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Tierney Amplifies Pranks Into Employee Revenge

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NEW YORK Tierney Communications next week launches the first campaign since installing creative director Kelly Simmons, a four-spot Independence Blue Cross Philadelphia campaign that smacks of the new chief's quirky humor.

Four 30-second TV spots depict disgruntled employees engaging in acts of corporate sabotage as revenge for sub-par healthcare plans. In "Sumo," an assistant assures her boss that his plane tickets to Tokyo have been reserved. As he asks her what seat he has, the elevator doors close. When next we see the boss, he is sandwiched between two sumo wrestlers who complain that the snack food they are nibbling make them sweat.

In "Slide Show," a corporate honcho gives a presentation to a full auditorium while pictures of the man dancing on a bar and asleep behind a table of empty cocktail glasses elicits laughter from the crowd. Each spot ends with the 18-month-old tagline, "If you're not offering your employees Independence Blue Cross, maybe you should."

"It's right up my alley," said Simmons. "The team assigned to it was all very much the kind of people that are always giggling in the corner. We saw eye to eye on a lot of things."

Simmons, whose past work has included home-squatting leprechauns for the National Oilheat Research Alliance, did not conceive the campaign. While work was already under way, Simmons said she suggested the creative team "take it up a notch."

Past work for Independence Blue Cross showed employees sticking a "Kick Me" sign on their bosses back. "That struck me as a prank, where as this shows employees really taking revenge in very creative and intelligent ways," Simmons said.

Tierney has partnered with Independence Blue Cross for four years, Simmons said.

The spots break on Sept. 15 and will air during Monday Night Football, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, CSI, the World Series and other prime-time offerings.

Simmons replaced agency principal Tony DeGregorio when the creative director parted ways with the shop in June. The shop changed its name from Tierney DeGregorio to Tierney Communications shortly thereafter.

Campaign spending was undisclosed, but Nielsen Monitor-Plus reported Independence Blue Cross spent $5 million on advertising in 2002.