The Creators of Squatty Potty’s Pooping Unicorn Bring You … An Ad School?

Harmon Brothers University shares their secrets to success

Class is in session. Harmon Brothers
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

If you’re looking for a comedy boot camp or a road map for creating a viral video, this isn’t the class for you.

But a new online training program from the Harmon Brothers, the Utah-based boutique agency that spawned Squatty Potty’s pooping unicorn, Chatbooks’ Real Mom and other internet megahits, aims to teach you how to make an ad that will build a strong brand and move some serious product.

If the work becomes a viral blockbuster? That’s icing on the cake.

Harmon Brothers University, launching this week with a curriculum called, “Write ads that sell,” is the first dive into education from the home of Camp Chef’s “grill god,” Poo Pourri’s tart British spokesjoker and the FiberFix DIY dude.

“We’re opening up the entire playbook,” said Daniel Harmon, chief creative officer of the agency that’s snagged upward of 1 billion views for its digital videos, accounting for $300 million in client sales. “We’re trying to give people all the tools they’ll need to be successful,” with the promise to “hold nothing back” from their 10-plus years of experience.

They’re not giving away much to the general public (you’ll have to cough up $3,000 for the full slate of goodies) but here’s a peek into what students can learn from the online school: How to build a convincing character, reinforce a brand, craft a solid hook for an entertaining video and convert viewers to customers.

Harmon called it “a calculated risk” to share the secret sauce in a highly competitive ad world, but, “We feel like it’s one worth taking.”

Starting an instructional program was an agency goal for 2018, and execs don’t intend to stop with one course. Within months, they plan to begin rolling out other classes that will cover everything from casting and directing to postproduction and motion graphics.

Eventually, they’ll teach their methods of distribution and ad buying, pivotal to the life span and massive reach of their videos, which combine the direct sell of infomercials with image building of traditional ads.

They’re not ruling out a physical classroom setting for Harmon Brothers University one day, but it’s not imminent.

The initial course, which includes workbooks, videos and one-on-one consulting with Harmon and seasoned writer Dave Vance, will be limited to about 25 students to allow for the personal touch, said Harmon, who likened the heavy workload of compiling the curriculum to “making multiple movies or seasons of TV.” (He also took acting lessons from Harmon video star Lisa Valentine Clark, aka “Real Mom, so he’d feel more comfortable on camera).

Because of their high-profile hits, the agency has had more queries from potential clients and partners in recent years than it could handle, Harmon said. Instead of adding staff and growing beyond the current 30-person head count, execs decided to debut the university to teach others how to replicate their model.

That includes a hearty dose of comedy, a signature Harmon trait that’s obvious even in the pitch for the school. But they emphasize that it’s not a stand-up or improv course, though they will give tips on “how to funny up your ad” and test it to see if the humor lands with audiences.

Expectations are that entrepreneurs and business owners (the Shark Tank set) will be first in line, he said, followed by marketing and ad professionals, filmmakers and creators. 

Presumably, these are people who won’t become clients of Harmon Brothers since they’ll be able to create campaigns themselves.

“Yes, we’ll lose some potential clients,” Harmon said, “but we believe a rising tide lifts all ships. And we want to see people individually succeed with their businesses and products.”

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.