This isn't your typical vodka commercial—no, seriously. The above spot for Belvedere Vodka's (PRODUCT)RED-branded line seeing release on World AIDS Day, directed by Dugan O'Neal and starring actor James Van Der Beek, may seem at first to contain the type of self-seriousness you expect from luxury brand advertisements. As it goes on, though, the spot gets stranger and more self-aware, culminating in a spot-on parody of that familiar trope in advertising. It's all for a good cause, too: 50% of the proceeds from sales of the line will go towards (PRODUCT)RED, which aims to raise awareness and funds to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa.
"It was our chance to take the piss out of these self-indulgent, self-important ads you see on TV. It seemed like something that would be a lot of fun to do," Van Der Beek says on the ad's comedic intent, which was devised by him, O'Neal, and VICE's Trent Rohner. "We wanted to lull the audience into thinking this was a serious, straightforward ad before making it weirder and weirder."
Van Der Beek's interest in getting involved with the ad is owed to (PRODUCT)RED's charitable aims, as well as an opportunity to further the type of self-deprecating humor he displayed on the underrated ABC sitcom Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. "The more you get into any sort of situation involving fame, the more you realize how full of shit it is," he says, citing Being John Malkovich and David Duchovny's appearance on The Larry Sanders Show as comedic influences. "My sense of humor comes out of a desire to get real and drive down to the core of what something is, and so much of that is taking the piss out of these constructs that have so long gone unquestioned."
For O'Neal, whose career has included work in sketch comedy and directing music videos for TV on the Radio and Ellie Goulding, the ad provided a chance to flex a humorous muscle for a good cause, while making the whole thing look pretty damn stylish, too. "[Vodka commercials] are all shot really beautifully and take themselves really seriously, so it was fun to blend comedy into that while still making it look really nice," he says, while also praising Van Der Beek's own creative impulses. "[James] got it from the get-go. He's a really great writer, so he brought a lot of really funny ideas."