Agency A-List: Barton F. Graf 9000
The agency creates its own brand of wacky, absurd comedy -- and makes pasta sauce advertising steamy.By: Shareen Pathak, Published: Jan 28, 2013
Few agencies have as recognizable an aesthetic as Barton F. Graf 9000. The scenarios in the agency's work for travel website Kayak and pizza chain Little Caesars are so absurd and hilarious that the indie shop founded by Gerry Graf has created its own brand of comedy -- so when one of its commercials come on air, we know, instinctively, that this is most certainly Barton work.
For Kayak, Mr. Graf wrote a spot about a fictional bully who was permanently banned from Kayak--and thus, great travel deals--because he gave its founder a pretty spectacular wedgie. But like any good agency, it didn't stop there. Mr. Graf gave the bully a name, picked from his own high school memories, and thus, Frank Reardon was born. When Facebook fans started petitioning to "Let Frank On" Kayak, the shop went even further, with a fully-fledged campaign that featured personalized films of Frank begging to be let back on Kayak.com. When CMO Robert Birge said "No," Frank created his own Kayak.com, a "choose-your-own- adventure" style series of films that let you book flights--for ridiculous prices.
The shop went on to create more wacky, crazy spots like the controversial "Brain Surgeon" starring an ethically questionable doctor performing a brain operation--using his patients hands to search for travel deals.
Barton F. Graf 9000, along with its go-to director, Station Films' Harold Einstein, also extended its comedic talent to irresistibly immature moves for Little Caesars. The bargain pizza chain abandoned artisanal posturing of competitors and make pies fun again with a series of inexplicable moves that have brought "Woo!" to our everyday vocabulary.
But perhaps its most interesting work came for Unilever's Ragu pasta sauce -- a brand, and product, which until now hasn't been known for creative maneuvers. It began when the Unilever brand posted a video on its Facebook page featuring a mom going to some pretty crazy lengths to get her kids to eat, and then asking its fans for ideas on what they would do to get their little ones to chow down. Some of the comments were turned around and made into spots online -- and Ragu even had advice of its own for picky eaters.
Then came the sex scenes. Ragu stirred up some controversy with the first execution of its "Long Day of Childhood" campaign, which recounted the trials and tribulations that make up a kid's life in song form, the idea being that it's so tough, it calls for some Ragu. The first spot, which showed a kid walking in on his parents in a compromising position, definitely got people to sit up and pay attention. The spots also revived the notion of the traditional jingle with its cleverly written soundtrack.
The agency also hired some heavyweight talent from two Droga5 CDs, Scott Bell and Dan Treichel, to a new head of integrated production, Carey Head, and a digital strategy director, Andy Williams. Of course, it had some fun announcing them, too. We wouldn't expect any less.
Check out the other 2012 Creativity A-List honorees here.