Director’s Blog – The Confession

January 29

As a Creative, a Film Director and Commercial Producer I have never been afraid of getting stuck in for my art or my clients. In fact, working my way up through low budget advertising I’d got used to pushing myself, my ideas and my abilities. When you don’t have a budget you have to find a way of making your ideas happen. Often this meant me learning a new skill or stepping out of my comfort zone.  


In 2008 I was given the opportunity to work for a ‘Virgin Group’ company. The chance came out of the blue and it was a complete surprise. I pitched ideas to Virgin Games for their bingo brand over email, after they provided me with a very short brief and little time to prepare. This is the one and only time in 15 years of working in TV advertising and production that I’ve ever pitched over email. It’s a big no! It never works. 


Two weeks after sending my concepts over email I gave up hope and refocused my energy on other brands who were allowing me to pitch my ideas in person. 


The agency who had given me the Virgin Games lead called me out of the blue to say they loved the concepts and particularly one idea that involved a singing Jalapeño. The following week I travelled to London to discuss the idea with the Virgin Games team. They simply loved it, so much so that they only made one change to my script and storyboards. 


“Make the Jalapeño look like Richard Branson.” They said.


“Yes!” I said, “We should call him Ricardo.”


I set my animator to work and I began searching for a suitable Spanish vocalist who could bring the song to life. It was truly exciting to be working for a Virgin brand. A dream come true!


Then the worst happened, I got sick. A serious case of Gastro-Enteritis, I ended up spending two days in hospital and then a week in bed. Time was now against me, I had only a few weeks to finish the commercial and on my critical path the team at Virgin games were expecting to hear a jingle for their brand the very next day.


I did what I think any rational creative would do. I called my composer friend and within 2 hours we had a jingle. A catchy jingle, perfect for a spicy Jalapeño! I then channelled my inner ‘Julio Iglesias’ and I performed the track. 


At this stage, I was still hoping that I could maybe find a vocalist and re-record but either way this demo had to go to the client and it had to go now. 


Without a second thought, the demo was sent via email…


“Dear Simon (he was the marketing guy at Virgin Games) please find attached our demo of the Ricardo Jalapeño jingle. Please let me know your thoughts? Thanks Matt” 


Within 20 minutes I had a reply. It read…


“Hi Matt, we love it. Don’t change a thing.”


And with that email, I became the voice of a Singing Jalapeño called Ricardo.


The commercial was a successful TV test for the brand and they went on to produce a follow up a year later (which I again was the voice of) and then in 2012 we created a whole new campaign that didn’t involve any spicy peppers. 


It wasn’t until 2012 that I confessed to a member of the Virgin Games team. A four year secret finally out in the open and here for all to see. 


I’m proud to be a creative willing to push myself (and my limited vocal abilities) to make successful campaigns for my clients. 


Virgin Games was sold by the Virgin Group to Gamesys in 2013.