Movie-Set Hijinks Abound in Unionbay Spots From Toth

Having helped launch the careers of Hollywood notables such as Hilary Swank, Shannyn Sossamon and Kip Pardue, Unionbay has recruited a new crop of young talent to star in its fall ad effort.

Two spots shot on a movie set at Charlie Chaplin Studios in Los Angeles, slated to break in theaters and on TV on Friday, feature aspiring teenage actors and screenwriters—Amanda Harris, Erik Soderberg, Allison Flashman and Kelly Thiebaud—as they work their way up the filmmaking totem pole by fetching coffee and doing multiple takes of a painful stunt.

Michael Toth, CEO of Concord, Mass.-based Toth Brand Imaging, which created the work, thought a movie set was an ideal locale to capture the attention of Unionbay’s teenage target audience, given its fascination with fame. “It’s a place where everyone has fun,” said Toth. “That’s what Unionbay is about—having fun and hanging out with friends.”

“There’s a fascination with all these kids becoming stars,” said Toth. “Many who have gone on to become stars started with Unionbay,” such as Swank, who appeared as a model in 1994.

In one spot, a bossy director’s personal assistant orders an intern to fetch the director’s latte. When the assistant turns her back, the intern spits in the coffee. The director, upon taking a sip, smiles and says, “You know, what’s-her-face makes the best lattes.” Later, the intern smirks at the assistant and says, “I’ll make a special one for you.”

In the other ad, a young actor riding on top of a car falls crotch-first into a parking meter as the vehicle stops short. “Perfect! Do it again,” orders the director after the first take. The poor actor is shown sliding into the meter a number of times, writhing in pain. A young female paramedic then appears with a big ice pack.

“[The ads] use a lot of humor that parodies what we see on cable and in movie theaters now,” said Steve Ritchey, president of Unionbay parent Seattle Pacific Industries, citing Jackass as a show on which young people pull stunts to generate laughs.

The spots introduce a new tagline, “It’s your movie,” to encourage young consumers to do things their own way, Ritchey said. They will run during youth-oriented programs and in theaters. Media is handled in-house.

The work, which marks the Seattle client’s return to TV after a three-year absence, follow print ads that showed teens posing on sets. That effort broke last month in Blender, Stuff, Maxim and Spin, among others.

Unionbay spent less than $3 million on ads last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Toth said he expected that figure to increase “substantially” in the months ahead as the client looks to better compete with youth-skewing brands such as Tommy Hilfiger (which registered sales of $1.8 billion in 2003) and Levi Strauss & Co. (whose sales were $4.1 billion in 2002). Those brands spent about $35 million and $100 million on ads in 2002, respectively, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Previous ads depicted teens in their suburban neighborhoods and carried the tagline, “Love thy neighbor,” to link the company to integral parts of teenagers’ lives.