The Spot: Trash Talkers

Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski trade insults—on behalf of the Yankees and Red Sox—for New Era baseball caps

Headshot of Tim Nudd

GENESIS: After airing a single ad with Evan Longoria last year, New Era—the maker of official MLB-licensed baseball caps—wanted something more episodic that would stay fresh over the long 2011 baseball season. When a plan to use Charlie Sheen imploded, ad agency The Brooklyn Brothers suggested a series about the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The idea was to have new 60-second ads coincide with each of the six scheduled series between the clubs, from April to September. "The thought was to find two überfans to represent the rivalry and have them go at it throughout the season," says agency co-founder Guy Barnett. Red Sox fan John Krasinski agreed to take part, and he brought in Alec Baldwin, a Yankee fan. The agency signed an all-star director, too, in Super Bowl and celebrity-ad veteran Bryan Buckley (himself a die-hard Red Sox supporter).

COPYWRITING: The agency drafted scripts, but Krasinski started from scratch with current and former Office writers Charlie Grandy and Mike Schur. "John sort of knows advertising, so he's like, 'I want to do something like the Larry Bird-Michael Jordan ads,' " says Buckley. "I'm like, 'Wow, that's old school. How do you even remember that?' " Krasinski delivered rewrites within a week. As Hollywood writers and friends of the actors, Grandy and Schur were able to dial up the scripted insults "in ways that perhaps advertising people can't, or wouldn't dream or dare to," says Barnett. The series opens with Krasinski and Baldwin trash talking over the phone, and then escalates to various pranks and even a thrown punch. In the final commercial, which rolled out Thursday morning (the teams begin their final series of the regular season on Friday), the pair are forced to watch baseball together at Krasinski's place, as Baldwin has burned his own house down while lighting Sox tickets on fire in the penultimate spot. Let's just say it ends messy.

ART DIRECTION: Buckley shot in black and white, because that's the essence of the rivalry—no gray areas. It was also a different look from the actors' sitcoms, and fresh for the category. (Baseball spots usually bask in the beautiful greens of the field, or are gritty and chopped up.) "I shot Ellen DeGeneres in black and white years ago for AmEx," Buckley says. "People sometimes say black and white doesn't work for comedy, but it actually can, believe it or not."

FILMING: Most of the footage was shot in a building on New York's Upper West Side on one day in April and another in July. A few pickup shots were captured in Los Angeles. "We did four or five episodes that first day," Barnett says. "We moved cameras up and down floors. The level of talent was so great that you didn't need to do a lot of takes."

TALENT: "The scripts were pretty tight, but John would embellish and improvise on things," says Barnett. Baldwin, meanwhile, stuck religiously to the scripts, working off a teleprompter, as he does on 30 Rock. "He uses it as a tool," says Buckley. "He'll zero in on where he wants his pauses and jokes, and get his timing right to the second." For the "912" spot, Baldwin had to jump up and down, and as he did so, the ceiling began to crumble in the apartment below. As the crew murmured to each other, Buckley told Baldwin what was going on. In his trademark gruff whisper, the actor replied: "It's too late to put a condom on now, isn't it?"

SOUND: Both actors have comically epic sports-anthem ringtones, but otherwise there's no music. "We wanted the natural soundtrack of game announcers to play behind them," says Barnett.

MEDIA: The ads have aired two or three times during each Red Sox-Yankees game—regionally on the local sports nets, nationally when the games are on Fox or ESPN. They've also blown up online. "It moves outside advertising," says Buckley. "It's like programming, like its own little show. You have all that emotion of the rivalry. But even if you didn't know about the rivalry, they're so searing toward each other, it's just funny." The ads have had an impact in the dugout, too: Derek Jeter is reportedly a fan.



Client: New Era

Agency: The Brooklyn Brothers, New York

Writers: Charlie Grandy, Mike Schur

Production: Hungry Man

Director: Bryan Buckley

EP/Managing Partner: Kevin Byrne

Line Producer: Mino Jarjoura

Director of Photography: Scott Henriksen

Editing Company: Big Sky Edit

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.