In February, Stellantis’ Global Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois fulfilled a decade-long pursuit of working with Bruce Springsteen with a Super Bowl spot for Jeep, marking the first time the Boss and his music had appeared in a commercial for a major brand.
For his latest musical foray, Francois has scored another commercial coup: a rare on-camera cameo and sync license from Foo Fighters, for Stellantis’ Ram Trucks. The campaign premiered Thursday (May 6), and features Foo Fighters’ song “Making a Fire” from the band’s 2020 album “Medicine at Midnight.”
Frontman Dave Grohl and the Foos appear in Ram’s minute-long commercial, “Rock Star,” which flips the titular term on its ear by showcasing the real-life “rock star” mentors and heroes that shape families and communities, from coaches and teachers to moms and dads (including Grohl’s mother Virginia Hanlon Grohl, who appears in a portrait with her son at the end of the spot). Grohl is seen driving a Ram 1500 truck alongside his voiceover about how real rock stars are made (“Believe in your dreams – the crazier, the more wild and absurd, the better”).
Grohl’s voice also narrates a pair of additional :30 spots, “Overtime” and “Best Part,” which highlight other stories of real-life rock stars just in time for holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. All three spots are part of a Ram campaign called “Spotlight” created by Austin-based ad agency GSD&M with support from Nashville’s G7 Entertainment Marketing, who brokered the Foo Fighters partnership.
Knowing how particular Grohl and the Foos have been in the past with brand alliances was a welcome challenge for Francois and the Ram team, who wanted to approach the campaign with a sense of authenticity. “And what makes it very authentic is before we even started speaking with them, I discovered that 25 years ago when Dave and the Foo Fighters were pursuing their rock ‘n roll dreams, they were always in a Ram van,” says Francois. And in a timely twist, that very van happens to play a role in Grohl’s just-released documentary “What Drives Us,” in which he interviews members of the Beatles, U2, Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers about road life.
In a further case of coincidence, Ram started an initiative in 2018 called #RamBandVan in which the brand donated vehicles to musicians at the beginning of their touring journeys to help them fulfill their dreams. “That connection helped us create this very organic idea to come up with a new definition of a rock star,” Francois says.
Not only does the Ram partnership mark relatively new territory for Grohl and the Foos when it comes to commercial brand deals, the campaign is a new foray into rock coming on the heels of the country artist alliances Ram has spent the past decade cultivating, from Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton to Eric Church and Brothers Osborne.
Francois insists the Foos team-up isn’t “a strategic shift away from country,” but instead an opportunity to add another genre that can help Ram reach its target consumer. “We have a third-party tool that measures what resonates with the truck buying audience, and the Foo Fighters were number one – they overindexed even higher than all the best-known country stars,” Francois says. “It was another sign that the timing was perfect and the stars align for authentic relationships.”
Francois isn’t ruling out other partnerships in rock for Ram in the future, but what he’s really hoping is that “Spotlight” is “just the beginning of a more long-standing relationship with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. I would really like to expand this campaign over and over until the moment people are tired of it. I don’t think they’ll be tired any time soon. Country music is the main genre, but I think that exceptions are good. Let’s not fall into cliches. And Dave Grohl is definitely the person who can help you avoid that.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by Anzie Blue, a wellness company and café based in Nashville. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.