Behind the scenes: a look inside the making of Virgin Red’s first-ever TV ad

Grace Carter
Virgin Red
Anna Brech
by Anna Brech
5 August 2021

Virgin Red unveiled its very first TV ad in history this summer, celebrating the official launch of the new rewards club from Virgin.

Whatever Blows Your Bubble is a joyful tale of something small becoming something amazing, in a nod to how Virgin Red transforms everyday buys into extraordinary rewards for its members. 

The story plays out to a re-record of the iconic 1980s track 99 Red Balloons, in an epic orchestral soundtrack performed by singer-songwriter Grace Carter

From the creation of a gigantic bubble gum balloon to suspending the ad’s lead actor, Melissa Saint, from aerial wires, the production team went all-out to bring the spectacle to life. 

Take a look at the videos below to find out how it all played out behind the scenes.

Whatever Blows Your Bubble: how it was made

Virgin Red’s Whatever Blows Your Bubble aims to capture the kind of child-like wonder and delight that comes about when something ordinary becomes magical. 

It sees actor Melissa blow a bubble gum balloon that rapidly becomes so huge, she can float up and away on it – in an analogy to the everyday escapism that members can find with Virgin Red.

“I was so excited about the idea of floating up and also being able to blow a bubble really big,” says Melissa, who was cast remotely for the role. 

To help capture the flight sequence, the ad’s production team recreated the bubble in CGI and also built real-life giant bubbles in the studio, with help from special effect technicians. 

The film was then elevated with an original soundtrack – a twist on 80s classic 99 Red Balloons re-recorded by artist Grace Carter – to give it a modern, epic, cinematic feel.

“When we found the right track, that was just a game-changer,” recalls  Linn Frost, marketing director at Virgin Red. “That just brought the whole thing together.” 

Visual effects from Whatever Blows Your Bubble

According to ad director Tash Tung, the challenge her team had was to make the bubblegum floating scene feel natural – however improbable the concept seems at first glance.

“For me, what was really important about the film was to make sure it was believable and real-world,” she says. 

To achieve this, the production crew built a series of real-life bubblegum balloons, experimenting with all sorts of textures, colours and thicknesses to get the feel of it exactly right. They then suspended actor Melissa beneath the balloon on wires, so she could “fly” for real.

From there, CGI artists were able to look at how the balloon moved in real life, so they could recreate it using digital graphic imagery. 

Recording 99 Red Balloons with Grace Carter 

Whatever Blows Your Bubble channels the freedom of letting go, and the rewards that come with that feeling. 

Music is central to the magic of it all, which is why producers decided to rework Nena’s classic 80s hit 99 Luftballons for the occasion, giving it a contemporary, cinematic twist. 

The new version was recorded live in studio, with a vivid orchestral score that shows off singer Grace Carter’s incredible vocal range.

“It’s just really fun to work with a track that’s got so much energy and to put a spin on it and make it my own thing,” says Grace. “It sounds really epic and I love that. I love that it builds throughout.”

The result is an exciting new world where something ordinary becomes something extraordinary – just like Virgin Red’s rewards. 

Find out more about Virgin Red, the new rewards club from Virgin, right here