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February 05, 2007

Patience Pays Big Dividends

Picture this as a metaphor for an integrated marketing campaign for a new product, with "Foreign Man" as the brand planner.

Now picture it in the hands of Interference, the company that brought us the bird-flipping Aqua Teen Hunger Force that set off a bomb scare in Boston.

Andy Kaufman would be replaced by the Blue Man Group. And they would all be naked. They would be playing the tune themselves from start to finish, accompanied by the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra, but the vocals would be performed by every single winner of American Idol, plus Lisa Presley and Madonna. Only they'd be clothed. And they'd be shouting profanities.

Andy Kaufman is not my favorite comedian (and he often failed to show this kind of restraint), but this has got to the most brilliant comedic performance I've ever seen. He pulls it off because he's patient. He allows anticipation to build. Like a planner on a new campaign, Kaufman's Foreign Man might be nervous, but he understands the successful delivery of his line depends on being absolutely committed to his moment -- not only with regard to a spirited performance, but also in time. "Singing" more lines than he was supposed to wouldn't work the same way for this skit. It is the cinematic equivalent of an effective use of white space. The lines are funnier because of the nothing that happens in between each delivery.

Some of the other skits Kaufman performed using this device weren't as funny, but they were still charming. There was no meanness to them. No resentments (those things came out in other characters he played).

When planning an campaign, you can't be more in love with the method of attracting eyeballs than you are with advancing the interests of your client. Prepare yourself. Be patient. Embrace your silence. Wait for your moment. And when your moment comes, lay waste your inhibitions and give it your best effort. In the end, shocking people is easy. All it entails is that we keep raising the bar. Just bear in mind that you still have to live in the same world from which you've removed any reasonable sense of decorum.

Contrary to my initial impression (credit David for curing me of this), which I thought irresponsible and in poor taste anyway, Interference was not successfully creative in choosing its tactics. Looking at it objectively, taking notice of the fact that the "bomb" scare was a complete and reckless accident, their best idea to gain attention for the brand and endear it to the audience was to flip everyone off... both literally (as in the character's pose) and figuratively (as in the press conference that followed).  - Cam Beck


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That's a great analogy, Cam. I love the idea of Kaufman using his "white space."

And, as far as interference, I immediately don't like them just because of their name. It's an immediate adverse reaction. just the complete opposite of the message we should be sending.

Ha! I'm glad I cured you.

Here's a great thought from Church of the Customer that is keeping me from being "cured".

"ut if you already have a show or a product with a cultish following, why try to go mainstream?

The mainstream will never try to understand the cult or its symbols. It'll just frighten the mainstream."

Maybe the flaw all along here was the desire to "go mainstream". All it ended up doing was frightening people.

timing is brilliant--he knows when to hit and when to shut up...instead of hitting us over the head. Glad that you too loved Valeria's post.

Thanks for this thoughtful post (and for Kaufmann's fun).

Thank you, for your comments.

Paul - All I can say here is that they were definitely shouting, not getting close enough to whisper.

David - I agree that mainstream was the wrong way to go here, but it sure was easier than finding out where the correct audience would be that would be receptive to joining the niche.

CK - Love your post on raising your hand today. It's a nice commentary about waiting for our moment.

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