Chasnow & Reichenthal

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This is the year that the King of Beers stepped down from its radio throne. Anheuser-Busch, which for the last three years has nabbed radio advertising's arguably most coveted honor, the $100,000 Mercury Awards Grand Prize - two years with Bud Light spots from DDB/Chicago's "Real American Heroes," and one via Goodby, Silverstein's "Louie the Lizard" Bud campaign - finally surrendered its coveted seat in 2002, to Hollywood Video. Since its inception in 1997, Cliff Freeman & Partners' "Sixty-Second Theatre" campaign has managed to hilariously stuff entire movie plots - from Saving Private Ryan to Scream II - into a minute's time frame and has stockpiled industry accolades - from the One Show, D&AD and the Addys. But not until this year did it land the big one, thanks to the campaign's original writers, ACDs Adam Chasnow and Ian Reichenthal. Not to mention a serial killer named Hannibal Lecter.

The winning ad, penned by Chasnow and Reichenthal, spoofs Hannibal, turning the sinister Dr. Lecter into, well, chopped liver, at least when it comes to his interactions with the hard-nosed Clarice Starling. In the spot, the FBI babe doesn't even give him the time of day as he rings her up incessantly, attempting to bait her with goofy flesh-eating puns. "There was so much equity in the character of Hannibal Lecter," Chasnow explains. "Everyone loves that first movie so much that we wanted to make it like, 'He's back, and he's not that good at it!' " Reichenthal notes that in creating the spot they homed in on Lecter's excess of carnivorous wordplay in the sequel. "He did it once at the end of Silence of the Lambs when he escapes and says, 'I'm having an old friend for dinner,' " Reichenthal says, mimicking Lecter's slithery voice. "And that was OK, the movie was still terrifying. In Hannibal he just kept doing that over and over. It seemed like before he ate every person in the movie, he'd drop a hint that everyone in the audience understood, but the person on screen somehow missed. Then, of course, they would get eaten."

More than just being entertainment - with its dead-on performances, music, effects and timing - in four years the Hollywood Video radio work has found its stride by addressing the savviness of today's media consumer. Not only does it send up itself - the line "Where we try, unsuccessfully, to pack a two-hour Hollywood production into 60 seconds," opens each spot - it pokes fun at the blockbusters it promotes, whether it be cheekily pronouncing uncanny coincidences that unite lonelyhearts in schmaltz like You've Got Mail; unsheathing formulas that combine miraculously high-tech gadgets and debonair dame-bagging in James Bond films; or picking apart a dog like Hannibal.

"Writing them is not that much different from when you're at the movies with a friend and you sit and talk about what's on the screen - all that stuff eventually finds its way into the scripts," Reichenthal offers matter-of-factly, as if this campaign were just a lucky gig for the a typical moviegoer. But it takes a lot more than a critical mind to make winning radio. The creatives, not surprisingly, offer kudos to the client for giving them the leeway to be so irreverent (a freedom more common in the less-costly radio forum, Chasnow points out). Chasnow and Reichenthal are also experienced scribes trained under the creative largess of Freeman's Arthur Bijur, the noted "Johnny Appleseed" of radio, who also helped steer other talents, like Steve Dildarian and Greg Bell, to the medium. That might explain why even as well-established TV writers, they're still committed to radio. Chasnow, who made stops at McCann and DDB before Freeman, has also written TV for Hollywood Video, Fox Sports and Church's Chicken; Reichenthal, who has also worked at Lowe and Wieden, has penned broadcast for Staples, Mike's Hard Lemonade and Nike. In radio, other clients they've worked for include Mike's, Budget and Little Caesars.

At a recent mixing session at Kamen Entertainment Group, for a new Hollywood spot promoting A Beautiful Mind, it's clear that the campaign has become a well-oiled machine, thanks to the accomplished crew at its helm. Chasnow takes a quick listen to the spot, which parodies troubled genius John Nash as he approaches his professor with a litany of "brilliant" ideas. This one's written by copywriter Grant Smith and art director Richard Ardito, who sit at the boards with engineer Roy Kamen, who's worked on all but one of the 40-plus Hollywood spots and whom Chasnow likens to radio's equivalent of an editor and DP rolled into one. Chasnow points out some confusing parts and suggests different cue-ins for the music, and Reichenthal, via speakerphone, pipes in his two cents as well, including his take on which line he thinks is funnier - "lawn furniture" or "roll-on deodorant." (He goes for the furniture.) The fleet-fingered Kamen raises sound levels and switches music and copy almost telepathically, within milliseconds of a suggestion being made. Standing by also is producer Katherine Cheng, who keeps everything on pace and also has a near photographic memory for talents' voices, which Chasnow notes is a tremendous plus during casting. Speaking of talent, which Chasnow feels is another key part of why the campaign's rocked for so long, the booming voice of Hollywood Video announcer Larry Kenney must get its creative due.

And of course, there's the writing. "Write, rewrite and rewrite," Reichenthal recommends. Many of the great Hollywood lines were spawned impromptu during recording, as in Hannibal's "Mom's home cooking" pun. Chasnow also notes that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to radio, but he says it often pays to locate the listener at the outset - unlike television, which often leaves the viewer "blind" until the very end. "People are barraged with so much stuff, I think it's easier if you tell them, 'This is where you need to keep your mind for the next 60 seconds,' " he explains. "If you have them focused on what you're talking about, they'll laugh harder because they have permission to think in that direction." And they counsel that one should respect radio with the thoughtfulness that goes into any good creative. "Outside of being a really great concept person or an art director for print, radio writing is really one of the few crafts left," says Chasnow.

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