Remember Pepsi’s “Test Drive” video-ad with NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon purportedly fooling a car salesman? Many questioned its authenticity, with Jalopnik editor Travis Okulski calling it outright fake. He based his report on numerous facts, stating among other things, that the salesman was actually an actor and Gordon didn’t even film the driving scenes – he quoted a report from NC’s Independent Tribune, which read: “Racer Brad Noffsinger, who works with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, did the stunt work for the production.”
But you know what they say about payback being a bitch and all – though, in this case, the sassy hand of marketing also had an active role.
A year later, Jeff Gordon and Pepsi with the help of Jalopnik’s current Editor-in-Chief (EIC) Matt Hardigree and the site’s former EIC and now head of the Tin Toy Car agency (what I mentioned earlier about marketing), laid down a devilish plot to trap Okulski and scare the living daylights out of him.
The plan was to use an exclusive Corvette Z06 test drive in mid-January as a pretense for Okulski to travel to Charlotte where GM was supposedly working on an ad with Wert. After arriving at a local hotel, a Chevrolet Caprice taxi came to pick up Okulski. The cab driver was Jeff Gordon disguised as an ex con. Once on the highway, a cop pulled over the cabbie who started acting fidgety freaking out Okulski in the process. That was only the beginning as the driver then made a run for it and was chased by the cops offering Okulski the chance to show his high pitched vocal talents.
“I’m a bad passenger in a car, I always have been, but this is slightly different,” Okulski wrote in a post on Jalopnik. “See, I was just kidnapped by an ex-con in the back of a cab that is now speeding down a hill, busting through a chain fence and narrowly missing buildings while trying to get away from a North Carolina State Trooper. I thought I was going to die. I yelled, I banged the glass, I actually tried to kick through the plexiglass window between the driver and me. I pulled out my phone to call 911, but couldn’t keep it steady enough to dial.”
Okulski continued: “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.'”
For the record, Matt Hardigree mentioned that, “Jalopnik paid to fly Travis to Charlotte and for all of the trip. Travis also isn’t getting paid for being in what is, ultimately, an advertisement.”
All in all, I think it was successful prank for all three parties involved (Jalopnik, Wert and Pepsi), but perhaps more so for Ray “Now I peddle sponsored car porn at @TinyToyCar” Wert and the Pepsi brand, and at least this time, they were more straightforward about it. As for the victim, well, his reactions speak for themselves, as you will soon find out in the video below.
By John Halas