By on February 27, 2014

Last year, Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski wrote an article debunking the Pepsi MAX Test Drive commercial. This year, he got a chance to star in a remake — and if Mr. Okulski is to be believed, he didn’t receive any advance notice of his star billing.

In the video, you can see Travis gradually come to the realization that something isn’t quite right here, at which point he kicks the divider between the front and back seats a few times before checking his seatbelt and holding on for dear life. Jalopnik readers from across nearly the entire autism spectrum are busy analyzing this video to see if it, too, is a fake. I’m inclined to believe Travis when he says that he had no advance knowledge of the thing.

Fans of Jalopnik’s former boss, Ray Wert, will be relieved to see that he is now working in the advertising industry. As for the full-disclosure side of things, Gawker Networks is officially claiming that they paid Travis’s expenses and that no compensation was paid directly to Gawker or its sites. With that said, if you want to ensure favorable exposure from the Gawker sites for your publicity campaign, and perhaps purchase an indulgence to exempt your content from a sexism/racism/ableism/whatevs expose from Jezebel, it might be a good idea to see Mr. Wert at his new office, posthaste.

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83 Comments on “Jalopnik Teams Up With Pepsi, Jalopnik Alumni for New Test Drive Ad...”


  • avatar
    jkross22

    Fake. I can’t envision Pepsi signing up for the liability exposure this ‘ad’ portrays. It looks real, but it’s just not believable.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Hardigree

      Your skepticism is understandable, but it is in fact real. Travis had no idea why he was really going to Charlotte and, until Jeff Gordon jumped out and said “I’m Jeff Gordon” it wasn’t clear to Travis what was going on. Knowing Travis quite well, and knowing how bad of a passenger he is, his reactions are exactly what I’d expect.

      All that being said, I think it’s obvious they chopped in some footage of the backup car taken from what I”m guessing were some of the practice runs with Jeff ahead of time. Also, as Travis says in his explanation, this doesn’t make the first ad any more real. It wasn’t.

      As for the liability issue? There was faith required on both ends. They had to be assured Travis would actually agree to it after-the-fact, and I had to be assured that Travis wasn’t going to be harmed. It all worked, thankfully, and the end result is so hilarious there are now crazy debates like this.

      • 0 avatar
        VenomV12

        So just to be clear, you and Wert put your company in serious financial liability, Pepsi put their company in serious financial liability and Jeff Gordon put his substantial 9 figure wealth on the line all so that you could pull off this prank, a prank that you supposedly are making no money from on top of this? So if Travis had been hurt or killed during this stunt, he or his family would have sued everyone into the Stone Age and we are supposed to believe that Gawker/Jalopnik was willing to assume this huge financial risk for absolutely no money, even though this is for a multi-million dollar national ad campaign for a multi-billion dollar company and everyone gets paid for this work, but Travis an integral part of the ad and co-star is willing to accept no payment for his work? Is Jalopnik part of the NCAA? You do understand why I and a lot of people think what you and your company are saying is utter horsesh*t, right? I have a hard time believing that any general counsel would approve this.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Hardigree

          If a multinational soda company offers to put their resources up to punk one of your friends say “yes.” I can understand the skepticism, but I’m saying this is how it happened.

          • 0 avatar

            If a multinational soda company offers to put their resources up to promote your website say “yes.”

          • 0 avatar
            VenomV12

            You still have not addressed exposing Gawker/Jalopnik to serious financial risk. Also, no a very wealthy multi-national corporation offering up their resources to “punk your friend” is not an answer. You are a corporation and you are his boss. You have an obligation to make money for your company and yourself and to protect your employees.

            Jeff Gordon is not Travis’s “friend”, so he has no incentive to put his @$$ on the line.

            Here is another reason I think you are lying, on Feb 19th you made an ominous tweet I thought was strange at the time. You said you could not have a better deputy than Travis. It was a weird tweet that was not followed or preceded by any other statement that suggested why you made it. I suspect that was when you had all finalized the details with Pepsi and were congratulation yourselves and you could not help yourself.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            Matt – Can you or Wert get a Pepsi rep to do an “Ask Me Anything”? I want to know when Crystal Pepsi is coming back.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Hardigree

          For some reason I can’t reply to your last question, but this is getting moon-landing-fakery levels of ridiculous.

