How Interscope Teased Eminem’s New Album With Fake Pharma Ads That Were Almost Too Good

Ask your doctor about Revival

"At first, it was so quiet that we thought we went too straight with it," says Interscope's Dennis Dennehy.

If you come down with a bad case of Atrox Rithimus, you won’t need a doctor. This particular affliction isn’t deadly, though it could send club patrons screaming for the exit.

Atrox Rithimus, Latin for “bitter rhyme,” is, in fact, a made-up malady. It was injected into the mass-media corpus through a website, videos, billboards and toll-free phone messages a few months back by Deutsch and Interscope Records to promote Revival, the ninth studio album from rapper Eminem, which drops worldwide today.

Though infused with in-jokes and Easter egg references to Em, the campaign initially made no overt mention of the artist or album. Instead, it appeared to advertise Revival as a new brand of OTC or prescription medication.

Even so, it was clear from the copy and visuals that something (slim) shady was up.

“When you’re experiencing moderate to severe Atrox Rithimus, the unpredictability of a reaction is always on your mind,” says a spokesdude in the clip below, shot in the style of an erectile dysfunction ad, complete with a smiley couple hiking through the sunny outdoors. “That’s how I thought it had to be, until I found out I could do it differently—with Revival. I learned Revival can help get and keep that shit under control.”

Among the many nods to Eminem, note the backwards “E” in the brand name and the ad’s closing line, “I won’t waste my one shot,” an allusion to Em’s track “Lose Yourself.” (Oh, and the naughty-sounding medical name for the faux drug, “Canticum Remedium,” translates as “The Song Cure.”)

Viewers who visited the web address and called the toll-free number that popped up on screen encountered similar messaging.

The site informs folks that “in non-clinical studies, 100 percent of Revival patients experienced AR symptom relief, vs. 0 percent taking a bullshit placebo.” The potential side effects list uses snippets of Eminem lyrics (such as “highly combustible head”). Phone-line callers were told they’d “only get one shot to beat AR,” while a piano version of “I Need a Doctor” played in the background.

“There had been so much speculation about an album coming that we knew his fans keep an eye out for any clues,” says Dennis Dennehy, vp at Interscope, who developed the Revival concept with Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg. “And of course, drugs, especially of the pharmaceutical variety, are a theme that runs through so much of his work. The album name fit perfectly.”

Even so, it took a few weeks for the fever to spread.

“At first, it was so quiet that we thought we went too straight with it,” says Dennehy. “We did ad buys on SNL in a few markets. New York wouldn’t let us run it because they thought it was too on the money and misleading, which in retrospect is pretty great.”

The campaign blew up in late October, when Rosenberg posted a photo of the new Yelawolf CD on his Instagram. In the background of image was a Revival “drug” billboard, which made the front page of Eminem’s hometown newspaper, the Detroit Free Press.

As Marshall Mathers’ minions finally realized what was up and started sharing their conclusions on forums like Reddit, Revival’s true nature was revealed.

“We found there was a woman in Portland, Ore., who retweeted her post from the night it [the Revival ad] first aired on SNL,” Dennehy recalls. “She was literally the first person to get it [the true nature of the campaign]. Marshall made a surprise call to congratulate her, and it blew her mind. I wish we had it on video!”

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