Heavy Metal Band Tours in a Greyhound in Cinema Ad That Goes to 11

Enjoy rock-star amenities

IDEA: Rock stars are afforded certain, ahem, amenities aboard their multimillion-dollar buses. But Greyhound has some nice on-board features, too, and becomes the touring vehicle of choice for a heavy metal band—thanks to a bargain-hunting manager—in this 60-second cinema spot from Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.

Once aboard, the members of the fictional "MüttonGüt" are polite, gracious, even genteel as they ride with the regular passengers. "Similarly, when you ride a Greyhound, that experience isn't necessarily what you expected either," said BSSP creative director Steve Mapp. "We wanted to reset consumers' preconceived notions about Greyhound. … So the band is really a foil that lets us flip that switch for people."

Added associate cd Eric Liebhauser: "We figured if we could portray rock stars rethinking Greyhound, we might inspire our target to do the same."

COPYWRITING: The spot opens with MüttonGüt smashing their instruments on stage in the glow of pyrotechnics and rushing out to their bus, only to find a Greyhound there instead. Seems their manager bought them all $1 fares (actually available on select routes).

So they settle in, and are soon enjoying WiFi, power outlets at every seat, onboard entertainment, etc. One band member gives eyeliner tips to a female seatmate and sobs over a kids' movie; another gets shushed for waking a baby with his guitar. The tagline, "Tour in style," appears at the end in gothic, Iron Maiden-style, 3-D chrome type.

There was plenty of improvising on set, and the humor has a This Is Spinal Tap vibe. "Its influence finds you when you write a rock-based script," said Liebhauser. "For that matter, its influence finds you when you write a toothpaste-based script."

The writers considered dozens of metal names before picking MüttonGüt, inspired by Norwegian death metal. "The process is sort of: You come up with the wildest legally viable name you can think of," said Mapp, "only to find out it belongs to an existing band in Tampa with a MySpace page."

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Production house Tool's Erich Joiner shot the concert and interior bus scenes in one night at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles and in a Greyhound parked outside. (The dim scenery drifting by in the windows was added by The Mill in post.) The exterior driving scenes were shot the following night.

The visual look is cinematic, befitting the cinema buy. "Lucky for us, it to just so happens that the wide, cinematic format makes the bus look even more spacious and premium," said Mapp.

With set design, hair and makeup and wardrobe, authenticity was key. "We combed the seedy metal underbelly for inspiration," said Mapp. "We referenced styles of rock heroes through the ages. We came out on the other side with a new respect for wigs and extensions."

TALENT: The agency looked at actors and musicians while casting in Los Angeles. "In the end, we hired the guys with the best comedy chops, opting to stylize trained actors instead of training stylized musicians," said Liebhauser.

SOUND: The scene transitions are punctuated by crunchy guitar chords. "Musical inspiration started with an exhaustive search of our own iTunes libraries," said Mapp. "We, of course, began with the classics: Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Dio. And we branched out from there."

Music house Squeak E. Clean wrote an original MüttonGüt track called "Snake Venom Cognac," which will be released online later this year.

MEDIA: The spot broke on the Fourth of July and will run during peak blockbuster periods that align with heavy travel seasons. A cinema poster will appear in over 90 theaters starting in October. The campaign also includes online video and banners.