          The tweet in question was when I saw the video of Travis in the back seat, finally, and I was proud that he comported himself so well. I’d have been swearing and probably hiding under the seat, but his politeness was great.

          This whole thing was incredibly risky, absolutely, but we’re a risk-taking bunch. If I didn’t want to take risks I wouldn’t work for Gawker.

          Jalopnik has a long history of taking big leaps, whether it’s revealing the Corvette more than a year before it debuts or standing up to legal threats from corporations over exposing their ill-deeds.

          • 0 avatar

            > This whole thing was incredibly risky, absolutely, but we’re a risk-taking bunch. If I didn’t want to take risks I wouldn’t work for Gawker.

            Gawker is tabloid blogging. That’s some #firstworldrisktaking

    • 0 avatar
      activeaero

      Fake.

      When the car is stopped and the cop says get out, he never even takes off his seat belt. That is the first instinct people have, in fact he clutches his seat-belt for support as if he knows whats coming.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    He either:

    Realized it was fake – most likely notified in advance.

    Or pays no attention to detail in cars, not great as an auto writer.

    No way a cabbie is driving a new detective spec Holden, I mean Chevy, Caprice.

    And he doesn’t even try to talk to the cabbie about it. “Hey man, how did you end up with a detective spec Caprice, this is a pretty sweet car.”

    (704) 444-4444 looked pretty ridiculous, but that actually is the number for Yellow Cab of Charlotte.

    But who goes to Charlotte and gets a cabs it instead of getting a rental car.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I agree, fake. Travis may be a lot of things, but an actor he’s not. Also, yeah, the first thing I noticed was this was not your every day cab, something a car guy would have picked-up on right away. It’s still funny and a good attempt at an “I gotcha”

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      Yeah, at least 4-5 in-car cameras + couple of roadside cams and he didn’t notice them? OK, maybe these were hidden, and/or some of footage was filmed later. If the main part is real then wow, what an good “friends” Travis has.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    http://imgur.com/a/CzU8q

    Someone already picked it apart. There are inconsistencies with the car’s trunk-mounted antennas that point to a degree of movie magic.

  • avatar

    I’m not surprised about any of this. Some people are still trying to prove that Americans never landed on the Moon and that 9/11 was an inside job. You can film 100 of these videos and they’ll still cling to irrationally selected beliefs.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Busted as fake, let’s move on from these liars, the whole lot of them, this site is better than this. This place is where the intellectual car guys hang out. Below is the link for the proof.

    http://imgur.com/a/CzU8q

  • avatar
    wmba

    And this article is worthy of posting? Beats me as to why Baruth continues to jab away at other sites – he’s been at it for years.

    I don’t give a r*tf**k and can’t imagine anyone else does either. Who cares?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    That’s really fake!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’d rather read ONE rental car review by Jack than have ANY access to Jalopnik crap, and it’s not like I kiss JB’s ass (I tell him when he’s factually wrong, such as might be the case whenever he sings the praises of the W Body Impala or just about any Ford product).

    • 0 avatar
      eCurmudgeon

      “I’d rather read ONE rental car review by Jack than have ANY access to Jalopnik crap”

      I’ve gone so far as to add all of the Gawker Media sites to the URL Filter blacklist on my perimeter firewall. A place of dishonor shared with the Daily Mail…

  • avatar

    When I worked for DuPont, Jeff Gordon owed the company a certain number of personal. visits so every few years when they were racing at Michigan International Speedway, Gordon would do a meet & greet and autograph session at the lab. On one visit he had a rental Cadillac, and as he left the vistors’ parking lot, he clipped the curb pretty badly. I’m not so sure how well Jeff drives on the street in real life.

    In any case, this shows that Pepsi and GM (they supplied the car most likely) recognize the audience reach of Jalopnik. Either that or Wert is a good pitchman.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think that this was part real, and part movie magic. Mr. Okulski would have to be an academy-award winning actor to pull off as scared as he looked when the cabbie takes off from the cop. But I suspect it was actually a 1 minute trip straight into that warehouse. Most of the exterior shots were probably done afterwards to flesh it all out and make it look real.

    All in good fun – what a bunch of uptight cynics around here!

    As to the car – frankly, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it if I was thinking about other things. It’s yellow, it’s a cab. I might have noticed it smelled better than most, but in smaller places I have seen just about everything under the sun used as a cab. We have a cab company here in Portland Maine who use nothing but big Acuras, and not very old ones at that! They used to use Peugeots, 15 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Hardigree

      This is also what I think happened. I was told there was a backup car and it looks like they used some exterior shots of that.

