Often, the secret to cracking a brief is figuring out how to talk about uncomfortable subjects. Consumers need to be approached obliquely with products like toilet paper, pantiliners or meds with dangerous side effects. When Circus Maximus took on erectile dysfunction remedy Roman, the thematically-named pair needed to find a way to reach the 52 percent of men who report dealing with the condition, despite the fact that almost no men will publicly admit they do.
Late last year, they lampooned pharmaceutical ad tropes. To continue the campaign, they leaned into an another technique--deflection. Confronted with a situation that makes them feel emotionally vulnerable, many men lie. And confronted with a brazenly direct narrator, the guys in these spots do, too. The result is "Asking for a Friend," which leaves these interested but abashed dudes some plausible deniability. The information isn't for them. It's for a friend. With the same mailing address.
"This time we went straight to the source, shifting our focus to real men, and found humor in how uncomfortable and awkward it can be to discuss it out in the real world," says director Mike Bernstein, who is known for his work with "Saturday Night Live" and Funny or Die. "The hard truth is there's still a lot of shame around it, so it was really important to Circus Maximus and all of us that we enter that conversation with the goal of normalizing it."
The new spots debut on cable TV today, and out-of-home placements reinforce the messaging with a bit of sarcastic copy: "Apparently 0% of men experience erectile dysfunction, but 52% have a 'friend' who wants to learn more."
Despite the humor, it's important to be able to bring a difficult subject to light, says Ryan Kutscher, founder and executive creative director at Circus Maximus. "Culturally, there's already a shift happening where toxic masculinity and ignoring your health problems is fading. Part of Roman's mission since launching has been to destigmatize ED and help men take control of their health."