You may have seen one of Whit Hiler's fliers. Perhaps it invited you to a meet-up that promised a re-creation of scenes from The Human Centipede. ("Just for fun. Guys only.") Maybe it offered masturbation lessons ("I don't want you to make the same mistakes I've made!") or the services of an "Asian impersonator." Or perhaps it made you aware of the Rainbow Bus Club, which meets in back of a Starbucks and is "strictly for straight men that wanna get together with other straight men and pretend to be gay for an hour or so."
Hiler's fliers are fake, but people have been fooled by them. Many of them have also made Reddit's front page, which it turns out was pretty much Hiler's main goal.
Hiler, who works at Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions in Lexington, Ky., has been involved in other rogue projects, including the recent "Kentucky kicks ass" tourism effort. He spoke with AdFreak about the fliers, where he got his loony ideas, and what he wanted to accomplish with his creations.
When did you first have the idea to create these fake fliers? What about fliers seems ripe for parody?
A little over a year ago I made it my mission to try and figure out Reddit, to get some of that hot Internet action. If you're new to Reddit, it's kind of a tough nut to crack. Specifically, I wanted to figure out how to create content that rises to the top and eventually lands on the front page. So my goal was to make the front page. Through a little experimentation, the fake fliers ended up becoming my weapon of choice.
Why fliers? Fliers are really simple. Anyone can make them. You don't even need a computer. I'm not a designer. I could make them myself. It's not hard to pick the worst fonts and drop and drag strange images.
As far as sharable content goes, images work the best and are easiest to consume. Plus, images of fliers have already proven to be popular on the Internet. Did you ever see the Lionel Richie "Is it me you're looking for?" flier?
There's already a lot of strange fliers out there. Craigslist ads, too. So they are believable.
You certainly jumped right in with the Human Centipede flier. Were you looking to shock people, or just amuse them? Did you assume people might think it was real?
I knew the Internet already had a fixation with the Human Centipede. Like an event flier, the movie was about bringing people together. I also knew Reddit loved really weird stuff. For some strange reason, I got the idea to put together this sick-minded flier for a Human Centipede Meet-Up, asking people to "meet at noon to roshambo for positions."
The goal was to both shock and amuse. I figured if any place got a kick out of it, it would be Reddit. We're talking about the Internet here, so I really didn't assume anything. Just hoped for the best.
From this idea, another buddy and myself created a infographic called the Human Centipede of Advertising, which we dropped last Halloween. The possibilities with the Human Centipede are endless.
The Rainbow Bus Club flier might be your most successful. Where did you get the ridiculous idea for that one?
The Human Centipede Meet-Up got me hooked. It did well, but it didn't make the [Reddit] front page. I needed something a little hotter. The initial idea for the Rainbow Bus Club came years ago at a friend's house. It started as a big joke—the idea of straight guys getting together, sitting around and pretending to be gay. Anytime I'd mention it to someone, they'd laugh their ass off. Guys already do this (visit a fraternity). It just needed an official name. I just never did anything with it. Reddit seemed like the perfect home for the Rainbow Bus Club. It's by far been the most successful, hitting the front page twice. Tosh.0, too.
Is it true that people actually showed up for that event?
A girl I work with was friends with a girl who works at the Starbucks where the meeting was set to go down. Apparently the phone was ringing off the hook about the Rainbow Bus Club. I couldn't believe it. In the end, a group of guys wearing tank tops that said "Dudes" on them showed up. I guess they hung out and snapped a few photos. They even got a little press.
After the jump: The Asian impersonator and masturbation lessons
Tell us about the two impersonator fliers. Those are pretty confounding as well. Who would possibly need services like that?
One morning I read this ridiculous article on Complex magazine around the 10 most racist tweets against Asians from people that had seen the new Red Dawn movie over the weekend. For some strange reason, I thought it would be funny if an actual Asian guy marketed himself as an Asian impersonator. I found a stock photo of an Asian guy and made the flier. It hit the front page, too. [It got 750,000 views in 24 hours.]
I'm not sure who would possibly need services like that. I do know I invented that job. Hopefully it's making someone some money.
Finally, you've got the flier for masturbation lessons. Did anyone show up for that class? And why was that flier removed from Reddit?
No one showed up. I blacked out the location prior to putting it on Reddit. It was for a local gym, and I felt bad having an actual location listed. I bet someone would have shown up, though. No matter how strange the offering is, someone will always show up ready to party.
I'm not sure why it was removed from Reddit. I think it was just too hot for the Internet. Too absurd for even Reddit.
A lot of real fliers out there are very strange. What is it about them that's so oddly compelling? There's a sadness to them, isn't there?
There are some strange fliers out there. Just people looking to connect with other like-minded people. I'm not sure there's a sadness to them, except for the lost dog and missing person fliers. Those are really sad.
You've got a new project in the works. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
I've always got side projects in the works—typically several side-projects at a time. The best thing about creative side projects is there are no rules. I can do whatever I want, get as weird and as punk rock as I want. So yes, I've got a few things in the works.
I always like to keep things on the down low until I launch. It's too easy to get ripped off. You gotta protect your ideas.
We are still working to rebrand Kentucky. That's one big ongoing project we've been working on with Kentucky for Kentucky. That's been a lot of fun.