Friday, February 09, 2007

My Anna Nicole Smith ad

Done just after she won the first round of the lawsuit over the money her ex-husband left her.

I have always hated it - not because Anna was bad, but because I never found it funny. However, my art director at the time had come up with it and would not let it go. There were many fights over how to improve the ads - but I lost them all. Even the ones with the client where I tried to tell them the campaign would not be effective in generating calls without major revisions and a new media plan. (Media departments at most agencies drive creative - this is what has happened in the last 10 years and it is bad: It leads to irrelevant messages in places that are even more irrelevant. Ugh.)

Interestingly, I never thought I'd actually have to shoot the ad because while the client had bought the idea of celebrities applying - but discovering they're not qualified - for jobs at 21st Century Insurance, nobody wanted to do it for the money they were offering.

Then Anna said yes.

Turned out she was the cheapest of the three celebs we used (the others were Alice Cooper and Randy "macho man" Savage).

The day before the shoot I thought I'd get a reprieve from it when Anna broke her arm in a "weight lifting accident" and tried postpone the shoot.

The client played hardball and she came out to fulfill her contract.

The producer said Nicole asked for Crystall and Godiva Chocolates in her trailer. She stayed in Santa Monica under the name Norma Jean.

Yeah. Norma. Jean.

She never came out of character. But she was completely professional at all times. Even when the client made her try on shirts though she was clearly in pain from the arm injury which turned out to be real.

I will also say this about her: In person, she appeared to be nothing more than a big boned Texas woman with a lot of make up, but something different happened under the lights in the camera's eye. She seemed to radiate. I've seen a few actors since who do this - appearing rather normal in rehearsals or auditions, but becoming incandescent in front of an audience - but this was the first time I ever experienced it.

It is a very special thing for which there is no real explanation.

I have a picture of me and her together on the set somewhere but I can't find it right now.

As I've already said, I never liked the ad - strategically it was wrong for the company - and entertainment-wise it wasn't funny (there'd been arm wrestling). Plus, I never like creative driven by celebrities - always seems like a cop out to me. But everyone was too busy trying to have a story to tell their golf buddies over a round of 18 holes to care.

Ultimately, it didn't matter. The ad was pulled after one weekend because it didn't create enough calls.

Over a $1,000,000 was wasted on this effort.


tim said...

Hey, the guy in your spot is my friend J.T. Walsh! (Loosely a friend; did improv with him a few times and hung out at a few improv tournaments, but haven't talked to him in, like, seven years.)

I hope working with him went okay. He's a brilliant improviser and a cool guy. No idea how he'd come across after a few million takes with Anna Nichole. (Just guessing she wasn't known as "One Take Anna".)

malachy walsh said...

He was totally fantastic. He was working a lot when we shot back in the fall of 2000.

I see him all the time now too.

And actually, Anna worked pretty fast. It was really all around easy.

Tim Abshire directed - and he could handle just about anyone...

Eric said...

You are absolutely right. The spot is not funny largely because it doesn't take full advantage of what it would have been like to have ANS as an insurance agent.

But Malachy, you never told us about your Superbowl ad, as originally promised, did you? I watched the second quarter so I probably saw it. And where do we see your trailer?

malachy walsh said...


Here's where you can find the Super Bowl spot.

John Hage (writer) and Bernie O'Dowd (art director) at Deutsch/LA came up with it. I have to say I liked it from the start. A very good spot.

It didn't get a lot of talk, but all of the talk it got was positive. And it was one of the higher scoring spots with regular peopole too.

Unfortunately, I've heard through the grapevine that NAMI (National Assoc for Mental Illness) complained that the spot made lite of suicidal ideation. GM - after a few days - decided to alter the spot to soften this. I haven't seen the remake.

The trailer I worked on (guided/oversaw might be better words) has been removed from YouTube, presumably because of the above controversy.

It was more or less a cut down of the 60 with a Don Lafontaine VO that went something like "See what happens when everything you once loved is suddenly taken away. And you're a robot."

As to why ANS spot isn't funny, you're right. And there are so many more reasons as well.... It was a nightmare to make.

Fred Wickham said...

Thanks for your piece on Anna Nicole. I don't envy you having to make a celebrity spot. You've got it right -- the execs wanted a story to tell their buddies. Misuse (actually mistreatment) of this particular celebrity has been on my mind as well. I just posted about her, too.