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Gifted Youth and Therapy Studios Go Undercover for Jeff Gordon Prank

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NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon pranks used car salesman Steve in “Test Drive.”
NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon pranks used car salesman Steve in “Test Drive.”

Los Angeles-based editorial and postproduction company Therapy Studios and Gifted Youth, the commercial production division of Funny or Die, recently teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winning NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon for an elaborate prank for an online video and :30 TV spot called “Test Drive.” The commercial and video were created by TBWA/Chiat/Day/LA and produced by Gifted Youth for Pepsi MAX as part of its “Zero-Calorie In Disguise” campaign.

Directed by Gifted Youth’s Peter Atencio, the :30 spot is a teaser for the video that went viral earlier this month with more than 30 million views. The spot, which began airing on FOX March 17 for the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., urges fans to view the full-length video at PepsiMAX.com/testdrive.

“Test Drive” features Gordon disguised as Mike, a timid, minivan driving, Pepsi MAX drinking customer, and Steve, the unsuspecting used car salesman. Armed with a secret camera hidden in a can of Pepsi MAX strategically positioned on the dash of the Camaro as well as a camera in Gordon’s glasses to capture the driver’s viewpoint, Gordon takes Steve on an exhilarating ride.

Aside from the travel to North Carolina to shoot with Gordon, the production came together in only five days after getting the initial concept from the agency, according to Dal Wolf, executive producer with Gifted Youth.

“It was truly a team effort between us, TWBA\Chiat\Day and Jeff Gordon, who was the perfect partner for this campaign,” said Wolf. “It was bold. It was fast. It was smart and pretty aggressive.”

“We had 15 cameras on hand, recording to eight different formats,” explained director of photography Charles Papert. “The ‘can cam’ and ‘glasses cam’ were actual spy camera technology, but their resolution was judged to be a bit sub-par so we had alternate versions made up with Go Pro cameras. Go Pros were also used mounted onto the car and sprinkled along the road, as well as Panasonic remote cameras for the high-and-wides.”

“We knew we wanted to make something that emphasized the story, and that would present as immersive an experience as possible for the viewer,” said Atencio. “There was also a push to emphasize the comedy, which is something that our fantastic editor at Therapy Studios, Doobie White, clearly understood and brought out in the edit… When the cut was locked, the team at Therapy did a fantastic job of putting the finishing touches on it.”

White spent many hours crafting the footage to ensure that both the video and spot came across as the crazy thrill ride that it was, even with the complex shots needed to execute the stunt driving. Therapy sound designer Eddie Kim was crucial to enhancing the impact of the stunt driving sequences and stealth quality of the video. Therapy’s Wren Waters handled finishing and color correction.

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