Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul Celebrate People’s 2020 Birthdays as Socially Distant Bots

Covid-safe stunt partnership with Drizly gives away Dos Hombres mezcal

Screenshot from Drizly partnership
Aaron Paul (right) and Bryan Cranston roll down the road to spread some birthday cheer. Drizly
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Bryan Cranston wants to play ring and run, the goofy game from childhood that might still have a few mischievous laughs left in it. But he can’t ring. Or run. Because he’s a robot with no extremities.

In a stunt with Drizly, Cranston and his former Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul, recently showed up at several strangers’ front doors to help celebrate their lockdown birthdays.

Because this is the socially distant Covid-19 era, the stars didn’t arrive in the flesh in these Los Angeles neighborhoods. They were there via telepresence technology, which sounds fairly cutting edge but in this case, looks like an iPad attached to a spindly, bare bones Segway.

Cranston and Paul appeared on the screens, Zooming in from separate locations and operating the bots remotely, to surprise the residents with well wishes, cocktail recipes and free alcohol. The latter, naturally, was Dos Hombres, the mezcal brand they launched last year as a way to continue working together after their cult favorite and multiple Emmy award-winning series ended.

“We thought this concept was brilliant and perfect and hilarious,” Paul told Adweek. “Turning us into robots and surprising people on their special day was kind of poetic in a very 2020 way. And I was so excited to be able to control a robot. Who doesn’t want to do that?”

Important note: The whole event had a light and playful tone, and at no point did Cranston revive the chilling Walter White line, “I am the one who knocks.” 

That might be considered a missed opportunity, especially for the crime drama’s super fans, but according to Drizly executives, the phrase loomed large over the entire program.

“That iconic line—it was part of the genesis of the idea,” Liz Paquette, director of brand at fast-growing Drizly said. “The whole point was to have these two guys roll up to surprise people at their doors” in a good, boozy way.

The stunt also meant to “flip that Zoom fatigue on its head” and inject “genuineness and realness” into four birthdays that might have otherwise been low-key and subdued, Paquette added.

“Our brand promise is to make the good times a little better,” she said. “But because it’s been such a strange year of improperly celebrated celebrations, we wanted to do something to bring folks some joy and excitement.”

It’s also squarely in the brand’s wheelhouse to play with advanced tech, she said. (Telepresence robots, which have been around for a decade in business settings, are primed for the mainstream, given the state of the coronavirus and gadget-happy consumers.)

Drizly, which landed $50 million in a recent funding round, captured the stunt on video with its in-house team—and an assist from Dos Hombres—with plans to distribute the footage on social and digital platforms. Meanwhile, the actors are sharing it with their followers. Bloopers will be included, like near collisions between the bots and an epic face plant on someone’s stoop.

Consumer reaction to the visits ranged from jaws dropping to nervous giggling. “How is this happening?” one shocked woman asked.

“One lovely lady slowly opened the door, and she just had this stunned look on her face,” Paul said. “She was wondering if she’d just won a million dollars. I hope it wasn’t a big letdown.”

The Drizly delivery platform, like many ecommerce services, has seen “astronomical growth” during the pandemic, with Paquette citing sales spikes as high as 800% between March and May.

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@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.