Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Peddling Death

Not long ago, I ran into my former boss and friend Rob Siltanen. We got around to talking shop and he reminded of something he had told me years ago, "always try a spokesman."

When coming up with campaign ideas there are many avenues to go down, a spokesperson, Rob said, was the best.

When you create a spokesperson you are creating intellectual property. It's tangible. And he should know. He gave birth to Baby Bob, who made his debut for FreeInternet.com. The commercials, with the adorable talking baby, became so popular CBS bought the character and turned it into a TV show.

And Rob started receiving residuals.
Mailbox money, the best kind of money.

For years, I have tried to heed Siltanen's sage advice. And for years my spokespeople have never got past the stage of infancy.

Last week while cleaning out my files and making room for the 2014 tax paperwork, I found some work John Shirley and I had pitched for Mass Mutual Life Insurance. It was a spokesperson campaign.

We cleverly called it the Salesman of Death campaign.

It featured a pitchman (Mr. Bean was our prototype) who would travel the country and remind folks they were going to die. And how now would be a good time to consider Life Insurance, Long Term disability and a host of other end-of-life financial products.

John would be the first to tell you the art direction was very rough. This is just first blush material for internal meetings kind of stuff. But you get the idea.

We loved the notion of a man selling Life Insurance against the backdrop of mortality. Of course every campaign needs a manifesto, I actually wrote 5 for this one.

This was my fav:

This was also rough, and upon second inspection, has a few typos and is tad over-written. But as I mentioned it was internal. And when agencies give you two days to crack a brief, this is what happens.

We all have campaigns we wish could have made it. The Salesman of Death will remain one of my favorites. It certainly would have been more memorable than what Mass Mutual decided to put on the air. Which for the life of me, I can't remember.

I bring all this up because last week, it happened again. I can't discuss the details suffice to say my partner John Figone and I had come up with a pretty unique spokescritter that we had a lot of heart for. 

Like Baby Bob, it could have evolved into an intellectual property. Maybe even a TV show. And then I could sit on my fat ass and collect residual checks.

But that didn't happen. That's never the way it happens.

The idea was killed.

Or, to quote another headline from the Salesman of Death campaign.

"Died unexpectedly." Now there's an oxymoron.

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