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Why TAG Heuer’s Wild Gosling Chase Thrilled the World


LBB’s Alex Reeves speaks to the watch brand’s CMP George Ciz and DDB Paris CCO Alexander Kalchev about the trust, collaboration and fun that went into 2023’s exhilarating ad campaign starring Ryan Gosling and Vanessa Bayer

Why TAG Heuer’s Wild Gosling Chase Thrilled the World

Ad campaigns often use celebrity talent. They often try to thrill us with action sequences. They often try to make us laugh. Very few manage to nail all three of these at once. But that’s what watchmaker TAG Heuer and its agency DDB Paris did last month when they put Hollywood stars Ryan Gosling and Vanessa Bayer in their huge, comedic car chase campaign to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the TAG Heuer Carrera.

To find out how they supercharged the campaign, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with TAG Heuer’s chief marketing officer George Ciz and DDP Paris’ chief creative officer Alexander Kalchev.

LBB> The campaign’s been out for a few weeks now. How do you feel about how it’s being received?

Alexander> We're super happy with the results. It's out of this world. Beyond the views and the likes and the press. Reading the comments and the way that people are genuinely enjoying a five-minute piece of film, which is not what the world claims we should be doing nowadays. People watch it till the end and they love it. There's a genuine sense of fun and pleasure, I think, in the film and people connect with that. 

It's what you can only hope for when you're doing something like this. You want to do your best and you want people to love it, but you never really know until it's out in the world. And then and then when it's out in the world and people connect with it even better than you thought, there's no better gratification.

George> It's something you don't see very often. Brands don't take on projects of this magnitude – a five-and-a-half-minute film – every day. And it's such a different film. It's lighthearted. We don't take ourselves too seriously. We are normal people. We like to have fun and we think that humour is an amazing unifier. It brings people together.

The cleverness is that the product is at the heart of it. I mean, without the watch you don't have an ad. You don't have the thing that he's chasing for. Yet it doesn't feel like it's in your face. It's a hard sell, but done in such a way that you just love it. It entertains, it engages. And it's good fun. I think that's the key to it.

LBB> Absolutely. And Ryan Gosling is the perfect choice to front it. Why did it have to be him?

George> It goes back two years. We were looking for the new face for the brand – that one person that really personified the brand. Our choice was Ryan right away for many reasons. First, we feel like he's a really authentic fit with the brand because to me he’s the quintessential Hollywood driver. Everybody knows him from ‘Drive’, with the iconic scene when he puts the watch on the steering wheel. 

We are a brand that is passionate about motorsports; we've been engaged with it for a long time, so we wanted to get someone that fitted with that. Second, he obviously is an icon and we wanted someone with that big name to bring the weight to the brand. And the third part was that he'd never done a partnership with any brand. We were the very first brand that he decided to work with. He's super private and doesn't need these things. He just wanted to do it. He really liked the brand, liked what we were doing. That's how the relationship started. 

The thing to do was obvious. We believe in projects that are authentic and credible. We have arguably one of the best actors of all time, definitely of his generation. It was clear to us we had to do a film with him. We wanted to do something ambitious. We wanted to do a film where there's lots of car racing. Most of our collections have some connection with racing and cars, whether it's the Carrera, the Monaco, the Formula 1, the Autavia, etc. Car chases and motorsports are in our blood. 

LBB> But you did two campaigns with Ryan before this, the big one. Why did you wait?

George> We were looking for the right moment. And that moment came with the 60th anniversary of the Carrera. When we started with Ryan, we aligned him right away, and to some extent he aligned himself naturally with the Carrera collection because it spoke to him. He loved what the Carrera stood for, the way the watch looked, the way it felt, the timelessness of it and the fact that it goes with everything.

Huge credit goes to Frédéric Arnault, our CEO, who wanted to do something culturally relevant that will get people excited. He didn't want to do the lowest common denominator – which, when you're talking about 60 years, is to do a historical piece and look back in the past, drive through time and all that. We had all those ideas, but he outlined the direction. He said we can tell the history in another way. He wanted something really entertaining – a real film. And that was the brief. 

Funnily enough Alex and his team came up with two amazing proposals. We presented the first one to Frederic and he said, "This is it." I said, we had another one. He said, "I'm not interested. You can do whatever you want with it." He believed in it right from that moment.

LBB> What were the strategic insights about the brand that led to that proposal, Alex?

Alexander> TAG stands for Techniques d'Avant Garde - avant garde technologies. The answer is in the name. Historically, this brand has always been about being at the cutting edge, at the foreground of innovation and communication. It's a brand that has a lot of guts and passion and is not afraid to try different things. The fact that TAG Heuer in the past has done some incredible work – and has always been unafraid of breaking the codes of the watchmaking world – gave us this confidence that the brand has enough self confidence to do something different. 

