‘So realistic, it’s unnerving’: why Freeview embraced giant alien puppets for latest ad

Freeview’s ad ‘Crack Open the Good Biscuits’ features animatronic alien puppets

Breaking from the tendency to deliver fantastical imagery using digital tools, Freeview’s latest advertising campaign ‘Crack Open the Good Biscuits’ sees the TV platform utilize classic artistic practices including clay-making and remote-controlled animatronics to make an outer-worldly point. The Drum explores the challenges in production, relying on tried-and-trusted movie magic techniques.

The UK’s sole digital terrestrial television platform is in 18m homes, but this campaign looks to remind the public just how useful it can be by showing a lifelike extra-terrestrial queen and her long-suffering aide Colin on the brink of invading Earth... before they are stopped in their celestial tracks by picking up some Freeview channels on their spacecraft’s TV.

Surprisingly, both dynamic characters are actually very large puppets made from latex – with Colin standing at a sturdy two meters high. These practical props were shot in front of a blue screen so the space craft environment could be rendered and added in post-production.


Working with creative agency Anomaly and production company Blink enabled Freeview to bring this slightly evil, yet lovable, pair to life in a realistic and humorous way.

The initial concept was drafted by Anomaly using a range of vision boards, Neema Shah, head of consumer communications and marketing at Freeview, notes.

Blink advanced the project further by firstly establishing intricate line drawings, then creating 3D clay models in various iterations, and finally building remote-controlled animatronic faces with fabricated bodies and tailor-made majestic costumes.

The Queen “is so realistic as a puppet that it’s almost a bit unnerving, she’s sort of giving you an evil look,” Shah adds.

Like many television or Hollywood stars, Colin and the Queen will get some cosmetic work done once they begin to age. “Because they are created in latex, they have to be re-skinned every year,” laughs Shah.

Relatable, humorous and organic are three keywords that Shah notes were important for the TV platform to make this campaign a success. The craftsmanship that went into creating the ad has ensured there’s a big emotional connection to the characters as they aren’t “too polished, they’re still lifelike.”

Although the project was put on hold in 2019 due to the pandemic, the initial inspiration has stayed relatively the same – but Freeview wanted to be sure that tonally it was correct.

“Humor is so important to us, and likeability of the characters, because if people are entertained, they’re more likely to take in the messages that we’re delivering,” says Shah.

Through extensive research, Freeview established that audiences are more likely to connect with emotive campaigns with big personas – think along the lines of the Meerkats or the Churchill dog – and having the flexibility of characters that are adaptable and could lead the campaign in many different directions has been refreshing for the brand.

“For the next couple of months, we really want to just establish not just the campaign but also the characters,” adds Shah.

“The beauty of these creatives is that they are template-based, so we can update every month with new content and new lines within the script,” said Shah, hinting that this will be an ongoing series for the company.

Vote for ‘Crack Open the Good Biscuits’ on our Creative Works section.