Life Among the Swells

Ever since Pulp Fiction gave second life to Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” (and helped revive Dale’s career), the 1962 instrumental has anchored many a TV spot, for brands ranging from Domino’s Pizza to Mountain Dew. Now TBWA\Chiat\Day wants to claim the king of the surf guitar as its own. “We wanted to do the definitive Dick Dale ad. Now no one can use him again!” laughs Rob Schwartz, creative director on Nissan.

For the first time, Dale himself (not just his music) is appearing in a commercial—TBWA\C\D’s new Armada SUV ad. Shot in Hawaii, the spot shows a group of surfers (all nonactors, cast on the spot) arriving at the beach in an Armada. “The idea was, in an eight-passenger car, maybe you have room for somebody special,” says senior copywriter Eric Walker. That someone turns out to be Dale, who hooks up to the back of the SUV and plays “Miserlou” while his buddies catch waves.

The shop wanted Dale mostly because he’s authentic. “Surfers love him. They know he’s the guy,” Schwartz says. Of course, it didn’t hurt that TBWA\C\D has a surf culture of its own. “My partner, Margaret Keene, who’s worked with Lee [Clow], told me, ‘Lee’s gonna love this!’ ” Walker says.

What did Dale enjoy most about the experience? “The genuineness of the people I was working with,” he writes in an e-mail to Shoptalk. “Plus seeing some of my old Hawaiian surfer buddies. … Our lives had crossed paths many times, and it was a reward to see them again, especially in the islands.”