Actors Need Some Backstory To Grab Onto

Actors Need Some Backstory To Grab Onto

    Being an Adman, I’ve been involved with something we in the trade call commercials or spots (let me know if this is getting too ‘insider’).

    One of the keys to creating a successful spot is casting, the hiring of actors to pretend they are speaking the words you’ve put in their mouths. To help actors, I write extensive casting specs so the person knows the backstory of the character and can deliver a believable performance that won’t suck.        

    Here are the casting specs for a spot we did recently. Feel the characters leap to glorious life!     

    OVERVIEW:  This spot is about people and their seemingly never-ending need to eat food (preferably good food that has not been poisoned and will pass through the bowels gently). As such, we should cast real people, with a strong bias toward people with mouths so they can appear to eat food. The ability to act like you’re eating food is a must!     

    OUR CAST:     

    Marcie––African American girl, age 8 or so. She has an innate sense of style and a passion for dusting furniture. Many of her friends feel she may be a little too attached to Swiffer cloths, but Beth Ann assures them she only “likes them” for light dusting duty.     

    Beth Ann–– Caucasian girl, age 8 or so. She is precocious, has an exceptional vocabulary and loves her family even though certain members are plotting against her. She’s something else!     

    Gammy–– African American woman, age 65-70. She is a passionate cook and a compassionate soul who sees the good in all people (except Ben Stiller, who she thinks is “pretty stuck on himself”). Gammy is all about the love of food, her family and the semi-annual sales at Linen & Things (where she has acquired a very impressive collection of “things” and some cheap towels and threadbare dishrags).     

    Susan–– An African American woman, age 35 or so. She is Marcie’s mother and Gammy’s daughter. She is a kind woman, warm, caring and not as tall as she looks. She is proud of her daughter and somewhat fearful of her mother ever since ‘the potato salad incident.’ She wishes she were better with numbers, but what can you do– you’ve either got the ‘number gene’ or you don’t. What are the odds she’d be born with it? Susan will never know, she’s horrible with numbers.     

    Robert–– African American man, age 35 or so. He is Marcie’s father. He loves action films, is a huge fan of James Patterson’s fiction and is quite adept at managing his minor bladder infection he’d rather not talk about.     

    Tracy–– Beth Ann’s mother, age 35 or so, who harbors some resentment that Beth Ann’s name is “Beth Ann” (she was named after her husband’s departed mother). Tracy wanted to call her daughter “Cinderella Sue Bethany” because she had never met anyone with that name. But, as Tracy is often fond of saying when she nips a cool cocktail, “Life is one miserable compromise and disappointment followed by another… and bitterness, rejection, agonizing pain and sorrow is your just  reward.”  She’s a ‘glass half full’ kind of gal!

    Ken–– Beth Ann’s father, age 40. He’s a gregarious sort, fond of quietly counting to 10,000 by prime numbers. He had a dog named Barney when he was a child. The dog was hit and killed by a garbage truck. Ken has hated garbage ever since and so refuses to throw anything out, including table scraps he’s saved for Barney.    

    Michael–– Caucasian boy, age 9. He is the brother of Beth Ann and coincidently, the son of Tracy and Ken. Michael is a quiet child making him the perfect companion on a trip to the library. He loves his parents but harbors some resentment toward his sister, ‘Miss Perfect Pants’, who he feels his parents show favoritism toward. Like on her birthday when she got a pony, a ride on a hot air balloon and a crisp $10,000 bill. On his birthday, he got the lid to a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a small length of mangled yarn and a pinky poke to the left eyeball.  

    That should about do it, actors. Enjoy your roles, become the character, live in the moment from moment to moment!   



    It’s the Super Bowl of advertising: advertising during the Super Bowl Game.

    This year, it cost a cool $3 million for your :30 of glory. Many paid but who got played? Here’s my blow-by-blow of winners and losers.

    The Bud Light “Budget Meeting” spot where the team is discussing ways to get on budget. There’s some iced down Bud Lights in the center of the table (just like there is in all of corporate America). A smart aleck dude mentions maybe not having Bud Light at meetings would be a way to get on budget. Cut to exterior building shot. The guy is thrown out the fourth story glass window (lovely broken glass effect). He says “It was just a joke.” Yes, yes it was.  The Drinkability campaign starts losing yardage early.

