Hitting the open road to drive cross-country is a timeless tradition. Hitting the open road to drive 3,098 miles with your bestie, a personal driver, and a crazy gambit to pitch an improbable superhero movie concept to the crowds at New York Comic-Con, whilst sponsored by a major vodka brand is even better.
That’s what going on in a series of web films featuring Silicon Valley stars Thomas Middleditch And T.J. Miller, as they drive from Hollywood to New York, stopping to sip some Smirnoff along the way.
Created by 72andSunny’s New York office, the Exclusively for Everybody campaign was conceived to “show that Smirnoff is both cool and legit,” while affirming the brand’s belief in inclusivity, according to agency creative director Eric Steele. “Smirnoff wins blind taste and invents über-trendy drinks like the Moscow Mule, except no one really knows those things because they tend to think of it as the stuff they used to drink back in the day when they didn’t know any better,” says Steele. “So from the beginning our brief had these two north stars: to make a high-level brand statement in culture about inclusivity, as well as promote our product quality credentials.”
Steele says the idea of friends on a road trip came first, since it allowed them to hit all the targets on the Smirnoff strategy list, like liquor stores, bars and house parties. The ultimate Comic-Con destination, however, came from collaborating with Miller and Middleditch.
“It’s one of the most highly anticipated and inclusive events of the year, where people from all walks of life are welcome and celebrated for who they are,” says Steele. “So the wrapper we gave the story was that Thomas and T.J. wanted to go pitch a sort of epically stupid superhero movie starring themselves. But honestly the real magic came in collaborating with T.J. and Thomas.”
While the structure of the story was pretty firmly set, Steels says they were encouraged to “improv the hell out of the concept.”
Director Matt Lenski says that the friendship between the actors heavily affected the outcome of the films. “The friendship between TJ and Thomas has a unique magic all its own. And when that shows up on set you’ve gotta follow it and see where it leads. Which is exactly what we did,” Lenski says. “This is about an epic yet totally unimportant road trip, which is really just a back drop as we watch two old friends crack each other up. There’s nothing quite as entertaining as the effortless banter between old friends. Real laughter, real stories. Everything we did was in service of bringing that out on set.”
“Both guys instantly embraced the concept as something they, too, stood for. They took the conceit and setups and ran with them,” adds Steele. “Since we wrote the scripts as them playing their real-life selves versus characters, it really allowed them to just do what they do naturally.”