October 04, 2009
Interview with William Vaughan of Splashlight about his involvement with the KISS M&Ms advertisements.

Who was this image created for?

The illustration was created for BBDO Worldwide's Inner M&M campaign, which runs in magazines worldwide. In the past, Splashlight created M&M characters of sportscasters Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson for a Super Bowl-themed advertisement. They also created M&M characters of country music stars Brooks and Dunn.

How long did it take to create the artwork?

It took about a week to model the characters and their props, and another week for lighting and surfacing. The details in the boots and guitars took the longest to model, as it was important to capture every detail. As usual, we used subdivision modeling to keep the polygon count as low as possible, both for rendering speed and maximum flexibility. We used another month for revisions involving both LightWave and Photoshop.

How long was the approval process?

There were probably two dozen rounds of revisions, which is fairly common for assignments like this one. We worked from a sketch provided by the agency that showed each character's general pose and position, but many elements changed along the way. There were differing opinions about whether a vertical or horizontal orientation would work best, so we created both. There was uncertainty about which band members should be represented, as two of the original band members had been replaced over the years. After several rounds of modifications, there was the last-minute addition of a stage, to make the image more vertical. The art directors at BBDO scrutinized every detail, magnified well beyond the intended print size before the image was shown to the band for final approval.

Did the band see the image?

They certainly did. Paul Stanley, in particular, was quite involved, going as far as to provide art direction faxed from his hotel room in South America. To explain further, he was displeased with the way that his hair was originally created, and sent along his own sketch showing a fluffier hairstyle. It turns out that he draws very well, and his input helped us considerably.

Did you use FiberFX for the hair?

The specificity of the client's demands required a level of control that worked best using Photoshop. We photographed a dark-haired coworker with a very high-resolution camera to capture baseline images that we heavily manipulated in Photoshop. Because the work was print-oriented, we were able to combine Photoshop and LightWave to make changes on the fly.

Are the guitars accurate to what they use?

Everything is accurate, based on Web research, Ed Gabel's lifelong fascination with KISS and a close review by the band members and their management. We knew the KISS Army would be watching closely, and we were very careful not to cut any corners.

Who was responsible for this image?

It was a team effort, like everything we do at Splashlight. In particular, I led the character modeling, including the [fantastic] boots, Chris O'Riley did a lot of the lighting and surfacing and Ed Gabel added the Photoshop work that brought the image over the top. Joe Zeff supervised every aspect of the project. On the agency side, we worked with creative director Tim Bayne, art director Bryan Wilson and art buyer Betsy Jablow. We’re looking forward to working with them on future installments of the M&M campaign.