“Jones” may be one of the world’s most common last names, but it’s an emblem of star power in one of Toyota’s Super Bowl ads this year, which is packed with celebrities bearing that moniker.
The halftime ad promoting the Toyota Tundra stars actors Tommy Lee Jones, Leslie Jones, Rashida Jones plus one anomaly—Nick Jonas, driving the truck in a hilarious all-terrain race. And it’s all set to the classic 1965 tune, “It’s Not Unusual,” sung by none other than Tom Jones.
The spot, one of a pair of Toyota ads running in the game, was created out of the L.A. and Dallas offices of Saatchi & Saatchi. It puts a twist on the famous phrase about competition, “keeping up with the Joneses.”
According to Saatchi & Saatchi L.A. and Dallas Chief Creative Officer Jason Schragger, “We wanted to be on the positive side of the whole Jones thing and just have fun with it. We really wanted to tell a fun story that would make people fall in love with the Tundra—and we wanted to keep it really simple.”
"The Joneses" was directed by Hungry Man’s Bryan Buckley, who also helmed two more ads starring big-name stars for this year's Super Bowl: Verizon's spot with Jim Carrey reprising his role from "The Cable Guy," and BMW's featuring Arnold Schwarzenneger and Salma Hayek Pinault playing Greek deities Zeus and Hera.
It’s in its simplicity that the spot shines, leaving each of the actors room to be their unvarnished selves. Each behind the wheel of a Tundra, they exchange barbs and glances as they try to outpace each other navigating the elements across roads and craggy mountaintops.
When it came to casting, all of the team's top "Jones" picks ultimately made it to the final ad. “We had a list of about 50 others, and we were expecting that someone was gonna say no, or something was going to happen,” Schragger said.
The comedy succeeds in the easy, natural rapport the talents appear to have with each other. “They’re all different Joneses brought together by name, but they’re so individual,” Buckley said. “They have different senses of humor—one’s dry, one’s broad, one’s more in the middle. Each of them brings their own thing in the end and you’re not asking them to compromise, you’re allowing them to collide in this crazy chase scene, and then in the surprise ending with Nick.”
Tommy Lee Jones' disappointments
Though the spot was one of game day’s most delightful romps, it was not without its share of disappointments for Tommy Lee Jones. Buckley recalled the first conversation he had with the admitted truck fan.
“I talked to everyone on the phone ahead of time, and he’s like, ‘So when do I get to drive the truck?’” Buckley told him that wasn’t part of the job. “He wasn’t joking, he was serious—and he brought it up again later how disappointed he was that he wasn’t going to drive the truck.”
And that wasn’t the only regret for the A-lister. “He also talked a lot about Leslie,” Buckley said. “I was talking to him when he was down in Texas at his ranch and he said, ‘I get to meet Leslie, right? Because I’m a huge fan of hers.'”
Unfortunately, the shoot was divided, with Tommy Lee Jones and Nick Jonas on one day and Leslie Jones and Rashida Jones on another. “I think they’re connected in their brashness,” Buckley said. “They’re different types of brash personalities, so I was bummed that I didn’t see them together physically.”