    In Audi’s spot we see car chases throughout the ages (another spot with breaking glass). Art direction is superb, various cars of various makes try to elude the bad guys, but still our hero’s in trouble. Finally, the hero comes to modern times and the new Audi A-6 with Turbo Charged engine. Va va vavoom! He can’t be caught in this baby. Progress is good. A gussying-up of classic tried and try car commercial. Hardly a creative tour de force but at least some top spin.

    In a McDonald’s Ronald McDonald House spot, a little girl swipes the pennies from her dad’s penny loafers and they go to McDonald’s, she drops her newfound two cents’ worth into the collection box for RMH and an announcer tells us of the good works it does. We learn her pappy’s a cancer survivor, making the little girl’s stealing from his loafers all the more shameful. I don’t like this little loafer thief. Does anyone do genuine heartfelt spots anymore?

    Pepsi has Bob Dylan and singing Dylan’s “Forever Young”. That’s one great anthem, oh yeah. The spot is littered with celebs of pop iconography (accidental pun): Gumby, Shrek, Belushi, Jack Black, Bruce Lee to name but a few. Cool song, cool cover by The spot has everything but Shia LeBeouf juggling bowling balls on a unicycle. The point of it all? Pepsi’s what the cool kids drink. It’s overkill. The song would have been enough, thank you very much.

    Doritos “Snow Globe” spot. An office goofball shows his pal his “crystal ball” that predicts free Doritos from the nearby Doritos vending machine (Stevie Wonder can see where this spot’s headed). He then flings the snow dome at the machine. Yee-ha, more breaking glass, FREE DORITOS! The man eats and blah blah we end up with a gag of a guy hurling the snow dome at his boss’s crotch. Really? A crotch gag? Even The Three Stooges would give this sophomoric humor slapstick mess a low score. I do, too. 

    The Bud Light spot with Conan O’Brian. Simple premise, Conan’s agent talks him into doing a cheesy Bud Light spot that will air “only in Sweden”… Conan accepts the boatload of money, does the ridiculous spot, and it ends up airing in the US, on the big screen of Times Square. Conan must live down the shame. Fun spot, good use of celebrity. Bud Light gains some ground.

    Toyota Venza. A copywriter discovers new swanky words in his thesaurus, mounts Mt. Presumptuous and pontificates. The art director finds all sorts of lame visual analogies from a dude’s artistic house to his new car, and an authoritative voiceover challenges us “are you Venza?” Uh, no, afraid not. Go back to Mt. Presumptuous, please.

    Bridgestone Tires has Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head driving down a curvy mountainous road. She cautions him all the way, backseat driving from the front seat. He stops suddenly for a herd of sheep in the road, her lips fly off and down a hill still yacking. She puts on some angry eyebrows. Gratuitous use of tubers.

    The Castrol Edge spot starts with monkeys working on a guy’s car (finally, someone uses lower form primates in advertising, thought I’d never see the day!). The man is wearing an air filter on his head like a crown and tells a pal “they’re grease monkeys.” Oh, it’s only going to go downhill from here, I think, and it does. The end gag line? “These are strange days.” Yep, strange someone decided this was worth $3 million of public humiliation.

    Doritos, round II. A man walking down the street discovers the amazing crunch power of his Doritos. He crunches the dress right off a beautiful woman walking down the street (there ought to be a law against things). He crunches an ATM and a flurry of bills shoot forth. An angry cop approaches, the man crunches the lawman and the cop turns into a small monkey in a big cop suit (hooray, a monkey, me so happy!). The man has now eaten all his Doritos and WAH WAH WAH, he gets hit by a bus. Cut to product shot. But wait, folks, the man’s not dead, no, he is comically on the windhield of the bus holding on for dear life. See, dead people can’t be seen in Doritos commercials. Pitiful, this.

    Budweiser has another Clydesdale tale to tell. In this one, a Clydesdale falls in love with a circus horse. They are separated. The Clydesdale leaves his stable and travels clear across the country to get her as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” plays. Finally, our Cylde takes his beau away, but first she dumps her rider on her butt during a performance. The horses gallop away from the circus. Awww, be still my heart. End gag:  one clown says to another, “I didn’t know Daisy was dating.” Nice line, but a long way to get to it, and not worth the miles.

