Behind the scenes of Mack Trucks’ Road Life series

May 28, 2019

Tyson Fisher

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Companies love to send journalists on trips to cover their latest product or marketing campaign.

I’ve done this many times. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Company X shows its product and journalists get to see it firsthand, not in a one-page news release. So when I got a call from Mack Trucks asking if I wanted to go to Reno, Nev., I said, “Sure.”

Little did I know that Mack had a trick up its sleeve. A trick I have never seen before.

Usually when I show up to truck shows or media events, I have the cool toys: camera, tripod, Gimbal, microphone, and so forth. This time, I felt like someone rolling up next to a Lamborghini in a Ford Pinto.

I quickly found out that Mack was shooting a web series called “Road Life.” I was surrounded by Hollywood-grade cameras, lights, boom mics, you name it. I sheepishly set my cellphone setup to the side. This time, I would simply report and let the pros take care of the videos.

What I was witnessing was indicative of how Mack feels about its Anthem truck. They are extremely proud of it. So proud of it that a news release or PowerPoint presentation isn’t enough. No. Mack has taken the time and money to produce its own video series. And this isn’t some video produced in someone’s basement and thrown on YouTube. We’re talking top-notch production that can be accessed on Amazon Prime.

‘Mack is back’

Mark Urmos, Mack Trucks’ content marketing manager, filming an interview for season two of Road Life. (Courtesy of Mack Trucks)

The idea came about around the time Mack was launching its Anthem truck. Chris Zona, Mack’s retail experience and brand engagement manager, explained the early brainstorming stages.

“With this ‘Mack is back’ type of thing to coincide with the launch of the truck, how could we do something that really got us closer to the customer and closer to our dealers and really focus on the stories behind the trucks,” Zona said. “We build the trucks that build everything else and that’s kind of the underlying theme for this whole thing. We wanted to go and tell the story of people who do the real work. But the real cool stuff was done with the product and the people behind the product. And that’s really where it started.”

It was quite an ambitious project. Despite the scale and uncertainty, the marketing team got the blessing of top brass at Mack. It was go big or go home when it came to highlighting its beloved Anthem.

Living the road life

The show name “Road Life” is apt in two ways. First, it features the companies and drivers who are living it every day. Second, Mack’s marketing team had to live it in order to shoot the series.

Currently shooting the second season, production began in January and will not be done until July. In total, the crew will be filming for about 20 weeks. Zona said that they have been at home around 15% of this seven-month stretch. Mark Urmos, Mack Trucks’ content marketing manager, thought even that estimate was generous.

But that’s kind of the point. That road-to-home time ratio is pretty standard in the trucking industry. Likewise, the Mack filming crew found that they were facing obstacles similar to truckers.

“The issue we face is the challenges that our customers face on a daily basis, like the things that come up that prevent them from doing what they had planned,” Zona said, “What was difficult for us was we were trying to capture the jobs they were doing, and things like weather caused people in these features to have to shift what they were doing. So we had to shift.”

Like trucking, the Mack crew faced weather challenges, although from an opposite perspective. For example, they were actually looking for snowy weather for a snowplow story but never got it. Ironically, they received unwanted snow for another story and pouring rain for a concrete truck story.

Lessons were learned living the road life. These are lessons that go beyond a marketing perspective. Lessons that may actually make future Mack trucks even better.

Because they were in the trenches with the working drivers and carriers, the Mack crew received more than just a story highlighting Mack’s customers. They also gleaned a lot of valuable information more pertinent to the engineers and designers. Zona saw a driver with an Anthem, exchanged contact info, and the driver sent Chris an email.

“He went on to say ‘I’ve got a list of why the Anthem is an amazing truck and the best truck Mack has ever built,’ but how he thinks we could make it the greatest truck ever built,” Zona said. “He sent me a list of stuff, and I passed it on to the engineering guys. We do that all the time.”

Film crews set up equipment in the back of a SUV to get action shots of a Mack Anthem. (Photo by Tyson Fisher)

Full Tilt Logistics

I got a chance to tag along with Mack during a shooting of an episode in Reno, Nev., featuring Full Tilt Logistics. I’m not sure how Mack is going to present the story, but I found a good one while there.

Full Tilt has the opposite of a driver shortage problem. They have a list of drivers waiting to work for them. How can this be?

It’s pretty easy. Offer more money, top-notch equipment and be respectful of the drivers’ time, including time outside of work.

This lines up with what the Bureau of Labor Statistics report was attempting to convey. That is to say, a labor shortage is typically fixed with higher wages. Add in more benefits, and you may find a labor surplus, as is the case with Full Tilt.

Road Life: Season 2

Zona, Urmos and their crew have been across the nation shooting a lot of video. Season two of “Road Life” was shot from California to South Carolina, as far south as Florida and as far north as Yellowknife in Northwest Territories, Canada.

New episodes will be posted on RoadLife.tv beginning in June, with subsequent episodes posted periodically. You can also find Road Life on Amazon Prime and MackTrucks.com.

I also want to give a shout out to the filming crew:

  • Joshua Fox, camera operator.
  • Jeff Hartman, camera operator.
  • Sara Kaloudis, production coordinator.
  • Michael McQueen, sound mixer.
  • Zach Whiteside, camera operator.

Thanks for giving a glimpse behind the scenes at some big time production treatment of truckers who clearly don’t get enough time in the limelight for the right reasons.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.

Trinity Logistics