Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander
Group Creative Director

Perfecting The Perfect Serve

The iconic ‘pouring shot’ has been used for decades in the drinks industry, by almost every brand, from Coke through to Guinness. Showing the serve and the flowing liquid in cinematic style really is the best way to communicate the quality of a drinks product.

Since Ponderosa’s success launching Crabbie’s over 6 years ago, we have created successful TV campaigns, from the iconic George and Camilla campaign, through to using artists to create an outdoor print campaign that saw perception of Crabbie’s as a cool drinks brand raised by 50%.

What we had never done was create a perfect serve commercial. Something that was all about the pour and the liquid, with every frame equally heroic.

The Insight

The insight was this: that ginger is quite decisive. Through research and experience at sampling events, the brand manager observed that as soon as the word ‘ginger’ was spoken, people either loved Crabbie’s, or were resistant to trying it, saying that they didn’t like ginger. Yet, when they tried the product they were quickly converted.

The Idea 

This insight carried through to the creative idea; we set about creating a commercial around the perfect serve BUT with an irreverence and tongue in cheek tone that fits the Crabbie’s brand.

The idea was this: start with a tone of voice and imagery that the consumer will think is an iconic M&S TV commercial with the Crabbie’s liquid and perfect serve at the centre of the piece – condensation dripping down a bottle, a slow pan, and a climatic pop of the cap coming off then a dramatic pouring of the liquid. But the voiceover chosen would not seem quite right, we wanted the viewer to think something was a bit different. Then, as the VO was being read, when the voice artist got to the line Ginger Beer he would question this, ending in a strong catchphrase -Try It. You Might Like It!

Here is the final script:

In this commercial, we focus solely on the product with beautiful cinematography and non-descript studio to accentuate the liquid and glass.

                  Open on a super close-up of a bottle of Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer. We see the bottle top prised off using a polished steel bottle opener and the moment the seal between the top and bottle is broken, a delicate hiss and fizz is released to a microscopic explosion of ultra-fine mist as the Crabbie’s bursts into life.

                  Lifting an elegant chalice class to the bottle, the bottle is delicately presented to the lip of the angled glass and slowly tilts. The rich, sparkling amber liquid flows magnificently from the bottle into the glass, cocooning the crystal clear ice in an effervescent concerto of bubbles. The ice clinks against the inside of the chalice, pinging perfectly tuned notes from the glass. All shot in a super slow motion speed.

A mouth-watering wedge of Sicilian lemon rises over a bed of perfect pearls of air to be revealed in all its glory on the surface.

                  Appearing from nowhere, condensation envelops the seductively shaped chalice glass, glistening, reflecting and refracting the amber hue from within. Fully poured the bottle and glass are placed thoughtfully on a surface. The condensation now rolls down the glass, caressing its idyllic curves. The amber liquid glows gold under the perfect lighting as the lemon and ice float weightlessly. A white crown of fizzing foam settles gracefully on top.

                  We see the bottle and chalice stand side-by-side, as if they were a piece of art in a gallery. The gold foil of the Crabbie’s logo glistens majestically in the light.

VO1:                  Crafted using over 200 years of Scottish heritage, our closely guarded secret recipe of exceptional exotic herbs and aromatic spices sourced from the furthest regions of the globe expertly blended and steeped for up to 6 weeks to make the unique taste of Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic

[The tone changes to one of disbelief]



Is this script right?

Really Ginger Beer?

VO2: Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Try it, you might like it!

The Execution 

For the first ever Crabbie’s TV commercial that would be all about the serve we enlisted the help of Chief Productions, and Director Marc Ingham.

The process of creating any ad that is all about a liquid is very interesting, and the time and effort required to capture a 30 second commercial is fascinating.

We, Chief Productions and Marc envisioned an ad composed of highly choreographed sequences, carefully lit with high-key lighting, with the full colour and texture enhanced by super-slowed down footage. Hints of the new chalice glassware would also feature as part of the storyboard. To pull this off, we would need to get a team of specialists together.

