Skiver Advertising's Agency Campaign: Funny, but What's the Purpose?

There's a reason most "funny" videos promoting professional-services firms don't push into the triple-digits in YouTube views, much less go viral: they're all the same. They mine the workplace setting for material, finding comic inspiration in community-fridge banditos and interns with borderline social disorders. They attempt to amuse while strenuously avoiding any topic that could offend a hypersensitive current or future client, which rules out everything except oatmeal-mild jokes at the company's own expense.

Also, they're hard to find. In a cyberuniverse filled with clips of ninja sentinel cats and Van Halen tearing it the eff up at the Us Festival in 1983, who's going to seek out videos of ad guys indulging in a spot of state-sponsored whimsy? Job seekers and employees of the campaigning agency who, suck-up-ishly, hope the bosses are monitoring their web browsers, I guess. That's all.

So let's give an appreciative though not inappropriately affectionate pat on the back to the PR pro who pitched a story on Skiver Advertising's campaign of this ilk ("a rising star on the Orange County advertising scene, Skiver Advertising in Newport Beach is putting its money where its mouth is, promoting the agency itself and supporting the 'uncomplicated' brand identity the agency has become known for since launching in 2001"), because she provided us with a teachable moment. The lesson is this: If you work for a professional-services firm, do not attempt to distinguish yourself with a bunch of half-assed videos.

Do not exaggerate for comic effect. Do not rhapsodize about how your office 'tude is "relaxed." Do not place your lifestyle-accommodating perks, like octuple-ply toilet tissue or abundant acreage devoted to bicycle racks, on proud display. Just don't. If you feel the urge to self-exalt or self-deprecate, do so in the privacy of your own boudoir.

It is not possible to make yourself stand out in a 58-second clip, especially when you're not all that distinct to begin with. An ad firm that prides itself on its "fun, casual atmosphere"? In this day and age? Whoa! If someone introduces a mirror ball or hula-hoop into the mix, stuff's gonna get freaky.

This isn't to dump on Skiver. The bits are original, within the constraints of the offend-no-one mandate, and agency prexies Jeremy Skiver and Rob Pettis wield above-average deadpans. The office itself appears to have abundant natural lighting, which is nice.

But I can't get past a single question: What precisely is Skiver attempting to accomplish here? More or less every small- to mid-size creative firm bills itself as an inviting hamlet for those who shudder at the thought of mountainous hierarchies or prefer to ply their craft while wearing jeans. That's the gist of the video campaign, in which Skiver sends up liberal dress codes, interoffice transport and agency holiday videos (to the strains of a hopefully-not-copyright-violating snippet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside").

Similarly, why would Skiver choose to tout its Cali-mellow vibe and what one might fairly describe as "wacky shenanigans" at the expense of its work? Judging by the clips on its YouTube channel for client Kangaroo Express, Skiver does irreverence and gravitas equally well. Granted, publicists can't pump out press releases around "ad firm makes ads that advertise" as easily as they can "agency promotes culture via social media video and would really, really like to talk to you about it," but that's not an excuse to downplay the primary reason such firms exist.

Meanwhile, and this whine isn't targeted specifically at Skiver, I beg all the aspiring Marty DiBergis out there to give the mockumentary format a rest. There are ways to be entertaining - "funny," even - without asking semi-self-aware subjects to address the camera and then cutting to a scene that belies what they've just said. I'd love to see a company go in the other direction: depict its office as something out of an Orwellian fever dream, with bad cop/worse cop performance reviews and a no-tolerance policy when it comes to khaki. That could work. Anyone who doesn't get the joke can steer far clear; anyone who does will immediately know that he's found a kindred spirit.

Anyway, I like Skiver Advertising, which strikes me as one of the most funerrifickist places to work in greater downtown Newport Beach. I just feel that the firm sells itself short by playing up its personality, is all. Be careful not to shift the spotlight too far away from where it oughta shine.

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1 comment about "Skiver Advertising's Agency Campaign: Funny, but What's the Purpose?".
  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , February 16, 2012 at 4:24 p.m.
    Whoa, dude, ... did someone at Skiver back-into your Bimmer recently? Or maybe cut you off in the bike lane? If you truly "like Skiver" and have a neat idea for a self-promotion ad, why not just submit it and wait for their respo... ...oh, wait. I see.