It’s been seven years since Bruce Willis last took to the big screen as Detective John McClane, star of the Die Hard movie series. And for a fleeting moment on Sunday, NFL fans—or anyone casually scanning social media posts—probably thought the action star was ready to return for another installment.
Alas, what appeared to be a trailer for a new Die Hard movie was in fact an ad for DieHard batteries and parent company Advance Auto Parts.
In the two-minute version of the ad, inveterate tough guy McClane is trying to replace his car battery when he crosses paths with the villainous Theo, a hacker who worked with terrorist Hans Gruber (RIP Alan Rickman) in the original 1988 Die Hard. After that, the detective’s night quickly turns explosive.
The spot debuted during Fox’s first ad break during the Green Bay-Tampa Bay NFL game on Sunday and quickly became a subject of buzz online.
Prior to the ad’s release, it was teased (without the branding reveal) via paid placements on the social feeds of Willis’ oldest daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah.
The teaser was also amplified on Twitter by comedy music group The Lonely Island.
“DieHard Is Back” was created by agency The Marketing Arm, which has a reputation for celebrity-fueled marketing concepts, including Pepsi Max’s “Uncle Drew.”
“I’ve never done any sort of commercial with the John McClane character, but Advance Auto Parts brought an idea to integrate DieHard the battery into the Die Hard story through a short film that’s authentic to McClane and both brands,” Willis said in a statement about the ad. “Advance approached this like a motion picture—the script is clever, the production intense, and the spot is entertaining.”
While the ad’s muddled audio and somewhat disjointed storytelling make it a bit hard to follow, its production value and Easter eggs are enough to make die-hard Die Hard fans happy, and everyone else will just be glad to see Willis back to grumpily fighting crime.
In addition to actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. reprising his role as Theo, the spot also features the return of another character from the original film: limo driver Argyle, played by De’voreaux White.
In what might be a nod to the action of 1988’s Die Hard, in which Argyle rams Theo’s getaway car (a stolen ambulance), the ad shows Argyle’s limo get rammed by Theo’s thugs. In a considerably more obvious reference, Willis’ character must climb through an air duct to escape the Advance Auto Parts store unnoticed by criminals.
“The DieHard brand is known for its reliability, durability and power—qualities of John McClane in the Die Hard films,” said Jason McDonell, Advance Auto Parts evp and CMO. “The opportunity to bring the two together in a creative and bold way to inform, entertain and mobilize motorists was irresistible.”
The spot, cut down into 15- and 30-second versions, will anchor a multichannel #DieHardIsBack campaign throughout October, a time when U.S. motorists begin thinking about changing their batteries before winter weather hits.
CLIENT: Advance Auto Parts – DieHard Batteries
CEO: Tom Greco
EVP & CMO: Jason McDonell
SVP & General Manager, Diehard: Allison Bubar
VP, Marketing: Wendy Blume
Sr. Director, Public Relations: Darryl Carr
Sr. Marketing Manager, Marketing: Regina Exum
Sr. Creative Manager, Marketing: Heidi Flippen
Creative Agency: The Marketing Arm
CEO: Andrew Robinson
President: Trina Roffino
EVP, Creative: Will Clarke
SVP, Creative: Leo Santos
SVP, Creative: Harris Wilkinson
Sr. Creative Director/Art Director: Rob Neatherlin
Sr. Director, Concepting: Stu Hill
Associate Director, Concepting/Copywriter: Nick Cernoch
Creative Director: Steve Hinckle
Associate Creative Director: Shelly Williams
Sr. Art Director: Ida Brown
Sr. Copywriter: David Fox
Art Director: Zach Phillips
SVP, Account: Lori Thelen
Director, Account: Shyrl Bagneris
Sr. Account Executive, Account: Stephanie Ibanez
EVP, Strategy: Kathleen Colditz
VP, Strategy: Chris Lee
Strategist: Stephen Bellinger
Vice President, Production: Diana Schroeder
Sr. Producer: Matt Williams