Director Eric Crosland of Sherpas Cinema recently captured the majesty and the brutality of winter in a new national ad campaign for RAM Trucks via agency The Richards Group. “High Octane” is an homage to avalanche techs and highway crews who work to keep mountain roads passable in winter. In the spot, trucks equipped with snow plows blast through six-foot drifts and helicopter crews use explosives to trigger massive avalanches.
Creative directors Rob Baker and Jimmy Bonner of The Richards Group were introduced to the Sherpas last fall and they began exploring ways of employing the breathtaking production techniques used in the Sherpas’ adventure films All.I.Can and Into the Mind for RAM. “Jimmy and I talked with Eric even before we had a script,” said Baker. “We were looking to do more than create a great 30-second spot. We wanted to create something that would cause viewers to say bad words for good reasons. We wanted to produce content that would disrupt the category, content that people would want to share through social media.”
“The concept came together in a very collaborative and organic way,” added Crosland. “Rob Baker is an incredible writer and wrote terrific copy. That inspired me to come back with a visual treatment.”
Eventually, they focused on telling the story of winter road crews, avalanche techs and the people and athletes who need access to the snow for adventure. According to Baker, the story offered unique dramatic possibilities and provided a way to highlight the capabilities of RAM truck
“We hoped to pay tribute to the everyday heroics of the people who overcome enormous obstacles to keep roads passable so that other people can get to work or pursue their recreational activities,” said Baker.
The production of the commercial involved a variety of mountain locations in Canada. The avalanches were created and shot live in British Columbia and Alberta. Opening the commercial is an aerial image showing a valley of clouds girdling white-capped mountain peaks. That was shot from a helicopter equipped with a time-lapse camera. “We were in the helicopter with a Cineflex camera mounted to the nose, moving extremely slowly in a straight line,” Crosland explained. “That created the illusion that the clouds are moving toward the camera in thick, undulating waves.”
The commercial also features shots of extreme skiers and a shot of X Games Gold medalist Heath Frisby performing a backflip on a snowmobile while vaulting over a snowplowing truck. Among the more memorable images is the face of a real-life Canadian highway worker conducting traffic in blizzard and high avalanche conditions. “He’s worked as a sign man for 40 years,” said Crosland, “and he actually drives a RAM truck – with a pair of coffee makers built into the dashboard. He adds an authentic backwoods flavor to the commercial.”
“Winters in North America can be incredibly harsh, but they are also beautiful,” Crosland added. “I wanted to capture the loneliness of winter. You sense the emotion of the dead of winter in the overcast skies and a sign blowing in the wind.”
The ability of the Sherpas to capture unique and inspiring visuals under the most challenging conditions impressed Baker. “They’re Canadian Yetis,” he said. “They know the terrain, the weather and how to capture the beauty of winter landscapes in stunning ways.”
Baker also credited The Richards Group executive broadcast producer Paul Nelson and the production team for managing the production’s complex logistics. “Despite all of the complications of weather and travel, they managed to get the right trucks, the right gear and the right people where they had to be when they had to be there,” he said. “Those guys deserve a ton of credit for the spot’s success.”
Crosland and Sherpas Cinema also handled the postproduction work for the spot. The original score was composed by Jacob Yoffee, who also wrote the score to the Sherpa’s feature Into the Mind. “It was inspired by Mongolian folk songs,” Crosland noted. “It includes samples of chanting and traditional Mongolian stringed instruments mixed with dub step and electronic beats.”