Behind the scenes at Snickers' Elton John 'rap battle' shoot

How the Mars-owned brand recreated sunny West Coast America in wintry west London for a surreal ad shoot with one of music's biggest stars.

"Would you like to come down and see Elton John in the new Snickers ad?" Well, it was hardly the kind of invitation that Campaign could turn down.

Unfortunately tales of Los Angeles in the evening sunshine proved slightly unfounded. Instead, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the agency behind the ad, recruited LA-based production designer Alexis Ross and director of photography Lasse Frank to recreate Compton in the cold and rain of Acton’s Black Island Studios.

The set took two weeks to build, using online property listings in the Compton area to inform even the most minute of detail and ensure the set looked as authentic as possible, from kitsch disco lights to plastic-covered sofas. It was enough to convince West Coast rapper Boogie, born and raised in Compton, to shoot the video for his new single "DeJaVu" in west London rather than the comforts of home.

The shoot itself, led by Swedish director Andreas Nilsson, took place over three days and was split into two parts: the hero TV spot, followed by the social content (see below). Boogie’s on-screen crew of rappers were tasked with incorporating Elton John’s lyrics into the extra scenes, content which, according to Nilsson, enabled the cast be a be "more free" and "playful". 

The Rocket Man himself took a significant interest in his hip-hop collaborators, reportedly calling Boogie’s record label head Eminem - with whom he famously performed at the Grammys in 2002 - to discuss the rapper’s prospects, and promising to promote his music on his Beats 1 radio show.

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