The Magazine's review of advertising
THE AD: Skoda Fabia
THE BRIEF: Build a Skoda out of cake (and continue to change people's perceptions of the brand).
THE SCHTICK: Bakers are shown making an array of differently shaped and sized cakes and then assembling them into something. It becomes clear eventually that they are assembling an orange car, but it's only when you see a Skoda badge being fixed with icing sugar to the front of the cake car that the brand is revealed.
THE BREAKDOWN: This is advertising on a big scale. It's imaginative, ambitious, painstakingly crafted, and - thanks in no small part to the soundtrack of Julie Andrews singing My Favourite Things - destined to hit the target of being the ad you are glad to see. It's an instant classic.
Shot at Shepperton Studios, the cake took eight people 10 days to make. While the basis of the chassis is seen being built up with sponges, the moulded parts of the bodywork are made with a mixture of Rice Krispies. A home economist reveals in a "behind the scenes" video that the cereal was "the best edible material which will set to the exact shape of the panel" - something anyone who's made an Easter egg "nest" cake will confirm. The headlight covers are made from glacier mints, the brake lights from red jelly. The engine and wing mirrors, from marzipan.
Not only does director Chris Palmer think it was worth the trouble, he says it's the reason the advert works at all. "Thank God we did it for real," he says. "It was doing it for real in real time that was the worst possible way. We didn't have a practice run. It was all theory up until we had done it. But I'm so glad that we did, and that the people in the advert were the people who did it - the model makers were building it for real."
This is an enormous amount of trouble to go to for an advert - some estimates say that it cost £500,000 to make; one newspaper pointed out the comparative value of a Skoda (the advert costs 62 times as much). So is this a bid for Skoda to make the most of its recent good press and performance in driver surveys? It's some time since the brand stopped apologising for itself, but does the scale of the advert indicate a bolder aspiration?
Simon Barker, communications manager for Skoda, says not. "For us, it's not about being brash or proving a point, it's about self-confidence," he says.
But he accepts that on first viewing this does not look like a Skoda advert. The initial shots of bakers hard at work is reminiscent of Asda's recent campaign starring Victoria Wood (coincidentally produced by the same advertising company), but as it progresses one expects it to be a Honda magnum opus, a worthy successor to its legendary Cogs in which various car parts beautifully collide with each other like a domino-felling exhibition.
Barker says: "Lots of people have said to me that when it starts you don't even spot it's a car advert, until you see certain glimpses. And you certainly don't realise it's a Skoda advert. When they realise it is for a car, the first one that comes into their mind is a Honda. That's fantastic for us - Honda make great adverts. For us to be thought of being at their level is great."
In fact, a distinguishing feature of the remarkable series of recent Honda adverts has been that none is in any way like any of the others. The latest, Hondamentalism, has three scientists battling against an almighty gale. It's a statement about scientific advance but feels bleak in comparison to previous feel-good efforts.
One bit of trivia about the Skoda advert: Julie Andrews gave her personal approval to the soundtrack, following Skoda asking EMI's permission. Ad Breakdown has noted in the past just how much the right song can contribute to an advert's watchability, and that's never been truer than here. It reminds you what a towering talent Julie Andrews really is. The perfect clarity of the recording, her diction and flawless voice emphasise the unusual distinction of this work.
And the remaining question - what happened to the cake? Barker says they looked at donating it to charity, but by the time the cake had been in the studio and under the lights during construction it was not thought fit for human consumption. It ended up in a compost heap - though the chocolate speedometer and marzipan wing mirrors were, reportedly, kept for posterity.
Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson
Here is a selection of your comments.
Car manufacturers sometimes come up with true gems to sell their cars. From Ford's Steve McQueen Puma advert, to the Honda Cog advert and this one, it is rare that an advert stands out so much that it becomes an icon itself. Long may such enterprising adverts continue.
Russell Long, UK
i find this wicked how they make it !
Hananh , bordon hampshire england
Homer Simpson would have liked this car !!!!
Scott, Burnham on Crouch, Essex.
I think the advert is amazing!
Zosia Rutkowski, Northwich
A superb example of creative genius giving us reason to smile in an ever increasingly dull and drab world. Bravo!
Adrian Tapping, London, UK
As an ardent Skoda driver, I was delighted when I first saw the advert. It becomes more amazing every time I watch it as you pick up on new details you missed the first time. It is also a testament to the skill of the bakers and model makers.
Clare Baker, Devizes, England
The advert is great, but unfortunately it just makes me want to go and buy a gorgeous gooey cake rather than a car!!
Anna, Bath, UK
This ad infuriates me. It's the music. The building of the car out of cake is ingenious and deserves a much better soundtrack than that drippy old chestnut from The Sound of Music. I don't find Ms Andrews' diction and singing charming at all. It's twee and sickly and it makes me rage out or in other words change the channel. Quickly.
E Dickinson, London, UK
I loved this ad the first time I saw, I had no idea what it was for, but I was hooked and watched it the whole way through. It hits the mark completely, truly memorable and very clever.
Jen, Gloucester, UK
Complete Genius !! My children, my husband and myself stop in our tracks each time we hear the soundtrack to watch the magnificent creativity involved in this unforgettable advertisement! Well done SKODA !
Samantha Williams, Hungerford, Berkshire UK
i saw this ad while out with a group of friends in a bar and I have to say I was totally swept away by it. I dont recall any of the 'honda' ads referred to in this article but this Skoda ad just sticks in my mind. what an amazing idea!!! shame it ended up as compost tho.
