John Mayer Gets Back to Nature and Sings an Unreleased Song for Land Rover’s Defender

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Land Rover’s branded content campaign for its new Defender SUV could’ve been shot yesterday. That’s how of-the-moment it is with its serene national park setting and create-your-own-adventure theme.

In fact, the long-form video—dubbed “John Mayer Goes Outside”—was filmed over three days in early March, following the popular musician around scenic locations in Northern California. But brand executives had been waiting for the right time to launch it, given the outbreak of Covid-19 and the lengthy lockdown that followed.

As it turns out, the six-minute ad may never have had a more receptive audience than it’ll find now, as many Americans return to travel, often by car, and choose destinations close to home.

And another plus, especially for superfans: Mayer gives an acoustic performance of a previously unreleased song as part of the project.

John has a real affinity for the brand—he can talk about about Defender details like he works for Land Rover

Jeremy Elias, ecd, Atlantic Re:think

Execs at the brand, who said they wanted to be thoughtful about what they released during the pandemic, see the upside in the nearly six-month wait.

“The idea of getting back to nature and how restorative that can be — it feels very appropriate,” said Stuart Schorr, vp, marketing at Jaguar Land Rover. “And using a vehicle to get away is probably the most on-trend activity you can do right now.”

The campaign comes from Atlantic Re:think, which has partnered with the brand in the past, notably for a campaign called “Scoring the Drive,” built around an original score from composer Hans Zimmer. 

Re:think, the marketing arm and content studio housed in The Atlantic, purposely gave Mayer a loose outline and plenty of room to go off-script and off-road, literally.

The Re:think team came up with the back-to-nature concept and approached Mayer, a longtime Land Rover fan who’s posted about his own vintage Defender on his social media but had no previous formal relationship with the brand.

The creatives took Mayer to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, about a dozen miles south of the Oregon border, and got verite-style footage of him hiking through the forest and communing with thousand-year-old redwood trees. He chats with an earthy, almost ethereal tour guide named Jenny Hanson and tries his hand at fly fishing and rock skipping. (The latter doesn’t go well, which makes for a low-key running gag).

His appearance is the opposite of some celebrity endorsements, where it’s “painfully obvious that the person has been paid to be there,” said Jeremy Elias, Re:think’s executive creative director.

An impromptu performance

“John has a real affinity for the brand—he can talk about about Defender details like he works for Land Rover,” Elias said. “It’s hard to turn away from that kind of enthusiasm.”

Schorr described Mayer as “a gear guy,” who had been on Land Rover’s radar as a potential collaborator. Re:think paved the way, beginning with talks late last year, and Mayer performed at the Defender’s U.S. kickoff at the L.A. Auto Show in November.

The singer-songwriter told the teams he’d be bringing along a guitar for the “John Mayer Goes Outside” shoot, and he ended up doing an impromptu performance of one of his original ballads, sitting in a Defender with the majestic Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. That footage, naturally, made it into the finished video.

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