BBH’s ‘Car’ Updates Levi’s Cowboy Heritage

NEW YORK Bartle Bogle Hegarty considered hundreds of actors in Europe and the U.S. before settling on its French leading man in “Car,” a spot touting Levi’s Type 1 jeans. The real challenge, however, was casting the car.

In the spot from the New York shop, which broke on June 27 and is airing in 30- and 60-second versions, a man attempts to tame a car, much as a cowboy breaks a horse, against a dusty, futuristic urban background.

“We wanted an out-of-time looking car,” said Thomas Hayo, group creative director on the spot. “Something not completely from the here and now.”

Creatives, including copywriter Antony Goldstein and art director Gavin Lester, considered using a truck or a streamlined existing car model, but finally decided they had to design one themselves.

“We set out to create a car that feels somewhat futuristic, yet that is based on a classic American car shape,” Hayo said. “A vehicle you definitely have never seen before, yet with a strong familiarity to it. In addition to that it was extremely important to give it as much personality as possible. After all, it had to almost come across as a living and breathing creature.”

The result is a long, lean, low-to-the-ground, silver two-door car.

“We based the car on a [Chevrolet] El Camino,” Hayo said. “We had two cars custom made in Los Angeles.” Everything from the grill to the side fins were made to the team’s specifications, according to Hayo, then “we shipped them over and trashed them. That was fun.” Kenny Bates, a movie stunt coordinator, drove the car.

In the spot, the Frenchman who was chosen for his cowboy-like rugged good looks lassoes the car and clings to it as it races around. When it finally stops, he opens the door to find no driver inside.

The concept of the ad updates the Western cowboy taming a horse.

“[The ad is] a modern take on a classic theme from Levi’s heritage, very much the same way that Type 1 is a contemporary version of the classic Western jean,” Hayo said. “Throughout the spot, we are witnessing an updated, slightly surreal version of traditional horse-wrangling.”

The shoot took place over five days in an old aluminum factory in Budapest, Hungary, chosen for its downtrodden urban feel. Cityscapes were added digitally in the background. The directorial team of Traktor added humorous touches to the spot. For example, when the lead character is thrown onto the hood, they suggested the windshield wipers should start and spray him, an idea added to the final execution.

“They made the relationship between the guy and the car more endearing,” Hayo said.

The spot will run through July in cinemas and on cable and network stations.