    G has a spot with ominous and moody black and white shots of with all sorts of known and known-by-hipsters celebs talking about G. Nothing new here except the desperate try for coolness. No thanks, no G for me. features the story of David Abernathy. An amazing story of an amazing man who can do heart operations with a ballpoint pen and other such wondrous things, but needs help buying a car so turns to O.K., at least the whiff of an idea, nicely executed. I’ll bite.

    Then we have the infamous “1 Second” Miller High Life spot. Actually, it was four seconds. The one second was spent with the High Life delivery guy screaming “Miller High Life” in front of a display of the stuff. Big points for the idea of a one second spot and all the buzz it got. Brilliant P.R. But geez, I wanted a little more story…

    Various car manufacturer’s around the world are angry about Hyundai winning Car of The Year. We’ve seen this idea before but the copy has a fresh turn: “at least now they know how to pronounce our name.” Well produced, smart idea, good take. Nice.

    E-Trade has the talking babies. Oh, we’ve come a long way with talking baby technology and as much as I don’t want to like this stuff, I’ve got to give it props for fresh writing and actually working to make the product have some part of the message.

    Another Bud Light Drinkability spot features a couple pals at a ski lodge. One of the guys uses their magic scoreboard technique whereby what he draws affects people. He draws a ramp, a skier jumps. He draws a tree, a skier wipes out. Oh, yeah, the technique works hard to bring some levity to the premise supporting the “drinkability” of Bud Light. Nope.

    H&R Block has the Grim Reaper going back to his accountant hacked off because the number man missed some deductions and Mr. Death paid more. He learned this by going to H&R Block. I’m a sucker for Grim Reaper spots, so I give it a nod. The end kicker is nice. Grim Reaper wants his parking validated. Silly death!

   Teleflora runs a spot where a woman receives some boxed  flowers and her coworkers tell her all the awful things that boxed flowers mean. Huh? Somehow flowers in a box are bad and insulting so you’ve got to go Teleflora for delivered in a vase flowers?! Afraid I’m not buying this stretch at all, even if it came from research.  Any takers?

   Chester the Cheetah is sitting with a cool woman at an outside cafe. She’s enjoying some Cheetos. At the next table an obnoxious woman is spreading her obnoxious poison to the world. The cool woman consults Chester, he nods approval, she tosses some Cheetos on the ground by the obnoxious woman and a flock of dirty pigeons from across the street fly over to decorate the obnoxious woman. A fresh gag, and Chester does look pretty cool. O.K., go to the head of snack products.

   Go Daddy has a college dude at his computer. His pals come over and ask what he’s doing. Well, he’s college watching Danica Patrick take a shower because of some power Go Daddy gave him. The pals ask him to throw in the German secretary “from the Dean’s office” to take a shower, too. Oh, you naughty boys. Go Daddy is sooooo bad. I do mean bad, too.

   Pepsi Max. A series of guys get dealt major doses of pain, electrocution, pratfalls and respond with “I’m good.” Voiceover tells us men can take all forms of pain except for Diet Cola, until now… Pepsi Max. Funny spot, borrowed interest pays off in a big way. Pepsi got their money’s worth on this one, time honored execution courtesy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but very well done. One of the best spots all night.

   Pedigree Adoption Drive. A rhino, ostrich, warthog and bull make lousy pets as we see. We are asked maybe we should get a dog. Again, borrowed interest pays handsome dividends. Simple, fresh, nice, relevant. Head to the pound, people!

   Budweiser. The guy who drives the Clydesdale wagon tosses a stick for his dalmatian to fetch. The dog does it quickly. A jealous Clydesdale looks on, then gallops down the road and brings back the large limb of a tree and drops it at his master’s feet. The man says, “Showoff.” Indeed. Not a hall of fame Clydesdale moment. Can someone please teach theses old horses some new tricks?

   SoBe Lifewater. Athletes dance a goofy dance, animated lizards dance, they bump each other and get all West Side Story, violence ensues, reptiles fly. Enough said. Hateful. Truly, truly hateful. 

