Behind the scenes of Bupa’s Better Health campaign

07 January, 2013 by Rodney Appleyard

Odd Studio’s Adam Johansen and his team jumped at the chance to illustrate the dangers of excessive alcohol, smoking, eating, stress and exposure to the sun on behalf of private health insurer Bupa.

"The TV campaign, which is running at the moment, was all about the emotional reaction you would feel if you met an unhealthier version of yourself," says Johansen. "The script planned to make people think about that moment when you realise you haven't made healthy choices in your life and you look physically terrible because of it."


The brief from director Steve Rogers was to create radically altered versions of the characters that were disturbing enough to make people feel determined to change their lives.

"He said it was important for the audience to understand that the older person was the same individual at the same age – just a lot unhealthier. We had to approach the assignment very carefully because this wasn't an aging job, although you do tend to look older if you're tired and not living well. So we had to tread a fine line between demonstrating the health implications and making the character look older."

To get the balance right, Johansen and his team had to think carefully about how each person would realistically be affected by different kinds of irresponsible lifestyles.

"We decided to create the make-ups around each actor's individual physical traits, skin type and age. For instance, some actors looked like they would work better than others with weight-gaining effects. We thought some of the others could have the potential to be affected by the sun because they were fairer in comparison. When you combine that look with somebody who is a smoker, you end up with a person who generally hasn't aged as well as somebody who looks after themselves."

Johansen says that one of the actors had actually been a heavy smoker, so they were a perfect candidate to wear make-up that would accentuate the negative effects of smoking.

"For others, it was easy to tell how they would look if they made specific misguided choices, such as over-indulging in alcohol. The make-up effects had the power to be thought-provoking because it all stems back to when you live a healthy life, you feel much better about yourself and therefore you continue to take more pride in the way you look, dress and carry yourself."

As well as working out which make-up would look best on each actor, Johansen's team examined a vast amount of reference material that included images of people who have aged drastically as a result of leading unhealthy lifestyles.

"It was fascinating to discover the affects of heavy drinking on young people," adds Johansen. "You don't need to be middle-aged or older to look really unwell from over-drinking."

To pull off each individual look, they applied a number of different kinds of effects to transform the actors, such as silicone-fat prosthetics, fat suits, eye bag appliances, false teeth and old age stipple.

When the actors were confronted with the new versions of themselves, Johansen says they were shocked, proving that Odd Studios had successfully met the director's brief.

Despite being technically difficult, Johansen says his team prefers to work on assignments like this. "There is no room for error or having any imperfections on display. But that's why we love doing make-ups like these so much."

As a result of the project’s success, Johansen's team has already been contracted to shoot another Bupa commercial with a new character, which will involve creating an even more complicated weight-gain, multi-piece make-up effect. Odd Studio has also recently been hired to work on the prosthetics for George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road, which will be released in 2013.