    • 0 avatar

      > But I suspect it was actually a 1 minute trip straight into that warehouse. Most of the exterior shots were probably done afterwards to flesh it all out and make it look real.

      Oh thank god, there’s signs of intelligent life here after all. So many dummies trying to prove they’re the righteous skeptic.

      They probably drove through those empty barrels and couple easy turns just to get the motion shots for the interior.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        There is nothing more righteous than a skeptic skeptic, you’ve out dummied us all. Either it is all staged or it is a mix of real and fake footage. Neither is clear. The nerve of people for questioning the integrity of Pepsi and Ray Wert.

        • 0 avatar

          > There is nothing more righteous than a skeptic skeptic, you’ve out dummied us all.

          Logic isn’t a rhetorical game. Frankly I’m not even sure why I’m explaining this to you again.

          > Either it is all staged or it is a mix of real and fake footage. Neither is clear.

          Since the absolute denialists will never admit anything is clear, that’s a terrible metric to judge this.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            You are not using any logic, you are just trying to sell the appeal of an even more contrarian position.

            Whether this is real comes down to the reactions, trying to kick in the barrier looked pretty hooky to me.

          • 0 avatar

            > You are not using any logic, you are just trying to sell the appeal of an even more contrarian position.

            I’m selling the reality that it’s easier to just shoot the prank than try to act the thing out with a non-actor.

            > Whether this is real comes down to the reactions, trying to kick in the barrier looked pretty hooky to me.

            You should go watch that show Punkd and try to debunk every prank like it’s the moon landing.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      Winner winner chicken dinner!

      Travis himself said:

      “After what feels like forever (it was actually about 60 seconds) we do a couple donuts, I thought maybe he was going to let me out or was trying to make tire smoke to obfuscate his car. But then we pull into this garage at full speed and lock up the brakes. A garage full of Pepsi. And cameras. The driver runs around and the first thing he says is “I got you back! I’m Jeff Gordon.”

      So part of it was a real scare the hell out of him prank.

      I approve. Funny.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Just imagine us on Christmas:

      Kid: Hey! Thats Santa! I’ve always wanted to meet Santa!

      Random poster: Thats not Santa! Thats a fake! Just look at his nose! His fats just a costume piece too! Here! I have video documented evidence that Santa is a faker!

      Kid: You’re a big meanie!

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Fake or not I don’t particularly care, I don’t drink much soda and frankly it makes Mr Okulski seem like kind of pucie and probably why I don’t read Jalopnik.

  • avatar

    It’s made Snopes. As False: http://www.snopes.com/photos/advertisements/jeffgordon.asp

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Hardigree

      No, the original ad made Snopes as false… quoting Travis as one of the people who doubted it. The follow up only points out that some commenters were dubious (it’s the Internet, who knew?) and that they clearly used some exterior shots from another run with the backup car. Travis really had no idea what happened to him.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Snopes has been updated today to reflect some skepticism about this new video, but doesn’t reach a verdict for it. The Snopes article is primarily about the earlier commercial.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    15 years ago was 1999. Were there really any Peugeots on the job in North America? That may have been the last time I saw a private one move under its own power.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      10 years ago I still owned two Peugeots, and in 1999 a ’92 505 SW8 was my daily driver. And it was one of the best cars I have ever owned, I sold it in a fit of Saab Turbo inspired stupidity. I sold the last two (’79 504D sedan and wagon) only due to a job layoff. And I have regretted selling the sedan ever since, it was a truly lovely car.

      There are still sundry 505s roaming around here, but it has been 5 years plus since they were a daily sight. Maine was a hotbed of Peugeots though, we actually had THREE dealers back in the day.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        In 1997, I made the mistake of asking a girl about her 405. She wasn’t happy about it, preferring her dead Saab 900. That’s the only time I met a young woman that actually found a car worse than a pre-gm Saab for the threat of leaving her at the mercy of strangers.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          None of my several C900s were in any way unreliable. But the one that replaced the SW8 took a LOT of money to keep it reliable, and ultimately it just was not as good or useful a car. It was an ’85 900T 3dr in black. Dead sexy, and as with many sexy things, expensive to keep.

