You Might Fall Asleep Before You Find Out Who's Behind This Weird Late-Night Campaign

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Online mattress retailer Casper left something out of its new campaign -- its own name. The company is rolling out a trio of lo-fi spots catering to insomniacs who've made it past the late-late-night shows and have nothing left to binge watch. The ads, which will air on Comedy Central, TBS, TNT and AMC, feature what seems to be cheap stock footage-like film. The sun sets, a salmon leaps upstream through white water, sprouts spring up from seeds, all set to cheesy smooth jazz and electronic tracks. The copy, in vintage-y typeface, reads, "Can't Sleep? Call (888) 890-2040. It's free." The "Casper" logo never appears.

Created in-house, the ads seem like bait for something that might get you in trouble with your spouse. But dialing the number simply leads you to various aural aids designed to help get you to dreamland -- hitting anywhere from 1-8 will call up sounds of the ocean, wind chimes, a trip back in time to the '90s (dial-up screeching that might actually give you nightmares instead of zzz's), a hypnotist, a conference call and more.

VP of Communications and Brand Engagement Lindsay Kaplan explained that consumers' media and tech overconsumption has pushed us into an "'age of anxiety' tipping point. It's 2017, stress is up, and sleep is down," she said. "So why haven't mattress companies addressed the real reason why most Americans are tossing and turning? The dinosaurs of the mattress industry continue to use marketing jargon and manufactured specifications to manipulate consumers." That led to Casper's decision to "focus on the escapism of sleep, the absurdity of dreams and the pleasure of a life well slept."

The campaign itself "isn't about selling mattresses," she said. "We're selling sleep. Our goal is to remind you that sleep is essential to happiness. The mattress comes later. For now, lie down, take it easy, and let us tell you a good story."

Perhaps that's why it takes forever to even get to the "Casper" name in the campaign. When listening to the dial-in number, consumers will have to wait till the recorded voice explains "#9" to even find out the company itself is behind everything -- that's number finally hooks you up with a Casper representative.

Caspe's VR Nap Simulator is in on the joke.
Caspe's VR Nap Simulator is in on the joke. Credit: Casper

The ads arrive on the heels of a social campaign that dropped during Daylight Savings, which featured a virtual reality "Nap Simulator." We won't give it away here describing what "simulated" sleep is like -- but the cheekiness of the "Can't Sleep" campaign might give you a clue.

"We get it," said Ms. Kaplan. "Marketing sleep is a little absurd. The 'Nap Simulator,' like 'Can't Sleep?' is in on that absurdity in a very obvious way to cut through the noise."

The national TV spots will be airing during what Ms. Kaplan calls "peak insomnia hours" of 2 to 5 a.m. Soon to follow will be out-of-home ads and a late-night social media push.

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