By on December 4, 2013

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Not following the hip-hop scene closely, I’m not really sure who Nas is, a quick search shows that he’s a successful rapper and actor. I do know who Malcolm Campbell and Viktor Frankl were. Sir Malcolm was a British racer and writer, who set and held world land and water speed records in the 1920s and 30s in cars and boats called Blue Bird, many of his own design, breaking the LSR nine different times. Campbell’s final record, set at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the Blue Bird V, made him the first human to drive a car more than 300 mph. Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist who founded a form of existential analysis called logotherapy. After surviving the Holocaust of European Jewry by the Nazis, with his psychic wounds still fresh in 1946 he wrote Mans Search For Meaning, which hasn’t gone out of print since its publication. As part of an ad campaign that’s something about ‘chasing your wild rabbit‘, Hennesey cognac had director Martin de Thurah cut two versions of a long form television commercial, really a short film, called The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down, about Campbell. It’s not a commercial trying to sell a car but it’s the best commercial with a car that I’ve seen in a long time. The shorter commercial is the one you’re more likely to see and is at the top of this post. It’s gotten the lion’s share of publicity, no doubt because the the aforementioned Nas lends his talents for the narration. A longer form version, though, uses the words and voice of Frankl, “the most fundamental and basic concern of man, neither pleasure nor happiness, nor power or prestige, but his wish to find and fulfill a meaning in his life.”

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Both commercials are powerful little films, though one always wonders if Clio-worthy ads actually sell product.

Rather than make everything look vintage and sepia toned, the look is all hi-def, so they had to make a realistic replica of one of the Blue Birds.

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Though the production team used plenty of digital effects, the car you see racing down what is supposed to be a Florida beach (I suspect it might have actually been shot adjacent to the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles) in the ad is a real runner, built by Ghost Light, a Los Angeles shop that specializes in preparing cars for the film industry. It has a tube space frame, a LS3 engine, posi-traction and coilovers.

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The body is fiberglass, and looks like it’s  based on Campbell’s 1932 car that reached 253.97 mph on Daytona’s beach.

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I wonder what Hennessy is going to do with it after the ad campaign is over. There aren’t that many television or movie cars that I’d like to own, but I think this one might be fun.

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In case you’re interested I’ve transcribed Frankl’s narration as well as the ad copy written for Nas to deliver. They’re both being used to sell spirits but they’re just not quite the same.

Nas:

Malcolm Campbell would not slow down. When they told him he had reached a limit. He just had one thought: faster. What was he chasing? What are you chasing? Hennessy VS. Never stop. Never settle.

Frankl:

The most fundamental and basic concern of man, neither pleasure nor happiness, nor power or prestige, but his wish to find and fulfill a meaning in his life. If there is a meaning to fulfill, then he is ready to suffer, he is ready to offer sacrifices, he is ready to undergo tension, stress and so forth. A work to do, a job to complete, a task a meaning, a mission waiting for him exclusively to be materialized, to be actualized by him and by no other person, right now, who else if not he? Any human being is concerned with something out there in the world.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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7 Comments on “Man’s Search For Meaning In A Great Car Commercial, for Cognac...”


  • avatar
    hubcap

    As far as commercials go this one is much better than Coors’”it’s not weird if it works’ schtick but it still doesn’t hit home for me.

    Sir Malcolm Campbell is much more interesting than Hennessy. I understand the brand attempting to attach itself to him and his exploits but for me it falls flat.

    That being said I have a soft spot for explorers/ adventurers and would rather sit through an advertising pitch based on them, their exploits or a combination of the two versus what’s hot in Hollywood at the present moment.

    As to which version is more popular… I’d say the shorter version is more popular because its shorter. Which translates into cheaper to air. The funny thing it I’ve yet to see it and I watch college football on Saturday and the pros on Sunday.

  • avatar
    tkewley

    “Sir Malcolm Campbell is much more interesting than Hennessy. I understand the brand attempting to attach itself to him and his exploits but for me it falls flat.”

    This.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    I’m not a huge fan of white wine distilled into hard liquor, but hey, if it funds ads like this. In reality Campbell likely had a much stronger preference for gin. Which is also some nasty stuff that people drank to hide the taste of impurities before advanced distillation and charcoal filtering allowed for the level of impurity free vodka that is available today.

    Speaking of racing and hard liquor, shout out to Junior Johnson’s fruit infused vodka ( http://www.juniorsmidnightmoon.com/ ). I recommend blueberry. Infused vodka is high end stuff, usually you have to go to specialty bars to get it. It is interesting to see a good ol’ boy leading the way with it, while supposedly high end vodkas rely on artificial flavors and sugar/corn syrup for flavor.

  • avatar
    JohnnieE

    It must have been incredible to have lived in a time when there were so many firsts, and the boundaries of human endeavour could have been pushed beyond what could have ever have been imagined possible.

    The first flight across the English Channel, the first solo navigation around the world, arctic exploration, climbing Mount Everest, setting the land speed and indeed the water speed record.

    Sir Malcolm, and more especially his son Sir Donald Campbell who died attempting to break the water speed record, have left the British with a romantic attachment to speed records, and it is no wonder that from the Bluebird machines that the Campbell’s set their earlier records we now have these records extended with Thrust, Thrust SSC, and even the planned Bloodhound vehicle.

    These people, like those who truly push at the very edge of what is possible, are truly inspirational!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Much better than Dewar’s ads.

    “Are ya thirsty Angus?”

  • avatar
    hands of lunchmeat

    Unlike Mr Scrieber, ive followed hip hop very closely, and it does sadden me to see Nas bend and take money from a liquor company, as if you know him, you will know that for someone who has been in the industry for two decades now, he was solely committed to his craft. It would be akin to Michael Jordan still suiting up for the Bulls and still able to go out and score 30 points a night.

    For while other artists of his era went out and became shills, partners and moguls, its obvious that they used hip hop as a springboard into said endeavors. Nas has kept very close to it, simply because for him its his true love and passion, not just an opportunity. So it saddens me a bit that he’s chasing the check for Hennessey at this point, and despite the fact that it does look like a cool project, its one for a company the likes of he said hed never work for. Another one bites the dust.


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