          But I believe in maintaining cars properly so I DON’T need to rely on the kindness of strangers. Or AAA.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I sold new Saabs in 1989. They were terrible at the time.

            I love how champions of awful cars always proclaim all the burned owners to be at fault. One can only assume that either these are cars that appeal to oafs, or that cars with good reputations are better engineered, allowing them to weather their share of neglectful owners. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on people that use this argument.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Why were they terrible?

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Right and Ali G is a real, hard hitting news reporter.

  • avatar

    I have trouble believing the Jalopnik guy is a good enough actor to pull off this level of believability. On the other hand, Gordon showed some serious acting chops in this piece. I would do everything in my power to claim this was fake if I was the guy in the back seat screaming like a 10 year old girl.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I’m embarrassed for everyone involved. Wert has always reminded me of my mother’s gay uncle George who owned a clothing store and had a sock fetish. No one in the family had to buy socks for years after he died. Any truth to the rumor that Wert is dating a gentile? Must be killing his poor mother should it be true.

    • 0 avatar

      Ray and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, and I’m not a fan of the Gawker network and Nick Denton’s editorial policies but this kind of personal attack is inappropriate, and I say that as a Jewish grandfather who’d be happy to see Wert find a nice Jewish girl that would make his Bubbie kvell.

      I do think, though, like their “editorial tie up” with the Gran Turismo video game, this prank involving Gordon and one of his major sponsors, Pepsi, raises some questions about journalistic ethics, participating in a promotional effort with a possible subject of their writing, but in both cases at least Jalopnik is being fairly transparent about those relationships.

  • avatar

    The people in this thread are like those types still working to prove the moon landing was fake. Not unlike the “detectives” on reddit who found the real boston bomber, lol.

    They obviously did another shoot of the driving antics to make the chase look more exciting but a significant part of the in-car looked pretty real (and had no reason to be faked anyway).

    The only legit question is who he was calling during towards the “end” of the vid. If 911, maybe they had to stop the prank and the last bits were re-edited from elsewhere or reshot.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It must be a false flag operation.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      To me, Travis Okulski’s performance looked like a B-movie acting job or something from one of those “reality” TV shows (which are as much about “reality” as “right to work” laws are about the right to have a job.)

      But I don’t see why Matt Hardigree would come here to lie about it. Those B-movie actors may be better than I had thought.

      • 0 avatar

        > To me, Travis Okulski’s performance looked like a B-movie acting job or something from one of those “reality” TV shows

        It seems consistent with what I’ve seen on “punked”-type shows. This sort of thing’s been before so it’s hardly breaking new ground. The editing they choose for ad purposes uses dramatized cuts (music & all) which some reality shows also employ, so maybe that has an effect on perceptions.

        I guess it can always be acting, but imo the burden should be on the skeptics since it’s impossible to “prove” authenticity.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It probably is the editing. We’re getting a sort of greatest hits of Okulski’s behavior in the car, and I would imagine that it may have been presented out of sequence for the sake of maximum drama. (He seems to go from zero to freak out in a matter of seconds.)

          The net result is that it looks over the top and cheesy.

          • 0 avatar

            Your comparison to reality tv is pretty accurate because that’s also how they shoot most reality shows: it’s mostly “real” footage cut up to tell a story, often from a different angle than what happened. Infrequently they’ll do a “re-enactment”; but there’s usually no need because there’s enough footage anyway to tell *something*. More produced shows like Top Gear are hilariously fake behind the scenes compared to what’s portrayed because those will actually stage nearly everything.

            It’s just in this case no major re-telling was necessary, just dramatization.

      • 0 avatar

        > Those B-movie actors may be better than I had thought.

        It’s kind of interesting that if you watch how real people act on tape (like at a wedding) it also feels slightly different to being there in real time, or recollect it in our head some time later, or an A movie version of the scene, or the B movie version. Makes cuts, add music, and it changes still. Perception can be tricky.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    Knee-jerk skepticism is just as gross as gullibility.

  • avatar
    Dsemaj

    The only thing I can see here that makes it “fake” is that they shot some other shots before or after, with a backup car, or before they had everything on the car. I mean, OF COURSE everything you see here wasn’t all in one take! Unless they had 100 cameras and operators around the place…

    Besides, the reactions seem real enough to me. I doubt an auto journalist could pull that off convincingly.

