The Driver’s Seat

A German car maker, a Minneapolis agency, a British director and the Irish countryside. Incongruous?

Not for Porsche’s new $10-15 million campaign from Carmichael Lynch. Unlike the agency’s first work for the brand last year, which the client and agency deemed “too cerebral,” the shop focused on the thrill of driving a Porsche in its latest effort, which broke last week. “There’s a level of experience to Porsche that is beyond what we mere mortals drive,” says agency chief creative officer Jack Supple.

Rather than depend on traditional shots of a car rounding a corner, the creative team felt it needed a “storytelling” approach to convey the brand’s attributes. “This releases the ‘Porsche endorphins,'” Supple says. “Because of the story, you feel the thrill.” Plus, storytelling allows the agency to depict Porsche owners as more than “chiseled, sexy models,” says art director Jeff Terwilliger. Removing that impression was important; the company wants to broaden its consumer base in advance of its planned SUV launch in 2002.

“It lets you have fun with who could potentially own one,” Terwilliger says. “It’s more about the driving experience.”

Terwilliger and copywriter Eric Sorensen created storylines that would express the lengths people go to own a Porsche. “We thought about the situation of designated drivers, and we wondered who it would be the most painful for,” Sorensen says.

The Irish have been known to appreciate a pint, and the countryside is “absolutely mouthwatering for a Porsche afficionado,” Supple says. Thus, the idea of two Irishmen denying themselves “the usual” to be the car’s designated driver was born.

In the comedic spot, two men walk into a pub. The barmaid asks if they want the usual, but one of the two men orders tea. Then they get into a lighthearted debate about who will be the designated driver. The spot cuts to the men driving in the Irish countryside, but the passenger, who was able to enjoy his “usual,” is miffed that he doesn’t get to drive the Porsche.

To give the spot an authentic appeal, Sorensen did his homework: He watched Waking Ned Devine to get a feel for the dialogue’s tone and tenor.

Then to ensure a realistic look, the agency went after film director Stephen Frears, popularly known for his films The Grifters, Mary Reilly and the Oscar-nominated Dangerous Liaisons. What appealed to the agency were his two cinematic adaptations of Irish author Roddy Doyle’s novels: The Van and The Snapper. “We felt like it had to be done authentically,” Sorensen says. “We felt he would give us great casting and dialogue ability.”

While the agency was sold on the idea, convincing the client was another matter. Frears was known for his dramatic skills and had directed several commercials, but his reel had no car footage.

Officials with the Atlanta-based client recommended director of photography Stephen Keith-Roach, who shot ads for Audi and Volkswagen in Europe. “With those two guys together, we got the best of both worlds,” Terwilliger says.

The spot is the first of the new series to showcase this year’s theme, “A thrill like no other.” Another spot, set to break later this fall, depicts a girl who intentionally misses her bus so she can ride to school in her father’s Porsche.

A corresponding print campaign also attempts to express the exhilaration of the brand. It employs striking shots of the car against blurred backgrounds and catchy headlines like, “What a dog feels when the leash breaks” and “Keeps the logical side of your brain pinned to the back of your skull.”

Overall, the campaign aims to remind everyone—not just Porsche enthusiasts—that the car is a “kick-ass brand,” Supple says. “Porsche people and even non-Porsche people have to realize this brand is fun.”