People & Players

Why Griffin Creech Created Branded Virals -- Without The Brand

Berlin Cameron Creative Director Develops Online Videos for VitaminWater

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NEW YORK -- Griffin Creech is a modern Renaissance man. He acts (that was him working with monkeys in the CareerBuilder ads), he writes, he directs, he's a creative director at Berlin Cameron United in New York, and he talked to Madison & Vine about how entertainment and marketing are becoming inseparable.

Griffin Creech

His latest work at the WPP agency has been VitaminWater's first TV campaign, which includes a series of online-only outtake videos that focus heavily on the stars and lightly on the VitaminWater.

Madison & Vine: Why even bother with additional entertainment footage online?

Mr. Creech: The virals refresh the campaign. But particularly when you have people like [rapper] 50 Cent, [basketball player] Tracy McGrady, [football player] Brian Urlacher, [baseball player] David Ortiz -- these are all people who have pretty intense fan bases. It's not like those things where you do a viral that's completely detached from the spot, or you're doing non-celeb stuff. By the nature of the fact that these people are celebrities -- they are all entertainers, sports figures and musicians -- it became critical, important and interesting that we did the virals with them. It transcends the sort of cat-takes-a-crap-in-a-toilet that gets passed around YouTube. It made sense, and what made it special is that we did get access to these people.

Madison & Vine: I noticed that VitaminWater is not one of the in-your-face "stars" of the virals.

Mr. Creech: It's very discreet; it's not even in all the virals. We did simple titles to set up each one, but we didn't put a VitaminWater logo on anything. It's very low-key. It serves two purposes: [The virals] can either be packaged at some point as straight outtakes, which CareerBuilder did with the monkey spots, and it's one of those things that you're just interested in watching. A lot of people like to watch monkeys, and a lot of people like to watch their favorite celebrity.

VitaminWater was brave and cool and said, "Make them funny and make them entertainment. We made our commercials; we're not worried about it." There's not going to be a campaign to take you to the campaign. They'll be seeded out in a fairly organic manner, and VitaminWater has some experience in that. It'll happen through blogs, websites, links -- all very organic. So often you do these things and you wonder how you're going to get someone to it. I think because of the spots and who's in them, some of the pressure was taken off of us. That's how the best viral stuff is supposed to be.

Madison & Vine: Is entertainment part of every pitch for you now?

Mr. Creech: Clients demand that now. They want to see more than just regular ads, even if at the end of the day they aren't ready to pull the trigger on it and buy it. If you look at Hasbro, they had a deal with [Creative Artists Agency] to help develop movies. CAA got the "Transformers" movie, but the CEO went across the street to William Morris because they got a better deal to develop something like six more movie ideas. It's a toy company! Entertainment really is pervasive, and it's everywhere. If you can do a good job with entertainment in relation to more branded marketing efforts, I think it makes you more relevant as we all try to hash out what's going to come next.

Madison & Vine: Well, then what is coming next?

Mr. Creech: I'm curious to see who's going to win: Are we going to become the entertainment industry or is the entertainment industry going to become us? We're pitching show ideas all the time. We always make it part of our offering to do long-format things. For, with that kid Deluxe247 -- unfortunately it came out just before YouTube, so it wasn't as big as it could have been -- we created this character. Coke had a relationship with CAA, and CAA tried to figure out if they could make a TV show in 2003. There was a ground swell around that kid, people liked him so much. What's different now is that we don't wait for CAA to do that. We go ahead and from the beginning offer a character or content idea. The VitaminWater stuff is still traditional viral, but a longer format is just around the corner.

So much is expected of TV commercials, and they are so burdened with branding necessities. Entertainment lets you say it over a longer format, and people are used to longer formats. The ADD nature of internet programs, even just 2 minutes, is an eternity for us.

It's just a matter of [advertising] people saying: "Yes, we actually can do that." It's another source of revenue and exciting -- it'll help keep the ad agency inspired, and it's added value for clients. It makes brands cool, relevant and makes them part of culture. We'd be crazy not to develop it.
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