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How Droga5 Made Sylvester Stallone the Face of Paramount+


The agency’s ECD and senior copywriter, Dan Kelly and Sean Buckhorn, on mixing Sly with ‘Star Trek’ and more for the Super Bowl, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

How Droga5 Made Sylvester Stallone the Face of Paramount+

At this year’s Super Bowl, Paramount+ returned with the latest edition of its ‘Mountain of Entertainment’ campaign. This time, the spot featured iconic action movie star Sylvester Stallone and a host of characters from Paramount properties, including Dora the Explorer, Star Trek’s Captain Pike and Beavis and Butt-Head. In the spot, Stallone is climbing up the ‘Stallone Face’ of Paramount Mountain, before being sneezed off and landing beside the characters and his daughters who are waiting at the base camp below.

Developed by creative agency Droga5 the ‘Mountain of Entertainment’ campaign has been running for two years, kicking off at Super Bowl LV. Since then, the campaign has been a platform for the brand to promote its streaming service’s offerings and get some familiar faces involved to interact with some unlikely family favourites. The campaign has received awards and recognitions from the Clio Awards, Art Directors Guild Awards, New York Festivals Advertising Awards and more.

Upping the ante with this new big game spot, directed by O Positive’s David Shane, ‘Stallone Face’ leverages the star power of Sly Stallone and results in a character crossover that aims to cut through the noise at the game of games. To discuss how the campaign has evolved over the last two years, the weird sensation of having cardboard cut-out placeholders for animated characters on set and the comedic possibility of this snowy multiverse, Droga5’s executive creative director, Dan Kelly, and senior copywriter, Sean Buckhorn, spoke with LBB’s Ben Conway.

LBB> When did you start preparing for Paramount+’s Super Bowl ad? What were some of the early discussions you had with the client?

Dan and Sean> This is year three of the ‘Mountain of Entertainment’ brand campaign. For us, it’s become such a rich device for featuring their wide range of content in fun and surprising ways. With every new instalment on Paramount Mountain, we want it to feel bigger, funnier and more unexpected than the last. And for this year’s Super Bowl, that meant enlisting one of Hollywood’s most iconic faces…to climb up his own face. There’s always some creative license in choosing our characters, but we always try to feature the biggest Paramount+ stars in the most unexpected mashups possible. 

LBB> What excites you about getting to mesh these characters together? And what ideas did you have for making them interact?

Dan and Sean> There’s so much comedic possibility when you bring together popular characters as disparate as Dora the Explorer and Sylvester Stallone, or Star Trek’s Captain Pike and Reno 911’s Lt. Dangle. Once we get them together, we’re constantly thinking of new premises or new lines of dialogue. It’s like a snowy multiverse, where anything’s possible. 

LBB> Did you consult with - or work with - the writing teams for the spot’s featured shows? How was the process of writing the dialogue for these characters - and for Sly?

Dan and Sean> Once we have a script, we work with showrunners, executive producers, studio executives and the talent themselves. It’s a long process with lots of rewrites and tweaks. But through it all, our goal is to stay true to what people love about these characters and this campaign.  

LBB> The spot caricatures Sly and plays on the public perception of him as a 24/7 action star - did he contribute his own ideas and enjoy poking fun at himself? How was this idea developed?

Dan and Sean> This idea needed a certain calibre of action star. But even more, it needed an action star with impeccable comedic timing. Sylvester Stallone completely understood the absurdity of a giant Mount Rushmore version of his face and arrived with lots of lines and improv of his own. Not to mention, he totally nailed the physical performance and drama of someone about to be sneezed into a 1,000-foot freefall.  

LBB> Some of the characters, like Dora and Beavis and Butthead, are animated - how did you coordinate the production and animation teams to combine these animated elements with the live action?

Dan and Sean> On set, each animated character has a cardboard cutout to help with eyelines and blocking. This is helpful for the actors, but it’s also a little disconcerting when you’re staring at a four-foot-tall, unmoving version of Dora the Explorer. Once our live-action shoot is complete, we work with different animation partners to add these characters into the film and have a collaborative back-and-forth process to dial in the details.  

LBB> What moment during creative or production provided you with the most satisfaction? And what posed the most significant, or interesting, creative challenge? How did you overcome it?

Dan and Sean> The biggest thing in this film, quite literally, was the mountain face: how it moved, how it sounded and how it sneezed. We worked extensively with our VFX partners at Parliament to nail the likeness and performance of a Sylvester Stallone mountain face. And we can’t thank them enough for obsessing over every crack, fissure and nose hair. 

LBB> What are the big upsides of Super Bowl ad projects - is there generally a more ambitious scale, or larger budgets for example? And equally, what do you not enjoy so much about big game advertising?

Dan and Sean> The Super Bowl is a creative challenge, especially so with these films. But we consider ourselves lucky to work with great partners like O Positive, Parliament, Arcade, Human and Heard City and with great clients at Paramount+. We all share the same creative ambition, which makes scaling this mountain for the Super Bowl feel less daunting and more exciting than anything. After all, there’s no better place for a ‘Mountain of Entertainment’ than the peak moment in advertising. 

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Droga5 New York, Tue, 21 Feb 2023 16:54:00 GMT