Man About Town

That phrase has been ricocheting in my head for the last few weeks. And there are others, like “Can I pop by your office, say, around five-ish to kiss your ass until it’s soda-cracker white?” Or “Awkward, uncomfortable drink with the client, anyone?” Response of art director: “Oh? I’d love to, but I have to go snort cocaine off a stripper’s tits.” Copywriter: “Thanks, but I’d rather be burned alive.”

Does this ring a bell? If so, you probably just participated in one of the best examples of viral marketing to hit our industry. That dialogue is from a hilarious short film called Truth in Advertising, which recently appeared via e-mail out of nowhere. There were no credits. Nothing. The mystery began.

“Who were these people? I mean, they have to be in advertising. How else would they know this stuff?” “That guy who plays the client, isn’t he on that show with Drew Carey?” Those questions rang in agency corridors across the country.

It all began on a laptop in Amster dam, where some enterprising soul copied the film from a director’s reel to share it with a friend. E-mails flooded the Internet and before you could say “QuickTime!” it was a bonafide success. I’m proud to say I got my first e-mail hit on Oct. 2 at 09:24:03 p.m. (EST), which puts me on the early curve of recipients. (There’s a special prize for the person who can provide an e-mail with the earliest send date.) Over the next 72 hours, I got another half-dozen hits and countless phone calls. Talk about a phenomenon!

One amusing highlight was reading the chain of names of people who’d been sending the film out to all their friends. A lot of those names were followed by titles like “president” and “creative director.” You know, the kind of guys who tell employees that the Internet is not a toy. Hmm.

The film is the work of a young commercial director named Tim Hamilton. The spoof is on his reel and has been screened recently at agencies all over the country. His reps at Zooma Zooma in New York handled my inquiry like seasoned PR veterans. Joe Montegna (not the actor) sounded like an embattled White House press secretary when I got him on the phone. He quickly confirmed that the video had spread like a virus around the world, particularly in one 72-hour period. Tracked down at Toronto’s Avion Films (which produced the short film and helped put him on the map), Hamilton was more than a little amused by the recent chain of events.

He and an incredible cadre of talented individuals had been asked by Marketing Magazine in Toronto to create a film “recalling the highlights of advertising.” Executive producer Paola Lazzeri and writer David Chiavegato conspired with Hamilton to turn that simple request upside down.

The resulting masterpiece was produced on a shoestring budget by an incredibly gifted bunch of professionals. This included an amazing cast of actors culled from the Toronto comedy circuit, feature-film DP Russ Goozee, editor Brian Noon and casting director Craig Alex ander (who’s getting more than a couple of calls from various agents right now). The film itself looks delicious. Shot on 35mm, Truth in Advertising looks just like that: the truth. Which is what makes it so funny. Imagine the worst possible things that could ever happen in an ad agency and that’s what Hamilton and company have on film.

Usually I take a dim view of filmed versions of the ad business. I hold Heather Locklear responsible for single-handedly diminishing the role of new-business people. Thanks to her dim-witted approach to business development on Melrose Place (“Quick, you fool! Get the caterer! Chill the champagne!”), no one I know seems to accept that there’s a little more to it than that.

Truth in Advertising is hardly an actual reflection of what goes on in our business. Think of it instead as the worst-case scenario of any particular project.

If you want to see it for yourself, check out either or You’ll probably only be able to see Parts 1 and 3 and may never get a chance to see the famously missing Parts 2 and 4. (Some folks, it seems, are not exactly thrilled that the film has proven to be such an underground sensation.)

Once lawyers and agents get involved, it might be impossible to ever see those episodes, unless you were at the Marketing Magazine Awards in Toronto last March. Unless you’re Man About Town, that is. The entire film should be seen in all its glory. Hilarious! But you’ll just have to take my word for it.