   Sprint roadie spot. Roadies handle all aspects of a flight from luggage handling to piloting. Their Sprint talkies do the trick for instant communication. Take off time, here’s a light show with pyrotechnics down the runway. Amusing but relatively anemic.

   NFL ware or NFL channel or whatever something NFL-branded. Athlete runs through different scenes throughout the year, his NFL garb changes, he ends approaching the stadium tunnel to the  gridiron in full uniform. Yawn.

   Toyota Tundra tugs 10,000 pounds up  a metal mountain set afire. No problem, Tundra’s got the cheese to do the deed. Tough truck. There apparently is no stopping the stuff truck adfolks must put their trucks through to prove the vehicles are really, really, REALLY tough. What next? Driving through this economic recovery?

   Priceline. I didn’t care for the William Shatner “Negotiator” campaign when it first came out, but it keeps getting better and better and now I feel the fool. This spot is a gem. A man hears from his wife that they can’t afford a vacation. But wait, the man gets a direct feed in his ear from Sir William who happens to be parked in a van outside the house. Capt. Kirk informs the man what to say to his wife to talk her into the trip with Priceline. He feeds him the lines in his earpiece. The gag? Our man sounds just like Bill Shatner as he relays the info from Shatner’s mouth to his wife’s ears. Simple, effective, fun. 

   Carlos Boozer takes little kids on a web spendfest on Some fresh dialogue, but lame turn to Olympic gold medal and 20 years of dedication to earn it. Pretty forced, the well-worn pro athlete and little kid routine.

   Universal Orlando Resort. A little kid in hero garb approaches his adult self (or is it his kooky runaway son?) and they stare at one another. Message– your inner hero is calling you to Universal for fun and a special deal. My inner hero wasn’t touched.

   LMAO for NBC and a flock of other clever NBC spots, including a big budget Heroes pimpfest. Conan promos– hey, NBC self-promos were some of the best spots on the show. Nice work NBC.

   Best Buy testimonial spot. Come on. Not ready for prime time. Save your $3 million next year if this is all you’ve got.

   In a Coca-Cola spot we see real people using technological devices as they turn into avatars.  A young dude walks down the street. He enters a small diner filled with whacky avatars. Our dude orders a bottle of Coke, and a monster avatar sitting next to him reaches for the bottle, touches it and turns into an attractive young woman. He offers her the bottle, wait, she has her own bottle of Coke delivered by the waiter. They sip and smile. No copy, but a pretty compelling message. Coke helps make human connections. A big, simple idea in a techno-crazed world. Me likey a lot. Pretty amazing to have a fresh take on the world’s most famous brand.

   Bridgestone. Some space explorers take their space craft vehicle across the terrain of a planet as hip hop music blares. They get out, dance, collect samples. They return to see their vehicle on cinder blocks. Their Bridgestone tires have been stolen.  Announcer, “For drivers who want to get the most out of their cars, it’s Bridgestone or nothing.” Simple idea. Nice. I liked this better than celeb Potato Heads.

   Denny’s has mobsters in a booth talking about Benny “who’s talked.” Well, he’s gonna be taken care of, declares the head man as a waitress comes in and adorns his pancakes with a smiling face of whipped cream. Message: Denny’s thinks it’s time America takes breakfast seriously– so they’re offering a free Grand Slam breakfast on Tuesday. I suspect you’ll see mobs at Denny’s (bad pun, I know). Terrific idea and execution of a business proposition.

   In a spot a fat cat is seen relaxing beneath his lavish office and the mounted moose head on the wall. Camera passes through wall, we see a guy working beneath the back half of the moose all to get the gag “need a new job”… A long way to go, but I suspect it’ll score well. Not so much for me.

