To promote a time change for the morning meteorologist, WCAX Burlington used the most famous time travel machine in movie history.
WCAX, Gray’s CBS affiliate in Burlington, Vt., was making some on-air staffing changes and looking for some ideas to promote the move.
Gary Sadowsky, the morning news meteorologist, was making a time change to nightside. Sadowsky has been at WCAX for 31 years, and for 26 of them, he’s been on the morning news.
“We thought that was a big deal, and we should have fun with it,” says Jay Barton, WCAX’s GM, who has a background in creative services and promotion.
Sadowsky says he had the idea of time travel for the premise of the promo. When Barton heard that, a light bulb went off in his head.
Barton had attended a local sci-fi show and saw the car used in the Back to the Future films, a DeLorean.
So, why not use the most famous time travel machine on the planet to help sell the idea of Sadowsky’s time change?
It’s been almost 40 years since the original movie, Back To The Future, came out, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. But maybe the most memorable character in the movie was a car, the retrofitted DeLorean, with the “flux capacitor” that enabled time travel when the car accelerated to 88 miles per hour.
Barton says the DeLorean he saw is a replica, “but that was the look we wanted for the spot.”
The DeLorean belonged to a couple who own a variety of replica movie vehicles as a side business. The car was located in Hubbardston, Mass, about three hours south of Burlington. WCAX arranged to rent it for a day and sent a team down to shoot the promo.
The DeLorean did not disappoint.
“It had the lights and the sounds,” says Matt Green, a producer/shooter/editor in WCAX’s commercial production department.
Green says the car drove and had all the time machine elements inside the car that were used in the movie, even the same start-up process.
Green says they all were scared to touch anything, afraid they might break something.
Bob Conley, another producer/shooter/editor in the commercial production department, says when they showed up, “we looked around at each other and just scrambled to get the gear going. The driving shots took place in a large open parking lot.”
But it wasn’t Sadowsky driving.
“I had a stunt double,” Sadowsky says, someone dressed up to look like him behind the wheel.
In addition to using the iconic Back to the Future DeLorean for authenticity, another factor in WCAX’s favor was the look of the chief meteorologist himself, Gary Sadowsky.
“He has always had that shock of white hair as long as I have seen him on TV, and I have been watching him since I was a kid,” Conley says.
“And he has such a larger-than-life personality, too,” says Nick Anastasi, a producer/shooter/editor for news marketing at WCAX. “So, he kind of looked like the mad scientist Doc Brown in the movie.”
Since the promo started airing in August, Sadowsky says “people come up to me and they just think it’s fantastic. They can’t believe it.”
Conley adds, “There was definitely a huge reaction on social media when people saw that.”
“Loved this commercial. It’s a “Gary” original.” — Luann Nelson Hastie
“THANK YOU! for one of the best commercials I’ve seen in a long time! Gary’s next career: acting! (and kudos to whoever came up with this idea & produced it!)” — Susan Nelson
Anastasi says there was “so much positive feedback. Everybody just kind of ate that up and really loved what we did, the fun creativeness that we were able to take on with the project.”
“Oh man!! I can’t love this enough! Great job WCAX-TV! Love seeing Gary and Darren..and just love Gary !! Epic commercial..!” — Lynn Fraser
“Best. Commercial. Ever.” — Wanda Webster
“Ok this is pretty darn epic for little old WCAX!” — Paul Sanders
“We had this opportunity to make something iconic and over the top in a good way to promote something that is kind of not run of the mill,” Conley says. “It’s a very creative way to announce a staffing change.”
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