He's an up-and-coming director whose spec reel took a stand on what he truly is. Just Bob.
His name's Bob Morrow but he's known professionally as Bob. "My last name isn't a secret," he says. "Well, it is to some people."
But why just Bob? "It's easy to spell," he offers. But can't the one-name deal backfire? Look what happened to Prince. "We'll see how long it plays," Bob says cautiously. "I'm prepared to go back to two names eventually."
On the other hand, there's Tarsem, which is not easy to spell. At any rate, Bob, who works out of artsy Jim Edwards' Barking Weasel in Los Angeles, doesn't go in for that aesthetic stuff, though both he and Tarsem got their starts with spec reels made at Art Center. Bob's a simple, zany guy who loves Woody Allen and the Zucker brothers, and his reel is as easy to figure as his name. It's just plain wacky, sometimes in a non-Saturday morning package-goods sort of way, which can be downright wacky upside the head.
Bob's got a Cheerios spot (FCB/Toronto) in which a grinning kid struts through the hall at school like he's King Stud, when in fact all the girls are looking at his gaping fly. In a Kellogg's Mini Loaf spot (JWT/Toronto), a woman devours raw bacon, raw eggs and an entire grapefruit, then drinks scalding coffee from the pot. Then there's a Reactine allergy relief spot (Taxi, Toronto) in which three dumpy hausfraus don dominatrix gear to beat the dust out of furniture. In his Mrs. Winner's fried chicken spot (Tausche Martin Lonsdorf, Atlanta), a bucket of the product is dumped in front of a finicky food stylist at a shoot, and she simply yells, "Ready!" Even Bob's anti-smoking spots, for the Arizona Department of Health (Riester Corp., Phoenix), are strangely nutty. In one, a dog pees on a kid's cigarette; in another, a girl smoking in a mosh pit puts out a guy's eye with her butt.
Clearly Bob is committed to comedy, from "broad to subtle," he says, though so far it's mostly broad. His very first spot, for the Pennsylvania Lottery (Tierney & Associates), is probably his most subtle, as we meet a guy who's spent his life very profitably being a runner-up, demonstrating the pleasures of winning second prize. Bob himself is demonstrating this quite admirably, too. While certainly not in the big-budget ballpark or hot shop heaven yet, he's amassed a number of respectable spots (he's shot also for Toyota, United Van Lines and Radio Shack/Canada, among others) in a relatively short period. He joined Barking Weasel in '96, straight from the master's program at Art Center. (There was, most fortuitously, a comedy niche to be filled at the Weasel, Bob explains -- Tenney Fairchild had just left.)
Which is not to say that Bob was a kid fresh out of college when he turned pro. A "boyish 33," as he puts it, he's got an agency career behind him that you might say runs hot and cold. Bob grew up in L.A., and "always wanted to be a director," he says, after seeing Yellow Submarine at the age of 4. He went to the University of South Florida in Tampa to study advertising "and get a fresh perspective -- on the sun." Then he buckled down, went to the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, got an art director's certificate and landed a job at DDB/Hawaii. Soaking up the Pacific angle? Not to his satisfaction. "Hawaii's great," says Bob, "though after a while you get tired of paying $5 for a gallon of milk. But the key thing is they don't do a lot of broadcast out there. I had to do TV."
Short-lived Fun With Midgets
So he went to W.B. Doner/ Detroit, got some broadcast and a little comedy. "I did a drugstore campaign with midgets. How can you not have fun working with midgets?" After an unfunny but sunny retail stint at Miami's McFarland & Dryer, Bob went west again, to Art Center to finally become a director.
His student spec reel is, of course, wacky. "I did stuff I would have wanted to do when I was at agencies," he explains. "I built a reel that I wanted to see." Weasel meister Jim Edwards says, "What you want to see in someone's work is the real person. You want to know who they really are. When I saw Bob's spec reel, I said, 'I know that guy. And I like him. He's got a point of view.' "
A spot for Jolt cola has two guys who just guzzled cans of the stuff pooh-poohing the drink's kick -- in hyper mosquito voices. Another spot features a Nazi torturing a guy with a staple remover. "You can't do anything to me a doctor can't fix," snarls the victim, "and I have John Alden health coverage!"
A Fender guitar spot has women straight off The Golden Girls playing groupies to a stunned Ted Nugent type. "This is my sister Molly, she loves you too," says a matron holding up an ancient bluehair in cataract shades. "She'd tell you herself, but she's mute."
Edwards points to the "riskiest" spot on the reel, a spot for Ajax Exterminators that shows us someone who'll never be a client: a disheveled lunatic stands outside his little house and says things like, "I wish I could lay naked and have bugs crawl all over my face and skin. That would be so funny."
Don't Call Him Robert
"That sold me on him," Edwards says. "The guy has taken a stand that's truly his." As for the single name, "that's how he sees himself," Edwards concludes. "Just Bob."
Also truly his is the classic spec :30 for Jerry's Adult Shack, honored at the '96 AICP show. A spot so good, it's still on Bob's reel. Two loathsome sleazebags do a deadpan promo for their XXX-rated store, as half their dialogue must be bleeped and half their products must be blockpixed. "I never saw a spot for a sex store before," says Bob, who's in for a treat when he finds out about Robin Byrd. "I thought it would be a good idea. It'll still be on my reel when I'm 65. I have the feeling it's key in landing me work."
What Bob can't explain is why so many of his best boards come from Canada. "I don't know how it happened," he shrugs. "It's just the luck of the draw," with a little help from Sparks, Weasel's Great White North affiliate.
Despite the weird streak, he has no desire to be micropigeonholed as a Canadian-market package-goods comedy guy. But with all the Adult Shack toys and the Reactine hussies, what about a leather case for the reel, at least? "I was just happy the client went for it," says Bob of Reactine. "That's the way the board came in, really. I did a lot of research on that production and I have the scars