Why These Agency Execs Went Through Hell to Get Naked in These Ads (SFW)

A rebranding that's more than skin deep

Rebranding is rebirth. New York design and marketing firm Mode Design Group—which today becomes full-service agency Viceroy Creative—took that notion pretty seriously, as its principals posed for rebranding ads stark naked, fresh from the brand ID womb.

The concept—an intentional echo of Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh getting naked for the 2012 announcement of their partnership—is fun and provocative. In practice, it wasn't so easy. Any rebranding has to be perfect. And more than anything, that meant getting in impeccable shape for the photos—shot by Robert Wyatt, who also photographed the "Equinox Made Me Do It" campaign.

AdFreak asked (below, l. to r.) president David Moritz, creative director Gabrielle Rein, CFO Aaron Bearce and account manager Raegan Gillette what it was like shooting the campaign, and what it took to get there.

So, this photo shoot must have been … interesting. I take it you're all very close and not overly bashful.

Moritz: This is a tough industry to be bashful in, but you do need to just jump right in when it's time to disrobe, at 9 a.m., while sober. We are a close group, though. We've all traveled together, worked closely together, and took the time to mentally prepare for shoot day. We should have done some anti-dress rehearsals, though. We didn't think of doing that.

Gillette: I am actually incredibly bashful! But luckily I had a lot of time to mentally prepare myself for that initial disrobe. Because our team is so close, it made the entire process more comfortable. And after that initial disrobe, the rest was a piece of cake.

Where did the idea come from to pose nude like this?

Moritz: I've known that we needed to reposition our agency to align with the work that we were actually doing, and I wanted clients to notice and understand that, more than just saying "and we do XYZ also." So that had been on my mind.

I remembered when [Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh's] S&W campaign came out, everyone in the industry was just like, "Naked, name change, cool. Tell me more about that." So I thought, that's interesting. Then Gabrielle had to see a 3+ Equinox trainer as part of essentially physical therapy to get herself back in shape after having a baby. She loved the experience and recommended that I try it. So I told them, Listen, I don't need to move boulders in my day-to-day experience. Possibly never. Fight a bear. Even run anywhere. The one and only thing that I care about is aesthetics. And they were like, OK, we'll get you cut up like an underwear model (minus the tall handsome model part).

Then I'm thinking Gabrielle and are I both with these trainers that are advertised to be able to "transform" you. And then somewhere it all clicked—underwear models, intense physical training, name change, repositioning, parody Sagmeister Walsh with a twist, take it further, make it funnier in a deadpan way, make it fashion and luxury but self-aware. I tested the idea out on a few people and across the board, everyone loved it.

How did the shoot go? Were there some awkward moments?

Moritz: You mean when we were standing around naked all day in our office while it was a normal day for Aaron and everyone else working there? It was never awkward for me, especially as step one was for the two lovely makeup artists to rub down my entire body with makeup. Robert was a real professional, but kept up a lighthearted atmosphere. He set the tone and set everyone at ease immediately. He kept trying to get Aaron to take his clothes off anyway.

Rein: We didn't have time to think about the fact that we're standing there naked in a room full of clothed people. Robert and his team were so professional, and we moved quickly through many scenes. About halfway through, the no-sugar-added Louis Roederer Brut Nature Champagne came out, followed by cocktails at the end of the day.