New Zealand's contribution to the world's largest advertising stage was loud, abrasive and unapologetic.

When Flux Animation, founded in Auckland 20 years ago, was approached to develop a Super Bowl campaign for automotive brand Ram Trucks, the Kiwi studio went all out to take advantage of the rare creative opportunity.

The result of company's creative efforts is a thundering stampede of uncannily realistic rams storming their way from Los Angeles, the home of Super Bowl finalists the LA Rams, to Atlanta, the venue of this year's final.

While the ad perfectly captures the LA Rams' journey to the playoffs, Flux executive producer Joshua Forsman says his team took a massive gamble with the concept.


"It was all or nothing for us. If the Rams hadn't made the Super Bowl, this content likely wouldn't have lived anywhere. But for us to be on a global stage it was a no-brainer," Forsman says.

The Flux team was given only 11 weeks to turn around the campaign – the equivalent of a Kit Kat break when it comes to developing complex, high-quality animations.

In addition to the inevitable strain staff faced in meeting the deadline, the studio also took a financial risk in accepting the work.

Given the LA Rams hadn't then made the final, Flux's payment for the work was contingent on the team making it all the way.

Forsman says they were originally only going to buy into the concept once it was confirmed the team had made the final.

"That would have only given us five weeks to make the ad, which we knew wasn't enough time to get it to a level we were happy with," Forsman says.

Flux started working on the project in October, investing eight weeks of company resources, despite only having the deal set in stone on December 24 when the Rams secured their spot.

But Flux still had to deliver – and this was easier said than done.

"We faced massive adversities," recalls Forsman, sounding somewhat relieved the final product has been released.

"We couldn't shoot any original content with the budget and time constraints we had, so we trawled the internet for stock footage and then went about creating full CGI environments."

Flux was under pressure to ensure the rams were ultra realistic. Image/Flux.
Flux was under pressure to ensure the rams were ultra realistic. Image/Flux.

The drama continued right up to the week before the campaign was launched.

At the 11th hour, Ram's parent company Fiat Chrysler confirmed it would back out of TV ads at the Super Bowl and would instead orchestrate a "digital blitz," which would see a series of five different creative concepts, including the Flux effort, rolled out across online media.

"This was a bit of a surprise to us," Forsman says.

"They researched internally how people were watching the games these days, and they found that a large percentage of their target market would be watching it online via mobile and tablet.

"As opposed to spending their money on the TV platform for the one-off show, they'll be doing an internet takeover which will see every digital pipeline leading into the show featuring different elements of the campaign."

In an interesting PR twist, the move has already given the company cut-through in the cluttered Super Bowl advertising environment, with numerous international publications reporting on the fact the perennial Super Bowl brand would not be running TV ads.

As online viewing habits increase, there have been a growing number of companies experimenting with digital advertising in a bid to avoid getting lost in the extensive crowd of Super Bowl advertisers.

There are, however, questions over whether this strategy works, given the vast majority of viewers continue to watch the event on free-to-air television, as is the case with All Blacks games.

Why Flux?

This is the first major locally produced ad to appear at the Super Bowl since Auckland-based Colenso BBDO developed its 2015 campaign for Michael Hill. Which is to say New Zealand firms aren't exactly the go-to shops when it comes to developing Super Bowl ads.

So why was Flux picked over the numerous US animators that pitched for the work?

Forsman says a major reason is because of the company's knack for creating ultra-realistic digital characters in the studio.

Forsman says when you Google "creature studio", Flux comes up in the top three results no matter where you are in the world. And this reputation is something Ram relied on for its ad.

"In this case, it all had to be photo-real," Forsman says. "There were no exceptions to that. We challenged ourselves internally and we were challenged externally to meet that promise."

Kiwis have also been treated to Flux's quirky creatures, most recently in the shape of a pair of talking chameleons that appeared in a launch campaign for paint brand Valspar two years ago.

Flux previously developed a pair of talking chameleons for the Valspar launch campaign. Image/Flux.
Flux previously developed a pair of talking chameleons for the Valspar launch campaign. Image/Flux.

Those creatures were such a hit that the campaign was exported to Chicago a year later, and Forsman says it will also be rolled out in London.

Flux's reputation has seen the company steadily grow its international presence, working with clients across the US, UK, South East Asia and Japan.

"We pitch our time zone as a major benefit [to international clients]," Forsman says.

"We can work through the night when they're sleeping. We can then report back to them when they wake up, giving them a full day to consolidate and think about it."

While there's always another project on the way, Forsman says the team currently has its gaze on its March Christmas break to make up for working through December.