A Surfing Ad You Can Believe In

In our digital age, when every Orc and his mother seems computer-generated, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to make of visually stunning ads.

Take surfing spots. The majesty of AMV BBDO and director Jonathan Glazer’s 1999 “Surfer” ad for Guinness, voted the best commercial of all time in the U.K., was partly a product of London’s Computer Film Co., which transferred the images of the ghostly white horses onto the crest of the foaming surf. So it came as a relief to learn that Mullen’s beautiful new surfing ad for Wachovia—a current Shoptalk favorite, it shows a guy riding a monster 50-foot wave—is, shockingly, the real thing.

The commercial features Laird Hamilton, a big-wave specialist, surfing Jaws, the mythic spot off Maui. John Brockenbrough, executive creative director at Mullen in Winston-Salem, N.C., got the footage from Sonny Miller, a well-known director of surfing films. After it was touched up a bit, it was good to go. “We talked about shooting it ourselves,” Brockenbrough says, “but we knew we might have to sit around for weeks or months waiting for a wave like that. As much as we’d love to do that, we couldn’t afford to.”

Brockenbrough’s creative skills are evident across the entire “Uncommon wisdom” campaign. What are less clear are his personal surfing skills. He has picked up the sport, but he will not be getting towed out to Jaws in the near future. “I’m extremely amateur,” he says. “But I’m 45, and I figured it was time to learn.”