Super Bowl

Q+A With Bud Light's Hidden-Camera Star, Outdoor Ad Guy Who Thought He Was Doing a Focus Group for Extra Cash

'You Never Know What's Going to Happen'

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Advertising Age Player

Ian Rappaport started out as an outdoor coordinator at Horizon Media and now sells national out-of-home ads for CMS Consulting. But he also participates in focus groups for extra money, which has now landed him a surprise star turn in Bud Light's hidden-camera Super Bowl ads, where he embodies the brand's new "Up for Whatever" tagline.

We spoke with Mr. Rappaport on Sunday, hours before the game. Our interview has been edited and condensed.

Advertising Age: What's been the reaction since Bud Light first released the ads online on Friday? Were you at work in your job selling outdoor advertising at CMS Consulting or had you taken time to be part of this whole rollout?

Ian Rappaport: It's been viral. Since Thursday night its been such a wild ride.

Everybody who knows me knows the person I am. If you could put a sentence or phrase that speaks about me it's really "up for whatever." In college I lived with 5 different roommates at one point in my sophomore year. Just go with it, that was our motto.

Everybody's been very, very excited. Tons of text messages and phone calls. I have literally responded to everything and taken the time to thank everyone. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I couldn't be more happy.

I put myself out there to do focus groups for cash and this is what happened.

Ad Age: How did you wind up in that bar talking to that girl in the first place? Had you signed a release to do some kind of ad without knowing exactly what?

Mr. Rappaport: I definitely had no idea. I do focus groups. So as you know sometimes the advertising industry doesn't pay too well. I'm a 27-year-old guy living in a doorman building in Manhattan. You've got to do what you can.

I started working at a bagel store when I was 13, Bagel Boss in Long Island. Throughout college I worked at a restaurant called Phil's Pizza. I ended up managing the restaurant. I never went on spring break. Even when I started in the outdoor industry, I would work in the restaurant on weekends. I really try to do whatever I can to make some cash.

So I do these focus groups whether it be testing out an iPad video game or a smokeless tobacco. This was set up like there was a focus group. They were paying me $100 for 20 minutes of my time to ask me some market research questions. They said "If we like you I'm gonna bring you back for the super group. We'll pay you $1,000 to go out for the night." They mentioned it would be more social. Little did I know what it would lead to.

Ad Age: You've been an out of home ad specialist both as a planner and buyer at Horizon Media and on the sales side, including in your job now at CMS Consulting Group. Are you still into outdoor advertising now that you've starred in a Super Bowl campaign?

Mr. Rappaport: I tell you I really hope to be in outdoor advertising for my entire life. It's an unbelievable industry.

I'm born and raised in Long Island, and I'm always going into the city as a kid and seeing that slew of billboards coming into Manhattan. You always wondered how does that even happen?

It just so happened to take me into that industry.

It's an amazing industry. It's very relationship-y, its very close, everybody knows each other. And out of home, billboards specifically, that always made me tick. That's just how it is

Ad Age: And are you back at work on Monday?

Mr. Rappaport: Yeah that's the plan. We'll see what happens after the big day today. I'm willing and up for whatever to do whatever comes my way. I'm really excited about getting out there and talking to people about this. You never know what's going to happen. It's just such a fun time for me.

Again I love the outdoor industry. I've been getting so much support and love. There's nothing more I love to do than speak with these guys. There's no doubt I'll be answering emails. At this point in time whatever happens with this is going to take precedence.

Ad Age: After the bachelorette party with Reggie Watts, meeting Minka Kelly and Don Cheadle, attending a party full of twins and then defeating Arnold Schwarzenegger in "tiny tennis," you find yourself onstage at a OneRepublic concert. What was the part you most find yourself wishing to go back to and do more of?

Mr. Rappaport: There's probably two parts. Acing Arnold -- I aced him in ping pong. I served the ball, he completely missed it. I freaked out.

And when the wall falls down I'm really thinking I'm in the crowd at a OneRepublic concert, but Arnold is bringing me to the stage. At that point I finally realize this is all for me. I'm on stage and I'm screaming and I'm freaking out. That moment was the best part of it all.

I'm so excited and thankful. That was the most breathtaking part of this whole thing. Also acing Arnold.

Ad Age: You're going to the game right?

Mr. Rappaport: Anheuser-Busch has been so amazing. We'll be on the Bud Light ship with my friends and family. I'm a big a Giants fan so it doesn't mean as much to me to be there at the game.

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