As an ad agency creative director, I’ve had the fortune to work on a number of amazing brands and large national campaigns. However, sometimes the best assignments are the ones that reward you with something other than money. I’m speaking, of course, about pro-bono work.
Doing pro-bono work is good for the soul. It’s a reflection of your company’s values and what you stand for.
It can also give you a chance to torture Matt Lauer.
Since 1996, we’ve been doing pro-bono work for the Ad Council’s Fatherhood campaign. The campaign message has been simple. Take time to be a Dad today. It doesn’t take a lot. Just spend time with your kids. Children with involved fathers do better in school, have higher self-esteem and are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.
To date, the campaign has generated over $667 million in donated media, won numerous creative awards and made fans across the country, including the President of the United States, who in 2009 appeared in one of our commercials.
Last October, the Ad Council and The Today Show approached us with an opportunity to create a commercial with host, Matt Lauer. Turns out Matt was also a big fan of the campaign.
Over a span of two weeks, we generated at least 40 different ideas; from Matt re-creating the Red Bull space jump (“too dangerous”) to Matt appearing on air after his kids accidentally drew on his face with permanent marker (“too permanent”). One of my favorites had Matt interviewing former President Clinton when Matt’s daughter calls and needs help with her homework. She wants to know the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Matt doesn’t know. President Clinton doesn’t know. They decide to call Hillary. The answer, of course, is Bishkek.
The winning idea was based on one of the very first games we play with our kids: Hide-and-Seek. The idea called for Matt to demonstrate his hiding ability in a series of scenes that go from one extreme to another.
We shot the commercial in a beautiful old home in Montclair, NJ. It was perfect for what we needed. Lots of rooms. Lots of places to hide.
We crammed Matt underneath a sink.
Buried him under a load of laundry.
Sandwiched him between sofa cushions.
Wedged his head between stuffed animals.
Squeezed him behind a painting.
Covered him behind a curtain.
Stuck him inside a chimney.
And finally, we submersed him underwater, Rambo-style. The only difference being he was in a tub filled with bubble bath and he was wearing a mask and snorkel. Still, you have to give the guy credit. I don’t know how he is at seeking, but the man can hide like a boss.
The only thing he refused to do was hide underneath a large area rug. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have gotten under that thing either. Now, I’ve got about 25 pounds on Matt, but he’s wiry and he gave me a look that said, “If you try and put me under that rug, we’re going to tangle.” I guarantee you the next time NBC does “Where In The World Is Matt Lauer,” he won’t be under a rug.
In the end, we ended up with a great commercial for a great cause that uses a popular spokesman to communicate a very important message.
Sorry for that rug thing.