Rick Levine, iconic ad director, whose production company often did work with BBDO, says that Pepsi Cola and Michael J. Fox are very deserving of their inductions into the Ad Hall of Fame.
Levine worked with Pepsi for more than a decade, directing at least 20 of its iconic commercials. These included the ‘Chimp,’ commercial, which he said won every award possible, and ‘Apartment 10G (above),’ which starred Fox.
Speaking from his home in California, Levine shared some of his fondest memories of Fox, who once owned a home near him in Connecticut.
“Even though he was a young man,” Levine remarked “I swear to you, I had never seen a friendlier, more humble person in my life. He was always a kind young man.”
It’s not just Fox’s personality Levine admired. He said that Fox’s work ethic also set him apart from others.
“When you see him in ‘Apartment 10G,’ he did practically all his own stunts, except running over the cars and jumping off the fire escape,” he said. “Three nights of shooting in rain. He was freezing his backside off. I was freezing my backside off. We got a take and I said, ‘I thought that was good, Mike.’ And he said, ‘Rick, I can do better.’ That’s the kind of man we’re talking about.”
Regardless of his quest for perfection, Fox wasn’t all work on set. Levine recalled the actor’s love of cars.
“We’d hang out with my crew and he’d always drive my yellow Porsche at lunch,” Levine said. “Mike said ‘Rick I gotta drive this.’ Then I’m looking at his movie Doc Hollywood. In the movie he had my car but a red one. He loved my car so much he used it in the movie!”
Levine remarked that Pepsi’s style of campaigning has changed drastically over the years.
While its commercials “all used to be little films,” he said, they are now “just a lot of pictures and music.”
However, Levine believes that Pepsi is simply doing what it needs to do to reach its target audience.
“I think that Pepsi is doing a good job. They’re doing a very, very good job,” he said “They have to follow the social morays of our country and the younger people don’t want long, softer stories. They want action and excitement.”
Levine has retired since his days with Pepsi, and most of his former colleagues – who he affectionately calls ‘The original Mad Men,’ – have died. Still, his work with Pepsi will forever be some of his most accomplished.
“Of all the stuff I’ve done, I’d say Pepsi Cola was the best,” he remarked. “You couldn’t beat the Pepsi stuff.”
It has been years since Levine has been recognized for his work, but he is proud to know that it has made a lasting imprint on the advertising world.
“I would be honored if some of my work was being put up for an award,” he remarked.
He then stopped himself and reconsidered, given Pepsi and Michael J. Fox’s inductions.
“Well, it is actually,” he laughed.
PepsiCo and Michael J. Fox will be honored for their contributions to the advertising industry at their inductions to the Ad Hall of Fame in New York tonight.
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