2007 Creativity Award Winner: Axe "Gamekillers"

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18-24 year old girl-getting dudes everywhere shuddered when introduced to the Gamekillers, a cast of super suave characters hell bent on busting up a budding romance with their unique skill sets. Introduced via an hour-long MTV special with very sparse mention of the product, "The Gamekillers" represents a watershed in brand entertainment—an advertising brief turned into a television show. Developed by BBH/New York and @radical.media, the show revolved around the travails of a poor schmuck trying to woo his girl effectively while walking the minefield of game destruction. Several of the 14 characters created for the campaign, including "British Accent Guy," "the One-Upper" and "Sensitivo" do their best to assail the protagonist, while he attempts to stay cool. While the show didn't touch on the benefits of Axe Dry, it was buttressed by "showmercials" that handled the selling. In addition to companion TV commercials, print executions and web elements, the concept even extended to an awareness-raising comedy tour of ten college campuses hosted by former Daily Show correspondent Mo Rocca.

Q&A with BBH/New York executive creative director Kevin Roddy and Group Creative Director William Gelner

How do you characterize "Gamekillers"? What is it?

William Gelner: It wasn't a sponsorship, it wasn't a product placement, it wasn't a "brought to you by," it was really an engaging piece of entertainment that went head-to-head with other content, other television programs—not other advertisers. It's something you don't TiVo out, it's something you don't skip past with your DVR, you don't get up to go to the bathroom and skip past the commercial pod, it's the whole thing. And that whole film, that whole piece of content was to launch a brand, and it did.

Kevin Roddy: It was advertising! We could have done a sixty second commercial; we ended up doing a sixty minute television show. The television show was an advertising idea. I think a lot of people think Gamekillers, well, it was probably an idea that was created and somehow they attached Axe to it. Well, no, that's not the way it was, it was actually the other way around.

It seems like an idea that's hidden in plain sight, like there's a tendency to overcomplicate it.

Gelner: There are a handful of people who get it, who understand these things that are truly breakthrough and are doing things differently. And then there's a sea of people out there who frankly don't understand. They just lump it into whatever the kids are calling it these days, branded content. A lot of those people who think of it that way are still kind of fighting what's going on right now, and they're missing the boat.

Roddy: I was putting together our entries for D&AD and I was looking through and I was figuring, Well, I've got this one hour television show that, in my mind, is every bit an ad as everything else, so where do I put it? And I couldn't really figure out where to put it because there wasn't a category for it, so I called up D&AD and I said, "Here's the thing, I don't quite know where this fits." And they said, "You can't enter that." I went through three different phone conversations where they kept saying no. Eventually, they said, OK, you can't enter the whole show, because no one will watch it.

Gelner: And the interesting thing about that is imagine if you took a :60, :90 Cannes-winning commercial, and you were told, "Right, that has to be cut down to :10 because no one's going to watch the :90." But I think this is one of those times where you do interesting things and interesting things happen to you. You start talking about things that you've never talked about before, meeting with people you've never met with before, writing a show and talking to show runners and finding partners and pitching it to networks and trying to get a green light from network executives and going through standards and practices and going through that whole thing—that would have never happened had we not come up with that idea and really tried to do something different.

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