Pennzoil’s High-Octane Aerial Stunt Shows a Dodge Drifting on a Floating Platform

With help from some visual effects

Need a lift? Take this cool 90-second Pennzoil spot from J. Walter Thompson for a spin.

Stunt driver Rhys Millen hurtles through the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, in a canary yellow 707 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat for much of the film, called "Airlift Drift," promoting the client's synthetic motor oil made from natural gas. Ultimately, his wild ride hits dizzying heights as four helicopters hoist the vehicle on a specially designed asphalt-topped platform. The car continues to drift and burn rubber like mad as it soars through the night sky, past glittering downtown skyscrapers.

That's one breathtaking aerial exhibition. Suck it, Jaguar!

In fairness, Jag's high-wire stunt last week above the River Thames, while less riveting, was 100 percent real. Pennzoil's sky driving—well, obviously, not so much.

"Everything from the get-go was rooted in the idea of realism," JWT Atlanta ecd Jeremy Jones assures AdFreak. "The load capacity of the helicopters, the chains, the shape of the platform and support beams. It's all mathematically and theoretically possible."

If the concept seems familiar, that's because "Airlift Drift" director Ozan Biron, working here through production firm The Embassy, also directed last year's "Ultimate Racetrack," which showcased a BMW M4's tread-tearing trip around the deck of an aircraft carrier. "We learned he was the magician behind 'Ultimate Racetrack,' and we had to have him," Jones says. "He's a complete car guy, and pushes the driving to crazy levels. It's so raw and uncommercial."

Pennzoil has worked especially hard to avoid category clichés in recent campaigns. "We believe cars have evolved. So should your oil—and oil commercials, for that matter," says Jones. "There are no product claims, no VO bottle pours. We want people to be moved and have a visceral reaction to the film, hear nothing but the sound of the engine being pushed to the limit."

He adds, "The problem with our category is most people outside of enthusiasts don't care enough about cars to care which motor oil to use. With this film, we're hoping to wake people up … to become that little ripple in pop culture and get people to think differently about our brand."


Client: Pennzoil

Agency: J. Walter Thompson, Atlanta

Chief Creative Officer: Perry Fair

Executive Creative Director: Jeremy Jones

Group Creative Director: Dustin Tamilio

Copywriter: John Huddleston

Art Director: Erin Fillingam

Producer: Daryll Merchant

Account Director: Erin McGivney

Senior Planner: James Robbins

Production Company: The Embassy, Vancouver

Director: Ozan Biron

Executive Producer: Trevor Cawood

Editor: Ozan Biron

Assistant Editor, Conformist: Brendan Woollard, Cycle Media

Director of Photography: Manoel Ferreira

Visual Effects: Imagine Engine

Visual Effects Supervisor: Bernhard Kimbacher

On-set Supervisor: Neil Impey

Precision Driver: Rhys Millen

Content Production Company: Lemonade Films

Executive Producer: Ted Herman

Production Supervisor: Philip Fyfe

South African Service Company: Uncle Morris Films

Line Producer: Steven St. Arnaud

Production Manager: Herman Warnich

Production Coordinator: Andrea Scott

Colorist: Dave Hussey, Company 3

Sound Design: Charles Deenen, Source Sound

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