There aren't many campaigns we'd like to see run for a very long time. But one we would love to stick around for a while is Grey New York's series for DirecTV, featuring a variety of characters whose lives unravel to desperate scenarios in which, for example, they're selling their own hair, waking up in a roadside ditch, or reenacting scenes from "Platoon" with Charlie Sheen--all because they have cable.
The brains behind this comedic feast are creative directors Doug Fallon and Steven Fogel. Fallon is a longtime staffer at the agency, while Fogel previously served at DeVito/Verdi and DDB. When they finally came together on a Dairy Queen campaign two years ago, "It was a pretty instant love connection," Fogel says.
They attribute the success of their most recent endeavor to a magical concoction of their own sense of story, client input and MJZ director Tom Kuntz, known for his comedic prowess on award-winning campaigns for Old Spice and Skittles, among others. "It was just a thought we had, a structure, taking a small issue and making it the root of all sorts of horribleness, with a voiceover walking you through it as if this chain of events was inevitable," says Fogel. "There was something about the tone and language that felt good and seemed to lead us to good things. The brief originally was focused on how DirecTV has a way better guide than cable, and we worked it around with the client's help to be more of an over-arching anti cable message." Adds Fallon, "Once we heard that Tom was interested, it was a no-brainer."
"He added so much in terms of how the story unfolds visually, how efficiently it's told," Fogel explains. "He works the performance until it's spot on--the subtleties, the eye movements, every little detail. You never move to the next shot wondering if you truly nailed that last one." Even Mr. Sheen did his part. "We were basically saying that if you have cable, Charlie Sheen might befriend you in a bathhouse, take you back to this hotel to relive his glory days and then shoot you in the face with an arrow, and he was cool with that," laughs Fallon.
Whether or not it features Sheen as a guest star, each spot in the campaign is crisply rendered, full of ripe characters and the most of bizarre of plot twists. When asked if there's any particular strategy toward creating a campaign with legs, "It's hard to say," says Fogel. "The spots have to be unified but different and interesting enough that they don't feel cookie cutter and obvious, I guess."
Currently, the pair is working on a new Dairy Queen campaign and more spots for DirecTV. As for the lifespan of the latter, "We've definitely thought about how many more of these we can do," Fallons says. "People seem to enjoy them and as long as we can keep new ones on that same level, we can pull off a few more."
Doug Fallon and Steve Fogel--More to Know:
On how they collaborate:
Doug: The nice thing is we write pretty much everything together. And we both find the same shit funny. We'll feed off each other and keep working until we feel we've got it.
On which DirecTV spot is their favorite:
Doug: That's tough. Roadside Ditch maybe.
Steve: It was one of the first out of the gate and just has this chain of events that feels really natural. And stupid.
On what inspires them:
Doug: Good work around us.
Steve: Stuff we're jealous of. That's pretty much what drives us.
What they'd be doing if they weren't in advertising:
Doug: I'd probably be illustrating kid's books or making cartoons.
Steve: I'd probably be a line cook at a greasy spoon.
What they do outside of work, to keep inspired:
Doug: We're both fathers.
Steve: So all of our time outside of work is spent playing with princesses.
Doug: Thomas the Train in my case.
Little known fact:
Doug: Steve's Canadian. I'm not.
Check out the full list of Creativity's 2012 Creatives You Should Know.