   In a Budweiser spot, we open in Scotland, 1933, as we see a Clydesdale on the countryside. A Scottish voice narrates the tale “of my grandfather.” The Clydesdale comes over to America, has a hard time finding the right job (hmm, did he ever think of mounting his head on the wall– no wait, that’s the moose in the spot above). The horse is not good at helping lift pianos for a mover, he’s horrible at horse racing, isn’t happy being decorated with flowers and pulling a carriage ,but wait– he sees the Budweiser Clydesdale wagon and runs off to join the team and now we go to modern day and his grandson announces he is Jake and is proud to be on the Budweiser team he loves this country and my goodness, did we have to travel 75 years for this lame commercial? delivers a Hail Mary spot detailing all the indicators of a bad job: you hate going to work (a woman screams in her car), no one respects you (a boss says “Hey dummy”), you dream of being someplace else (riding a dolphin), you cry constantly, you daydream of punching small animals (a koala with glasses no less), etc… well, it’s time you looked into A funny spot, no moose necessary. Expect watercooler buzz at the job you love, or the one you hate.

   Another Coke spot has big budget CGI as the insect world takes hold of an unopened bottle of the brown elixer from a sleeping man apparently on a solo picnic. A ladybug, grasshoppers, bees, dragonflies, moths, they’re all in on the caper and yes, they get their sugar fix. It’s one of those spots trying for magic. It’s no Macy’s Day balloons though.

   Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes goes a long way to have Tony the Tiger by a ballfield. The message, we’ll help you build and maintain sports fields for kids. Hmm, sugary cereal does good deeds. I don’t feel all that special. Sorry, Tony, still love you, dude, but Chester the Cheetah’s the new cool for school…

   NFL Super Stories. A long way to go. I didn’t much care about it.

   Heineken. The green bottle tells us to drink responsibly in a stylish and decidedly unhip way. John Turturro is tasked with delivering this message in desperate attempt at cool. Trying way too hard, people.

   Toyota Camry has a pretty woman who tells us “reliability is the new cool.”  Not buying it.

   Hyundai has a huge idea. Buy one, if you lose your job in less than a year, Hyundai will take it back with no impact on your credit. Smart marketing isn’t just clever ads, it’s clever business ideas. This one’s huge. 

   Coke Zero does the full-on spoof of the classic Mean Joe Green spot (starring Steeler Troy Polamalu) of dejected athlete in the tunnel and cute kid offering his beverage– but the Coca-Cola brand mangers break it up because “they stole our taste, but they are not stealing our commercials!”  The end gag is the player rips the brand manager’s white shirt off him to toss to the kid who forked over his bottle. One-upping pop culture’s bound to get buzz. This campaign continue its smart approach.

   Ed McMahon (billed as “TV Personality”) shills for MC Hammer helps him. Between the two of them, they have a lot of gold they’ll be selling. The kicker is Ed getting misty-eyed with the thought of parting of his gold toilet. Faded celebrity is never pretty, especially when it mocks itself. At least now we know Ed is still alive…

   Vizio runs a simple spot of nothing but titles and attitudinal copy. Not much on the creative front, but I suspect the mission is accomplished. Vizio is branded as the good “cheap” TV. Good work, people.

   Taco Bell. A man meets a girl at a party, she suggest he call sometime, shazam, he calls seconds later, has dinner (from Taco Bell) and introduces her to his parents. Creepy stalker overtones in a mexi-wrapper. Uh, no thanks.

   G.E. spends a buttload to buy “If I Only Had A Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz” and has it sung by a creature created from a power grid that looks like the scarecrow but is made of wires and metal (dressed a little too much like the Tin Man methinks–– confusing). The message is GE Smart Grid Technology saves energy. A lot of money and hoopla to get that message out. If only it had a heart, too.

   Hulu employs Alec Baldwin in a fun way to extol the virtues of this techno-wonder that brings entertainment that turns your brain to goo. But for some reason, Alec is an alien. We don’t need that plot twist. Why can’t Hulu just be goo-inducing for the brain and that’s plenty enough with Alex Baldwin in the lead. It’s like putting frosting on top of icing.

   Pepsi dumps a ton of money to funny talent from SNL for their franchise spoof MacGyver, MacGruber. Yeah, it’s fun, but why do so many Super Bowl spots have to vampire celebs and now entire properties from elsewhere? Oh, the postmodern ironic world just doesn’t seem to create much new anymore…

   Bud Light Lime  has a dude carrying a six pack of the stuff through winter scenes and magically transforming them into warm scenes. I believe this idea was done before in the early 90’s. Penalty flag.

