Lexus Takes You Inside Their House Of Cards

Lexus ES Cutaway

With simple ideas, the little details can often make a big difference in the success of a campaign, taking it from good to great. As we’ve seen before, one example of this is the LeBron James ‘Chalk’ spot where Nike kept its ear to the street and incorporated an entire book’s worth of metaphor and meaning into 60 seconds of ad. For Lexus, their ‘Cards’ ad becomes more than just a sight gag when the behind the scenes story takes on a life of its own.

The premise of the ad is this: The 2009 Lexus ES has a very smooth engine that doesn’t vibrate. At all. According to Lexus, the ES is one of the smoothest vehicles anywhere, and to demonstrate that their claim isn’t based on a house of cards, they created one of the most fragile and unstable environments imaginable: a number of houses of cards built on top of and around the car. Then, they turned the car on. While the car is running, the houses all stay together, and it’s only when the door is closed after the experiment is over that we see everything come crashing down.

If the fact that the houses of cards all stayed together was the entire premise of the ad, you’d probably get the point, wonder for a second if it was CGI or actual houses of cards, and then never think of the ad again. However, if you follow the URL that Lexus predominately displayed at the end of the ad, you’re taken to a microsite that gives you the whole story behind the spot, and turns the simple idea into a very interesting ad.

Lexus Cardstacker

For one, the cards weren’t just stacked by some intern or stagehand. Instead, these cards were stacked by none other than Bryan Berg, a self-taught cardstacker that has set seven world records with his skills, including the current world record for his structure that towered more than 25 feet above the ground. In addition, Lexus proves that Bryan doesn’t use glue, tape, notching or anything else to keep the cards in place, just a steady hand and a lot of patience:

Second, you find out that this wasn’t just a one-day, in and out shoot. To build the more than 30 towers (some of which are more than 13 feet tall), Bryan stacked for 18 days, using more than 2,016 decks (108,864 cards) at a rate of about 112 decks per day. You also learn that Brian’s not perfect, and that some of the structures actually collapsed during the setup of the ad before the final shot was made.

Lastly (and in my opinion unfortunately) you find out that in order to make the cards all fall at once at the end of the ad, they rigged them with fishing line and then pulled them down on cue. I guess Lexus does earn points for admitting exactly what was real and what was fake, but I just wish they would have found some way to make the slamming of the door actually bring everything down with it so that none of the ad would be faked

The Good:

  • Lexus used a world record holding cardstacker, adding an entire sub-story to the experience.
  • The online and offline components of the campaign compliment and support each other.
  • The concept is simple, but there are a number of different levels for people that want to find out more.

The Bad:

  • Despite everything else being real, they had to fake the grand finale effect.
  • Lexus disabled video embeds from YouTube, drastically cutting down on the viral potential of the ad.

The Future:

  • Behind the scenes ads continue to play a large roll in broadcast campaigns, and companies opt for the real deal instead of looking for shortcuts when putting together seemingly simple ideas.

Lexus – Cards

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