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Family - A Seattle Advertising Agency

Muffin-Stealing Dogs, Vikings and Other Uncontrollable Desires


Why Comedy Is the Most Effective Way to Advertise

Over a weekend at the Seattle offices of the agency Foote Cone & Belding, I was shooting a spec television commercial. I brought my dog, Jasper, because the place is a ghost town on the weekends and because he’s usually so well behaved – but not this time. Unbeknownst to me, my furry buddy was wandering off every time he heard the word “Action.”

Monday the phone rang. It was a friend of mine at the agency who broke the news that there was a lotta stuff missing from people’s desks that morning. Evidently Jasper was stealing anything edible (or nearly edible), including a very special muffin.

The missing muffin, as described to me, had sentimental value. I’m not joking. One could have dashed to Costco and brought back a shopping pallet heaped with muffins, but none of them would have a crumb of sentimentality. Of course, I apologized for my K-9’s muffin caper.

Some things are irreplaceable. Like talent.

I love working with comedians, in particular comedians with improv skills. They bring so much to a production. A wonderful example is the commercial “Make a Date with Harlequin – Viking!” Timothy Hamilton directed the BBDO Toronto spot for Harlequin.

An average-size woman next to a 7-foot Viking is funny enough, but this spot is next-level stuff. Kyle Andrew plays the Viking, a popular Harlequin character. Jen Goodhue, a writer, actress and Toronto Second City alum with strong improv chops, plays his date. He carries her into a bowling alley as hidden cameras are rolling.

Goodhue steals the show, but the reactions of the unsuspecting bowlers are also irreplaceable. They’re Canadians, so they’re extremely reserved as the ridiculous affair escalates. The romance (and petting) becomes more intense as Goodhue’s character teaches him the concept of bowling, all the while trying to resist his charms. It’s the best part of her performance. She’s playing an exterior action (a bowling date) set in conflict with her inner desire (lust) that she’s struggling to control. And it’s delicious. She finally loses control when he hoists her into his arms. I laughed out loud at the lines: “Okay, we’re going? We have a full hour here.”

A fictional character in a real-life situation makes a lot of sense as the comedic concept. Harlequin stories are known for taking readers on a romantic escape. But understanding who to cast and giving the female character these internal and external conflicts earns this spot a shout-out. This is classic comedy, well executed.

Obviously, humor gets a lot easier to pull off when you’re working with irreplaceable talent. And no one’s stealing muffins while you’re not looking.


Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for freelance consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.


Want to learn more about the pros and cons of hiring comedians? Read all about it.

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