Creating Ads for People Who Hate Ads

Rooster's Gavin McInnes explains his brand of gonzo advertising

Gavin McInnes doesn’t care about your product. This would be all well and good if the co-founder of Vice magazine—that bible of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y., hipsterdom—hadn’t gone and rebranded himself as an adman. But with Rooster, the four-person shop where he is creative director, McInnes has morphed into just that. Housed in a one-room office in SoHo, New York, within spitting distance of major agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi and Euro RSCG, Rooster produces gonzo comedy clips (think Jackass meets Banksy) that happen to be branded. But don’t call him a sellout. “Comedy is at a really daring and exciting time where there’s no rules,” McInnes says. “With Rooster we know that compromising the joke is going to kill the whole company. So it’s not worth it in the long run. Plus I’ve got money from Vice. I don’t care if they fire us.”

Adweek: Is there such a thing as selling out?

Gavin McInnes: Definitely. But it’s a lot more complex than it was when I was 20. Selling out is compromising your art, or your joke in this case, to appease someone else. Our rule with Rooster is we’re happy to take notes, but if they wreck the joke, they’re out. We’ve even fired clients.


Teva. They wanted their product to be in too many shots. The whole business plan here is, look, people hate ads. I have a million funny ideas for sketches, but I don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars shooting them. You have a brand you want to get to people’s jaded eyeballs. Let’s let the supply meet the demand. The only problem is you can’t meddle with my joke too much or you kill the whole model.

Is there a client who said you went too far?

On a regular basis. Vans is cool because they’ll pay for it. If they hate it, they’ll just say no.

They literally let you piss on their product.

That was a really tough sell. The bottom guys that you deal with are usually pretty cool young guys. Ultimately it has to go up to the bald, old guy at the top. That guy is beholden to his shareholders and he doesn’t want to get fired. It’s a tricky time to be doing this business model because we’re in the post-Borat, Judd Apatow, Farrelly Brothers era. Comedy-wise if you’re not nude in your bed with your friend’s balls in your face, you pussied out.

Why do this then, if you have to worry about the concerns of a sponsor?

It’s fucking expensive. The beauty of having someone shell out big bucks makes the joke limitless.

So you’re not concerned at all about selling the product?

I definitely am not interested in the product. But it’s a new way to advertise. People are dubious. People are sick of ads. When we did the Vans shoot, we didn’t brand it. And someone in the comments goes, “This better not be a fuckin’ ad for Vans.” People hate ads.

Do you have a favorite ad?

There’s Mikey loves Life cereal. I want to do a thing where we have him eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke and have him go, “I’m fine. It’s OK. It’s just very, very bubbly.”

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