This App’s ‘Commercializer’ Turns Any Boring Classified Ad Into a Big-Budget Blockbuster

Letgo goes Hollywood

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Big-budget advertising used to be the exclusive province of, well, brands with big budgets. But no more. Now, thanks to classifieds mobile app letgo, anyone can sell any old piece of junk with a commercial that will knock a buyer's socks off.

Letgo and agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky just introduced the "Commercializer." It's an ingenious addition to the second-hand selling app that takes whatever you're trying to offload and seamlessly inserts it—using motion blur, image blending, motion tracking, color correction and rotoscoping technology—into one of four comical, big-budget ad parodies.

You choose a theme—'80s action-movie trailer, home-shopping segment, prescription-drug ad or overwrought perfume spot. Then, the Commercializer scrapes your letgo profile and specific listing to integrate the item you're selling, its description and price into an amusing ad that you can share with friends. 

Dolph Lundgren was good enough to poke fun at himself in the '80s action-movie spot. Check out the templates for all four spots here: 

We've seen this kind of customized video technology before, of course, mostly with apps that scrape your Facebook (or other social media) profile and cobble together a video all about you. Such apps have indulged in everything from pure narcissism (Intel's "Museum of Me") to privacy-promoting scare tactics ("Take a Lollipop").

What's different here is that this goes beyond entertainment or advisories and has a useful selling purpose within an existing platform, says Jay Gelardi, executive creative director at CP+B Miami. "We'd seen [these kinds of things] before, but never in a way that had a use beyond a bit of fun. It's fun, but it also creates a more powerful medium for the seller," Gelardi tells AdFreak. 

Tool of North America interactive director Jason Nickel developed the proprietary backend technology. The spots were directed by Matt Villines of Saturday Night Live and comedy directing duo Matt & Oz.

"Every shot had to be lined up right," says Gelardi. "There were lots of tracking markers involved. That's stuff that we're used to. We don't usually export that tracking data out in a consumer-facing way. It was pretty unusual." 

Users create the videos right in the app, and they are viewable within the listing itself. But Gelardi says the much bigger potential viewing market is each seller's social network—which isn't typically leveraged much in the world of classified ads. 

"People create these kinds of classified listings all the time on these socially connected apps, but they never really share them," he says. "If you're selling this old chair that you've got lying around, you're not necessarily going to post it to Facebook and use the power of your own social network to sell it. But because we've created a shareable piece of content, we think people will start sharing it with all their friends and wherever else they can."

He adds: "When people do stumble upon it, then they'll be tempted to go and make their own. That's where the virality of the thing really comes to life. We imagine people will start selling stuff they have lying around just to have the chance of making a commercial."

Indeed, CP+B says users have already made 54,000 commercials in the beta phase.

Selling something incredibly boring in a flashy way is, of course, exaggeratedly comical here. "The juxtaposition of the dullness of their product and the excitement in the spots is where a lot of the humor lies," says Gelardi. But actually, it's not that different than what the ad industry does in non-parody work every day.

"We do it all the time," Gelardi says. "We use the power of the entertainment to sell toilet brushes. This just makes it a more social thing." 

Below are some other short previews of what the finished spots look like: 

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