How DieHard Pulled Off That Die Exhausting Advert Starring Bruce Willis

When Advance Auto Parts acquired the DieHard Batteries brand from Sears Holding Transformco last December, the auto parts dealer knew that it wanted to introduce the brand to consumers again with a large creative campaign.

And while there were multiple ways to do so, the nominal connection to the popular Die Hard film franchise seemed too perfect to be without, according to creatives at The Marketing Arm. In collaboration with the production company Natural Selection, TMA brought together four different actors from the original Die Hard film from 1988 – including Bruce Willis, of course – to create a two-minute, stand-alone short film that fits seamlessly into the canon. And they did the whole thing during a pandemic.

Jason McDonell, Chief Marketing Officer of Advance Auto Parts, had three goals in this campaign. First, to create something exciting with a broad customer appeal; second, to match the boldness of the brand itself; and third, to end up with something that made him “uncomfortable”.

When McDonell asked about something outside of his comfort zone, he stated that he wanted to “expand” the scope of standard marketing for the category. He encouraged his team and partners at TMA to come up with something bigger and more creative than you would expect from a battery brand.

“When they came up with concepts, I just got excited about it until the end,” said McDonell. While he admitted that his excitement was due in part to his love of the Die Hard film franchise, what he was most intrigued by was the way John McClane’s character was linked to the DieHard brand’s key attributes: reliability, durability, and performance .

“We’re all kind of die hard freaks, as you may or may not have guessed,” said TMA SVP of creative Harris Wilkinson. Just because of the brand name, creatives in TMA had long talked about using the battery’s connection to the Die Hard films for an advertising campaign.

The topic finally made sense for a campaign starting this fall. Advance Auto Parts was looking for a way to reintroduce the brand to consumers with a big, zippy statement after the acquisition. October is what the company calls the Super Bowl. When the weather cools towards winter, people close the hatches and make sure their cars have what it takes to make it through the cooler months. These first frosts also occur when old car batteries have a tendency to kick in the bucket.

“Targeting an action movie and a truly iconic everyone with their brand makes a lot of sense,” said Wilkinson.

After the Die Hard concept got the green light, TMA wanted to make sure it stayed true to the franchise and evoked the spirit and feel of the films without parodying the genre or characters.

“It was so organic for the customer,” said Wilkinson. “They could have authentic branding, but in a really fun way. We didn’t have to cut anything in.… It was really part of the story, which I think was part of the magic. “

After TMA won the talent for the project – including Willis as John McClane, Clarence Gilyard as Hans Gruber’s hacker employee Theo, De’voreaux White as limo driver Argyle, and Joey Plewa as henchman Alexander – they still had to figure out how to do it Safe the movie amid the growing threat of Covid-19.

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