   Go Daddy goes for the long ball with Danica Patrick and a couple other busty beauties in a courtroom setting accused of “enhancing”. Yes, Danica confesses, she has enhanced– with Go Daddy domain name and sites. A busty woman wants to show her enhancements and clutches her shirt to open it. Can you say lame”? Oh, Go Daddy, always so naughty. Take a cold shower, calm down, fella.

   That’s it. All in all, a pretty below average showing. Was there a breakout spot? I don’t think so. Some great marketing ideas–– Hyundai, Denny’s come to mind. Overall, the disappointing thing is how advertising has come to lean on pop culture to cast a shadow on the products. Whatever happened to finding a product benefit and bringing it forward in a compelling, creative way?

   Oh well. Now I’m going to read the newspapers to see what spots the public liked and probably see my tastes are out of touch.

   But at least Pittsburgh won, just as I predicted.


    Every day is some sort of holiday. If it isn’t a real holiday, it’s a Hallmark-created holiday or some association-created obscure holiday.

This game wont do much for your self esteem

This game won't do much for your self esteem

To celebrate all the obscure holidays out there, the scientists at Ames Scullin O’Haire Holiday Research Laboratories have created one of the most challenging and difficult games ever placed on the worldwide interwebs. Simply go to the website listed below and prepare to get humiliated and shamed.

    If you get three answers in a row right, you’re pretty good. Six in a row is pretty incredible. Ten correct answers in a row is epic and you deserve rose petals tossed at your feet and angels flying in circles around your noggin.

    But more than likely, your performance will be crap and you’ll take up residency in Suckville. The game is tough. Are you tough enough to play? You’ve got 365 chances for dominance. Or not. We’re thinking not.

    Go here for your shaming:

   After your pain, challenge your friends to play. Bringing others down does have its therapeutic benefits. Good luck, this is your lucky day–– whatever day it is.

   Our agency recently created an interesting campaign for the National Blues Foundation in Memphis (including selling Robert Johnson’s soul on e-Bay– some Frenchman bought it for $80, a bargain). I had little to do with any of the work, except for being smart enough to hire talented people. This stuff is definitely lint worth collecting. To see the full magilla of coolness, catch a ride to


Strange but true

A first-- ad characters get a 'Playboy' cover and pictorial

    Sixteen years ago, five scantily-clad women rode into the American consciousness and became lightning rods for political correctness. I am proud to say I had a hand in creating these advertising icons; the famous, the infamous Old Milwaukee Beer Swedish Bikini Team.

     What began as a joke ended as a joke. The SBT died in peace. I regret we never got the chance to properly bury these vixens of beerdom. This is the story of what could have been.

     In 1991, I was a group creative director at Hal Riney & Partners/San Francisco working on the Old Milwaukee account. The clients said they wanted a new campaign to appeal to  young beer drinkers. They were open to fresh ideas for changing their long-running campaign as long as we kept the equities of said campaign:

            l. Appeal to blue collar men

            2. Feature outdoor activities

            3. Maintain high energy

            5. Keep the slogan “It doesn’t get any better than this…”

            6. Be fun

    Exhaustive research was conducted indicating young men like women, rock ‘n roll and partying/drinking lots and lots of beer. Thank goodness for research.

    The premise of the Swedish Bikini Team campaign was to pick-up the action where the previous Old Milwaukee spots ended: a gathering of guys toasting the moment, saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this…” but then we’d show how it did indeed get better.

    It got better with the tried and true trappings one found in any dumb beer commercial at that time: with the addition of rock ‘n roll, sexy women who have an aversion to fabric, food, and fun, fun, fun.  Your basic youth fantasy.

    Here’s a taste of the SBT:  

     The campaign was a spoof of all beer advertising, even Old Milwaukee’s. The Swedish Bikini Team was a Monty Pythonesque notion: five women who magically appear in beer spots. They were a send-up of beer commercial babes. They were a running joke, the only constant in the campaign.

    The campaign was a blockbuster from the moment it hit the airwaves. It was written up in TV Guide as “this year’s Energizer Bunny.” The phrase ‘Swedish Bikini Team’ was used by Leno and Letterman in monologues, the Team appeared on “Married With Children”–– twice, and wonder of wonder, the women who played the Team agreed to do a pictorial for Playboy appearing sans uniforms. Imagine seeing a figment of your imagination on the cover of Playboy. It was surreal.

