15 years on, but still every now and then on rallies one can hear someone asking: ”Markko, Markko, kus sa oled?” This line is from 2003 Rally Finland ad campaign which riduculed the foreign drivers. RALLIRINKI went on and sought out the people responsible for this memorable campaign.
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Rally Finland organizer AKK-Sports wanted a strong ad campaign for their event which was getting ”More than a rally” as their new tagline said – it was transforming into a summer festival with bands and other side shows. In 2003 there was a need for a campaign that spoke to the traditional rallying fans, but also shifted Rally Finland’s modern presence to more common level.
The result was simply effective – and it’s best remembered because it eventually jinxed Finnish drivers. ”The rally in which other than Finnish winners are hard to find” punchline backfired and eventually the top 5 of Rally Finland were all other nationalities than Finns.
The campaign was made by copywriter Pasi Janhunen and AD Ripa Hankaniemi, at the time working for DDB Helsinki. Now they both work for dynamo&son.
”I remember we had great fun making this campaign”, Janhunen remembers. ”We wanted to make a rallying commercial that would leave a good feeling on people. Not the usual, too serious, fast cars in the forests rallying commercial, but something different”, Janhunen recalls the campaign now 15 years later.
By 2003 the event had been dominated solely by Finnish drivers for almost a decade which offered the emotional platform for the ad campaign. The reigning World Champion Marcus Grönholm had won the event on three previous occasions, so it was only natural Finns were very confident how the success would continue.
”AKK-Sports wanted to tell people how Rally Finland had became more than just the rally. It was turning into something of a summer festival in which everyone is having a good time. That’s when it dawned to us. Now wait, is everyone having a good time there as year after year the foreign top drivers are brought here and every time they had took the beating. It’s not fun for everyone!”
The original schemes – pictured publicly here for the first time ever – are surprisingly close to the final commercials. According to Janhunen, AKK-Sports were very much into the idea from the get-go.
”Everything was written with a sense of humor. We had characters of Markko Märtin, Richard Burns and Colin McRae in the ads, but we counted on the fact that rallying drivers are easy going and not that sensitive as perhaps some other athletes would be.”
”And I remember we jinxed it, if that word even existed at the time. After Markko Märtin had won, I remember him saying ’Here I am now'”, as an answer to the tv ad’s question.
”Markko, Markko kus sa oled? Markko, kus sa oled? Start on kahe minuti pärast, kurat!” is Estonian for ”Markko, Markko, where are you? Markko, start is in two minutes, damn it!”
The TV ad was filmed in a very stereotypical Finnish birch forest scene, ”not close to Jyväskylä”, says Janhunen.
”I can’t tell which one of us came up with the line. Ripa and I work well together as a team, and maybe also people from the production company took part in the final creative process. I remember we had it checked that the line in Estonian was grammatically correct. I do especially like the ”kurat” part in the end. Fine detail”, Janhunen enlightens the production.
Production was made with low budget. On the print ad, picturing Burns hiding as a lamp on a hotel lobby, it was Janhunen himself dressed up as Burns as a lamp.
The simple and effective idea of the campaign was well received both in Finland and elsewhere. During the rally it was talked among the drivers like Markko Märtin recalled on RALLIRINKI’s interview for #ReliveRallyFinland2003 project.
Later in the year the campaign received a silver prize in New York Festivals and it received an acknowledgement in Finnish marketing prize giving competitions as well.
”I’ve been doing advertising now for 20 or more years. Some campaigns I remember. This is such a campaign”, Janhunen gives credit to his earlier work.
But how would have this ad campaign continued next year, had it been up to Janhunen and Hankaniemi. They had a transcript ready, but they never got to present it. Here it is now:
”There would’ve been Marcus Grönholm filmed from a low angle against blue sky with majestic music, voice over saying ’we have dominated this rally for many year, but last year, we lost the rally, but this year, we promise to bring the win…” – and then suddenly the music stops and Grönholm’s co-driver would’ve shouted: ’Marcus! Hurry up now, they are coming!’ Then the camera would’ve zoomed out showing Marcus pissing in the fuel tank of some of his competitors”, Janhunen reveals and laughs hard.
That would’ve definitely required some additional sense of humor from fellow competitors, that’s for sure.