Palms Casino Resort Bills Itself as the ‘New Vegas’ With a Mind-Bending Pop Culture Blitz

Star-studded campaign from AKQA follows $690 million overhaul

Forget your grandma’s Vegas—this isn’t even your big sister’s.

Palms Resort Casino is out today with a sweeping new campaign after a $690 million overhaul to the property itself. And it has enlisted a small army of current celebrities—from music, film, fashion, food, sports and art—to help make the case that it’s not like the rest of the town.

The centerpiece, a 90-second ad from AKQA Portland and director Sam Brown, is a non-stop pop culture blitz under a new brand identity, “Unstatus Quo.” It opens with rally car star Ken Block chaining the old “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to his car, and tearing it down as he peels out.

In the ensuing—and obligatorily lush—montage, the one and only Cardi B fans herself with a wad of cash (a nod to her smash single “Money,” and its own video). Model Emily Ratajkowski grins while she reads a burning gossip rag. Designer Dapper Dan outfits actor Ezra Miller in a rich purple and gold coat with a cream collar fit for a vampire.

A stately Adriana Lima summons a decadent feast—complete with dueling samurai. Masked music producer Marshmello lounges playing video games. Skater Ryan Sheckler pops tricks off the top of a tony bar. Artist Timothy Curtis draws neon designs into the thin air. Rita Ora brushes her gold grillz in a gold dress with a gold toothbrush in a room filled with all gold everything.

“Unstatus Quo is the sharp point of years of work,” says Jon Gray, general manager of the resort, explaining how the campaign’s point-of-view came to be. “Distilling everything we stand for—as a new property and a new brand—in just two words is not an easy feat. However, when we came across the idea, we knew it was the perfect solution.”

“It’s not just a tagline,” he adds. “It’s a philosophy and belief that will resist time, positioning Palms as the agent of continuous progress, while providing a brand platform to leverage in perpetuity.”

Other talent featured in the ad include chef Michael Symon (looking like a hip serial killer toting a meat-hook through a nightclub); singer Ozuna (looking like a tropical don sipping tea in a jungle-themed suite); skater Leticia Bufoni (flying through the air in a rainbow-striped skirt); artist Jason Revok (stylized REVOK, redecorating a wood-paneled wall and stuffy old painting with about 12 cans of spray paint at once, using one of his signature rigs); and artist Felipe Pantone (rocking an iridescent face mask). That not to mention artworks by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Dustin Yellin, Olivia Steele, Gary Stranger and Joshua Vides.

The soundtrack, meanwhile, is an original song by the same name—”Unstatus Quo”—from L.A. rapper Duckwrth. Released in conjunction with the campaign (complete with a vinyl album cover by REVOK), it features a sample of James Brown’s 1972 hit “Get on the Good Foot.” And consumers dedicated enough to keep scouring the ad in coming weeks will have a chance to win some of the flossy items on display—each day until April 5, Palms will use YouTube Cards in a “first-ever activation” that will at specific times “unlock” certain “drops”—Easter egg prizes like a Gucci x Dapper Dan jacket, a REVOK painting, a signed Cardi B microphone, a Marshmello helmet, an Olivia Steele sculpture, and Nike sneakers designed by Joshua Vides.

In short, the whole exercise is determined to put a fresh spin on the familiar dazzling excesses of a city that sometimes seems designed—from the moment you step off the plane at the airport—to pick you up, turn you upside down, and shake out your pockets for every cent you’re worth.

Asked what perception of Vegas the campaign is pushing back against, exactly, Gray demurred. “We love Vegas,” he says. “We’re from Vegas. We’re Vegas through and through. However, being totally frank, we see an opportunity for a new era for Vegas. The Palms represents the New Vegas.” (In a warehouse in the film, a graffiti artist makes the same case, editing the “welcome” sign stolen by Block at the beginning).

As for what that means, a safe guess might be that the new Vegas isn’t just gaudy. It’s also cool. And given American pop culture in 2019 is already a wild pastiche of extreme luxury and glitzy bravado, Palms looks right on track to fit in—just by reflecting it.


