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Jim Jenkins on How Workday Brought Real Rock Stars to the Super Bowl


O Positive's director discusses putting rock ‘n’ roll icons in an office environment to protect their reputation at the big game, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

Jim Jenkins on How Workday Brought Real Rock Stars to the Super Bowl

Corporate cloud software company Workday made its bid to headline the Super Bowl this year, employing the help of iconic rock stars to take centre stage at the big game. Featuring rock ‘n’ roll icons like Ozzy Osbourne, Joan Jett, Kiss’ Paul Stanley and Billy Idol, the ‘Rock Star’ spot honed in on the insight that people in the workplace have been diminishing the value of the term ‘rock star’ by using it to describe their colleagues, instead of reserving the title for the real shredders, screamers and hotel room-trashers of the world.

Created by Ogilvy and directed by O Positive’s Jim Jenkins, the campaign shows the real antics of genuine rock stars and the lengths they’ll go to in order to gatekeep the use of their rock star status in the office. Criticising and preventing any further proliferation of the term in emails, meetings and at the water cooler, the music legends are seen interrupting Workday’s employees before they give their colleagues the egregious hyperbolic praise: “You’re a rock star!”.

Giving LBB’s Ben Conway a backstage pass, director Jim Jenkins shares how the production and post teams recreated a Kiss concert for the spot, why watching Gary Clark Jr. solo made him forget his dream of learning the guitar, and how he no longer feels pressure after directing Martin Scorcese… twice!

LBB> When did you start preparing for Workday’s Super Bowl ad? What was your initial reaction to the creative idea and what made you want to direct the piece?

Jim> Chris Beresford-Hill [North America president and CCO of Ogilvy] has given me more than my share of scripts that make me look much more talented than I actually am. So when I first heard about this in October, and that Chris was involved, I was immediately into it. It's based on an annoying truth: people - office workers in particular - often refer to each other as ‘rock stars’ for the most mundane accomplishments. The notion that real rock stars, who have devoted their lives to earning that title, are annoyed by that is a funny and fertile concept.

LBB> What ideas did you have immediately after seeing the concept? How did you want to utilise real-life rock stars and the insight in a funny, visual way? 

Jim> Well, it didn’t take much thinking to quickly realise that, not only should we show rock stars in their own environments, but it would be funny to show how out of place they look in an office environment - as well as how out of place some office workers would look being seen as an actual rock star. There was a lot of back-and-forth about which rock stars would be right for this. Honestly, rockers with longer careers just seemed more right for the concept. It makes their indignation that the term ‘rock stars’ is being misused that much funnier. Gary Clark Jr. is the only one under 40 in the ad, but we wanted him because he's the coolest guitar player alive. 

LBB> How were the rock stars to direct - did they add their own rock star flair/ideas to some of the scenes? 

Jim> All of them understood the comedy, and embraced whatever we asked them to do. None of them baulked at any line I threw at them - which were numerous. Of all the funny lines that didn’t make the edit, I think my favourite was Ozzy saying, “I was once arrested while under arrest."

LBB> There are some amazing sets in the spot - from a huge concert stage to a trashed hotel room and a pool party aftermath - who did you work with to create them? 

Jim> The re-creation of the Kiss concert was the most post-intensive part of the spot, and that was done by Nathan Kane and his team at Parliament New York. I’ve worked with Nathan for years, and he always delivers. Plus he’s Irish and I’m Irish, so there’s that. And the production designer was Jason Edmonds, who I’ve also worked with forever, even though he’s not Irish.

LBB> What was your equipment set-up like for this campaign? Did you get to use any interesting/surprising cameras or rigs?

Jim> The spot is essentially lines being delivered to the camera, but this story needed energy, since it is so much about the fed-up tone of the rock stars. That’s why there’s always movement on their lines, and why we went with Steadicams. Our time with the rock stars was limited, and I didn’t want to waste time with dolly tracks.

LBB> The closing shot with Paul Stanley appearing through the boardroom door with the stage lights and fog machine is a particular comedic highlight of the spot - what went into achieving this?

Jim> As you can imagine, scheduling five different musical artists is a bit of a puzzle, so we couldn’t shoot Paul in an actual conference room. So the look back at the boss was shot in a practical environment earlier in the week, and we built the other half of the conference room on the stage where we recreated the Kiss concert for Paul and shot him there on our last day. We started filming that scene with no stage lights or fog, but it felt like it was missing something so we started adding lights and fog, and we liked it. 

By the way, we tried a number of lines from Paul, but with the stage lights and fog machine and the boss’ uncomfortable reaction, it just seemed funnier to have Paul silently stare at him in an intimidating way, and then slowly back out of the door.


LBB> What moment during the creative process or production provided you with the most satisfaction? 

Jim> For me, the most satisfying moment of the whole production was standing on stage right next to Gary Clark Jr. as he was ripping up that guitar with all kinds of random solos. I’ve never been that close to anybody who can play like that, and it is otherworldly. My whole life I have always wanted to play the guitar, but that moment convinced me that, no, don’t even bother.


LBB> How does it feel to see your work aired at the Super Bowl? Do you still feel that pressure during production?

Jim> I’ve directed Martin Scorsese twice. Nothing feels like pressure after that.

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O Positive , Fri, 17 Feb 2023 17:09:00 GMT