Advertising Whiz Recalls Casting LA’s ‘Craziest Actor’

In the new book Advertisers At Work, marketing professor Tracy Tuten interviews 20 leading industry execs and entrepreneurs. Leading off this dynamic compilation is Chris Raih, co-founder and managing director of Venice-based creative agency Zambezi.

Raih reveals that from a very young age growing up in Minnesota, he harbored dreams of writing for Sports Illustrated. But things took a turn for the ad world when the print journalism major interned at local agency Fallon. Today, Raih counts the Los Angeles Lakers as a client, has opened a field office in Shanghai and oversees with co-founder Brian Ford some three dozen employees just steps from the beach.

The irony is that Raih gets to work at Zambezi with various sports superstars. In the summer of 2010 for example, the agency put together a vitaminwater campaign with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Petersen. As he explains in the interview, the icing on the cake was a certain voluble actor:

“The concept was freaking zany – basically that this athlete retained an attack-dog lawyer to try to sue Fantasy Football guys who had Adrian on their team… We cast for the craziest actor we could find and trust me, we found him! We got Gary Busey to play the lawyer…”

“The day we released the video content, ESPN had its two-hour, kick-off fantasy special. ESPN aired the video in the special. I will never forget it. One of the best moments we could have dreamed of getting as ad folks and ESPN played the video in its entirety. All two-and-a-half minutes right there on ESPN at the beginning of the broadcast. They were like, ‘Before we get started, this just came in from vitaminwater. These guys are crazy. Look at what content they put out. We have been watching it all day.’ Then they opened the broadcast full screen. I can’t even imagine what a two-and-a-half minute spot would cost in that slot.”

Tuten, who teaches at East Carolina University, has authored two previous books as well as the textbook Social Media Marketing.

[Jacket cover courtesy Apress]