    The only thing that raises the bullshit detector is liability, but whos to say that he wasn’t required to sign a contract saying he couldn’t sue before he even jumped on the plane?

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    That piece was a hoot. Yes, Travis was completely fooled, thoroughly punked, and authentically frightened. Sure, there was a bit of B-roll chase footage weaved into the final edit, but the real drama – Travis truly freaking out – was the real deal.

    As for the trashing of Jalopnik or its staff members; come on guys. Your parents taught you better than that. The Gawker site may not be your favorite, but it serves its audience and does it well. You don’t earn extra brownie points here at TTAC by attacking other auto websites, management teams, or writers/staff. And I’m gonna bet that quite a few here visit both TTAC and Jalopnik regularly.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I like Jalopnik, I go there quite a bit. Sometimes it feels like I’m watching kids play in the sandbox, but that can be a lot fun. Jalops have a unique wit and can be really funny

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I actually found this silly…whatever you want to call it enjoyable, I liked seeing an internet tough guy look like the wuss’s they really are.

    That being said I do believe that most of this was real, just with a few pick-up shots added in after filming. Its no more or less “real” as Top Gear.

    I’m more concerned with Jalops journalists ethics than nitpicking a short video, mainly that they use click-bait far too much, along with milking stories over and over.

  • avatar

    > Its no more or less “real” as Top Gear.

    Top Gear is far more produced than you describe. This is more like Punk’D.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Why is it that my minor points are always more interesting than my primary points?

      But that is a point worth elaborating, how much more of Top Gear is “produced” compared to this short video?

      • 0 avatar

        “Produced” shows are almost by definition more scripted, or at least very controlled environments, and cut/edited to support the story.

        You ever wonder how they’re “racing” yet have all these out-of-car shots? It’s a whole crew following them every step of the way. Any “randomness” is the exception, not the default.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Absolutely 100% FAKE. The door opens and he already has a big smile on his face. Why didn’t he make the call when he was clutching his phone?

    He is so fake, he makes Exzibit and his subjects in Pimp My Ride real.

    • 0 avatar

      > Absolutely 100% FAKE. The door opens and he already has a big smile on his face. Why didn’t he make the call when he was clutching his phone?

      It’s already pretty obvious the shots are recut, but that doesn’t mean the event wasn’t real. Frankly if they actually planned/scripted it out it would be much easier to reshot these “bloppers”.

  • avatar

    A round of applause please for this esteemed panel of experts who’ve never shot anything but gracefully don their i-detective uniforms to inform us that they’ve found the smoking glitch that all of Pepsi’s professional editors missed/forgot to reshoot to throw off their scent. Foil again by the r̶e̶d̶d̶i̶t̶ j̶a̶l̶o̶p̶n̶i̶k̶ TTAC army.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I don’t care if its real or fake. Wert and Travis would do themselves some serious favors by staying off camera and behind keyboards.

  • avatar
    Scalewoodman

    I don’t believe the premise and Jalopnik is enjoying the ‘non cash’ publicity even if it actually trashes their (now revealed to be) bogus edgy brand. 1.) Nobody in the car writing business wouldn’t rent or loan a car or call a taxi. 2.) How many 2014 SS cabs do you think are out there and don’t you think a car guy would pick up on that before the thing even pulled up? Or at least make a comment to the cabbie about it? 3.) Do you really believe they concealed all those cameras? 4.) Can’t disguise Jeff Gordon… Or his driving style. 5.) Even a common person wouldn’t act all hapless and innocent and victimized, let alone an Internet guru who hides behind a snarky keyboard!

    Just goes to show how much they’re willing to pay to go all ‘viral’… Even if the whole concept of virility was grass roots in the first place and now is proven fraudulent, all rigged with money.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Hardigree

      It’s not a 2014 Chevy SS, so… perhaps learn something about cars and then complain about what’s real or not.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Matt, I just saw the REAL video with Travis and Queen Latifah over on Jalopnik. Glad you guys decided to release it. Much more believable and if I were Danica Patrick I’d be worried about Ms Latifah

        http://jalopnik.com/the-not-at-all-true-story-of-traviss-ride-featuring-q-1534312346

      • 0 avatar
        Scalewoodman

        “Police-only” Chevy Caprice– correction noted. Ever see one as a cab before? Do you think a car guy would pick up on this detail? Snarky keyboard comment stands.

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