The McConaissance has been on a deliberate slowdown over the past two years. Matthew McConaughey won his Oscar, created an iconic character inTrue Detective's Rust Cohle, and starred in a prestige sci-fi drama from one of Hollywood's most important directors—from there, he's been even more picky in his projects, starring in the fascinatingly messy Civil War/1950s South drama Free State of Jones and doing voice work for animated features like Kubo and the Two Strings and Sing. After establishing himself as a top leading man, McConaughey seemed to return his McConassential role of doing whatever the heck it is he feels like doing.
Of course, the idea that we know Matthew McConaughey well enough to know how he views himself is part of the carefully curated persona that McConaughey has been developing since he became famous two-plus decades ago. The naked bongos dude became an Academy Award winning actor, and he followed his Oscar win up by doing—as Jim Carrey noted in an SNL parody—a car commercial. Since 2014, McConaughey has been the face of Lincoln, starring in ads that really attempt to focus on the essence of the star: He opines about nothing over ambient jazz, dropping pseudo-deep philosophy with such conviction that, who knows, maybe it's actually deep? He's hung out with a bull named Cyrus, talked to himself through winding streets, and explained his affection for the automobile manufacturer in ways that keep that McConaughey image fully intact—something that's clear when you look at how other star/brand combos have attempted to mimic the tone of the campaign for themselves.
Today, Lincoln unveiled its latest spots in the McConaughey campaign, showing off the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental. They are, as you might expect, weird, with McConaughey driving a Lincoln around the endless horizons of Iceland and talking to himself—as usual, but this time with the added twist of there's a second McConaughey in the back seat. Or maybe it's the same McConaughey? The non-linear concept of the ad makes it hard to tell, exactly, and that's part of the point.
"It's something we've given a lot of thought," says Jon Pearce, Chief Creative Officer at Hudson Rouge, the agency behind the campaign, about how to keep pushing boundaries of the McConaughey/Lincoln partnership. "We've seen Matthew talking to a bull, riding around with dogs, sitting silently while it rains outside... Part of the appeal, and why men and women like him, is that we get a sense of the authenticity there. So we keep looking for other facets to his personality. He's stoic in some, light in others. There's a wryness to this spot. We wanted to honor this car, the new flagship for Lincoln, so we didn't overcomplicate the spot with a big narrative. It's car, guy, and place. It's the first non-linear spot we've done, with time-shifting going on and some time lapse, because we wanted to explore the car more than we have in the past, because there's more to explore with this car."
Getting into the various facets of McConaughey's personality is an opportunity that Pearce embraces with the campaign, too. McConaughey may hold the "creative director" title for Wild Turkey, but he's involved in the creation of the Lincoln ads, too. That helps the agency find the facets of his personality—the McConessence, if you will—that resonate, and ring true when they create each spot.
"We don't know him inside and out, but we have a good sense of who he is at this juncture, having worked with him for two years," Pearce says. "Matthew has always been really, really great at participating. We have creative meetings before we ever roll one bit of film, and we work on the scripts to feel natural to the way he says things."
That's something that John Emmert, Group Marketing Manager at the Lincoln Motor Company, echoes when talking about the brand's direct relationship with McConaughey. Not only is he natural with the material, he steps onto the set—this one in Iceland, in order to show the car in a (literally) different light—fully prepared to nail it.
"He comes ready to work," Emmert says. "You see why he's an A-list actor. You're not doing take after take after take. He's just doing it. He's really aware of the camera. He's almost directing it with his mind. We're really efficient with his time, and when he comes to set, he's there to help Lincoln."
"He's almost directing it with his mind" might be the most McConaughey way of explaining his process, and telepathy is something we'd love to see him attempt in the next spot for the Continental.
By Dan Soloman