It has been years since Gerry Graf worked at TBWA\Chiat\Day, but that doesn’t mean he can’t goof on an old boss there.
Yes, the inspiration for "Mr. Carroll," the cane-waving codger in Barton F. Graf 9000’s first TV spot for Kayak.com was none other than TBWA CEO Tom Carroll, one of Graf’s superiors from 2003 until 2008. When told of the gag, Carroll quipped that he wanted a residual. Graf happily obliged, mailing Carroll a dollar bill and his business card. Who says advertising isn’t fun anymore?
The 30-second spot is set in an office and features a 50-ish executive and female colleague. The dialogue takes the form of a thinly veiled pitch for the travel site.
When the woman presses the exec on why he searches a dozen travel sites for hours rather than just use Kayak, he replies, "Cuz I'm a moron. That’s how you get to the top."
"What?" the woman asks, incredulously.
As if to explain, the exec turns to the codger. "Mr. Carroll—you a bright man?"
"No, I am not," he declares, while raising his cane with gusto.
Turning back to the woman, the exec says, "Try and keep up."
"The little punked quip definitely came from an informal discussion of, ‘What are the great boss names?'" said Kayak chief marketing officer Robert Birge, himself a TBWA\C\D ex-pat. "I think perhaps I laughed too hard when someone said, ‘Mr. Carroll.'"
Carroll, who enjoys taking the piss out of pals as much as Graf, took the gibe in stride. Besides, it wasn’t the first time that Graf had turned Carroll into fodder for comedy.
About five years ago, when they worked together at TBWA, Graf enlarged a photo of a standing Carroll to create a twisted game for an office party. The game? Pin the Martini on Tom.
Carroll tweaked back two years later—at Graf’s farewell party—presenting him with a giant fake check in the amount of $1 trillion with "your soul" written on the memo line—a commentary on his decision to leave TBWA\C\D for Saatchi & Saatchi. The check was signed by Graf’s next boss: Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts.