Butler Happily Takes Low Road

Taking inspiration from campy exploitation films, Butler, Shine & Stern has designed new TV spots that revel in gory visuals and lowbrow humor.

The $2 million campaign is for Comedy World, a San Francisco-based entertainment network whose 24-hour talk radio format—combining news, commentary and original programming, all with a humorous edge—can be picked up by AM stations nationwide.

The campaign is built around a fictitious radio executive named Jay Clark who is doomed to lose a body part every week his station drops in the ratings. (As an inside joke, Clark is named for one of Comedy World’s board members.)

Mike Shine, partner and creative director at the the Sausalito, Calif., agency, said the drab set was based on his father’s old office in Syracuse, N.Y., which had dark brown paneling and no windows.

“We figured [people] could identify with a guy who had naive ambitions to make a radio station No. 1,” he said. “We presented several campaigns and [the client] basically said everything stunk except this one.”

In one spot, Clark has a large bandage on the side of his head as a dog is seen pulling his ear from a trash can. The final spot shows Clark in a hospital bed, unable to speak.

The shop won the account last summer. “There were a few marketing people who looked at our reel and took us to meet the CEO,” Shine said. “He saw what he wanted. That was basically the pitch right there.”

The spots are testing in Syracuse, N.Y., and Spokane, Wash., where Comedy World is broadcasting. They will roll out as the company expands.

Shine said the decision to use material likely to offend some viewers was calculated. Aside from luring those who enjoy the outrageous, the pros pect of having the spots banned here and there was seen as a good way to get extra publicity. Indeed, Shine said the spot where Clark loses his “left nut” was designed to push the envelope.

“That was part of the plan and the appeal. … Their target audience really enjoys humor like that,” he said.