The bride was visibly alarmed when four men in white hazmat suits interrupted her wedding and charged over to a guest, shouting, "He needs to be disinfected immediately!" They exited with the guest in tow -- and took him straight to a bar, where a group of friends waited.
The wedding was real, but the intervention was a stunt for Andes beer by Buenos Aires agency Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. The idea was that life is full of unavoidable social commitments from which beer drinkers need to be rescued so they can hang out in bars and drink with buddies.
But didn't they ruin the bride's big day?
"Yeah, a little bit, but then we went in and said, "This is for Andes beer and it's a joke,' and in the end it was funny for everyone," said Maxi Itzkoff. He and his creative partner, Mariano Serkin, are the Del Campo executive creative directors behind "The Great Escape" campaign.
It all started with a teaser spot inviting people who needed rescue from a mandatory social event to go to the Facebook page of Andes, a local beer owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. They selected a rescue team -- firefighters, the hazmat squad, a magician or environmental activists -- and entered the time, place and details of the event they wanted to flee.
The agency combed through about 1,000 submissions to choose the 24 that would be filmed, one per evening, on consecutive Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for two months. Many were weeded out because the entrant didn't have a genuine event.
Next, the agency researched everything -- from ensuring that cameras could be hidden at the venue to verifying that no one with serious health problems would be present. That was particularly important at a golden wedding anniversary the rescue team crashed.
Each intervention was filmed using four cameras; some hidden and others carried by people posing as guests. After being edited, four ran as TV commercials and more were posted on Andes' site. What they didn't show was what came next -- the producer revealed it was all a joke and got everyone to sign release forms.
Mr. Itzkoff and Mr. Serkin's two favorites are the wedding and the rescue of a guy from his cousin's dance recital.
For that one, four firefighters burst into the theater and shouted at the audience member: "Your house is on fire and we can't break your door down; you'll have to come with us." They sprang him from the recital, taking him in a fire engine to a bar where another group of friends were waiting.
Living Up to the LegacyThe pair are under pressure to dream up ever-crazier stunts. The first one, two years ago, was Andes Teletransporter -- a soundproof booth in a bar that guys could enter to call their wives and girlfriends and pretend, with the help of sound effects, to be somewhere else.
Last year's Andes Friend Recovery let a guy hang out virtually with his pals at a bar by controlling a video-conferencing robot from his computer while at home with his girlfriend.
The Andes stunts are such big winners on the international awards-show circuit that few realize all the action happens in the relatively small city and province of Mendoza. Argentina's fourth-largest city, Mendoza has about 110,000 residents -- and fewer than a million in the greater metropolitan area -- but Andes Teletransporter garnered 6.5 million views on YouTube, and people from more than 40 countries got in touch to ask how to get a Teletransporter of their own (there was only one, taken from bar to bar in Mendoza to stage the stunt).
The trouble with clients, Mr. Itzkoff said, is that when a campaign is successful "they want to do exactly the same thing next year."
When he and his partner explained "The Great Escape" idea, a horrified Andes told them "no way." The creative duo eventually sold the idea and started sending in the rescue squads to crash family events. Mr. Itzkoff said they have just presented their latest -- presumably even wackier -- idea for the next campaign, but Andes hasn't approved it yet.
"We're fighting with them," he said. "They really hate the idea."