IQ News: Thirsty Unveils Integrated Effort from WongDoody


Toby Sesler hates Thirsty.com,” reads the copy beneath a high school yearbook portrait of a geeky male, one of four fictional characters depicted in a new $5 million ad campaign for the 78-employee, Los Angeles-based, youth-oriented lifestyle site.
Created by Seattle-based WongDoody, the off- and online pitch brings attention to last week’s launch of Thirsty.com and its 13 original content channels, which include Xsports, Sci-fi/Comics, Wrestling, Hip-Hop and Hollywood and target the 13-to-22-year-old demo.
“The campaign comes out of an insight that teenagers are as much defined by what they hate as what they like,” said Ben Wiener, a managing partner with WongDoody. “Teenagers form cliques that are cool, and by definition, people who are not in them are uncool.”
Instead of explaining the virtues of Thirsty, which Wiener says “instantly sets off the bullshit meter” among teens, the agency chose to focus on the people who would dislike the site.
“It’s pretty clear that if a guy like [Toby] hates Thirsty.com, and you consider yourself remotely a cool teen, then there might be something on there that you will like,” said Wiener, who said the agency combed the streets of Los Angeles looking for people to pose as Sesler, as well as the other characters, Leland Err, Regina Fritz and Trish Gulinson.
“It’s very hard to cast really unattractive, funny-looking people in L.A.,” he said. “We’d call up casting agents and they’d send over a model. We’d have to tell them, ‘No, we don’t want models, we want people with big buck teeth, unruly hair and eyes that are definitely two different sizes.'”
Jeff Pollack, CEO of Thirsty, seems unfazed by the plethora of sites catering to Gen Y interests. Pollack, along with Benny Medina, founded the $10 million privately-held site last year following a 10-year career as a writer, director and producer of teen TV and movie fare such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Booty Call.
“I don’t think the space is very crowded at all,” said Pollack. “As to whether there are sites that are supposed to appeal to the youth demographic, then I would agree that there are a host of such sites out there. But we’re are providing an experience for our users that is tangible off- and online.”
While additional marketing efforts include billboard ads, a Toby Sesler Web site, a guerrilla campaign and distribution through L90, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based online ad server, there appears to be little concern regarding the tone of the ads.
“It’s a tiny bit mean-spirited,” admitted Wiener. “But so are teens. We’re counting on them to get the joke. Anybody we offend won’t be in our target audience. If they are and we offend them, we’ll be hearing about it. Nothing bad in a little controversy.”