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Martin Agency Provides Lesson in Disruptive Content Through An Asshole


Pure and simple, marketers and reputation managers are paid to craft and deliver messages, and those messages are intended to lead to an outcome — driving sales, building brand awareness or endearment, protecting revenue and more. Oftentimes, we’re asked to disrupt, as ironically misunderstood as that word can be. 

If crafted effectively, those disruptive or uniquely creative messages can work. Southwest Airline’s misleading yet effective “Transfarency” campaign comes to mind. Sometimes those big, disruptive ideas can also backfire, like Pepsi’s ludicrous Kendall Jenner ad that was pulled roughly 12.25 seconds after its first airing because it was so ill-conceived.

As an agency partner, typically we are directly involved in the development of creative strategy and content. Periodically, however, we have baked creative dropped in our laps. Often it’s strong content but sometimes we must attempt to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

I’ll never forget when a county government approached us to manage a sexually transmitted disease awareness campaign with creative they’d already developed. After reviewing what they had, we told them there was nothing produced that would dissuade anyone from having unprotected sex, and politely said “no thank you.” 

Creative, of course, is highly subjective, but every once in a while you see work that makes you insanely envious. You think to yourself, “How the hell didn’t we come up with that first?”

A nearly year-old campaign from Donate Life that was developed by the Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency had that impact on me, and apparently about 30 people I know who all sent me notes asking if I’d worked on it.

Dubbed “Even An Asshole Can Save a Life,” the campaign focuses on a character named Coleman F. Sweeney played by actor Thomas Jane. Apparently, Coleman is kind of an asshole. No, he’s a complete asshole, demonstrating the worst of the worst characteristics of a person (although somehow he avoids using Twitter to discuss bleeding facelifts and the like, so there’s that).

But after Coleman comically dies, he is transformed from asshole into a hero. How? Because he remembered to sign up to be an organ donor.

This may be the most amazing commercial ever, right?! ✌☑ LIKE (Y) Truth Inside Of You on Facebook for more awesome videos!

Posted by Truth Inside Of You on Saturday, August 6, 2016

And once he attains hero status, the audience — at least me — is left in one of those “holy shit” moments in reflecting on how Martin’s copywriters take viewers on a journey from hating Coleman to understanding just how important organ donation can be. 

It’s a uniquely disruptive effort — you want to watch it again and again, share it, scream from the rooftops about it. Most importantly, the campaign serves as a stark reminder of what we must to in today’s cluttered information environment if we wish to effectively drive sales, build brand awareness or endearment, protect revenue, or in this case — remind Americans of the importance of organ donation and increase the volume of those who register. 

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