The Team

Liquid Specialist

Tony Flori, one of the best drinks stylists in the industry, who has spent years perfecting the art of the perfect pour, was flown in from Romania for the shoot.  He has worked on brands such as Orangina, Stella Artois and Leffe. For the Crabbie’s ad Tony sourced ice from a company in Manchester, who supply ice for ice sculptures, and was made from purified water that was very slowly frozen – apparently the slow freezing gets rid of air bubbles which are what makes the ice cloudy.  Take a look to his showreel here.

Director of Photography

Paul Lilley is at the forefront of Phantom technology, the camera used on the shoot, and has worked on Nike and Pepsi Max, check out his showreel here.

The Kit


The ad was shot using a Phantom Flex camera, which has a superior dynamic range and also allows instant playback – an invaluable tool when shooting fast sequences that will be slowed down for the final piece.

Shooting with a native 4k resolution, the Flex provided us with the option in post-production to reframe, and tighten in on specifics as we saw fit. This camera catches an astonishing 1,000fps (40 x slower than normal speed) at full resolution, and also allows you to jump from 300fps to 1,000fps without losing any quality.

The main lens used was the latest Leica Summicron – this provided amazing clarity and sharpness. In addition, a macro version was utilised allowing us to shoot incredibly close detail. Using these lenses created a cinematic quality to the images.

Along with the lenses above we used an amazing lens system called a Revolution lens system; allowing us to capture amazing angles.

Once we finished shooting, we moved onto the grading which was done down at Moving Picture Company in Soho, London. Working with them, the images we captured on film were brought to life, with rich detail and vibrant colours.

The Final Storyboard



Once the footage was created, our first course of action was enlisting the help of Adam Ryan Carter, whose portfolio includes work on brands such as Sainsbury’s and Famous Grouse. Now working with Devon-based company Jam Factory, Adam was an invaluable tool in composing a music track to support the film.

Then came the voiceover. Using Silk Sounds Studio in Soho, London, our shortlist of voiceover artists included Matthew Macfadyen, Matt Berry, and Jim Moir (aka Vic Reeves). The voice selected need to be just right, in order to execute the idea successfully – and Vic Reeves’ voice was spot on.


How long does something like this take to produce?

It is always amazing the time and effort that goes into creating a 30 second TV commercial, with the schedule on this occasion going something like this:

Day 1 Directors treatments, shoot prep.

Day 2 Shoot prep.

Day 3 Shoot prep (glassware, lighting, camera etc).

Day 4 Post-production meeting at Chief where we run through everything, with all the teams in attendance and client. We discuss VO, music, everything.

Day 5 Pre-light and shoot day.

Day 6 Shoot day.

Day 7 Record voiceover artists via ISDN link from Bark and Bite, Manchester with Nick Netsall, Sound Engineer to recording studio Silks Sounds in Soho.

Day 7 (cont) Offline edit (this is where we take the raw footage, choose imagery and put together the sequences ungraded. It is called offline because a copy of the original is made, and that is what’s actually edited.) Voiceover artist to be chosen.

Day 8 Offline edit and client approval before footage is sent for grading.

Day 9 Full grading in London at The Moving Picture House, Soho.

Day 10 Online edit at Chief Productions.

Day 11 Online edit, graphics sound etc at Chief Productions. Client sign off.

Day 12 Submit to Clearcast.

Day 13 Deliver to TV stations.

Day 14 On air.

And of course, the ad

Check out the finished commercial:

Thanks to 

Sharon Gunnell, Agency Producer

Marc Ingham, Director

Colin Offland, Exec Producer

Tessa Emerson, Producer

Jim Moir (aka Vic reeves)

Music Composer Adam Ryan Carter

Paul Liley, Director of Photography

Tony Flori, Liquid Specialist

Al Cross, Brand Manager

Nick Netsall, Sound Engineer

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