Marketing To Millennials: Just Go Wild

June 15, 2015

At Fast Horse, we’re lucky to work with some clients who are pretty fun. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of our clients are fun, funny and engaging people. We see it every day — in the emails and conference calls we share with them, in the little in-jokes that develop, in the well-wishes and hugs we exchange at the end of a project.

And, of course, the work we actually make often strikes a chord that’s not the same old campaign you’ve seen every day. On the whole, the work we get to do is order of magnitude funnier than your average law firm’s advertising.

Of course, it’s no secret that it’s harder every day to make a lasting impact on consumers when the dang media landscape is so — what’s the word? Media thinkers always say it’s “crowded,” or “loud,” or “busy.” But, to this casual observer, “busy” doesn’t even begin to describe the volume, frequency and intensity of the media blur these days. I’d more accurately call it “frenzied.”

So, allow me to be contrarian: When you’re competing in a frenzied market, why go subtle? Why go sincere or direct or “safe”? (I realize this kind of mentality in business leads to Ponzi schemes and stock-market collapses, but bear with me.) If you have to compete with frenzy, go crazy.

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And, to this 25-year-old guy who grew up with a strong vein of irony and detachment, there’s no smarter way to go crazy than to have Tim & Eric handle your creative. For the unfamiliar: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are two actors/directors/cultural visionaries and longtime best friends who have disturbed the borders of comedy for the past decade-plus. You either think they’re funny or not, so apologies if I lose you beyond this point.

Their breakthrough program was “Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” which aired on Adult Swim from 2007 to 2010. They’ve said in interviews that it was their interpretation of late-night public-access television, complete with inane segments, hapless and unschooled actors — and totally gonzo faux advertisements.

They’ve since moved on to other endeavors — live tours, spinoffs, specials, an actually-in-theaters movie and now a book. More importantly, they’ve moved from poking the edges of advertising culture to actually affecting it themselves by directing some of the most memorable commercials I’ve seen.

Their jump into commercial advertising started with 2007’s “A Vodka Movie,” in which Tim, Eric and beloved actor Zach Galifianakis were given a creative budget, with only one stipulation: mention Absolut Vodka somehow. Here’s “Part One,” which later spawned a “Part Two” and “Part Three,” and ultimately developed a strange and dark kind of narrative.

Here’s a recent commercial for GE, starring a magnificently coiffed Jeff Goldblum and some “unremarkable nobodies.”

And, of course, there’s the Totino’s commercial. Kudos to fellow Minneapolitans Zeus Jones for this piece of genius. Well, prepare yourselves. And headphones, people.

They also directed some pieces of a very memorable recent campaign by Old Spice. Here’s “Nightmare Face.” Men.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is: You’ll remember these commercials later today. You’ll remember them tomorrow. Maybe you’ll be driving home in three weeks and you’ll say to yourself, “We put up all this wicker, just for you.” And that’s what good advertising should do, even if it’s circular and confusing and doesn’t appeal to absolutely everyone.

If you have a creative budget and you’re planning a video campaign, consider divorcing it from traditional ideas of “effectiveness” and “respectability” and “best practices.” These ideas are getting antiquated, and frankly, my generation — and the one that’s coming up behind it — doesn’t care too much about messaging and traditional venues and larger campaign narratives. What catches us has to be flashier — and possibly less concretely grounded in reality.

If the success of ClickHole shows us anything, snake people are intimately aware of the humor to be found in the blur and flow of the unending media stream. Creating content like a Tim-and-Eric-style advertisement shows a brand’s “who cares” bona fides, which can create respect, loyalty — and possibly purchase intent.

After seeing the Totino’s commercial, I did indeed go out and buy a bag for the first time since I was in seventh grade. And if that’s not evidence of effectiveness, what is?