It was a beautiful opportunity. 60 years of an iconic watch that's inspired by one of the most iconic races, and an iconic driver. It felt like we had to go beyond what would be expected and traditional. 

The way it started was exciting. The dream brief of doing something that's part of pop culture, that has the potential to be an entertaining piece of storytelling that people connect with in a deeper way, not just in an advertising way. It sort of opened our chakras. 

We went through a few things, but quite quickly we landed on this idea of Ryan being Ryan, and wouldn't it be funny to be in the meta narrative where the actual Ryan doesn't want to give the watch back because he likes it so much, versus the ambassador Ryan doesn't want to give the watch back. We brought the script to George and the team, and they're crazy enough to have loved it and bought it.

LBB> What were the key components to creating such a memorable film from there?

Alexander> Every great idea is a rabbit hole. You step in it and then it sucks you in and then things start coming along the way that you didn't plan for - great ideas, inputs. It's a journey that you take with the people that you trust. The reason we all love the film is that there's this deep sense of trust that permeated every step of the way.

George> It was such a collaborative process. And not only between Alex's team and us, but with Ryan, who had tremendous input on it. He chose [producer] David Leitch because he was working with him on a film in Australia, 'The Fall Guy'. He chose Vanessa Bayer as his co-star because they had a massive chemistry. He had lots of input on the dialogue and the way we tell the story. David and Nash [Edgerton, the director] had huge input and they were very open to suggestions, even from us as the clients. Sometimes famous directors don't like to hear even from the agency – they want to be left alone. But these guys were so nice and so friendly. Any crazy idea that we suggested, they thought about it. It was adding, adding, adding ideas and shaping it together. And I think that came through. 

LBB> What was the atmosphere like on the shoot? What are your memories of it?

Alexander> Well, first of all, I don't remember much because I was so fucking jetlagged. We had made a lot of decisions, planned ahead and done our utmost to have a smooth and well-organised production. But shooting is always a bit of a serendipity, especially when it comes to major talent. Even though we had a three-day shoot, we still had to do a lot of stuff. We genuinely had planned for everything, but then hoped that things would go well. 

The first really important moment was the arrival of Vanessa. Seeing her on set, to me, she's kind of the star of the story. She was so great. She arrived and she was super fun. So that was like the first unlock I think. She brought that super cool vibe. 

The moment that I remember the best is the second day when Ryan came. The chemistry that these guys had. We had written some dialogue, the important things that they needed to hit, but obviously we encouraged them to improvise because of their great chemistry. But once you see it being done, you see these two people so excited to work together and at the drop of a hat they start improvising. Every take is a different punchline. Every take has something where you're like, "how did they come up with that?" And with this perfect comedic timing. That's what I love doing this job for – those moments where you're like, "we had a great idea and then these guys just took it and made it better."

George> It's a long way to fly to Australia when you're going to a shoot that everybody tells you you are insane for doing, it's a fair amount of money invested and you're responsible for the outcome of it. The weight on my chest was quite heavy. On that plane, you have a lot of time to worry. We were worried about the script. We’d been rewriting and worrying about every line and every single thing. And to be honest, I think there is not one word in the film that was in our original script, because pretty much all of it was improvisation. They understood the idea, but they made it theirs and brought their thing. The best one is Ryan's line: "Just give me one more spin around the old dial." Basically his way of asking for one more minute with it. It's just an incredible line. It makes him sound like he's been in watchmaking his whole life. He brought it out of himself.The peekaboo thing - we didn't have that in the script. I think they brought amazing things. They took it to another level honestly. 

What was amazing is Ryan's commitment. He was in the middle of a major shoot – five months in Australia, five to six days a week. And on his off day – and it happened to be a Sunday – he came and he shot for almost 14 hours. I don't know anyone at his level that is willing to give that kind of commitment. Most of the time when you work with superstars there will be agents and managers telling you the clock is ticking. With him it's never like that. This was the third shoot we have done with him and every single time he pretty much doubled the time that we had allocated for him and was really happy to stay. Then he asked you at the end, "Hey, why don't we go have some burgers?" That's the kind of guy he is. And I think that's why it turned out the way it did.

That chemistry that we saw between Ryan and Vanessa - they had just so much fun on set. But to be honest, it's for all of us. We all had a blast on this shoot. It really was one of the best experiences you can have. Shoots can be boring. They can take a long time. It's exhausting, particularly when you do it in Australia with 10-hour jetlag. But this was just a blast. Going back we knew we had something magical, something in the can that was crazy good.

