How to prove you have a quality product? Labs rats are always good.
Actually, they’re not—but that doesn’t stop coffee brand GoodBoyBob from putting some very peculiar lab rats to work in a legit bonkers commercial from agency Erich & Kallman. Directed by Erich Joiner—the longtime advertising and production exec who also owns GoodBoyBob—the spot features a pair of lab scientists trying to decide how to prove GoodBoyBob is the best-tasting coffee ever.
They soon enlist the services of a group of prized rats, who have clearly been subjected to some Vacanti-mouse style experimental shenanigans prior to the coffee ask.
The spot is absurdist in that classic Skittles mode—perhaps not surprisingly, as Erich & Kallman co-founder Eric Kallman was the writer on many of the most famous Skittles spots back in the day. It also continues advertising’s slow return to goofy comedy—as also seen in the new Kayak ads from Supernatural—after obsessing over purpose-driven messaging for years.
Kallman told Ad Age that the agency and brand didn’t want to appeal only to coffee snobs and talk about things like flavor profiles. Rather, they wanted to communicate what people say when they try GoodBoyBob—simply that it’s the best coffee they’ve ever had.
“We started laughing when we were kicking around the idea of how you’d go about actually trying to prove something so subjective,” he said. “That led to ideas about scientific tests. Then someone mentioned that famous experiment from the ’90s where they grew a human ear on the back of the rat, which led to the idea of an entire face made of rats trying it.”
Casting for the rat pieces was an interesting process.
“We tried to make sure all of the eyes, ears, nose and mouth we were shooting looked distinctive and different, so it would be a true ensemble face that formed to try the coffee,” Kallman said. “Hopefully people notice the different eye colors and ear shapes. And the nose ring was a personal favorite.”
Animals are notoriously tricky to work with in advertising, and these rats were no different.
“As soon as you put one down, they wanted to scurry off to the corner of the cage and curl up with their friends,” Kallman said. “It took a lot of patience and treats to get footage of them standing still for a few seconds. Luckily, our friends at Parliament, our VFX company, were able to place them where they needed to be.”
Joiner’s advertising career dates to the original “Got Milk?” campaign in the early ’90s at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, where he was an art director. He later founded production company Tool, who partnered with Erich and Kallman on this spot.
Joiner launched GoodBoyBob, named for his shaggy Havanese pup, in 2017. The roasting brand now has a growing number of physical locations. This is its first real commercial.
“I’m surprised and thrilled at how fast GoodBoyBob has taken off,” Joiner said. “To keep the momentum going, its first visual spots had to be original, entertaining and express what I’m being told by our customers—that it’s the best tasting coffee they ever had. Erich & Kallman knew precisely how to land the right balance of informative and funny, and I’m pleased to say they knocked it out of the park.”