It’s no surprise that a cheesy used-car salesman like Howard Kleiner, sporting a man-pony, a Hawaiian shirt and a porn ‘stache, would be into throwback gas guzzlers. For him, it’s V8 or nothing, and if you pick the wrong vehicle on his lot, he may hand you a snide bumper sticker that says, “Carpool lanes are for sissies.”
“On behalf of big oil, I want to thank you all for choosing muscle cars that use gasoline,” he says over the loudspeaker. “Long live the American muscles.”
Kleiner, actually a poorly disguised Arnold Schwarzenegger, tries his best to talk potential buyers out of the hybrid models they’re considering in a digital short film for Veloz, a nonprofit group dedicated to boosting electric car sales.
The hidden-camera video, from Los Angeles-based agency Superconductor, follows the incredulous reactions of would-be car buyers like the couple looking for “something quiet and fuel efficient.”
Instead of putting them in a Prius, Kleiner rolls out a Hummer and guns the engine, producing a toxic amount of exhaust.
“I think this will piss off my neighbors,” the man says. “It’s so loud.”
“You goddamn right it’ll impress your neighbors,” says the oblivious Kleiner. “This is testosterone! Yes!”
Despite his status as self-appointed “employee of the month,” Kleiner can’t close a deal, and several people ask for his supervisor. (Could it be because he suggests that pollution is a good way to rid the world of its overpopulation problem?)
No one seems to catch onto the ruse, despite Schwarzenegger’s powerful build and trademark accent. (He even busts out a famous catchphrase, “I’ll be back,” to one unhappy customer).
The short film, dubbed “Kicking Gas” and framed like a big-budget blockbuster, is part of a larger public awareness effort for Veloz called “Electric for All,” from a creative agency headed by an advertising veteran and a group of Hollywood film and TV producer-directors including The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War) and Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious, True Detective).
In addition to the three-minute hero spot, there are shorter cut-downs, out of home, social and display ads. Schwarzenegger, a longtime environmental activist and clean-energy proponent, launches the video on his widely followed social media channels Wednesday. Electric cars, he says in the voiceover, save money, time and the environment without sacrificing any of the fun of driving.
“Over 16 years ago, I set out to prove that you can have the car you love and the clear air you need,” the former two-term California governor said in a statement. “I greened my fleet of personal cars, including my Hummers. And I challenged the auto industry to do the same. They now have the electric vehicle technology to outcompete gas-powered cars.”
This isn’t the first punk’d style spot for Schwarzenegger, who has made somewhat of a cottage industry out of starring in self-deprecating ads.
He posed as a Gold’s Gym employee back in 2014 to raise money for another of his pet projects, After-School All-Stars, using “Howard” as his fake name and possibly wearing the same scraggly wig as he does in “Kicking Gas,” where he asks one would-be electric car buyer: “Do you want to have tax credit? Or do you want to have street credit?” He also does some intentionally hilarious sign-spinning in front of the business.
Veloz, a coalition of automakers, government, utilities and clean-air advocates that calls itself “an unprecedented alliance of unlikely partners,” purposely chose the comedy route instead of “fury or fear” with its campaign.
“We are focused on igniting public imagination through innovating and bold messaging,” says Josh Boone, executive director. “Electric cars are more fun, more performance and more exciting than other cars.”
The work comes from Superconductor, which “sits at the intersection of advertising and entertainment,” says Chris Adams, chief creative officer and alum of Phenomenon, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA\Chiat\Day.
The agency, founded by Adams, Joe and Anthony Russo, Lin, Todd Makurath and Luke Ricci, also lists Hertz and Holoride (a Disney-Audi partnership for in-car VR games and movies) as clients.
Executive Director: Josh Boone
Chairman Todd Makurath
President/CEO Luke Ricci
Chief Creative Officer: Chris Adams
Chief Strategy Officer: Noel Sullivan
EVP Business Development: Allison Amon
Producer: Robert Samuel
Copywriter: Mike Prochaska
Designer: Samia Zaidi
Still Photographer: Rickett & Sones
Production Company: Oak Productions
Production Company: Bullitt
Director: Josh Greenbaum
President and Executive Producer: Luke Ricci
Head Of Production: Jenni Sprunger
EVP Business Development: Allison Amon
Producer: Jeremy Barrett
Director of Photography: John Rutland
Editorial Company: Final Cut
Editor: Chris Amos
President/US: Stephanie Apt
Executive Producer: Suzy Ramirez
Producer: Esther Gonzalez
Color: Company 3
Senior Colorist: Tyler Roth
Executive Producer: Ashley McKim
Finishing: Significant Others
Flame Artist: Betty Cameron
Producer: Kyra Hendricks
Music: Asche & Spencer
Composers: Thad Spencer, Richard Werbowenko
Executive Producer: Matt Locher
Sound: Lime Studios
Audio Mixer: Rohan Young
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Join Dwyane Wade, Julian Duncan, Andrea Brimmer, Rick Gomez and more at Brandweek Masters Live, on Sept. 14-17, for main stage insights, in-depth Masterclasses and more. Register now (early-bird rates expire 9/1)