Car brands love stunts, as evidenced by this cracker from Ford in the US. And car brands also love restoring old models/pimping out new ones, as evidenced by Holden's 60th campaign and the bespoke Toyota Hiluxes created for Willie Apiata and Matt Watson. But Land Rover New Zealand and Y&R NZ have combined the two in a clever campaign that has brought joy to the hearts of many—and presumably some jealously to the hearts of those who wish it had happened to them. And there's a special connection, as one of the recipients, Will Radford, is my tin-arse brother in law.
In October last year, Radford, New Zealand marketing manager at Jockey, reluctantly put an ad on Trade Me to sell a disassembled, de-registered 1957 Series I Land Rover that he and three mates bought while they were studying at Otago University. Land Rover noticed the heart-felt ‘Dear John’ listing and decided to buy it covertly (for $1,330 and a bottle of Johnnie Walker), restore it to its former glory and then give it back (it was codenamed Project Laurie, which was apparently a totally random name christened by the head of sales at Land Rover). They also got the endorsement of the global Land Rover folk, and they agreed to push it out through their channels.
"When we came across the TradeMe ad, we loved the story behind the truck,” says Land Rover New Zealand marketing manager, James McKee. “It was a heart-warming tale documenting the many journeys and epic stories this particular Land Rover has been part of and just how much the vehicle meant to these four mates.”
With the help of Tony Katterns at Custom Metal Shapers in Auckland’s East Tamaki, they restored it over five months. And Y&R's chief creative officer Josh Moore says the story compelled the team to do whatever they could to keep the legend alive, including replacing the broken bits with genuine Land Rover parts, while retaining some of the dents, dings and even recreating the bumper stickers.
Under false pretenses, three of the four previous owners were lured to Radford's house in Kumeu last Monday (as family members, we heard about the ploy the week before. Y&R has yet to pay its hush money to StopPress) and were convinced to come inside to watch the ads. Then, a 45 second spot that showed their newly restored Landy driving around Central Otago screened during Seven Sharp, finishing with the message 'Claire has the keys'. Radford's reaction to the ad was one of the highlights of the clip and the cameras also caught his reaction in the garage when he laid his teary eyes on it.
That footage from Monday was screened on Seven Sharp on Friday night (there was some teasing on the Land Rover New Zealand Facebook page), and, while the whole thing was instituted by Land Rover, Radford's wife Claire got the boys there and managed to ensure the restored Landy got into the garage unseen. Seven Sharp focused on them and she is loving being given all the credit—although, judging by some of the Facebook commentary, she may have angered many wives and girlfriends for setting the bar too high.
The campaign concluded with a full-page press ad in the NZ Herald wishing the lads a happy Valentine’s Day.
Every stage of the project was captured using hidden cameras. And, as well as their own social media channels (a story is also being run about the restoration in Land Rover’s global magazine, One Life), there's also been plenty of social media action from those involved (and from Dan Carter). It's also been featured on a big range of sites, including Reddit and Mashable and, so far, Y&R says it's got well over one million views.
“The project has quite literally been a labour of love and we’re very proud of every aspect of the campaign," says Moore. "It’s all the more poignant given this year Land Rover celebrates the final year of production of the current Land Rover Defender model, the direct descendent of the Series 1 Land Rover.”
Steve Kane, Y&R's managing director, says it's easily the biggest thing Land Rover has done in this market for a few years (it did a bit during the Rugby World Cup, repurposed a global outdoor campaign to make it more New Zealandy a few years later and created some long-form radio ads with its previous agency Big) and, while these hidden camera style campaigns often bring out the cynics who question their veracity, he says that hasn't happened this time and it's all been positive, perhaps because it's all true (on a related note, Kane is set to buy a Defender—and possibly drive it only on Auckland asphalt). And while there's no sales message attached to this campaign, creating such a strong emotional impact is certainly good for the brand—and, if you believe this guy, more effective.
Radford said his phone was going crazy after the segment screened on Friday night and started spreading on social media, but when dared (by me) to put the car straight back on TradeMe, he said he was contractually obligated to offer it back to Land Rover first. But he is considering an orchestrated campaign to write a series of Dear John letters and try to get brands to pay for everything to be fixed (hey Resene, his house needs a paint).
MARKETING MANAGER: James McKee
GENERAL MANAGER: James Yates
CCO & CEO: Josh Moore
ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Tom Paine
CREATIVES: Josh Moore, Tom Paine
ACCOUNT DIRECTOR: Victoria Meo/Mel Marshall
SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER: Mike Keen
AGENCY HEAD PRODUCER: Christina Hazard
ONLINE/MOTION GRAPHICS: Michael Frogley
DESIGNERS: James Wendelborn, MusondaKatongo
PLANNER: Jono Key
MEDIA GENERAL MANAGER: Nicky Greville
TRADING DIRECTOR: Cath Hamilton
BUSINESS DIRECTOR: Paul Hamilton
SOCIAL COMMUNITY MANAGER: Laura Holyoake – Social Community Manager
FILM COMPANY PRODUCER:
DIRECTOR: Ben Ruffell
DOP: Will Moore
EDITOR: Nathan Pickles
COLOUR GRADE: Pete Richie
MUSIC LICENSING FOR TV EXECUTION: Jonathan Hughes, Franklin Road
ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSITION ONLINE & CINEMA CONTENT: Pete Van derFluit, Liquid Studios
AUDIO POST: Shane Taipari Franklin Road