For tire manufacturer Yokohama’s latest campaign, Drive Studios director Louise Baker Lee was tasked with reimagining three everyday moments that could be elevated with your own personal pit crew.
Each film focused on a different demographic for the brand: family-oriented, outdoor adventurers and culture seekers. With a creative use of location and subtle VFX, the team were able to pull together an entertaining series of dynamic spots that resonate with each target market.
To find out how this campaign was brought to life, LBB speaks with Louise Baker Lee who shares her creative inspiration, production challenges and favourite moments.
LBB> What was the brief from the client and your initial creative thoughts on the project?
Louise> The creative brief outlined the concept of having a pit crew for everyday life events, and I was instantly captivated by the idea. Balancing life as a professional and a mother is always some combination of marathon sprint meets controlled chaos.
So I read the brief, and started daydreaming about all the different scenarios in my own life that could benefit from a pit crew. When my twin daughters were younger, I always joked that I needed to be an octopus to handle everything at any given moment, so this concept was particularly resonant. I thought it was a fantastic idea, with endless fun possibilities for each of the target demographics.
LBB> What was your creative process? Where did you draw inspiration/references from and how did you use this in the final films?
Louise> The films were conceived to target three different tire-buying demographics - the “sensible driver” for family-oriented drivers, “outdoor adventurers” aimed at those who literally travel off the beaten path, and “culture seekers” for those whose tires and vehicles are a statement.
We would be creating three fast-paced 15-second spots driven by quick cuts, echoing the pace and efficiency of a real pit crew. I really wanted the spots to blend automotive culture with humanity and humor.
I knew that the edits would rely heavily on music, dynamic sound, and images that needed to be clear, graphic vignettes, so I drew inspiration from moments in Snatch, and Hot Fuzz as well as from Wes Anderson’s graphic composition-style.
I really wanted our pit crew cast to move and behave in recognisable ways in the context of these real life moments, so I watched a lot of training videos for pit crews, as well as pit crews in action. With that in mind, I thought it would be really fun to play on the overall concept using mechanic/pit crew sounds to augment each life moment.
I also drew inspiration from my own life experiences for each snapshot. With plenty of family road trip mileage, I thought about the endless energy of kids, and how much parents really need a break sometimes.
For our offroading, camping scene, I drew inspiration from years of travel, exploration, and being open to not always knowing where the path would lead. Years ago I had done pre-vis on 2 Fast 2 Furious in Miami, where John Singleton had street cast at car meetups, so I drew on that experience for culture seekers.
I also searched for authentic photography of car meetups on several social media platforms. A few of the agency creatives were part of that scene as well, so they lent their first-hand knowledge to the culture seeker vibe.
I wanted each demographic to have a distinct vibe, with a structure and rhythm that tied them all together, and I think we were able to achieve that goal.
LBB> The spots aim to recreate the feeling of having your own pit crew. How did you come up with the different scenarios for this?
Lousie> The creative brief outlined some possibilities for each demographic, and together with the agency, we developed stories that worked within our budget, locations and schedule.
Based on the constraints of the locations we were considering, we modified some of the vignettes. For example, the original script called for a pool, but knowing that we would not have access to a real pool, we decided to use the inflation of a kiddie pool both as a dynamic visual, and as a fun action for the crew, and an opportunity to use real mechanic tools (an air compressor).
With this in mind, we also had the kid’s hair dried by an air compressor. We thought it would be fun to light a campfire with a flame thrower, and structured the campfire build around that.
One of the agency creatives owned a vintage Yokohama Advan jacket, so we designed one of the culture seeker vignettes around it. Once we had settled on the individual moments, we boarded them, and actually did some stunt-vis in Drive’s parking lot to make sure we were hitting the right pacing and rhythm with the actions we had chosen.
We tried to give each scenario an arrival, followed by a full experience, and either a departure or an ending, showcasing the tires and Yokahama branding as much as possible - the sensible drivers pulled up to a motel, where the pit crew made a full pool day possible for the little girl before moving on; the outdoor adventurers pulled up to a campsite, where the crew set up camp and campfire, complete with ukelele; and the culture seeker rolled up to the meetup, had a wardrobe change, and hangout with friends and crew, and sped off to her next adventure.
We always tried to be mindful of quick, dynamic actions for the pit crew, as well as actions that would mimic a real pit crew.
LBB> What were some of the challenges you needed to solve during this project?
Louise> With only one shoot day, and three very distinct demographics to capture, we needed to be smart and efficient with our locations, and our schedule. We required a location that could accommodate everything we needed to capture, so we settled on Four Aces and the nearby desert, and relied on set dressing, time of day, and subtle visual effects to distinguish between the three setups.
For example, we painted out Joshua trees to distinguish the sensible driver’s motel from the camper’s desert vista, relied on night and neon, and added an urban background for our culture seeker’s meetup, just yards away from the motel.
We combined camera setups as frequently as possible in order to move at the necessary pace, and had to pivot from our original plan several times due to time constraints. In order to achieve some of the quick movements in the spots, we knew that we would play them in reverse in the edit, and that worked really well.
LBB> What were some of your personal highlights? And do you have a favorite spot / scene?
Louise> There were 81 casting self-tape submissions for the pit crew, and I had asked that the prospective crew members do pit crew-like actions with whatever they had in their households. Some of the submissions were super creative - one guy hoisted his dog up on an adjustable desk chair while making mechanic’s sounds to accompany the action, and finished with a signature thumbs up. I could tell that some people really had fun with it, so we had a lot of great options to choose from.
I had selected a number of favorites, and we ended up having to make some decisions based on the available crew uniform sizes. Our resulting crew was this incredible group of five strangers who completely got the concept when we discussed it on site, and worked together as a team right away and throughout. They even seemed to have a lot of fun in the process. I was so grateful for them, and thought they did a wonderful job.
I also loved working with the little girl, Coco, in the sensible driver spot. You would never have known that it was 46 degrees outside when she was splashing around in the pool. She was a total pro, and such a joy to work with.
Ultimately, I think my favorite spot is Culture Seeker. I love the way it looks, the style and colour, and the actions really came together nicely. I think we hit all the marks we set out to in telling the story through mini vignettes, while showcasing the brand through the tires, pit crew uniforms, and set dressing in the culture seeker spot.
However, I really do like all three for different reasons. Of course, I wish we had had a little more time for each (we were racing the sunset for outdoor adventurer, and ended up shooting the entire spot in an hour), but I felt like the end results were totally in line with what we had set out to do, and I felt really good about that.
I felt very fortunate to have the support of my Drive Studios family, as well as a wonderful crew all around. Everyone was nimble and accommodating, and I was so grateful.
LBB> What was your reaction to the finished spots?
Louise> I was really pleased with them. I also thought it was pretty cool that Yokohama was open to such a different way of advertising their product. I felt like it was such a clever idea, and I was so happy to be part of bringing it to life.