This article was originally published on AdWeek by David Gianatasio.

If your beloved anthropomorphic plush panda bear ever goes missing, don’t sweat it. Tile’s got you covered.

In “Lost Panda,” a moody two-minute tear-jerker by Deutsch and Smuggler director Mark Molloy, the titular toy, named Ernie, treks far and wide in search of his owner, a little girl who’s bereft without her fuzzy friend.

Can Tile, the Bluetooth-enabled tracking system, help reunite the pair? (If it can’t, this really isn’t much of a campaign, now is it?)

“When we lose something and then find it, it’s an indescribably good feeling,” Deutsch executive creative director Guto Araki tells AdFreak. “But how could we tell that story so that the lost thing is compelling to everyone? That was the challenge. So, we realized that by transforming something into someone, we could end up with a beautiful love story.”

As it turns out, the resulting tale took it cues from real life.

“The ‘Lost Panda’ story was inspired by an actual Tile customer, a young girl who lost her stuffed animal in a busy city, only to be reunited later with the help of the Tile community,” says Tile CMO Simon Fleming-Wood. “Our creative team thought it’d be powerful to tell the story from the perspective of Ernie, a stuffed panda, and to bring to life what his owner, Lucy, might have imagined her ‘best friend’ going through in trying to find his way back to her. In her imagination, Ernie gets more and more lost while looking for her, only to be helped home by the ‘good neighbors’ he meets—a metaphor for the Tile community. Of course, in reality, Ernie stays in the exact place he was likely dropped by Lucy, only to be found by a loving father who had the foresight to put a Tile in Ernie’s pocket.”

So, what’s this about a “Tile community”?

Working on iOS or Android, the app helps users find items attached to a Tile dongle within a range of about 200 feet. If your stuff gets really lost—which can happen when a plush Panda hops a freight train to the middle of nowhere—you can receive location info from the phones of other Tile users. (When these folks approach your missing items, their own apps generate an anonymous update for you to follow.)

That handy feature, one of Tile’s biggest selling points, informs the campaign’s tagline, “Together we find.” Yet, this functionality is never fully explained in “Lost Panda,” which, according to Fleming-Wood, is intended as “emotional storytelling to provoke consumers’ attention and drive consideration.”

The spot will run on TV and online in 60-, 30-, and 15-second formats, while the full-length clip will be available on Tile.com and the company’s social platforms.

Consumers seeking more information can watch Ernie and Lucy in a series of online demos, like the one below, that spell out the details:

As for the main “Lost Panda” film, it’s a masterwork of emotional manipulation by Molloy, whose cinematic sense of style and narrative—previously on display in Nissan’s unconventional “On the Shoulders of Giants” epic from last year, and Samsung’s celebratory surfing spot from 2014—fits the material to a T.

We know from the start that things will work out OK, but we go along for the ride largely owing to the director’s artistry. There’s an angsty aspect that ups the emotional ante and gives the climax, though predictable, added punch and appeal. (In fact, the child’s imagination/favorite-toy set-up recalls John Lewis’ “Monty the Penguin” spot from a few years back, through “Lost Panda” has a darker vibe that’s completely different, and in tune with the brand message.)

Besides, Ernie is unbearably adorbs!

“[Molloy] wanted to capture as much as he could in camera, and we basically ended up capturing almost everything [that way],” Araki says. “Obviously, there was a ton of cleanup to do and a massive amount of VFX to bring it all together.”

Two pose-able Ernies, and a third designed to be extra cuddly, appear in the spot, as do “Lost Panda” posters, which actually went up last week as campaign teasers in New York and San Francisco.

Ernie’s also featured in an upcoming children’s book, inspired by customers’ seek-and-find tales. Plus, social influencer outreach, as well as “location-based and other digital tactics,” are planned through the holiday season.

Maybe there’s no need to look for Ernie after all. That bear’s everywhere!

CREDITS

Client: Tile
Chief Marketing Officer: Simon Fleming-Wood
Senior Director, Brand and Product Marketing: Bryan Rodrigues
Director of Brand Marketing: Andrew Lum
Senior Brand Marketing Manger: Veronica Tong

Deutsch Credits and Titles:

Creative Credits:
Chief Creative Officer, North America: Pete Favat
Executive Creative Director: Guto Araki
Creative Director/CW: Eric Manchester
Creative Director/AD: Neal Desai
Copywriter: Jeb Quaid
Director of Integrated Production: Vic Palumbo
Executive Integrated Producer: Dan Kaplan
Integrated Producer: Mariana Perin
Music Director: Eryk Rich
Music Producer: Chase Butters
Music Coordinator: Dez Davis

Account Management Credits:
Group Account Director: Matt Matzen
Account Director: Christi Johnson
Account Director: Mark Thompson
Account Executive: Jessica Ferri

Account Planning:
Group Strategy Director: Kelsey Hodgkin

Business Affairs/Traffic:
Director of Integrated Business Affairs: Abilino Guillermo
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Terry Miglin
Director or Broadcast Traffic: Carie Bonillo

Live Action Production Company
Production Company: Smuggler, Inc.
Director: Mark Molloy
Co-Founder: Patrick Milling Smith
Co-Founder: Brian Carmody
Executive Producer: Shannon Jones
Line Producer: Gustav Geldenhuys

Editorial Company
Production Company: Work Editorial
Editor: Stewart Reeves
Assistant Editor: Keith Hamm
Assistant Editor: Josh Sasson
Executive Producer: Marlo Baird
Producer: Brian Scharwath

Grade Facility:
Production Company: CO3
Senior Colorist: Tom Poole
Producer: Alexandra Lubrano

Post CG/VFX:
Production Company: ALT VFX, Inc.
Founder / VFX Supervisor: Colin Renshaw
Executive Producer: Chris Fieldhouse
Producer: Jess Calvert
Head of 2D: Mathew Chance
Animation Lead: Chris Rentoul

Panda Build:
Production Company: Legacy Effects
Producer: Alan Scott

Graphics:
Design Company: Lobo
Creative Director: Mateus de Paula Santos
Executive Producer: Luis Ribeiro
Producer: Gabriela Leal
Design & Animation: Leandro Beltran & Bruno Ronzani

Licensed/Composed Music, Credits and Track Info:
Mophonics
Track: “Girl in My Dreams”
Performed by: Stephan Altman
Composed by: Stephan Altman
Courtesy of: Stephan Altman
By arrangement with: Stephan Altman

Audio Post Company:
Lime Studios
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Producer: Kayla Phungglan
Sound Engineer: Mark Meyuhas
Assistant Mixer: Peter Lapinski

Shoot Location:
Bucharest, Romania

This article was originally published on AdWeek by David Gianatasio.

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