The Best of Barton F. Graf
Barton F. Graf founder and Chief Creative Officer Gerry Graf said today that at the end of the year, his agency will be closing its doors. Since its founding in 2010, the shop has made its mark with absurdly funny spots as well as experiential, digital and arts-inspired ideas for clients like Little Caesars, Kayak.com, Ragu, Dish, Supercell, Diageo’s Bulleit, the Coverage Coalition and more.
Here, a look back at some of the shop’s most memorable moments of its nine years.
Supercell “Clash of Clans”
Barton F. Graf’s spots for Supercell, most notably, for the “Clash of Clans” game, were like mini-animated movies; each of the title’s characters came to life with unique personalities. One of the most memorable spots was the "Revenge" spot (above) for the Super Bowl. The agency merged the game’s computer graphics world with live action, including a surprise cameo from Liam Neeson. It was one of the most popular spots of the 2015 Big Game and became the most-viewed Super Bowl ad on YouTube following its debut.
“I was proud of the world we and [production company] Psyop helped to build for Supercell and ‘Clash of Clans,’” Graf says. “The brief was to explain game play, but in our pitch we showed very little work and wrote character studies instead. Last February we made 18 ‘Clash of Clans’ videos and had a party when they clocked over a billion views.”
The campaign over the years moved from TV to experiential, including this out-of-home campaign in which mysterious structures popped up in New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park. The idea meant to extend a story arc around the game's character "The Builder" into the real world.
In 2012 Barton F. Graf created Little Caesars’ first national campaign in 15 years, leading to a string of absurdly funny work that spanned TV and digital.
“You were never confused about what we were selling--hot and ready and five bucks. It was about embracing the sell and making it the funnest thing in the world,” Graf says. “In 1989 I saw Cliff Freeman’s ‘Origami’ spot and I was like, 'I want to do that.' I applied to Cliff four times and three times they rejected me. The fourth time they made an offer and I didn’t accept. So I kind of started my agency just so I could work on a Little Caesars ad.” This was one of the agency’s first spots for the brand.
The off-kilter comedy also extended to digital, including this Bacon Timeline:
Ragu “Long Days of Childhood”
The agency’s work for Ragu took a unique approach to promoting pasta sauce: as a salve for those traumatic moments of childhood, like when you walk in on your parents’ lovemaking session (above), or when your mom gets creative with your hygiene.
In 2017, the agency created Coverage Coalition, a call-to-action for the advertising industry to educate Americans about the enrollment window for affordable healthcare, which had become half the length of previous years. That coincided with the Trump administration slashing budget for advertising enrollment by 90 percent. The effort went on to earn multiple Lions at Cannes.
"I started seeing people organically posting the information on Facebook and one morning when I was coming into work, someone in our creative department said to me that we're good at marketing, and we could possibly fill that 90 percent shortfall by doing pro bono work," Graf told Ad Age when the campaign debuted.
350 Action "Climate Name Change"
This Cannes Lion-winning campaign for climate change organization 350 Action proposed an unconventional solution to jumpstart real change to address our environmental woes. The idea aimed to get the World Meteorological Organization to name hurricanes after the policymakers who deny climate change.
Barton F. Graf always guaranteed the laughs for Kayak.com. Some of our favorites included one ad starring a surgeon who had other things on his mind while deep in the job, as well as another campaign featuring 58 different films teaching you how to find cheap tickets on the site.
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey
Barton F. Graf’s work for Diageo’s Bulleit Frontier Whiskey took a sharp turn from the laughs. The “Frontier Works” effort tapped modern cultural creators to make stunning works that challenged “tradition”—an homage to the way the Bulleit brand was built. The first phase of the campaign, for example, brought together 24 L.A. tattoo artists to create a 32-foot tattoo that was displayed on a billboard in Los Angeles. The effort has gone on to create spectacular works of neon (below) and 3D printing.
Most recently, the agency debuted a new campaign for Bob’s Discount Furniture with a brand campaign that aimed to take the idea of “cheap” out of “discount.” The campaign brought the brand’s once goofy spokes-puppet into a darker, laugh-out-loud comedic territory.