Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy

Period pieces herald the third transportation revolution

Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.
These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.
It’s the first 360-degree, fully integrated campaign in the history of the 5-year-old company, which gained significant market share in recent months as its chief rival Uber suffered through a series of painful, largely self-inflicted crises. It’s also the first broadcast work for Lyft from Wieden + Kennedy New York, which won the business earlier this year.
W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

The purpose of the new effort is twofold, as Lyft aims to both expand its audience and encourage some customers to reconsider the service they thought they knew.
“We are reintroducing ourselves to people who may have only known us years ago as an early startup and new folks who have not tried ridesharing or Lyft,” said vp of marketing Melissa Waters, who joined Lyft from Pandora last year. “We started 2017 only operating in major U.S. markets, and now we have expanded to over 40 states; we currently cover 94 percent of the U.S. population.”
In explaining the campaign’s historic references, she described the ridesharing industry as “the third transportation revolution.” And while the act of following the Oregon Trail might at first seem unrelated to a decidedly modern business like Lyft, “we liked the creative device of the iconic ride,” she added. “It is really helpful to us because it speaks to the relationship between passenger and driver.” 

Additional spots in the campaign, which will be distributed via digital and social channels, elaborate on the theme.

One of the Bridges-free Western-themed ads continues in the same lighthearted vein with an 1830s take on texting.

Viewers may note that, unlike the “Undercover Lyft” series of viral spots, which the brand has been releasing for some time, this campaign doesn’t directly address the brand’s all-important customer experience.
“This is really about articulating our ethos,” said Waters. “We will have plenty of opportunities to communicate more about our product features and differentiation and reinforce our commitment to treating people better.”
In the meantime, future ads will add new historical touchpoints. A forthcoming follow-up to “Riding West” stars Tilda Swinton and Jordan Peele as astronauts aboard Apollo 14, orbiting the moon in 1971.

“We were trying to think about important moments in transportation … to contrast against your mundane ride to brunch or your trip to pick up a loofah,” said W+K creative director Stuart Jennings when asked how his team arrived at the underlying concept. “Whether you’re going to the moon, settling the West or just going to Target, it matters who you choose.”
Jennings added that the creatives chose “people who had a purpose and a goal that was big, ambitious and honorable” and cast actors known for both their dramatic and comedic roles in order to best “exude the personality of the brand.” He declined to name Uber as the target of some jabs in the copywriting (Bridges warns viewers not to “choose poorly” and “end up stranded”), instead describing this sort of casual messaging strategy as “something [Lyft] has always done, not in retort to what others have done.”

Beyond the video work, the out-of-home portion of the campaign gets a little more specific about the benefits of ridesharing generally, addressing problems like overcrowding, parallel parking and the inconvenience of making your way back to the car after a show.

