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Erectile problems, if you'll excuse the pun, are a hard topic to broach.

Despite people. being more open about the stresses and strains of modern life, and the resulting impact on mental health, the subject of anything being not quite right in the bedroom is seen, by many, to be a point of shame.

With an estimated 4.3 million British men reportedly suffering from erection problems, with a study representative of the UK population finding that 26% of people are unable to be intimate due to them or their partner not being able to get or maintain an erection, Viagra knew they tiny blue solution, but how best to speak about it?

The result is Love Story, a gorgeously constructed two-minute short from VMLY&R and Blinkink's Zombie Studio that presents a highly-relatable tale of work/life balance feeling decidedly unbalanced.

We spoke to Creative Director Tamryn Kerr about how the project was conceived, why Zombie was the right team for the job and what conversations it's hoping to ignite.

Viagra – Love Story

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What was the starting point for the campaign? Why was it felt that the brand needed to shift the conversation?

We discovered that there is a true lack of understanding of the causes of erection problems. This has led to a culture of self-blame amongst men and the wider society who have associated them with a perceived lack of masculinity - it’s their failure as a man. We wanted to shift the blame, and the conversation, from men themselves to the life causes of erection problems.

We knew that men take on average three years before seeking treatment for erection problems, and that their relationship breaking down was overwhelmingly the thing that would make them seek treatment.

We felt great progress was made in the last few years on important  topics such as mental health, sexual health and menstruation but erection problems remained buried under a morass of shame. And the teams at Upjohn and VMLY&R wanted to change that.

What were the first steps? Did you need to garner much research into erectile issues?

Our incredible strategy director Josh Taylor-Dadds along with the client team had the complex task of getting men to open up about erection problems. We tried multiple setups to create the best environment to get men talking. We started the conversations broadly talking about modern masculinity and then on to sex, sexuality and erection problems. As soon as that was mentioned, men tended to go quiet, but all it took was for one of them to open up to get the others talking. We went over time in every single session because the men had so much to say. 

We started the conversations broadly talking about modern masculinity and then on to sex, sexuality and erection problems. As soon as that was mentioned, men tended to go quiet.

We knew that men take on average three years before seeking treatment for erection problems, and that their relationship breaking down was overwhelmingly the thing that would make them seek treatment. What the research helped uncover was that acknowledging external causes liberates men from the stigma and self-blame. It was as though a weight fell from their shoulders. This gave us the insight we needed as a jumping-off point for our strategy and creative. 

Why was animation chosen as the delivery? Was live-action considered?

Animation is a powerful way to capture the near universality of a problem. Also, in a category full of live-action TVCs we wanted to stand out. Animation is a great way to dramatise the life causes of erection problems and to show their effect on a relationship. 

To make the moments more emotive and real we had a live-action shoot and filmed most of the script. The teams at Zombie and Blinkink used that to inform the scenes in animation and bring them to life with insight and humanity.

How did Zombie get brought in? What was it about their style that won the job?

We were excited to work with Blinkink and Zombie. Their work is world-class, and we had no doubt they would bring the script and our idea to life in a unique way. When we discussed it, they proposed a mix of 2d and 3d animation that felt distinctive and ownable for Viagra Connect. 

Animation is a great way to dramatise the life causes of erection problems and to show their effect on a relationship. 

Their attention to detail in the characters and the action is what makes the film so emotive and human. The Zombie team came to London for the live-action shoot and then worked out of Brazil for the rest of the project.

How was the production period? Did the project change much in the process?

Animation can be a lengthy process, but our teams got into a good flow. Time zones were our friend allowing us a morning start to get meetings and feedback ready to be briefed by the afternoon. And the Zombie team could work through part of our night.

The themes in the campaign are universally relevant to millions of people around the world. The current health and economic crisis have only magnified them.

We were already working from different parts of the world when we had to go into remote working, so our process did not change much. I believe we’re likely to see more of these types of projects in the future as the industry embraces more flexible working practices and processes, so this was good practice for us.

We're guessing that the campaign was mooted before the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, but the themes are certainly applicable to the stresses and strains of the period. Was there any thought about addressing that more directly?

The themes in the campaign are universally relevant to millions of people around the world. The current health and economic crisis have only magnified them. Work stress, poor diet and lack of sleep are more of an issue than they ever were for both men and women; so being able to highlight them as causes of erection problems and shift the blame now feels incredibly timely. 

Back in December, we decided to set the entire film in the bedroom as a way to dramatise life invading the relationship in the most intimate way. Looking back on it now, I couldn’t be more glad about this creative choice as it reflects what 2020 has become for most of us. 

What is your favourite moment in the hero film? What are you proudest of?

The moment when our two characters move away from each other after not being able to have sex is the most powerful scene for me. You can only have empathy for our male character as he pulls away from his partner with an expression of failure on his face. 

It’s an emotive moment that feels true to life and is likely to strike a chord with both male and female audiences. 

What other elements of the campaign can we expect to see?

We’ve produced an integrated campaign that supports our message from points of sales to VOD and social. It highlights in greater details than the film the specific life causes individually.  

The website also gives a broader context and useful tools to help men understand the range of things they could do to deal with all the underlying issues.

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