THE CONVERSATION: Bryan Buckley and Gerry Graf

Bryan Buckley and Gerry Graf, who have teamed on many outstanding comedy spots, talk about great work out the wazoo.

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Bryan Buckley
Bryan Buckley
Gerry Graf
Gerry Graf
Bryan Buckley and Gerry Graf, who have teamed on many outstanding comedy spots for ETrade and other clients, talk about great work out the wazoo.

Bryan Buckley It's an ongoing joke between us about you being the candy man. But the truth is you've got the magic touch. I remember at that time when you were doing Snickers, you didn't talk about it. But when we met I remember you saying,"No, the Snickers stuff will be good now." That was the beginning of our friendship. It started everything.

Gerry Graf That was the beginning of my career. Because then we did another round that was even better. That got me to Goodby. Then I worked with Jeremy Postaer and we won ETrade. That was when we did "Monkey" and "Up the Wazoo." Those were the days. If we wanted to do three spots we'd come in with six spots and they'd say just, "Oh, just go shoot them all. "

BB It's what you heard about VW in its heyday. I remember Roy Grace once saying they'd go in and show 20 print ads and then fight about the one they didn't buy. ETrade was truly like that.

GG Remember "The Book"? It was a line from a guy who says, "You can make money. just send for my book." The name of the book was How to Get People to Spend $50 for a Book. Then you'd cut to the guy saying, "Thanks to you, I got money coming out the wazoo!" And Rich Silverstein didn't know what it meant. He made us take the line out. My partner Dave was like, "Let's write a whole spot about money coming out the wazoo." It was "coming out the butt," and it didn't get approved so it was changed to wazoo. And here's my favorite story about shooting the monkey: The day of the shoot, we've got our two actors and all they have to do is clap, then stop clapping. Bryan goes up to the monkey trainer and says, "In one take, I want the monkey to come out of the car, shut the car door, run up the sidewalk, jump over the boombox, turn around, bend down, turn the boombox on, climb up on top of the trash can, start clapping, and when I say 'Cut,' have the monkey stop clapping." The trainer is like, "OK, give me 45 minutes." Then Bryan goes to the two actors and says, "All you have to do is when the music turns on, start clapping, when the music turns off, stop clapping." So the trainer is ready. OK, action. So the monkey jumps out of the car, shuts the door, runs up the driveway, jumps over the thing, turns it on, jumps on the trash can, starts clapping, Bryan yells "Cut" and he stops clapping. And the two fucking guys are still clapping.

BB The run at Goodby was a great run. I felt like when we had ETrade we were responsible for everything and allowed to build a brand, which was the most enjoyable thing. We shot what we were supposed to shoot, but then we'd go play. You knew you had to come back with something, you knew they trusted us. It was an unreal time because it allowed us on every creative level to be our best. But ultimately that account grew to such a size that even there the layers started to come in.

GG Best quote I ever heard from the guy who ran the company: He said, "OK, I want a Super Bowl spot." We said, "OK, we'll do that." And he said, "I want the best spot on the Super Bowl or the worst spot—I don't want anything in between."

BB Then the "Miracle" campaign happened. Gerry wrote this spot that had people in New York saying they didn't want tourists back. We just shot around and put it together. We did it for Citizens Against Terrorism. Katie Sanderson contacted every network and was able to get it out and get it to run. To me, of everything we've ever done together, that was the best experience. There was a situation that was so beyond anything you can comprehend and you felt defenseless and you found a spot that really captured what the city was. I remember it was two weeks after 9/11 and we were out there still thinking something might happen. You realize that you have the power to do something. What was great was that we could take the power of what we do and use humor, even in a situation as dark as that, and make it work emotionally.

GG After that, I'd have clients asking me, "Do you think comedy is right for this?"—and I'd say, "If comedy was right for 9/11, I think we're OK."

BB We're two guys from Boston, and I think there is a similarity between us, the whole upbringing. There is this kind of weird survival instinct.

GG Did you have more fun when we were shooting the shit or now that you're a bigwig with a production company?

BB I think it's a pretty good period again. The whole viral thing has opened things up—I actually think that it might be the best time ever.

GG The good thing now that it's not just about TV commercials and you have to do virals, etc., is that if you're going online or you're doing TV, now I think clients know that they have to be good. You can't just go on and say, "Hi, this Sprint phone is blah blah blah." You have to have a reason to watch so I think the level of spots has risen with some clients who get it. Not just spots but everything. I call it the reason to watch factor.

What are you most scared of, regarding your career?

GG That gut thing going away. You're paid for your opinion, to some degree. And more times than not, I've been right.

BB Is it inevitable that it goes away?

GG It hasn't gone away for some people. Cliff. And Jeff and Rich always come up with something not just funny but good. But there are many more cases of people for whom it has gone away. I look up to people who do the type of advertising they want to do. You have tons of people who do whatever someone wants them to do. The stuff I think is right—looking back, it's worked for a lot of clients in the advertising that I've done. That's how you get to do what you want to do, because you were right the last time. But if you're just an order taker, that would be kind of crappy. But now that it's harder to get people's attention, there are a lot of big clients stepping up their level of creative. I think right now talented people are being sought out to do good stuff.

BB It's evolved. The account group is nonexistent; it seems like creatives have taken over that role. The good account people have been sucked out of the business. Clients are strong in terms of understanding their marketing needs. I think creatives have been put into more of a selling role than ever before. Creatives are driving the business now—certainly more so than 20 years ago.
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