Lexus and Amazon Ads helped consumers “tailgate on the edge”—with the help of two master chefs

July 11, 2023 | By Justin Kirkland, Copywriter

Man with his car

Tailgating is a uniquely American tradition—as any football fan can attest. Close your eyes and you can probably imagine the sounds and aromas as the energy builds to the big game. Now, imagine two award-winning chefs being asked to join the party. One is chef Ludo Lefebvre, who has worked at Michelin-star restaurants and has never cooked tailgate food in his life, the other James Beard Award–winning chef Dean Fearing, a dyed-in-the-wool Texan who thinks it’d be a challenge to cook tandoori chicken tacos at the game.

Challenging oneself is the theme of the Lexus campaign, “Tailgate on the Edge,” developed in collaboration with the Amazon Ads Brand Innovation Lab (BIL), announcing the release of the all-new redesigned 2023 Lexus RX Hybrid SUV.

Watch how Lexus and Amazon Ads worked together to release the all-new RX Hybrid SUV with their “Tailgate on the Edge" campaign.

“I can’t even pronounce the word tailgate.”

While Chef Ludo has been to his share of football games, he confesses, “Cooking in a parking lot? I’ve never done that in my life.” And so began Tailgate on the Edge, a campaign that highlights these world-renowned chefs as they challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zone.

This was the plan all along, as the BIL developed the campaign to celebrate the creative process, in all of its uncertainty, experimentation, and ultimate success. “Lexus is definitely one to take a leap with us,” says Chris Mizutani, the creative director who oversaw the campaign. “They wanted to focus their existing ‘Never Lose Your Edge’ campaign on food, football, tailgating, Fire TV, and their new RX Hybrid. It was a list of ingredients that we had to figure out what to do with.”

Building on an innovative relationship

Lexus and Amazon Ads have a long history of collaboration and innovation. They worked together in 2021 to develop the first-ever Vehicle Showcase, a Fire TV experience that enables customers to explore 360-degree views of a vehicle, its color options, and branded content, on the biggest TV screen in their home. Then Lexus and Amazon followed up with the first Alexa-powered Fire TV showcase. “Lexus has had a lot of success with Amazon Ads, and they always push us to go bigger,” Mizutani says, “so we engaged Whole Foods Market—something we’ve never been able to do before.”

Bringing the campaign to life

Tailgate on the Edge begins as a two-part series of short documentary films available on Fire TV, featuring Chef Dean Fearing as he peruses a spice market stand, sniffing star anise and musing about his first experience with Indian curry. He acknowledges that Indian cuisine is out of his wheelhouse, “but that’s the point,” he says. Chef Ludo agrees, “How do you know what you’re capable of if you don’t push yourself to the edge?”

Amazon brought in Clay Jeter, a director known for his work on the show Chef’s Table. “I knew we had to work with Clay, because he was someone who not only understood the nuances of filming food, but shooting cars too,” Mizutani adds. “Getting someone who could meet Lexus’ quality bar on the vehicle shots, and who could also bring out the storytelling around these chefs, took a very unique director.”

Jeter worked with the chefs to shake up their menus and encouraged them to create tailgating cuisine that pushed boundaries. “And, to make matters more complicated, we asked them to prepare their dishes using only items available at Whole Foods Market,” says Mizutani, “because we wanted our customers to be able to make these dishes, too.”

Luxury tailgating, IRL

The resulting recipes were curated and made available on a custom Lexus page on Amazon, where customers could watch as Chef Ludo and Chef Dean share their process. Amazon added the ability to add all recipe ingredients to the cart with the press of a button, so customers could try their hand at making the recipes themselves. Or, if they chose to visit a Whole Foods Market in Glendale, California, or Austin, Texas, they might have caught the two chefs serving food out of the back of a Lexus RX at their own tailgate, right in the parking lot.

The campaign was successful, exceeding expectations when it came to audience reach, overdelivering in both affluent and young adult audiences. “The feedback that we’ve had with our Whole Foods Market collaboration has been extremely positive,” says Nicole Kirsch, group media director for Team One. “We’ve had so many guests come up and tell us they love the new RX, [and] they love the new recipes from our chefs coming out of this. It’s been really positive so far.”

Nicole Kirsch explains how they made strategy to align with the people that inspire guests that purchase Lexus.

Lisa McQueen, media manager at Lexus, shares that sentiment, adding, “Amazon has been an unbelievable resource, and we’re grateful for the innovation and commitment to consistently raise the bar and deliver results for new product launches. In this case, we were able to work with Whole Foods Market to provide guests a tailgating experience featuring bites of food they might not have had before.”

And, as Chef Dean Fearing says, “There is no sharper blade than creativity. But that’s an edge you have to keep, by always looking forward.” Chef Dean, Lexus—and Amazon Ads—couldn’t agree more.