How to crack an alien culture. Part 1

How do you create advertising for a culture you know nothing about? easy. you devote your entire being to suddenly finding out everything you can about that culture. You immerse yourself in it. You think of nothing but it. You learn to love that culture. Regardless of your personal preferences and prejudices. That’s how.

I know this because to succeed in advertising in the USA i had to leave behind my European origins and start from scratch, culturally speaking. My pop culture references were useless over here. So i made a conscious decision to wholeheartedly dive into my adopted country’s culture. To love it. And never again complain about how difficult it is to find a decent cup of tea over here. To become culturally elastic. which most people, by virtue of never having changed cultures, never learn to do. why would you if you didn’t have to?

So when i was faced with proposition of doing NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr’s first ever Budweiser commercial i was slightly scared. NASCAR is a huge cultural force in the USA. Like F1 is in Europe. But even bigger. And if NASCAR was Rock n Roll, then Dale Jr. as he’s known, is the son of Elvis – the NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Basically i knew nothing about NASCAR beyond what everyone knew about NASCAR, ie that is hugely popular. So i dived in. I read books and watched races etc. And I realized that doing Dale Jr’s first ad was a big deal. So it had to be good. It couldn’t be the view of an outsider making the same superficial observations that every NASCAR advertiser makes…it’s fast! they go round in circles! etc.

So i read a ton of Dale Jr’s media interviews. And in a Rolling Stone interview he was asked if he could improve NASCAR, what would it be? And his answer was “I would put music in the cars”. And that gave me the idea for the spot. Because Dale Jr loves his music. Everybody knew that. He hung out with rock stars like Dave Grohl. He played in a band. Dale is cool. He even looks fast!

Interesting fact. Dale Jr. showed the script for this idea to his dad a month before Dale Sr. tragically hit the wall at Daytona and died. And it was actually his dad who came up with the idea for the ending. Which makes complete sense if you know anything about The Intimidator. So Dale Earnhardt Sr. actually helped me write this spot. It was voted best NASCAR TV ad of the year by more than 300,000 NASCAR fans at nascar.com. And i more proud of that award than almost any other I’ve won. It proved that i’d cracked it! I’d cracked Dale Earnhardt Jr. I’d cracked NASCAR. And it was a very conscious effort to do so.

4 responses to “How to crack an alien culture. Part 1

  1. As Dave has recently quoted Lao Tzu,
    “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
    Thanks, Vinny.

  2. Nice one Vinny. Dale sounds like the American version of legendary Galway hurler John Connolly only with a better taste in music and a faster car.

  3. Yeah, we got lucky with Dale. The first time i met him i immediately thought “Steve McQueen” which was funny because Shery Crow cast him in the video for her song “Steve McQueen” shortly after our spot aired

    We had a lot of fun shooting that spot. I felt like a kid playing with huge real racing cars. Making them crash into one another. That bump at the end was done for real and pretty much destroyed the car it hit.

  4. Pingback: How to crack an alien culture. Part 2 « ESCAPOLOGY (the escape pod’s blog)

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