“We had a lot of good writing that we liked for out-of-home,” Jennings said. “Lots of people will be viewing these from a car while commuting to work or trying to park at a stadium or airport, and this gave us context to speak to use cases.”
Lyft’s vp and in-house creative director, Jesse McMillin, described its ongoing relationship with the agency as such: “When we started our work with Wieden + Kennedy, we wanted to take all of that great history that we had built at Lyft and really hit the turbo-boost. We tapped W+K to help us bottle up all of the amazing spirit and commitment to doing right by our passengers and drivers in a way that would be fun and entertaining.”
He added, “One of their superpowers seems to be finding that inherent truth that has always existed at a company and to focus and refine it into something groundbreaking and memorable, and I think that this body of work is an exciting first expression of all of that magic.”
The Swinton/Peele ad “Riding Shotgun” will break later this month.
Client: Lyft
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
Campaign: “It Matters How You Get There”
Executive Creative Director​: Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors: ​Stuart Jennings, Laddie Peterson
Copywriter: Matt Simpson, Pepe Hernandez
Art Director: Alison Joseph, Blair Warren
Head of Integrated Production: Nick Setounski
Creative Services Director​: Chris Whalley
Head of Art Production: Deb Rosen
Broadcast Producers: Alison Hill, Alexey Novikov
Art Producers​: Deb Rosen, Yukino Moore
Head of Strategy​: Dan Hill
Strategy Director​: ​Tass Tsitsopoulous
Account Team: Samantha Wagner, Jasmine Cogdell, Lee Ford
Communications Planner​s: ​Karlo Cordova, Neil Sawhney
Project Manager​: ​Kristin Daly
Interns: ​Alex McClelland, Maddy Baldwin, Rodrigo Nino
Traffic Director​: ​Sonia Bisono
Head of Business Affairs: ​Patrick O’Donoghue
Business Affairs: ​Michael Moronez, Carla Curry
Production Company: ​Biscuit
Directo​r​: Noam Murro
Executive Producer/COO: ​Shawn Lacy
Executive Producer​: ​Holly Vega
Line Producer​: ​Jay Veal
Production Supervisor: ​Jen Berry
Director of Photography: ​Phedon Papamichael
Editorial Company​: ​Arcade Edit NY
Editor​: ​Jeff Ferruzzo
Editor (Social Videos)​: ​Laurel Smoliar
Sr. Post Producer​: ​Gavin Carroll
Assistant Post Producer​: ​Arlene Perez
Executive Producer: ​Sila Soyer
Editorial Assistant​: ​Samuel Barden
VFX Company (“Riding West”): ​Arcade Edit NY
VFX Flame​: ​Tristian Wake
Producer​: ​Gavin Carroll
GFX Artist: ​Paul Daniel
VFX Company​ (“Riding Shotgun”): ​The Mill
VFX Flame Lead​: ​Keith Sullivan
VFX Flame Assist​: ​Kevan Lee
Nuke​: ​James Cudahy, Ting Jung-Hsu
Executive Producer​: ​Chris Kiser
Producer​: ​La-Râ Hinckeldeyn
Pro​d​uction Coordinator​: ​Ashley Goodwin
CG Lead​: ​Ajit Menon
CG: Modeling/Texturing​ – ​Constance Bensen, Ivan Joy
CG: Animation​ – ​Hannah Lee
CG: FX​ – ​Yimo Xu
CG: Lighting/Rendering​ – ​Billy Dangyoon Jang
Telecine Company​: ​Company 3
Colorist​: ​Tom Poole
Mix Company​: ​​Sonic Union
Mixer: ​David Papa
Music House: ​Future Perfect
Executive Producer/Partner: ​Maxwell Gosling
Composer/Partner: ​John Connolly
Producer​: ​Nargis Sheerazie
Photographer​: ​Joao Canziani
Photographer’s Agent​: ​Jen Jenkins
Mix Company: ​​Sonic Union
Mixer​: ​Steve Rosen
Out of home/Digital
Exe​c​utive Creative Director​: ​Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors​: ​Stuart Jennings, Laddie Peterson
Copywriter​: ​Matt Simpson, Pepe Hernandez
Art Director​: ​Alison Joseph, Blair Warren
Creative Services Director​: ​Chris Whalley
Head of Art Production​: ​Deb Rosen
Art Producers​: ​Deb Rosen,​ ​Yukino Moore
Digital Producer​: ​Laura Paulino
Lead Print Producer​: ​Stephen Brady
Account Team​: ​Samantha Wagner, Jasmine Cogdell, Lee Ford
Communications Planners​: ​Karlo Cordova, Neil Sawhney
Project Manager​: ​Kristin Daly
Head of Business Affairs​: ​Patrick O’Donoghue
Business Affairs​: ​Michael Moronez, Carla Curry
Studio Manager​: ​Jill Kearton
Lead Studio Designer​: ​Mike Nesi
Print Producer​: ​Heather Kehoe
Retouching​: ​Chris McClelland
Studio Designers​: ​Alessandro Echevarria, Francisco Gutierrez, Harim Pines, Darlene Nashed, Sean Clancy, Napoleon Nicdao
Print Traffic​: ​Addis Fouche-Channer
Production Company: Joint
Senior Producer​: ​Michelle Carman
Assistant Producer​: ​Brian Schimpf
Producer​: ​Francess Tom-Sahr
Lead Motion Designer / Animator​: ​Dustin Bailey
3D Designer​: ​Sam Feske, Will Decker, Patrick McAvena, Lee Jun
Animator​ : ​Natalia Serrano
​Animation House​: ​Made by Radio
Director​: B​yron Meiring

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@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.