Breakthrough Creative Now Requires You to Break Things

There was a time when breakthrough creative really had nothing to do with “breaking through.” Rather, it was about being funny, emotional or dramatic within very rigid constructs, whether those be thirty seconds of airtime, a magazine spread or a bulletin billboard. Obviously, digital and mobile have changed all of this and most of the really big creative ideas now start with, “Is it possible to … ” So that now, creativity is less about working within an established space and more about altering the medium through the use of new technology or new ways to use existing technology.

Here are a few examples of things we’ve recently created at WONGDOODY. In each case, you’ll see that somewhere during the process, we had to go a little Christopher Columbus and explore previously unchartered waters.

The first, is an application we created to promote the TBS animated comedy, “Neighbors From Hell.” It’s called Phone Call From Satan and basically, it allows you to enter your friend’s information online and select from a series of potential offenses that range from, “Putting ho’s before bros” to “Telling your mama’s fat jokes when your friend’s mother is in fact overweight.” Then, you punch in your buddy’s phone number and Satan himself dials him or her to relay the message.

In case you were wondering what the Satan hotline looks like. It’s actually rather dated.


There are lots of offenses your friends are capable of. Here are a few.

Even Lucifer believes in confirmation.

The trickiest part of this endeavor wasn’t creating the site or determining how to initiate the calls, but how to prevent the recipient’s answering machine from clipping the first five seconds of Satan’s message. Obviously, this little glitch had the potential to destroy the whole idea. It also pissed off  the Prince Of Darkness. Fortunately, there was technology that if deployed could determine whether a human being or a machine was on the other end of the line. If it was the latter, our service would insert a five second pause before starting, thereby allowing the answering machine time to engage.

While most ad folks are now accustomed to overcoming digital hurdles like these, the fact is, if you want to stand out creatively these days, you’re almost certainly going to have to forge some sort of new ground no matter what the medium.

To illustrate this point, at the same time we were producing the Phone Call From Satan application, we were also embarking on an outdoor campaign for the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center. The first execution in the campaign featured a traditional billboard with an untraditional application — a simulated spine running up the center post. Now, plenty of folks have manipulated billboards in similar ways, but I’m not aware of anyone having to construct six lifelike vertebrae and then matching them with an oversized X-ray. (Oddly enough, getting the X-ray just right proved more difficult than erecting the spine.)

The final product on the streets of Palm Springs.

Discs C4 and C5. (I’m just guessing on this. I actually have no medical training.)

In addition to this outdoor board, we also had a series of mall kiosks. What made these unique, was that in each of them, we emphasized the pain back sufferers experience. One of the vertebrae featured a pocket that housed a bunch three-dimensional knives in one case and another had shards of broken glass. Obviously, there were a variety of security issues we had to deal with here. Starting with the fact that no matter how impenetrable the case, our client saw the potential PR headaches of featuring actual knives or glass in the display unit. So we had to fabricate plastic knives that looked like real knives and plastic glass that looked like, um, real glass. Add a little record heat and a week later, we also had to find plastic glass that didn’t melt when exposed to Southern California sunshine.

What it feels like to have rubber knives that look like real knives in your back.

Wow, fake broken glass feels almost as bad as fake kitchen knives.

Again, I highlight these three examples not because they were representative of an exceptional week, but of a typical one. Not just for us, but for any agency that wants to be considered “Creative” in 2010. So, to everyone who will ask, “Is it possible to ______?” this week, here’s hoping the answer is, “yes,” and there aren’t too many sleepless nights along the way.

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