To showcase the importance of driving tourism and economic recovery back to the state, Visit California is investing more than $22.1 million in a Super Bowl campaign, which was created by The Shipyard and directed by Superprime's Rodrigo Valdes. It will mark the state’s first time advertising alongside the big game, kicking off a two-month run that will include other high-profile programming such as the Winter Olympics.
The spot features a protagonist flying through the diverse California landscape, highlighting recognisable destinations such as the Hollywood Sign, Coronado Bridge in San Diego, the redwood trees of Santa Cruz, Yosemite National Park and more. As would be expected of California, there are also a number of celebrity cameos - Anthony Anderson, Mario Lopez and San Francisco Giant Brandon Crawford, all of whom are California natives, feature.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted to Kerry Krasts, ECD at The Shipyard, to find out more.
LBB> Why did it make sense for Visit California to get involved in the Super Bowl? Was it too good an opportunity having the game in LA?
Kerry> The Super Bowl being hosted in LA sparked conversations around how to participate in the event early on. Of course, we wanted to support LA and the entire state on that awesome stage. We also really wanted to join in the triumphant return to travel in a big, bold way.
(And if you don’t mind, GO RAMS!)
LBB> Where do you start when it comes to distilling the best bits of a state like California into 60 seconds?
Kerry> In a way, the ‘where’ is the hardest part – fitting it all in! There is no lack of incredible beauty in California. Our challenge is always to represent the diversity and beauty of the state – the mountains, beaches, deserts, and fertile valleys. And this year we really focused on showcasing the most beloved and iconic spots.
LBB> How would you summarise the way that you've presented the state? What elements did you really lean into?
Kerry> Having California as a backdrop for your creative is a dream, and the state is always the true star of the spot. The goal was to create a joyful flight of fancy captured in a way that makes every scene feel possible. The landscapes are tangible and true to life, but how the viewer experiences them makes them feel fresh, radical, and new.
LBB> What inspired the whimsical, dreamlike approach?
Kerry> The California Dream! California is a ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’ place where you feel like just about anything is possible. We pushed that idea to its limit, removing the constraints of reality, and opening the door for some truly captivating and unforgettable visuals unlike anything the brand has done before.
LBB> What was the casting process like for the protagonist?
Kerry> We are always intentional in how we are casting in terms of gender and ethnic diversity. On this particular project, we knew we needed someone who could be relatable, while doing the unbelievable. The physical ability to withstand long days on a fly rig was also crucial. We narrowed down to our top three selects – which was totally varied – and put them on a rig for a test day. Honestly, Austen just had it all. She is one of the most natural actresses I’ve ever worked with, and she was a total stud on that fly rig. She shone. And she shines in the spot.
LBB> Tell me about the cameos. Who did you get involved and why?
Kerry> Ah, celebrity cameos. That’s always a journey full of twists, turns, subjective opinions and scheduling issues. But I love where we netted out on this spot. All the celebrities have strong connections to the state. I love that aspect to our casting, but they are also just great fits for the creative.
Whether from early Saved By the Bell, current-day Saved By the Bell, or years on the red carpet in between, Mario Lopez is one of the most universally loved people on the planet, he sort of lives in our collective conscience; he was perfect for the convertible scene. Brandon Crawford, Golden Glove winning shortstop for the SF Giants, as a giant? How could we pass on that? And Anthony Anderson is a groundbreaking actor and comedian with an awesome California Dream story. He has such a great presence - so poised, warm, grounded (and very easy on the eyes). He was the perfect person to bring us back to earth at the end of the spot. He’s also the voice of the bear at the airport.
LBB> Why was Rodrigo Valdes the right director to bring your vision to life?
Kerry> We were venturing into uncharted creative waters with such a visual effects-driven spot for this client, and Rodrigo was the perfect person to guide us safely through our production. He is just a joy to work with – patient, easy going, a great listener and collaborator, a master of his craft, full of heart and vision. And he’s a master of pre-production, which was crucial for bringing both agency and client along on the journey. We didn’t want to make a ‘special effects’ spot, and Rodrigo knew how to blend that visual hyperbole with the beauty and authenticity of experience we were seeking.
LBB> What was the production like?
Kerry> Fly rigs, blue screens, cranes, animatronic bears, roller coasters, precision racing drones… for a creative, it was such a fun production to be on, and it went very smoothly, considering the extreme complexity of the shoot. I give all the credit to our VP of production, Liz Ross and the team at Superprime Films, including line producer Michele Abbott.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Kerry> Matching studio light to outdoor plate shots for the scenes that were not shot on location, in order that everything felt natural and seamless was one of the biggest challenges. Also having to anticipate the special effects that would happen in post. But we had an amazing, experienced production team, and the collaboration with Parliament VFX started early and continued throughout the entire shoot, allowing us to adjust on the fly as needed (no pun intended).
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Kerry> I’m just thrilled that we have made a bold creative step forward for the Visit California brand.