With Witty New Ads, Massage Envy Wants Pampering to Be a More Accessible Part of Life

Work from Fallon stars Vanessa Bayer and Arturo Castro

vanessa bayer gets a facial
Vanessa Bayer in full-relaxation mode. Massage Envy

To some degree, people look at massages and other wellness activities as a luxury. Additionally, there can be some level of intimidation in taking an hour or two for one’s wellbeing. But at Massage Envy, a facial could very well be the gateway for a stressed-out society to get a little relaxation.

A pair of clever new ads from Fallon, starring SNL alum Vanessa Bayer and actor Arturo Castro (Narcos, Broad City), make this level of pampering much more accessible. Ad-libbing, Bayer and Castro share their experiences—with a healthy dose of humor and wit—as Massage Envy’s aestheticians work their magic.

What makes this approach different is that the play-by-play focuses on the experience as much as the product being sold. It’s also a clear point of differentiation from other spa marketing, which is generally interchangeable.

“It’s a sea of sameness,” said Kathy Collins, chief brand and innovation officer at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Massage Envy. “If you look at [Massage Envy’s competitors and massage providers in general], their marketing materials, what you see is a beautiful woman who looks very relaxed on a table. She may or may not be getting a facial. Her eyes are closed. She sometimes has cucumber slices on her eyes, and there’s a lotus flower floating next to her. That reinforces the idea that this is a luxury. So we flipped that over and said we need to normalize [these services].”

Creatively, Collins, who worked with Fallon during tenures at Lee Jeans and H&R Block, alluded to what late agency founder Pat Fallon called “snap your head back” marketing—the type of work that makes people stop and want to watch it again.

“I’ve always used that as a filter,” she said. “Will this get the consumer’s attention and make them think about the brand differently?”

Indeed, with shooting the ads from above and focusing squarely on the actors’ faces and dialogue (in an Errol Morris kind of approach), the new spots—directed by Dave McCary, another SNL alum—manage to position pampering in a much different way.

“Rather than trying to explain the benefits of the facial, we thought it would be more memorable to show it in a way that no one has seen before,” said Joe Johnson, Fallon creative director. “We wanted to be as honest as we could and use people who may not be known as skincare influencers.”

The choice of Bayer (who worked at DraftFCB when she was beginning her comedy career in Chicago) and Castro was unexpected yet, because of their comedy chops, provided a degree of accessibility.

“This kind of actor was perfect,” Collins said. “If we had used a Brad Pitt, for example, people would say, ‘Of course Brad Pitt gets a facial.’ I like Vanessa and Arturo because they are a little more down to earth.”

Collins also noted that several hours per day of improv resulted in a great deal of material left unused for the ads.

“It got funnier and funnier—and I think we got punchier as the day went on,” she said. “But I’ve asked Fallon to put together an outtakes reel for our national convention in April because it was so much fun.”

But the spirit of the ad is to make the idea of facials and massages far more approachable and part of someone’s routine, as evidenced by the brand’s “Keep Your Body Working” positioning, and a campaign from last year targeting people who are frazzled by hectic work and life schedules.

“Some of our research reminded us of the benefits or wellness routines like facials and massages,” Collins said. “They exceed the physical benefits as well as the mental and emotional ones as well. We’ve heard consumers talk about how, before going in for a massage, they are unfocused, scattered and anxious. And, after they come out, feel a reduction in all of those things.”

“Facials have been served up as a reward at the top of the mountain or something where you have to spend all kinds of money or know everything about how it works,” added Johnson. “The creative is designed to break that mystery down.”


Agency: Fallon
Patrick Figueroa, Executive Creative Director
Joe Johnson, Creative Director
Kelsey O’Briant, Art Director
Christine Taffe, Copywriter
Pat Sidoti, Head of Production
Patrick Gantert, Producer
Erin Tait, Group Strategy Director
Marc Mason, Group Account Director
Kelly Holley, Account Director
Julia Frayne, Account Manager
Greg Swan, Director of Social
Mara Keller, Social Media Strategist
Sadie Hedge, Social Media Strategist

Client: Massage Envy
Kathy Collins, CMO
Jeanna Corley, VP Digital Strategy & Analytics
Phillip McKee, Director of Marketing Strategy & Media
Andrea McCauley, Senior Director of Digital Marketing

Production Company: Caviar
Director: Dave McCary
Executive producers: Michael Sagol, Jasper Thomlinson, Kim Dellara, Casey Wooden
Line producer: Maggie McLean

Edit: Whitehouse
Editor: Brian Gannon
Edit assistants: Joe Cull and Nelson Mustain
Senior producer: Annie Maldonado
Producer: Jordan Stricklin

Color grade: MPC
Colorist: Kris Smale
Executive Producer: Meghan Lang
Producer: Sasha Pace

Post production: MPC
Flame artist: Alex Kolasinski
Executive Producer: Elexis Stearn
Producer: Ciaran Birks

Mix: Eleven Sound
Mixer and sound designer: Ben Freer
Assistant mixer: Andrew Smith
Executive producer: Melissa Elston
Producer: Imani Franklin

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.