Aram Rappaport is the director and co-writer of Vroom’s new TV commercials starring Rachel Dratch, John Leguizamo, and a couple wild animals. Aram is the founder of The Boathouse, a creative agency and production company.
Vroom: Tell us about working with Rachel Dratch and John Leguizamo.
Aram: It was great! I’ve worked with John a few times before and Rachel once before. It felt like we were old friends getting back together. Plus, they know each other, too. So it was very, very collaborative, and everybody was excited to be a part of it. John even knew about Vroom beforehand! He found the site when he was looking to buy a car for his daughter. So he was already excited. John even helped collaborate on the concepts, and we ran the scripts by both John and Rachel, which made filming easy.
V: John and Rachel are both terrific comedians and improvisers. How much of the commercials were scripted, and how much did they improvise?
A: We did a lot of alterations on the lines, but for the most part everything was scripted in the yak and ostrich spot. In the meditation one, we gave John and Rachel some room to mess around.
V: So were those real animals in the ads?
A: They were very real! But it turns out it’s difficult to ride an ostrich and impossible to ride a yak. So we went with a mix of real shots and special effects. We also looked at using llamas, which are easier to ride, but at the end of the day we wanted to make these two goofy animals work. I think they were the best choice to juxtapose the hilarity and difficulty of the traditional car buying experience with the simplicity of car-buying on Vroom.
V: Was it hard to get the animals to the set?
A: Well, first we had to find out what kinds of animals we could legally take into Brooklyn, where we filmed the ads. The yak needed to have a physical and get shots for rabies first.
V: How did you get the animals to perform on camera?
A: The ostrich did not take direction well. We did hundreds of takes of the ostrich. We used a couple animals handlers, which helped. But there was a lot of orchestrating involved. We had to have a plan in case the ostrich escaped. They can run over 40 miles an hour! So police had to shut down the streets in case it broke free. If we had to do it all over again, I’m not sure we’d go with an ostrich…
V: Was the yak a better sport?
A: No, ha. The yak would eat any grass he could find in the neighbor’s yard. Plus, it was mating season in New Jersey, where we were going to find a yak to film, and all the available female yaks were pregnant. So we had to find one that had already given birth, which was a challenge. At one point, we were in talks to ship a yak in from Michigan. But that’s testament to Gaurav (Misra, CMO of Vroom) and the team. He didn’t want to compromise! He wanted the best possible product. All of us who worked on the ads believe in Vroom’s mission, and that belief trickled down to everyone else on set.
V: How did John and Rachel deal with working with wild animals?
A: John and Rachel were frightened. Rachel would try to mount the yak and the yak would spook. That’s when we decided we might need help from a green screen.
V: What convinced you to help Vroom create their first-ever ad campaign?
A: I had a prior relationship with the Vroom marketing team. But I bought into the idea before we even began concepting the ads. The company asked me fly out to Dallas to see Vroom’s car reconditioning facilities. I met one of the company’s founders, plus some of the mechanics and delivery drivers. It’s not often you encounter creative partners that you trust enough to drop everything and fly to Dallas after just a single text. I think it said, “Trust me, you’re going to want in on this.”
But it was really important to the company that I believed in what Vroom is doing before we started filming. And after touring the 100-acre facility, and just seeing how much everybody in Texas cares about their mission, I was all in. It’s always been a personal goal to help brands that are focused on disrupting traditional markets and making sure the customer is taken care of—Robin Hood brands, so to speak. Vroom definitely qualifies, so it’s been a great experience for me.
V: Are there other commercials and extras coming out of this campaign? Rumor has it you shot a hip-hop music video while on set…
A: There will be a few additional spots, including shorter versions of the commercials and a mostly improvised in-character testimonial with John and Rachel.
And yes, there is a hip-hop video. John has always wanted to do something with this particular song. We were sitting in a restaurant and he played it and started rapping, and it was so funny that we decided to shoot it really quickly. Rachel got involved, too. It turned out pretty great. I hope it gets released soon.
V: We have a feeling it just might.