IDEA: It's been a while since Bo and Luke Duke raced around Hazzard County three decades ago in their 1969 Dodge Charger stock car, evading Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.
The boys aren't so different, but they could use a new vehicle. And AutoTrader obliges in a campaign from Doner that shows the early-'80s TV characters, played by Tom Wopat and John Schneider, using the brand's mobile app to find the perfect car for 2014.
This old-meets-new vibe was a good way to mine nostalgia while introducing new features. "We were looking for something that would stay true to our history of producing very high-energy, engaging commercials, but would also inject personality and emotion," said John Kovac, svp of marketing for AutoTrader parent Cox Automotive.
"Few shows embody the emotional connection between a vehicle and its owners like the Dukes, and the characters have a clear need AutoTrader can solve."
COPYWRITING: Getting Wopat and Schneider on board was key. "They are Bo and Luke. I think they were as excited as we all were to bring this epic idea to life," said Rob Strasberg, Doner's co-CEO and chief creative officer.
There are three linked spots, with the first two ending in cliffhangers. Those arcs guided the writing. "The Dukes of Hazzard always had cliffhangers," said Strasberg. "We wanted each spot to stand on its own and the action around the Dukes to draw the viewer in, but AutoTrader.com is the heart of the story."
The first spot opens with the boys fleeing a couple of police cars in the countryside. "YEEHAAAAA!! We still got it, cousin! We still got it!" Bo shouts at Duke, who's riding shotgun. "Yeah, I'm not sure about our old friend, here, though," Duke replies, patting the dashboard.
The wild chase continues through the three ads, with Luke using AutoTrader all the while to research vehicles. They eventually crash into an auto dealer and leave with a new car.
FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Director Janusz Kaminski (a two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan) filmed for six days in nine locations in southeastern Louisiana— close to where they shot the show early on.
The car jumps were the most challenging shots, and also the most fun. "Nothing was computer generated, so the preparation was painstaking," said Strasberg. "Jumping cars is fun, but wrecking cars is crazy fun. To see the Duke boys flying through the air in person and to watch the police cars wrecking was wild."
At one point there's a nod to Daisy Duke—a billboard for "Daisy's Denim Depot." "We thought it would add a smile to find it and imagine she went into retail," Strasberg said.
TALENT: Wopat and Schneider picked up where they left off. "I don't think they've ever stopped being Bo and Luke," said Strasberg. "They have a chemistry that can only come from working together for a decade and being friends for three. That said, Janusz kept the set fun, the actors loose, and whatever he needed they gave him."
SOUND: It was a complicated sound job, but "the key was the 'YEEHAAAAA! If we didn't get that right, everything else wouldn't have mattered," said Strasberg.
Waylon Jennings sang the original theme song; here it's his son Shooter singing. "Shooter was very excited about the project, but not as excited as we were to have him and the family tie," Strasberg said.
MEDIA: Network, cable and satellite TV, plus digital, radio and mobile billboards. AutoTrader is also buying its first cinema ads for this. "We think it's a perfect fit because the story is almost like its own mini-movie," said Kovac.
Director: Janusz Kaminski
Rob Strasberg, Co-CEO, Chief Creative Officer
Brad Emmett, EVP, Executive Creative Director
Mark Cooke, VP, Creative Director
Bryan Hutson, VP, Creative Director
Rich Toltzman, Creative Director
Tim Sharp, Creative Director
Alex Page, Integrated Producer
Bruce Haynes, SVP, Media Strategy and Activation
Alicia Lingenfelter, VP, Associate Media Director
Rebecca Mires, Associate Media Director
Pete Marlow, Supervisor, Media Planning