This is a car commercial inspired by epic themes found in Herman Melville’s 1851 classic “Moby Dick.” Told by a tormented Alaska tow truck driver, played by David Florek, the modern-day Ahab is fraught with frustration, yearning and regret over the car that kept escaping his grasp, even in an arctic blizzard. Created by San Francisco ad agency Venables Bell & Partners, the commercial spins an overblown account of trying to hook the wily Audi Quattro. Though exaggerated to mythic proportions, the tale of the tow truck driver versus the Audi Quattro is not anything like the story of Ahab’s obsessive and vengeful pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale that chewed off his leg and ultimately destroyed his Pequod ship and him along with it. But the comparison makes a wonderful yarn, especially when you consider that the commercial is really about Audi Quattro’s four-wheel drive system — which would really be boring if the narrator told it straight.
When Johnnie Walker signed onto the Join the Pact initiative to promote responsible drinking, the whisky maker did more than lend its name to the campaign; it gave an impactful demonstration of what might happen when you drink and drive.
Marketing agency APAC Iris Singapore worked with Johnnie Walker to create this 90-second public service spot. The agency took advantage of the fact that Johnnie Walker has been a long-time sponsor of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One racecar team, and proposed building a CGI model of a Formula One car out of 1,750 Johnnie Walker whisky glasses. The project, headed by Iris regional creative director Grant Hunter and film/3D director Russell Appleford, proved to be an arduous task. Just the crash scene alone required more than 100 gigabytes of data. Two-time world drivers’ champion Mika Häkkinen, Johnnie Walker’s responsible drinking ambassador, was brought in to give the voiceover message authority, advising, “Staying in control is what matters in racing. Split-second decisions are the difference between finishing first and finishing last – or not finishing at all.” For a liquor company, this approach is bold and civic minded. It addresses the potential danger of their product directly and doesn’t try to slip in a self-serving “buy more whisky and party hearty” plug.
Today would have been the legendary Saul Bass’s 93rd birthday and Google Doodle has paid tribute to him on its homepage by piecing together some of his signature film title sequences – “Vertigo,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,” “Psycho,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” “West Side Story,” among others.
This brought to mind my brief encounter with Saul. About two years before he died, I was assigned to interview him for an article on film title sequences. In his late 70s then, Saul had downsized his Sunset Boulevard studio maintaining what he called “a repertory group,” a small core staff with additional expertise brought in on an as needed basis. At the time, he was doing a title sequence for his friend “Marty’s”(Scorsese) film, and explained that at this stage in his career, he only wanted to work with “nice people who respect and like us and who we respect and admire…I don’t want to deal with clients who think we’re just doing a job for them. With rare exception, all our clients think we are wonderful and we think they are wonderful.” From a career standpoint, that seemed to me like the ultimate luxury.
In the world of TV advertising, the “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon” commercial that first aired 32 years ago is a classic. Now it is back, but expanded and embellished for Internet and interactive viewing.
The latest Grey Poupon campaign started with a traditional television ad that aired on the Oscar Awards TV broadcast last Sunday. The 30-second spot, played like a trailer for the feature-length online version. Titled “The Chase,” the commercial, created by CP&B, picks up where the original left off in 1981, with two uber-rich gentlemen dining in elegance in their separate chauffeur-driven cars. As before, one gentleman leans out his window to ask the gentleman in the passing car if he had any Grey Poupon. Once he receives it, his car speeds off and that’s when the excitement begins…and leaves off. To see where the plot goes from there, viewers are told to visit the Grey Poupon website and click on the 2-minute “lost footage” version. From there, viewers are enticed to re-run the video and find the hidden “haute” spots to win prizes such as caviar and champagne flutes.
You read about VW’s transparent factory (below); now take a look at Mercedes’s invisible car. Mercedes-Benz’s new zero-emission F-Cell car is being marketed as a vehicle that is virtually invisible to the environment. The reason is because it runs on hydrogen fuel cells that convert compressed hydrogen into electricity to power the motor. The only emission is water vapor. To promote this fact in a memorable way, Mercedes blanketed one side of the car with LEDs and mounted a Canon 5D Mark II camera on the other side. The LEDs displayed whatever the camera filmed, causing passersby to stop and gawk at the “invisible” car.
Car emblems have existed almost from the inception of automobiles. Early cars had radiator caps that rested on top of the hood. At least one automaker got the idea of turning the cap into a hood ornament. Soon every automaker had an emblem or mascot adorning the hood of their car. In addition to giving the vehicle a decorative flourish, the emblem served as a brand identifier. Early carmakers based their designs on everything from national flags, family crests, coat of arms, constellation of stars, and animals that embodied the traits they admired. Today with the profile of cars looking so much alike, the emblem is often the only way we can identify the maker. See if you can recognize these. (Answers on the next page.)
Anyone who has ever driven in San Francisco knows how hard it is to find parking, metered or otherwise. San Francisco drivers regularly pray to the “parking gods” and sometimes feel obligated to eat at a certain restaurant — “the food is so-so, but the parking is good” — simply because there’s an open spot nearby. This situation is exacerbated because the hills are so steep that it’s preferable to use a quarter tank of gas looking for parking than having to walk up or down hill. Now the city is trying to guide drivers to open spots by graphically showing them open spaces on their mobile phones. They claim that the parking map is updated every five minutes. Ha! Since when did a parking space stay open for a full five minutes in San Francisco! Many of us are beyond skeptical, but a designer in Kit’s office says that he has tried SFPark and it works.
Just over a year ago, we ran a story about innovations in 3-D projection mapping. At the time, it was largely a performance demonstration that hadn’t yet become established for commercial marketing purposes. Now it has. This dazzling 3-D mapping stunt was created in Malaysia for the 2012 Hyundai Accent, which will be debuted at the New York Auto Show later this month. The part of the video that is real is the car, which was suspended from the side of a building, and the driver who “walked” to the car and got in to “drive.” The wheels spun, but the rest of the imagery was computer generated. One thing about 3-D mapping films is that they need to show viewers the reaction of the in-person audience and even the behind-the-scene production work to truly appreciate what the producers pulled off. Otherwise, just seeing the 3-D show on a screen would lead many to conclude that the whole thing was done on a computer.