PALMS: Unstatus Quo Credits

Client: Palms Las Vegas
Campaign: Unstatus Quo

Palms Credits:
Jon Gray, Tal Cooperman, Alex Acuna, Lauren Westerfield, Frank Fertitta IV

Agency: AKQA Portland
Creative Director: Aaron Seymour-Anderson
Sr. Art Director: Alice Chiapperini
Sr. Writer: Matteo Capaldi
Executive Producer: Dustin Freeman
Sr. Producer: Thomas Martin
Associate Creative Director: Carlos Bernal
Designer: Pedro Sanguine
Copywriter: Sammi Chancey
Designer: Terry Lee
Designer: Chris Lopez
Group Account Director: Daniel Jones
Client Partner: Rodrigo Moyses
Executive Creative Director: Ginny Golden
Strategy Director: Alec Black
Associate Strategy Director: Sarah-Jayne Boyd
Account Director: Mariana Pacheco
Sr. Project Manager: Tyler Hilton
Associate Program Director: Christine Dippold
Media: Justin Claassen, Oona Ziegler
Business Affairs Director: Amy Thomas

Production: Imperial Woodpecker
Director: Sam Brown
Director of Photography: Benoit Debie
Executive Producer: Doug Halbert
Executive Producer: Charlie Cocuzza
Producer: Emma Butterworth
Production Supervisor: Kelsey Mezzenga
Asst Production Supervisor: Laurie Adlington
Asst Production Supervisor: Bailey Padgett
1st AD: Peter Jackson
2nd AD: Kevin McCann
Production Designer: Quito Cooksey

Editorial: Cabin Editing Company
Editor: Greg Scruton
Editor: Michael Rees
Editor: Randy Baublis
Managing Partner: Carr Schilling
Head of Production: Remy Foxx

VFX Creative: The Mill LA & The Mill London
Creative Directors/VFX Supervisors: Jonathan Wesley and Dave Lawson
Executive Producer: Fawn Fletcher
Producer: Katie Buckley, Tom Manton
Production Coordinator: Emily Stave

Art Director: Clarice Chin
2d Lead Artist: Martin Karlsson
2d Artists: Dylan Streiff, Patrick Dirks, Julian Ford, Gavin Marler, Brett Lopinsky, Jake Albers, Kai Chun Tsai, Jae Jun Yi, Rob Winfield, Ashwin Arun Bansode, Adam Maynard, Damudar Khuman, John Thornton, Richard De Carteret, Zoe Cosh, Yatin Tamhane

3D Lead Artist: Gary Driver, Ed Shires, Chase Webb, Gaurav Mathur
3D Artist: Ben Blundell, Bethan Williams, Edward Hicks, Girish GR, James Hansell, Nicola Gilbert, Murali Krishna Reddy, Sergio Xisto, Tony Atherton, Chase Webb, James Robinson
Matte Painting: Cameron Johnson

Color Grade: MPC
Colorist: Ricky Gausis
Executive Producer: Meghan Lang
Color Producer: Rebecca Boorsma

Sound Design & Mix: Lime Studios
Sound Designer: Michael Anastasi
Assistant Sound Designer: Kai Paquin
Mix Engineer: Matt Miller
Assistant Mix Engineer: Lisa Mermelstein
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

Music Supervision: Butter Music + Sound
Music Supervisor: Chip Herter

Title: “Unstatus Quo”
Artist: Duckwrth
Contains elements of “Get On The Good Foot” (J. Brown/J. Mims/F. Wesley) Dynatone Publishing Company (BMI). All rights administered by Unichappell Music, Inc. (BMI). All rights reserved
Written by: Fred A Wesley Jr, James Brown, Jared Lee, Jesse Voccia, Joseph Louis Mims
Published by: Warner/Chappell / Jared Lee / Agami Music
Produced by: Jesse Voccia o/b/o Agami Music
Producer credit: “Produced by Agami Music”
Mixed by: Jesse Voccia o/b/o Agami Music
Programming by: Jesse Voccia o/b/o Agami Music
Recorded at: Republic Studios, Los Angeles CA
Engineered by: BJ Mekk

Major Art Pieces Showcased
Andy Warhol — “Dollar Signs,” “Kareem Abdul Jabbar” and “Repent and Sin No More”
© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed ARS

Damien Hirst — “The Unknown” (shark bar) and “Demon With Bowl” (62 ft headless demon)
© 2019 Damien Hirst

Jason REVOK — “Untitled” (12 cans over old classic painting)
© 2019 Jason REVOK

Felipe Pantone — Pixelated face and design of Ken Block’s car
© 2019 Felipe Pantone

Timothy Curtis – Light painting
© 2019 Timothy Curtis

Olivia Steele – “Unregulated” flaming sculpture
© 2019 Olivia Steele

Joshua Vides – “Undisputed” custom Nikes, Hardwood Suite court (basketball court in suite) and Black & White Wedding Chapel
© 2019 Joshua Vides

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.