LBB> Obviously a five-and-a-half-minute film is a treat for anyone who sees it in full, but a campaign these days has to be fully integrated. How did you adapt the campaign to different media platforms and formats?

George> Yes. This is a really fully integrated campaign with an incredible set of assets. When you're talking about 360, this campaign really does justice to that. That's what made it so powerful. For OOH, we also have incredible 3D assets, which have been on display all around the world from Time Square through Piccadilly Circus all the way to Tokyo. It's been amazing and it's still ongoing. Super integrated across high-impact print as well – cover wraps, outside back covers, inside covers, really premium positions. High-impact digital stuff. We did some incredible things with WeTransfer which was very impactful. It's also across all of our channels in point of sales and the retail website and all of our social. 

We actually marketed it almost like a movie. There was a leak, a teaser, the worldwide premiere in London, followed by the amplifications after that. So the strategy was very Hollywood driven.

The film is so rich and we've used it in so many different ways. We've cut various scenes. Some of those scenes were part of the teasing and build-up process. Some are part of amplification. Then you have the bloopers. They're absolutely hilarious. You see the chemistry. And then behind the scenes. 

All of the product-related content is very important as well. Even in print we have certain executions, which are Ryan and the watch and certain ones where it's just the watch. When you use it creatively in the media, then you get that overall impact. 

We tried to make sure we hit all the potential touchpoints in natural, authentic ways. I genuinely believe that authenticity is the new currency of the luxury world. We try to be credible, to not be something we are not, to be ourselves, to be normal people – a really approachable brand. There are so many luxury brands who feel unapproachable. You go to a boutique on a weekend in jeans and a T-shirt and you don't feel right. The people look at you strangely. That's not who TAG Heuer is. Everyone's welcome. We want people to have great times and we want to inspire them.

LBB> Were there any decisions that you made along the process around balancing that respect for the heritage of the brand with the desire to innovate and break the rules?

Alexander> Absolutely. This film is a modern, entertaining homage to the spectacle of the car. At the heart, it's a chase film. We tried to reference a lot beyond the design of the product – the glass box and the legibility of the dial, which is inspired by the fact that when you're racing you need to have a very legible dial. Beyond that, the film is peppered with Easter eggs. The name of the hotel is Leonarda, which is the name of Jack Heuer's wife. There's a lot of little details for fans of the brand and fans of the authentic heritage of the Carrera. We worked hard to weave those in for people that are in the know. 

As we were saying, it's an integrated campaign. And there's a lot of product-specific assets that are really focusing on how we develop this product, how this product is inspired by the original designs, all the specific features. The danger with these things, when you're trying to do something that goes too far, is that you lose the brand in the process. But I think that working with George and the team, we were always vigilant, respectful of finding that right balance.

LBB> How will you look back on working on this campaign?

George> Working with Alex is really special. He's a great guy, so calm, particularly when he has to deal with someone like me, who has a million and seven crazy comments and suggestions.
I love the spirit in which it has been done. It was such a pleasant four days. I'm not saying it wasn't stressful, because we were very much on a tight schedule. And that's really actually the funny part. When we presented this thing to David and Ryan. They were like, "This is amazing! But how the hell do you want to produce it in just one day with Ryan?"  What was incredible is that the same amount of creativity that went into the idea, went into how to actually film it. It was done in such a creative way and we were able to execute it in a very short time – a four-day shoot in total, one day with Ryan and three others. It was definitely pressed. There was definitely military precision on set. But we had so much fun. We genuinely had a blast. 

There was one moment filming the scene when Vanessa was on top of the car and they were screaming at each other, we were in another room probably 30 metres from there. It was so bloody funny that we exploded laughing all of a sudden. I hear the comment from Nash: "I think they kind of liked this one, you know?" It was a beautiful moment. When people have fun, by far the best things happen. That's the kind of thing we really try to do at TAG Heuer. I think it shows that it's working and hopefully there'll be a lot more to come.

Alexander> I think my favourite moment was when George pulled out his phone and he started playing the red light song [Billy Ocean's 'Red Light Spells Danger']. As we were shooting. He was like, "I have this idea" and he started playing it to me. At first I was making fun of him and then I started listening to it and I was like ,"That's actually a really good idea" and it ended up in the final edit. It was a great moment. 

Honestly, just going back to what I said from the beginning the best projects come from proper collaboration and trust. And I couldn't be more grateful to have the trust and the partnership that we have with George and his team. I wish more agencies the sort of trust we have with TAG Heuer.

George> Lots of love in here. That's for sure. But it's genuine. And I think that's why it comes across the way it does. It's not pretentious. It's not trying to be anything else. It's real.

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Categories: Jewellery, Clothing and Fashion

DDB Paris, Fri, 26 May 2023 13:58:19 GMT