Clemenger creatives on making NZTA’s ‘Local Legends’

This morning NZTA released its latest ad ‘Local Legends’, this time aimed at curbing drink driving among younger men. The ad follows the award-winning TVC ‘Mistakes’ which painted a haunting picture of a dad in a paused moment pleading with a speeding driver to slow down.

We spoke with Clemenger BBDO creatives Mark Dalton and Mike Gwyther, who also co-wrote NZTA’s ad ‘Blazed’, about what it took to write ‘Local Legends’, what makes it work, and how to cut through the noise so you’re not forgotten.

Can you tell me a bit about the creative process behind ‘Local Legends’?

At its core, ‘Local Legends’ is about getting people in the wider community to step in when they see someone they know about to drink drive.

We decided it had to be a believable, take place in a small rural town, and involve a local (or locals) trying to stop a young male from drink driving.

From that point, the tricky bit creatively was giving the ad a hook. It could easily have been a straight, and therefore forgettable, conversation. It could have felt forced. We needed to give the young guy a good reason to hand over the keys.

We knew an important aspect would be characterisation. By giving them all quite detailed backstories, we were able to explore what would happen if they were thrown together in that situation.

I love this ad and I’m sure others will too – what do you think makes it good?

It feels like there’s a lot of things that – when taken as a whole – make it work. The loveability of the two older guys. Their willingness to do the right thing, despite how awkward it makes them feel. Kev’s grumpiness. The more confident Barry egging him on. The reactions of the young guys to Kev’s rambling monologue. The generation gap shown by Barry changing the music at the end.

Just like with ‘Blazed’, we spent a lot of time at the casting stage to make sure we had great actors who could pull off a fairly tricky script. We also had a fantastic production company in Finch, and a director who really understands drama in the shape of Patrick Hughes.

‘Mistakes’ was a huge success – did you learn anything from that which you implemented in ‘Local Legends’?

Taking our time to select the best possible script is something we’ve learnt over the years. You have to keep trucking on, and rejecting scripts that are just ‘okay’ in the hope that one of the teams will eventually strike gold. It takes a fair amount of self-belief to keep searching, especially when the clock is ticking for the client.

After that it’s attention to detail, and making the right decisions when it comes to casting and location so that the essence of the idea always shines through.

The scripting is lovely – “I’m crap at that kind of thing”, in particular, and then the verbose reasoning from Kev. It feels almost uncomfortably close to home, is that the intention?

It’s fair to say nobody likes having these conversations. It’s the Kiwi way to mind your own business. We wanted our characters to overcome this barrier, and do something for the greater good. But we certainly didn’t want them to like it. It’s the very fact that they’re uncomfortable – but intervene anyway, because they know it’s the right thing to do – that makes them Legends.

More from Clemenger BBDO for NZTA below:

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