Benjamin Moore Paints It Black With a Halloween Prank at a Haunted Hotel

Martin ambushes the pros

IDEA: Get the job done right, and get out. Painters like to work quickly—and no more so than when the job site is a spooky, abandoned hotel where centuries-old ghosts scare you witless just as you're applying that first coat.

That was the premise of a new prank video by The Martin Agency for Benjamin Moore's Ultra Spec 500 paint—a product that's "Scary fast. For a scary good job." The agency found an old hotel in Atlanta, installed hidden cameras, invited professional painters in at night, one by one, to work on a wall deep inside the building—and gave them the fright of their lives.

"On a given day, a painter is probably not dealing with ghosts," said Benjamin Moore CMO David Melançon. "But he might be dealing with a cranky client. He might be dealing with kids running around in the back room. He might be dealing with a lot of issues that, for him, make it a scary job. This just takes that idea one step further."

COPYWRITING: The three-minute video unfolds like a horror movie, rather than a behind-the-scenes video (like the super-viral Carrie stunt earlier this month). "It's the ultimate torture test," said Martin creative director Vanessa Fortier.

An older gentleman welcomes the painters and walks them to the room while giving a creepy history of the place. "Years ago, people with mental diseases were kept here for a period of time," he says. Then he leaves them alone. The tension builds as a rocking chair creaks to life and a chandelier rattles—and eventually the lights flicker out and a pale waif of a girl with dead eyes lurches in and screams.

Quickly, the lights come on and the prank is revealed, as the victims, laughing, struggle to catch their breath and slow their heart rate.

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Jason Zada, who filmed 2011's famous "Take This Lollipop" horror short about Internet stalking, shot this video from dusk to dawn one night. It turned out the hotel had, in fact, once been used as a mental hospital. "When we walked in, we were like, 'Oh God, this place is really freaky.' And it did have a history," said Martin creative director and copywriter Dave Gibson. (He and art director Mauricio Mazzariol are both big horror fans.)

Visually, they drew inspiration from movies like The Others, with the furniture all eerily draped in white sheets. Shooting in Atlanta helped—Southern gothic horror shows like The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries are filmed there, and the crew who dress sets for those programs worked on this, too.

TALENT: The agency found contractors in the area that use Benjamin Moore, and then asked the bosses at those places to pick employees to prank. (The first victim, Victor, was especially jumpy, his boss explained—and indeed, he needs serious calming down at the end.) The agency made sure none of them had heart conditions, and had a medic on set just in case.

The hotel host was modeled on the caretaker from Phantasm ("There's just something a little bit off about him," said Gibson), and the ghostly girl was suitably bony and gaunt—in fact, she played a zombie on The Walking Dead.

"She knitted these little mice that were really weird and held them in her hand," said Gibson. "We were like, 'What are the mice for? We didn't ask you to bring mice.' And she was like, 'Oh, I knit these for children.'" "She was like a living ghost," said Fortier.

SOUND: The sounds of the rocking chair, chandelier and girl's scream were amplified by speakers in the walls. A typical creepy horror score was commissioned for the intro and outtro.

MEDIA: YouTube and a microsite,, which includes testimonials, product specs and more.