Downy’s new commercial starring coach Jim Harbaugh scores big laughs depicting a specially appointed assistant tasked with keeping Coach’s khakis wrinkle free.
Downy’s new “Wrinkle Assistant” commercial takes “wrinkle-free” khakis to a whole new level, with help from creative agency Grey New York and Woven, Station director Chris Balmond, and Michigan Wolverine Coach Jim Harbaugh who stars. Harbaugh tasks an assistant to keep his coaching khakis wrinkle free to the same meticulous standard as he runs Wolverine practice drills. The young man takes his assignment to heart and doesn’t disappoint.
Downy “Wrinkle Assistant” reflects Chris’s talent for humorous and irreverent storytelling. He shares some insights from the production below:
Q> “Josh Smooth,” Coach Harbaugh’s wrinkle-free assistant, gives a fun, very believable performance. How did you find him? Did you know right away that he was the guy? Did he surprise you getting into character in such a great way?
Chris Balmond> We cast on both coasts (New York, Los Angeles) as we knew finding the right person to represent the brand deserved an extensive search. As with most casting, as soon as they walk in the room you know. I wanted someone who had an innocence and positivity, as well as being naturally funny. Our chosen actor also has a great face for comedy, a love-child of Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell (I guess he was conceived on the set of The Other Guys).
Q> What was it like working with Coach Harbaugh?
CB> Harbaugh was a joy to work with. I always enjoy helping non-actors find a performance, and sometimes it can be a bit of a process to get them relaxed and natural in front of camera, but Jim was pretty much there as soon as he stepped on set. It was simply a case of trying variations of dialogue to see what felt right. The only thing that didn’t come naturally was being mean and not reciprocating Josh’s fist bump – he couldn’t help but be positive.
Q> The campaign resembles footage from your typical football training film montage. Did you draw on any specific references to help set the style and tone?
CB> Being British I made sure I fully entrenched myself in a load of classic American sporting movies, especially those with montages. The cheesier the better, from Rocky to Karate Kid, even Over The Top (an underrated arm-wrestling classic). Any Given Sunday, although not the best insight into football, is also a great example of how to do the pumped-up sports montage. If we’d had a longer duration then you can bet there would have been far more dissolves.
Q> The IG video which “leaked” the hire has over 1.5M views. Were you surprised it caught on like that? Coach Harbaugh seems invested. Is he prolific on social media?
CB> I’ve heard he likes a tweet or two, but I don’t think he’s a big IG man. He hasn’t DM’d me anyway. But he was totally up for shooting whatever was funny and would help build the mystery of the khaki assistant. We only had Harbaugh for a short space of time before he returned to the day job, but it’s cool to see how powerful something grabbed on a phone can be, sparking plenty of healthy debate!
Q> You also directed Downy “Guilty” which came out this summer – working with Grey and Woven. Were they game for pushing the comedy?
CB> The creative team at Grey/Woven were fantastic, super collaborative and always up for pushing the comedy from the start. They wanted to appeal to a whole new audience, so we knew that these needed to be fun, and funny, but keeping that mix of innocence and knowingness that feels like a great fit for Downy. Because it was new territory for the brand, I knew it would be important to push the comedy wherever possible, but also make sure there were plenty of options of fun goofy dialogue and performance, so there was plenty to play with in the edit.
Q> Can you share any fun anecdotes from the shoot?
CB> The shoots were as wrinkle-free as Harbaugh’s khakis, just a lot of fun. I grew up on ‘80s American movies, and Downy has enabled me to fulfill my dream of shooting, albeit very short versions, a teen comedy with “Guilty” and now a sports movie with “Wrinkle Assistant.” I’m hoping for Back to the Future-style time travel next. A Wrinkle in Time perhaps…
Q> What are you working on now?
CB> I’ve been back in London shooting for a big potato chip brand, and prepping the next jobs, all hinging on a great cast. Between London, New York and Los Angeles we are spoiled for choice with so many naturalistic and funny comedy performers, so it’s great getting to play both sides of the pond with so much talent.
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Watch more of Chris’s work HERE.