderman’, who lures unsuspecting travellers into unspecified danger with his Schnapps-based alcopop drink. Taking his name from the ‘judders’ which were an effect of drinking Metz, and a focus of the advertising campaign, he was designed to be beguiling, mysterious, and cold – just like the drink.

There are accounts that it was voted the ‘scariest ad of all time,’ and was for this reason banned from television, although I can find no firm evidence of this.

The ‘Forest’ advert is more memorable than the discontinued Metz, schnapps-based product, that it was designed to promote.

The advert was directed by Enda McCallion, whose first novel, Bloodshot, is soon to be published in 2016. He has a film in pre-production, The Blue Boogaloo, shooting in Morocco from late 2016.

Inspiration for the style of the advert came from early cinematic classics like Nosferatu and the works of Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. An adapted hand-cranked camera was used to replicate the variable shutter speeds of early cinema. Dissolve effects were achieved by taking double exposures.

It was shot in Budapest, on an icy set that had been created for a recent film. The Judderman himself was played by a 6ft-5 ballet dancer, who provided the eerie, elfin movement they wanted. Traditional puppetry and animation add some nice touches, and the whole is completed by a voice-over by Polish-Czech actress Alicia Suszka Fielder.

More detail can be found in the article below quoted from Campaign magazine.

‘If you’re 18 and you have a choice between a safe product and a dangerous one, you’ll choose the dangerous one,’ HHCL & Partners’ creative, Al Young, says. The agency’s latest Metz commercial gives the product an element of danger.

The ad follows HHCL’s ’freelance scientist’ spot for the Schnapps-based drink. Ian Williamson, the art director, and Jonathan Burley, the copywriter, fashioned a Lewis Carroll-inspired ode to the creepy ‘Judderman’ and his bizarre world. Their strategy was to evoke a character who, like the drink, is beguiling, mysterious and cold. The ad also emphasises the drink’s kick as a ’judder’’, as in the previous work.

To direct the spot they chose Enda McCallion, the Irish-born director who signed to Spectre last July. McCallion’s previous work included a banned Renault spot featuring two cars in flagrante, and two for the Citroen Saxo, ’mad cow’ and ’ring of fire’, paying homage to the films From Dusk Till Dawn and Alien. McCallion stood out from the shortlist of possible directors, according to Burley, because of his mischievous sense of humour.

McCallion talks with a daunting rapidity about his interests. Inspiration for ’Judderman’, he says, came from early European cinema: the Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer, especially his 1988 film, Alice, and the ’junk opera’ of the cult Cincinnati band, The Tigerlilies, based on the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. As McCallion lay in a hospital bed in Paris recovering from an ear infection that had affected his balance, the ideas came together.

The result was a spectacular vision of an icy wilderness, populated by shivering peasants under the Judderman’s hypnotic spell.

For atmosphere, the shoot took place in Budapest with an adapted hand-cranked Arri camera, used to replicate the variable shutter speeds seen in early cinema. Dissolve effects were made by taking double exposures.

Post-production on Flame was undertaken at London’s Glassworks facility, including transferring the flickering feel of the hand-cranked camera to the few shots that needed a modern camera.

The art director on the set, Nikos Meletopolous, constructed a fantastic set, to which digital matte backgrounds were added by Jean-Marie Vives, whose previous work includes Alien 4 and Delicatessen. Elements of animation and puppetry added to the storybook feel, with Budapest puppet-makers employed to give the commercial its unique framing device.

Katy Minter’s vivid costumes were fashioned from wool and silk and incorporated wood and vegetation. Much of the commercial’s charm comes from the voiceover supplied by the half-Polish, half-Czech actress,Alicia Suszka Fielder.

The atmospheric music and sound design was provided by Srdjan Kurpjel of the London company, Mind the Sound.

The Judderman’s shadows were allowed to fall across the matte background and the animation was kept deliberately crude. McCallion describes the whole process as one of ’playing around with ideas and perspectives – bringing order to chaos’. But there is clearly enough chaos left to make this a commercial with repeat value and which has, to quote the copy, ’teeth, and sharp ones at that’.