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The 60-second ad includes many elements from the hit series, including actors Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow) and Robert Iler (who played Tony’s son, A.J.) It was directed by Soprano’s creator David Chase, with photography direction handled by Phil Abraham, who played the same role for the original title sequence. Chevy even got rights to the original song, “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3.
But fans of HBO’s “The Sopranos”—which ran from 1999-2007—will notice some noticeable, and not-so-noticeable, differences in the ad, which was shot from scratch. The obvious change is the ending. The original shows Tony driving up the winding driveway to his house. In the ad, Meadow parks the blue Silverado EV in front of Bahrs Landing seafood restaurant on the Jersey Shore, where she recharges the electric truck and greets A.J. with a hug.
“David [Chase] and the team really felt it was an homage to some unanswered questions to the ending of the series,” Majoros said, referring to the much-discussed final scene of the show. The scene showed Meadow struggling to parallel park her Lexus before heading in to join her family at Holsten's restaurant as the series then comes to an abrupt, mysterious end.
“They are at the restaurant and you really don't know what happened to the kids,” Majoros said. The ad has “a very optimistic ending, where it's clear that Meadow and A.J. have moved on and it is a new generation. It’s got a different feel to it. All those things together created a little bit of the magic.”
Whether Sopranos' enthusiasts consider it magic will be left to social media debate. Some loyalists will surely be disappointed to find out that the video—which in its early stages could be interpreted as an ad for some sort of comeback by the HBO show—ends with a marketing pitch for a new truck.
Get the latest Ad Age Super Bowl 2022 news here.
But the goal of any Super Bowl ad is to create conversation and awareness. And Chevy’s ad, which was not released prior to airing in the game, seems destined to do that.
Majoros said Chevy wanted to seize on new interest in “The Sopranos.” Viewership on HBO Now spiked 179% in the early days of the pandemic, GQ reported in 2020, noting that that the crime family drama “is ‘back,’ and being binged by seemingly everyone,” including millennials and Gen Zers “immersing themselves in it for the first time.” In 2021, HBO Max released “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel film to the original series, which was also shown in theaters. (It generated more notoriety for the show, although the movie left many critics underwhelmed.)
“Sopranos was awesome in its day and it is equally awesome now. It’s discovering a massive renaissance,” Majoros said.
But to pull the ad off, “enlisting the very people who made the show at the onset was going to be critical,” he said. “If we couldn’t get the [original] talent, it wasn’t going to work. Thankfully they were as equally enthusiastic about the idea.”
Of course, using a show about a mobster with a heavy dose of violence to mass market a pickup truck to mainstream Americans is not without risks.
Chevy attempted to add some subtle, more optimistic, flourishes to the ad. For instance, in the original opening, Tony drives by a cemetery—but in the ad’s version, the graveyard is replaced by a children’s playground. Other changes are simply reflective of the changing landscape; the Twin Towers are replaced by the One World Trade Center skyscraper that was built after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for instance. Other tweaks portrayed more modern consumer sensibilities: The sign for Satriale's Pork Store—where show characters ordered “gabagool”—now notes that it has meats with "no antibiotics." While Tony pulled a toll ticket to get on the New Jersey Turnpike, Meadow cruises through using an E-ZPass.
Keen observers might also notice that a Sunoco gas station sign—which Tony drives by in the original opening—is missing from the ad.
Is GM making a comment on the gas-less car driving future? Majoros suggested that choice was more about logistics.
“You can imagine the number of people you have to chase down for rights and clearances,” he said. The gas station sign omission “wasn't intentional.”
Beyond those changes and the alternative ending, Chevy tried to stay as close to the original as it could. “We know full well that Sopranos fans are going to immediately start producing side-by-sides,” Majoros said. “We tried to be as true to the pacing, to the music, to the photography style, even the kinds of cameras it was shot on.”
“Hopefully the Sopranos fans appreciate that—and then if you are not a Sopranos fan, hopefully you take away here is a cool new truck with a little bit of attitude,” he said.
For those looking for that side-by-side, here is the original opening, with the ad below it. Hit play on both at once and judge for yourself whether Chevy succeeded.
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