Jeff Gordon ‘Really Wanted to Show His Stuff’ in PepsiMAX’s Test-Drive Sequel

Q&A with the creative director

It might seem strange that PepsiMAX based its second "Test Drive" prank video with Jeff Gordon around doubts some people had about the first one. But it turned out to be a creatively fruitful approach.

First, it was a way to draft off the success of the earlier megahit. It also gave the second video a strong narrative. (Gordon, again in disguise, takes one of the big doubters—Travis Okulski of auto blog Jalopnik—on a very real, hair-raising ride of his own.) And finally, in many ways it used Gordon's pride as an accelerator. This isn't a guy, after all, who would want you to think he couldn't do these stunts himself.

Following the release of "Test Drive 2" on Thursday morning, we spoke with Marc Gilbar, creative director at Omnicom's Davie Brown Entertainment/The Marketing Arm in Los Angeles, which concepted and handled creative execution on the new video. (Like the first one, this one was directed by Peter Atencio of Gifted Youth.)

Below, Gilbar tells us all about the production, from the genesis of the idea to the safety issues to the moment when Okulski almost kicks out the camera inside the taxi.

AdFreak: The first "Test Drive" video did so well. I suppose a sequel is a no-brainer.

Marc Gilbar: The first one was a huge hit. But as with any sequel, the difficulty is to do something fresh and original.

For every Godfather II, there's a Godfather III.

Exactly. It's tough. We did [PepsiMAX's] Uncle Drew, and that's one where we just tried to expand the narrative and create a story people would like. But that's harder to do with "Test Drive," because of the character.

Pepsi, to their credit, wanted to address the haters. Haters is a general term, because I don't think that characterizes Travis, the guy we actually used. But the Internet audience is a conspiracy-driven audience that will literally break down every moment of your video. We always got a lot of amusement out of that, but we thought a lot of people could relate to it, too—and if we could incorporate or reference it in some way, it would be fun for people.

There happened to be this incredible article following the release of the first video. I had noticed it at the time. And when we got the brief and started thinking about it, we went back and looked at it, and realized how great Travis was and his whole breakdown of the first video—everything from the sound of a V8 engine versus a V6 to the cup holders on this model of Camaro. It was pretty funny. We thought he would make a great mark for the second one.

You weren't involved in the first video, though.

No, [TBWA\Chiat\Day] did the first one. Pepsi will give a jump ball on a lot of these projects. The "Zero-Calorie Cola in Disguise" came out of Uncle Drew and sort of expanded into the world of racing. Chiat did that first one, which was great and a huge success. The second one was more of a jump ball, and we had this particular idea.

It's interesting to focus on claims that last year's ad was faked. Is that just a hook to get people in—to draw off the success of the last one?

Yeah, I think it was a way to take a new angle. Anything else would have felt like you were doing the same thing over again. I think the honesty of it is what makes it great. With a lot of these pranks, if the setup is earned and done right, it makes the prank that much more enjoyable. If you just saw Jeff take a random person on a crazy cab ride, it may be funny, I guess, but the fact that this one had a specific purpose makes the drive that much more fun for the audience.

Shortly after the first one, I spoke to the director, Peter Atencio. He could only say so much. But it's not the point of the second video to really address whether the first one was real or not, correct?