Cliff Freeman Uses Animals In Offbeat Cyberian Spots
Cliff Freeman and Partners’ affinity for the animal kingdom has reached wacky–some may even say sadistic–proportions in its first branding effort for Cyberian Outpost, a leading online retailer of computer products.
The New York-based shop drew attention with a 1996 spot for Cherry Coke in which a young man runs amok in a department store astride an ostrich. This time around, with the blessing of the Humane Society, the agency has developed a campaign featuring gerbils being fired from a cannon and a pack of wolves laying waste to an innocent suburban ritual.
“The assignment was to find a way to get people to remember the name of the company and create a buzz,” says Eric Silver, the agency’s creative director on the Cyberian campaign. “We were tentative before presenting, but the client loved the work for the same reason we did: It cuts through the clutter.”
How? By being decidedly offbeat. Each commercial in the three-spot campaign, which sources estimate is being supported with a $10-15 million media budget, opens with an Alistair Cooke-ish narrator in a leather chair. In a rich baritone, he announces, “This is a commercial for Outpost.com. We wanted people to remember our name: Outpost.com.”
In one execution breaking this week, the narrator informs viewers that Outpost.com has enlisted the help of a local high-school marching band. The spot then cuts to the musicians spelling out the company’s name. The narrator continues: “To help ensure you remember our name next we decided to release a pack of wolverines.” The action cuts back to the band members, but this time they’re scurrying from hungry wolves. The spot then flashes the message, “Send complaints to Outpost.com” and ends with the tagline, “The place to buy computer stuff on the Internet.”
In the gerbil spot, which broke last week, the camera opens on a cement wall with “Outpost.com” emblazoned on it. The furry rodents are then shot out of a cannon aimed at a hole in one of the letters. On the third attempt, a gerbil flies through the wall.
Silver says fake gerbils were shot out of the cannon and that the real animals were dropped to the ground from a small height. The Humane Society representatives, according to Silver, furiously took notes during the shoot. Ever the realist, he acknowledges that certain animal rights groups may not share the agency’s twisted sense of humor.
Youngsters at a daycare center are cast as the victims in a third execution, which also breaks this week. A tattoo artist continues Cyberian’s branding efforts by inscribing the kids’ foreheads with the company logo–reducing the 6-year-olds to tears.
Silver credits Cyberian chief executive Darryl Peck with having the fortitude to sign off on the spots, which will run on cable and spot TV. “These commercials speak directly to Darryl Peck’s courage,” praises Silver. “The approach to the advertising mirrors the way he built his company.” In fact, the Kent, Conn.-based firm’s rapid sales growth recently spurred a successful initial public offering.
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