How do you give a tangible quality to an intangible product? That was the task set before Dan Fisler, of the advertising agency Bates Southwest by one of their clients, Houston based Veritas. As a leading geophysical services provider, Veritas offers the petroleum industry a range of geophysical technologies designed to enhance drilling success. These include seismic survey planning and design, seismic data acquisition, data processing, data visualization and interpretive services. Added to the problem of selling "information", there was the issue of the venue for the advertisements: petroleum industry trade magazines.
Dan Fisler's approach was to devise an advertising campaign that would, through a series of spreads, attach a quality of an object to the data that Veritas systems provide. The first was to emphasize the concepts of speed, power and performance. In order to provide this Dan Fisler decided on an image of a Lotus Esprit onto which would be projected examples of seismic data. The second set of adverts, soon to be in press, is aimed at the idea that Veritas' products can be used off-shore and features a exploration ship also with the projected data.
Why was the Esprit the car of choice? Dan indicated that he was looking for a "distinctive unique looking car" and didn't want to use a Porsche or any other car that is often seen in advertising. Added to this is the legal problems associated with dealing with Porsche. Arnie Johnson, President of Lotus Cars USA, clearly has no such reservations. Arnie is happy for "any exposure" for Lotus, just look at the good press the Toyota Tundra advertisement has provided. However, the problem for Dan was locating a white Esprit.
Sherry Kline, the Manager of Production Business Affairs, set about trying to find a suitable car. Contacting the local Lotus dealer, Star Motor Cars, sales department were their usual "helpful" self and said that there were no white Esprit in Houston. Luckily, Star's Lotus/Aston Martin Parts and Service manager, Wally Newcomb, happened to overhear the conversation and knew better. After all they had only just had my white '95 S4 in for work at the same time! Wally immediately phoned me at work and gave me the telephone number of the photographer, Frank White of Frank White Photography. Frank was delighted with my offer of loaning the '95, and even offered to send a flat-bed to collect the car. He seemed to be bemused at the idea that an Esprit would be used as a daily driver.
The reason for the necessity of a white car became apparent once I arrived at the studio. The walls and floor were painted white and a series of 35 mm projectors were set up around the car to cover the car with images of Veritas' seismic data. The brightly colored images gave the car a surrealistic appearance with red, blue, yellow and brown lines covering the car in what to an untrained eye is a dramatic random pattern. However, two photographs were actually taken from identical angles: the psychedelic one and a more "normal" studio shot under white lights. The second shot was used to provide a clear image of the windscreen and interior as well as the wheels, Lotus badge, and indicator lights. The final advertising image is a composite of both images and very dramatic. One interesting point to note is that while the license plate was replaced with a computer generated "SEISMIC" plate and the Texas tax and inspection stickers were removed digitally, my Rice University parking sticker is in clear view!
The final advertisement first appeared in the April issues of Journal of Petroleum Technology, Hart's E & P and The Leading Edge as double page spreads. Arnie Johnson expressed delight at the exposure, but indicated that he "didn't think much of my new paint job!"
(Courtesy of Bates Southwest. Photo credit: Frank White)