Laura Dern and Grace Helbig Pitch How They’d Market the Driverless Car

The backseat driver would be the focus of their campaigns

Laura Dern and Grace Helbig discuss the plans for marketing a driverless car.
Sources: Getty Images

CANNES, France—Laura Dern and Grace Helbig think whoever markets the driverless car should do something about the backseat driver. The actress and YouTube star, respectively, told the Cannes Lions audience their ideas during a talk about brands working with Hollywood stars versus digital stars on the Lumiere stage.

Helbig, known for her comedic YouTube channel, pitched a digital campaign, of course. “It’s called ‘Backseat Driver,’” said Helbig. “Backseat drivers where people that usually—backseat drivers are people that sit in the back of the car that tell you how to drive the car but this time this car can drive itself. So we have a lovable, adorable, charming, relatable host and they sit in the backseat with a person who is of interest and do a celebrity-type interview in some way, shape or form. It’s like Carpool Karaoke but in the back, without music and maybe James Corden.” 

I think we have to work together on this because I have the exact same idea almost,” said Dern. “[It’s] a series of a personality doing different vignettes. So the idea is that it’s me as backseat driver, I’m sitting in the backseat and I can’t help myself, I’m like, ‘No, no I think you should go left here.’ Periodically the computer says, ‘We are supposed to make a right turn,’ and gets more and more frustrated with me.”

Dern’s pitch continued with another spot about how drivers education would be moot and one in the vein of Taxi Cab Confessions.

The actress, who recently starred in HBO’s Big Little Lies, also suggested that brands should try to work with actors during press junkets for films. “I’m always stunned by the amount of press that I’ve done in my life with fellow actors, actors who are greatly admired, and we sit waiting for someone to tell us something we can talk about other than like the funny thing that happened on the set,” said Dern, adding that brands should come up with a tie-in that makes sense for actors to talk about during those junkets. “I think that in the world of branding that’s been a missing link. I don’t know. Narcissism only lasts for so long. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, are we hearing him talk about himself even longer in this press junket? Someone give this guy a cause or this girl a cause to talk about.” 

Dern also noted that she has a new brand partnership that she can’t talk about yet, and as a producer, she’s got five shows in development with HBO.

During the panel, Helbig explained what it’s like as a YouTube star to work with brands. “There are opportunities as a content creator to create revenue streams working with brands but I think myself and other content creators are very mindful of the brands we work with and the kinds of content that we make with them,” said Helbig. “If it’s a product or an event or a person or whatever it might be that I genuinely enjoy and authentically want my audience to know about that, then there’s so much room for creative ways of talking to them about that.” 

For one of her first brand deals, Helbig made a spot for St. Ives. “When they came to me with the idea for this new spray lotion that they have, I said directly, ‘Can I make the dumbest lotion commercial possible?’ and they said okay and let me do it. The audience feedback was so much more genuine because it wasn’t hidden under anything,” said Helbig.

Helbig continued: “It was very transparent. I’m making a dumb commercial for this lotion that I genuinely like and if you like this go check it out. And it worked really well. There’s a thoughtfulness to the career that a content creator has now. [Brand partnerships] definitely cycles into the wheel of what we do. There’s opportunities to be more and more creative with how you work with brands which gets me and my fellow creators really excited.”