If you want to criticise department stores, do it in Prague. That’s
what Quiet Storm reasoned when it wanted to dramatise the difference
between Richard Branson’s cosmetics and toiletries brand, Virgin Vie,
and the aggressive approach of traditional department store
Prague is also a great place for casting unusual-looking people. So
Trevor Robinson, the director, Terri Robinson, the producer, and Dylan
Ingham, flew out and started practising some special effects for, among
other things, exploding powder puffs.
The commercial features a fresh-faced heroine fighting off the
attentions of ’painted dragon’ saleswomen as she battles her way through
a department store and into the contrastingly serene environment of a
Virgin Vie store.
She is first ambushed by people spraying perfumes. To give the scent a
deadly look, special lighting highlighted the drops on their way through
In the ensuing chaos, hundreds of bottles of perfume are smashed. Prague
proved a cost-effective choice because none of the Czech bottles are
familiar in this country, so Virgin Vie avoided upsetting any cosmetics
brands without the expense of mocking up the bottles.
As the heroine (courtesy of a stunt double) back-flips through the
store, leaps on to an escalator and travels down spraying colourful
liquids on to the predatory shop staff, Trevor Robinson stood next to
her, out of shot, squirting liquid from soda syphons to achieve the
forceful projection ordinary pump dispensers can’t deliver.
Towards the end of the ad, the heroine lights a match to set off the
sprinkler system, causing foam to flood the store and wreck the sales
assistants’ make-up. To achieve the overflowing effect, actors stood in
holes cut into a waist-high table so the foam had less space to
But the pump device used on the foam worked efficiently and the entire
room was filled with foam in about 20 seconds.
Filming began at noon on both days, finishing at 6am on the first day
and 8am on the second. ’There was no point going to bed at 3am and
getting up again at 7am, so we just worked all night and then slept
through to midday,’ Terri Robinson explains.
The final scene, set in the relative tranquillity of the Virgin Vie
store at Lakeside, Thurrock, was more straightforward. The ’customers’
were played by Virgin Vie staff and everyone got to bed at a reasonable
This article was first published on Campaign