Utter waste of food..
It's a terrible waste of a really wonderful song. It's got no subtlety, charm or intelligence. It's just ooh look at us we made a car out of cake so now we're a news story as well. I, for one, am even less likely to buy the car. Not that I was every likely to ...
Martha Marsupial, London
That was a great advert, what a shame they had to throw it away. I would have eaten it (some of it anyway).
H. Anthony, Southampton, UK
Absolutly love this advert, looks like the people who star in it are having great fun making the cake/car. About time we had some fun adverts, keep up the good work.
HF, West Midlands
I love this advert. Every time it comes on I look forward to watching it.
Karen Glancy, Gourock, Inverclyde, Scotland
I'm so glad to find out they did it for real. What a triumph......or was that Skoda?
Jan, Buckingam, UK
It made me think "What a wonderful final-year project for a catering college."
Megan, Cheshire UK
As the daughter of a professional novelty cake designer I speak with experience when I guarantee that this is cake on a large and wonderful scale. Fantastic idea, I am very pleased to see that no corners were cut.
Carey Bond, Surbiton/Surrey
It is a very long time since Skoda made rubbish cars and yet the stigma remains. I think it's time to change the badge - that's where the "feeling" stems from.
Gazzer, Basingstoke UK
Nice ad, shame about the car!
Ann Storey, Dartford
I think it's absolutely fantastic. While watching it for the first time, I thought is was going to be another one of those annoying Asda adverts with Victoria Wood. But by the end I was in awe of what had been created and dearly wanted it to be all real, and not a foam shell with icing stuck all over it. I now have new respect for Skoda, the bakers and whoever came up with such an inspirational idea!
Charlotte Mann, London
The ad, like the car it represents is a joke.
Dave Brice, Leicester
A very cleverly crafted advert and congratulations to everyone involved! However, shortly after watching this I heard an appeal for millions starving in Chad & Darfur - now ask yourselves who should be eating all that cake ..
Andy Eccleston, Cardiff
As mentioned in the article, I originally thought the ad was for Asda and Honda until the Skoda badge appeared. I think this was an amazing advert and I would like to see the making of video. (Is there a link?) It's kind of sad that an object created with such skill and imagination has been lost, but I'm glad that I've had a chance to see it, albeit during an advert break.
It is true; everytime this advert appears on our television, the whole family seems to stop what they are doing. My children always say 'mummy please can we have one of those', of course meaning the cake car. My husband has a look upon his face of pure ecstasy, cravings to sink his sweet tooth into the car. I myself often think about taking a bite of the jelly brake-lights. what a shame no-one got to eat this marvelous creation. Still, however nice this cake car looks, I don't think it will make anyone buy a Skoda because of it.
Samantha, Exeter, Devon
Marie Antoinette http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette would have been proud!
John Airey, Peterborough, UK
My partner and I find the advert in slightly poor taste due to the waste of food, in a world where people are still starving. It all seems too extravagant, just for another car ad that doesn't really say anything about the function of the car. I get slightly irritated nowadays when I'm trying to work out what a new advert is for, and then find, once again, it's another 'conceptual' car advert.
Selina Armstrong, Plymouth
The first time I saw this advert and began realising it was for a car I immediately said to my girlfriend 'I bet that is a Skoda'. Low and behold when the badge was stuck on I thought 'I knew it'. I took this positiely as it is a very clever advert and something I feel Skoda should and have done to create an impression.
K E, Surrey
Feel good factor is right - i drool every time I see this advert. One of the best on TV at the moment. Problem is, as a student watching it, you can afford neither cars nor cake.
Kayley, sheffield, yorks
"thanks in no small part to the soundtrack of Julie Andrews singing My Favourite Things - destined to hit the target of being the ad you are glad to see. It's an instant classic."
Can't stand it after the first showing- and really it's all down to the soundtrack -brilliant visuals but i have to turn the volume off.
Liam, N Ireland
I like the ad and enjoy watching it. It is interesting, creative, fun and bring a smile to my face when I watch it. However, it does not improve my image about Skoda neither is it the choice of car I would purchase.
Chr, London, UK
Superb advert.... but can you still double the car's value by filling it up with petrol?
Clever add - but after the initial impact you begin to realise what a waste of time, food and energy this is. It certainly wouldn't persuade me to buy a Skoda! A decadent pointless waste of money.
brian, Chandlers Ford
Really liked the Ad, just that little bit different and quirky. Well done to all involved.
Matt Baker, St Albans
Could the ride be a bit spongy on this one?
Composting cake??? That would lead to an on-the-spot fine where I live.
I loved the complexity of it - they actually made the engine...
I would agree with the report that it is an instant classic, its originality means that it will go down with some of TVs greatest ads. The detail Skoda must have gone into to make the Ad(and the cost) will certainly change peoples perceptions of the company,(hopefully for them, for the better.)
james lavery, St Helens, England
I love this advert its the only one I can stand to watch over and over again. The whole concept is brilliant, I would love to see a longer version or even a documentary into its making, the work that has gone into it and the detail is just absolutely mind blowing. A pat on the back to the people who thought up the concept and I imagine the pitch must have been a tough one. A big well done to the bakers they are amazingly talented people.
Carly, East Grinstead, West Sussex
There are children dying of starvation in the world but we can build a car out of cake.
Doesn't that tell you something ?...
Alex Cain, Dundee