    But fame soon turned to infamy. The Stroh Brewing Company was hit with a sexual harassment suit. The female attorney made the case the SBT advertising promoted an ‘atmosphere that encouraged sexual harassment.’  It was the year of the Kennedy rape trial and the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Justice hearing, with randy action accusations made by Anita Hill. The media had a sexy new story to turn its spotlights on.

    Soon the SBT came to represent the evil that lurks in all men’s loins. Maury Povich and other talk show pundits jumped on the bandwagon and took the moral high road against the SBT. These five women now represented Satan and all that is evil in the world. Other brewers  vowed no more sex (in new spots, men would ogle beautiful women in slinky dresses that rode high on thighs–– but no sexist swimwear!).

    In the thick of the controversy, I even got a call from a woman in Michigan upset because the Bikini Team members were from Sweden. “What’s wrong with American women?” she asked. “There’s plenty of beautiful women in this country!”

    Now we were getting knocked for being unpatriotic.

    Of course, the clients became concerned. While it was great to have buzz, it was awful to have notoriety. We proposed a final spot to make lemonade of the lemons we’d been pelted with.

    This last spot would be a :60 opus on the Super Bowl to properly bury the Swedish Bikini Team while fanning the flames of publicity. It would have guys gathered around a campfire by a stream. One man would raise his can of Old Milwaukee and say, “Guys, it doesn’t get any better than this.” Then, an announcer would tell us how it could get better. A trout jumps from the stream into a frying pan over the campfire. Then the announcer would say, “And when the Swedish Bikini Team bungee corded into camp… “ but nothing would happen. Suddenly, the commercial director would barge into the scene demanding to know where the Team was. A production assistant appears holding bikinis and blonde wigs and shrugs. The director slumps down and sobs into a wig saying, “They’ll never work in this town again!” 

    The announcer speaks again: “And so, the Swedish Bikini Team, America’s favorite import, was never heard from again.” Cut to a scene of a frozen tundra at dusk. A super reads Somewhere in Sweden. The camera rolls across the tundra toward a cabin in the horizon. Rock music plays louder and louder the closer the camera gets to the cabin. The announcer says, Although legend has it on cold nights out on the Swedish tundra, you can still hear the call of the wild.” The camera zooms in on a window where a shade is drawn and a silhouette of the SBT dancing appears. The spot ends with an Old Milwaukee logo and “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

    It would have been big. We even envisioned a promotional campaign themed “Whatever happened to the Swedish Bikini Team?”

    But none of it came to pass. The client was nervous and pulled the plug. Instead, a new campaign was rolled out and the Swedish Bikini Team joined Mr. Whipple and Josephine the Plumber in the unemployment line for advertising icons. Boo hoo.

    A few years back, Ad Age ran a survey on the most popular beer campaigns of all time. Amazingly, the Swedish Bikini Team came in second place, behind the first place Jocks campaign for Miller Lite in the 70’s and 80’s. Jocks ran for ten years and used a variety of celebrities and sports heroes. The SBT ran for seven months and used a bunch of unknown women who wore bad wigs and fairly conservative bikinis.

    I suspect the campaign will eventually be immortalized as an answer in Trivial Pursuit, if it isn’t already. And for creating an ad campaign, I suppose it doesn’t get any better than that.

    If you’re the CMO of a beer account, I’d love another at bat. Swimwear optional.

Job hunting is not for the timid.

Job hunting is not for the timid.


     (Why spend a fortune going to some university, beauty college or ad school? Here’s everything you need to know about getting a great job in advertising. Kindly make your tuition checks payable to Patrick Scullin.)

     Next to dying a slow, painful, miserable death while “MacArthur Park” is playing on the radio, hunting for a job has to be one of the most traumatic events we humans ever face.

      Because changing jobs is always frightening, let’s discuss the stages of job hunting in as intellectual a fashion as we can muster on short notice.

      Stage one: “I’ve got to get out of this hellhole.”

