How to Shake Things Up (A Little)

Advertising agencies are historically bad at advertising for themselves. As the old chestnut goes, the dentist’s kids always have crooked teeth. We have done a few pieces on our own behalf in the past, and while I have liked them a great deal, they have been too infrequent, as is tradition. 

Our very first ad for ourselves was also the first thing we did with Jon Collins, who is now our informally official director of cinematography / producer of everything. We shot it in the old vault of our first office, where Mulberry Street Cantina is now. We called that room the Magic Puzzle Basement after an old Patton Oswalt bit. It looked like this:

The Get Big idea was absolutely silly while still being a perfect distillation of what we’re about: to get more powerful and unlock your true potential, you have to do The Work. And to do The Work properly, you have to prepare properly. In this ad, the “prepare” metaphor happened to be us oiling up our friend and legendary local rock god Ryan Thomas Becker, and the flashes of Swash represented his unleashed potential.

I have always loved this ad. The creative wasn’t overly tailored to our target audience (small business owners), but rather was engineered to express both our creativity and our ability to produce cool, interesting creative work of high production quality. I argue that it worked: I showed it to a lot of potential clients in those first three years of business, and they would often breathlessly exclaim something like “Jesus” or “what the hell?” and then, usually, they would end up hiring us. 

Other ad opportunities have come from sponsorships, like this one for Denton City Contemporary Ballet, for their winter production program. (Full disclosure: My kiddo was in the show, being a young student at Denton Dance Conservatory.) I like this ad too, because it is fun, it is contextually topical, it expresses our personality, and it features a handsome Can Bear.

Let's Dance | Swash Labs

Most recently, we partnered with Thin Line as festival sponsors for their tenth excellent year, and this created the opportunity to make a 30 second video spot for the agency. We had many ideas over many meetings, and ultimately landed on (in?) Jell-O after abandoning the early frontrunner that involved t-shirt cannons (somehow), and Jon lamenting the fact that on a previous shoot involving Jell-O and kung fu, there hadn’t been enough Jell-O. We cycled through a concept about a Jell-O seance, and then an ornate, haunted dessert table, and the next thing I knew, Diana was on a two-day quest to make as much Jell-O as possible. 

The origination of the idea was truly a team effort, and it felt nice to work on something that could be both silly and good. The finishing touch was a perfect tagline courtesy of Courtney Marie: “Shake Things Up A LIttle.” It turned out swell:

It was fun, and we want to do more things like this. We like fun.