Last year, Lexus made a commercial that was scripted completely with artificial intelligence. Directed by Oscar-winner Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland), the ad was designed to show how technology could use intuition to influence the creative process. The spot itself? It was just all right.
Now Lexus has swung waaaay back to the other end of the scale, embracing the idea of human master craftsmanship—specifically, what’s known in Japan as Takumi. It takes roughly 60,000 hours to reach a Takumi level of artisanal expertise, and to illustrate that commitment, the brand has made a 60,000-hour documentary that profiles four Japanese craftspeople: a carpenter, a chef, a traditional paper-cutting artist, and an automotive craftsman who works for, you guessed it, Lexus.
It’s not 60,000 hours of unique footage. It would take one crew 30 years to shoot that. But with agency The&Partnership and director Clay Jeter (Chef’s Table), the brand made short film sequences of three to five minutes following the Takumi artisans as they went about their daily business. Those sequences are looped, over and over for 20,000 hours each, making a 60,000-hour film with 54 minutes of documentary and 20 minutes of looped footage. If you hit Play on the online version, the film would run nonstop for seven years.
Which is about six years, 364 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes longer than most people want to spend with branded content. And Lexus knows that. The company is not really expecting anyone to spend the next two-thirds of a decade in front of its ad. It’s merely hoping that the 60,000-hour stunt will catch your attention long enough for you to stop and check out the shorter film.
Craftsmanship of the Takumi level is what drives much of the luxury brand market and mystique, so Lexus decided to align some of the most committed masters. And if you’re interested in their stories, mercifully, there’s a 54-minute version of the doc launching on March 19th.
“We were intrigued by the mindset of these people, their dedication to one thing, and their constant desire for self-improvement,” says Matthew Bamford Bowes, creative strategy lead at The&Partnership. “At this moment in time, where Japan is on the rise, it also felt culturally rich to tell stories which brought to life this uniquely Japanese idea.”
The&Partnership creative director Dave Bedwood says that creating an hour-long doc, going beyond the 60-second ad, is a statement in itself. “This film is about craftsmanship and its importance to humans,” says Bedwood. “Is it under threat from AI? What do we stand to lose? I think it looks at some fairly big questions and places craft as something that could become more valuable over time as automation increases. A car that is born out of these values is perhaps a car some people would want to drive.”