      How can you tell you’re in a go-nowhere job? Be on the lookout for little signals, like a boss who continually tells you, “You’re in a go-nowhere job, pal, and as long as I’m in charge, I’ll see to it your genius is squashed like a fat mosquito hitting a ‘67 Buick going 120 mph!”

      Or, a representative from local Lumberjack’s Union who pleads with you to stop generating ideas. “For God’s sake, man,” he says with tears welling-up in his eyes, “how many more Foamcore trees must we senselessly slaughter before you’ll quit this madness? Can’t you see, you numbskull, you’re in a go-nowhere job?”

      Whatever drives you to the conclusion it’s time to go, it’s time to get on to stage two of the job hunt: “Getting the ol’ book out and about.”

      When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter if you’re Lee Clow or Joe Blow, we all live and die by our work. Of course, Clow’s got the better reel, but he can’t touch Blow’s print or flash banners work, no sir.

Yours? Mine? Ours.

Yours? Mine? Ours.

 The best way to put together a terrific portfolio is to collect samples of the very best work. Conservative people believe the work should be restricted only to those pieces that you yourself actually created, while the more liberal approach embraces the idea that anything created by one of your own species is fair game for inclusion into your book. Whatever. The main thing is to put together items that can fit into a portfolio case (which generally restricts the inclusion of actual-size billboard samples).

      Many job hunters wonder if they should have headhunters working on their behalf? Yes, by all means! How else can you find out about those incredible opportunities with “the next Fallon” (which happens to be in Texarkana of all places) or “the great creative revolution happening over at Lackluster, Mediocrity & Snores.”

      Do whatever it takes to get your book seen by whomever, whenever in wherever. As they say in the penguin exhibit at Hank’s Appliance Repair Shop, ‘You can’t win the lottery if you don’t have a ticket–– preferably the winning ticket.’

     Once the potential agency has seen your book, they’ll want to see the person who owns it. Which brings us to stage three of snagging the big job: “The Meet & Greet.”

     Most creative people despise interviewing because it generally involves answering tough questions like: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years, and if you are a time traveller, please also give me the name of the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl and World Series Champs.” 

Who was known as ‘The Perky President’, and what was the name of his Secretary of Defense?”

“If two trains leave Chicago, one going 45 miles per hour and the other getting 2.45 miles per gallon of diesel fuel, which one will have the higher trade-in value?”

“What is your creative philosophy, and how does it mesh with the notion of existentialism?”

“You want coffee, a Coke, or something? Remember, there is only one right answer.”

      The secret to successful interviewing is to interview right back at them. When they ask a question, it’s no time to play defense–– fire one back. Here’s a sample from an interview I had back in ‘95:

     HE: So, Patrick, tell me about yourself.

     ME: Hey, where you’d get the cool picture of the ugly lady with the dorky kids? That’s hilarious, man!

     HE: This picture? That’s, uh, that’s a picture of my family.

     ME: Oh, uh, really? Well, aren’t they the handsome bunch! I don’t suppose you work many late nights, no, sirree––not with a great gaggle of good lookers like that to get home to…

      For some reason, I didn’t get that particular job. They were looking for someone with more package goods experience or something.

      Another interviewing secret is not to tell them about those voices that only you can hear. Because in a funny way, many people find it hard to believe pets and inanimate objects have chosen you as their primary communication vehicle. These people may be jealous and may not want to hear about the upcoming swift sword of justice you will soon be delivering at their command. Evil doers must pay!

      Providing they love you and your work, you’re on to stage four of scoring your dream ad job: “Negotiating the Package.”

     Me, I’m old fashioned, so I generally think paychecks are a nice perk. With a little clever negotiating on your part, maybe you can swing one of these “my time for your money” arrangements, meaning you’ll get paychecks on a fairly regular basis. Pretty sweet, eh?

     Some other niceties to negotiate are free electricity, Christmas day off, four tons of gold bouillon and an 18 pack of Knox Beef Bullion (it’s like drinking a steer). Usually you’ll get three out of the four; most employers are sticklers about working on Christmas day. Go ahead and take the job because even if it does turn out to be another hellhole, soon enough a headhunter will call telling you about nirvana in Texarkana.

      Happy hunting, and remember pets and inanimate objects are watching so be good.



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