So now we know. Infinite monkey theory states that given unlimited time, millions of chimps (with millions of typewriters or, more likely, laptops) will end up writing the complete works of Shakespeare. But food brand Cow & Gate has now proven that a bunch of cute toddlers, given access to a recording studio and an unlimited supply of guitars, violins, pianos and drums will end up playing Dexys Midnight Runner’s Come On Eileen.
The ad, the brainchild of agency BETC London, has a supergroup of babies experimenting with instruments until they begin hammering out the 1982 number one smash. It’s a fun and clever way of demonstrating a child’s personal development, hence the ad’s strapline Feed Their Personalities.
BETC London executive creative director Neil Dawson said, “Showcasing real moments of discovery of musical instruments is just one example of that. It’s the opposite of the talent show culture that is so dominant at the moment. A musical spot was the loudest way to kick the campaign off.”
Okay, the kids didn’t really play Come On Eileen (it was a re-record created by Ricall ) and it took BETC a bit of time to find the best track because they needed a song with a lot of instruments so every member of the young supergroup had something to play with. Love Cats by The Cure was an early contender, but probably wasn’t mainstream enough.
“It was also important that it was a recognisable track. And it had to be fun,” said Dawson. “Come On Eileen is fun. It’s upbeat. It’s a track you can’t help but nod along to. It’s the perfect antidote to all these overly sentimental ads that seem to be in fashion presently. It’s time for some positivity.”
Come On Eileen has form, of course. In 2005 the song was used by NASA control to wake the astronauts on the Discovery space shuttle as a nod to commander Eileen Collins. Otherwise, says EMI Music Publishing Senior Licensing Manager Chris Jones, the song has not been mined exhaustively for syncs.
“Come On Eileen has been in a few films, but it is one of those songs that hasn’t been in commercials so much. But, it works really well,” he said. A re-record was set in motion because, as Dawson explained the track is “the creative point of the advert.”
When the group of toddlers emerge into the recording studio they begin to investigate the instruments and equipment.
“As they each play around and tinker in their own individual, quirky ways the cacophony of different sounds they make gradually and magically come together to create the new, updated rendition of Come on Eileen,” he said.
So did the old W.C. Fields adage “never work with animals or children” apply to BETC? Apparently, not.
“Wonderfully, with almost no instruction, many of the kids instinctively started playing the instruments. The cameras rolled and the kids tinkered and plucked. The more bizarre the method of playing, the more believable it was,” said Dawson.
“There are very clear rules concerning working with kids. Ultimately you need a lot of kids and multiple cameras. We didn't want it to feel too staged, so the tune emerges out of chaos. And the only way to capture believable chaos is quite simply to let chaos happen and make sure the camera is running.”