Creative Roundtable: No Laughing Matter

Creative Roundtable-No Laughing MatterElement 79 squeezes all the fun out of a bag of chips

Fun is contagious, therefore a disease. That's the credo of NOLAF, the National Organization for Legislation Against Fun, a group dedicated to putting the "FU" back in fun, its executive director declares on

This fictional war on fun is being waged by Chicago's Element 79 Partners on behalf of Tostitos. Todd Crisman, vice president and group creative director of Element 79's interactive division, explains that the site, which depicts NOLAF's studies into the dangers of fun and its efforts to stamp it out, is part of "Free the Fun," an integrated campaign that also includes television spots and print ads.

While the TV and print components of the campaign show the good times that can be had while munching on Tostitos, the agency chose "to take a 180 and look at fun through the lens of this incredibly un-fun organization that is hell-bent on putting an end to anything that is fun," Crisman says.

A full-screen video experience, is made up of 30 separate video segments that take us inside NOLAF's facility. (A number of the clips featured on the site, and some that aren't, were distributed this spring by San Francisco's Mekanism - Element 79's partner in the project - to 50 sites, including YouTube, Revver and Veoh, to drive traffic to

Directed by Mekanism's Tommy Means, the content has a distinctly 1970s look, and the humor is unabashedly slapstick. For example, one NOLAF experiment finds a man happily tending to his ficus while eating Tostitos. When the fun goes too far, the plant is hurled at his groin, and he doubles over in pain.

Creative Roundtable-No Laughing Matter-NOLAFThere is also an interactive component to During a sequence in an auditorium that finds NOLAF's executive director recruiting new members, users can click on a cast of characters, ranging from a Goth girl to a Blackberry-obsessed businesswoman, prompting them to pose questions.

"We wanted this site to be so transportational that you would feel like you were just dropped into this crazy world," Crisman says, noting that the goal of NOLAF, which is aimed primarily at young men, is to "create a brand interaction where people remember the brand, and they remember it with smiles on their faces."

OMMA asked digital creatives Heath Rudduck of Digitas and AKQA's Rei Inamoto as well as New York-based comedian Steve Hofstetter whether a visit to left them smiling. We found that humor is subjective indeed.

OMMA: So do you find NOLAF funny?
Rudduck: When I first went through it, honestly, I was laughing hysterically at some of the stuff, and I stopped and was like, this is the first time in a long time I've actually had a really solid belly laugh at a campaign, particularly online.
Hofstetter: I thought they did a good job of eliminating fun. There wasn't a punch line for the first two minutes. I wouldn't have watched it if I didn't have to. When they finally got to [the auditorium], some of that was funny. But I think it's a fantastic premise with a really poor execution.
Inamoto: I felt that it was trying way too hard to be funny, way too hard to be wise and way too hard to be witty. To be completely honest, that turned me off quite a bit, and it reminded me of another marketing campaign for SEGA Labs that was done probably two years ago.

OMMA: I know what you're talking about. That's, which also has video directed by Tommy Means of Mekanism.
Inamoto: I didn't know that [] was also done by Mekanism, but then that makes a lot of sense because it's the same humor, same tone, same execution.

OMMA: People are seen snacking on the chips in some of the segments. Do you think there was too much Tostitos brand integration, too little, or was it just right?
Rudduck: I made a note as I was watching that I didn't see a product shot until well into the whole experience, and what I like about that is I was laughing hysterically before I got to a resolve around what this site was actually for. The other thing I like about it is the way that the product is woven into the story.

OMMA: How about the functionality of the site?
Inamoto: From an execution standpoint, it was quite well done. I was pretty impressed with the use of the full-screen video, and the download isn't too bad. It's fairly seamless, and it's pretty quick.
Rudduck: I looked at it on the Mac and the PC. Oftentimes the Macs let us down a little bit, but it worked really, really nicely. But there were a couple of disappointments for me with this site.

OMMA: What didn't work for you?
Rudduck: The Dupe-A-Friend feature [through which you can e-mail a friend a video that'll shame him or her for having fun looking at it] was fun. But I ran out of steam after doing that. I thought, what's next? We come to the question: How does this campaign now extend beyond this wonderful laughing experience that I've had?

OMMA: Where would you like to see it go?
Rudduck: I think there are lots of other points where I could come into contact with the executive-director character.

OMMA: I could picture the executive director going on a college tour. I love that guy.
Rudduck: Totally. That's what I was alluding to before - stunts and appearances. I think there are lots of opportunities to extend campaigns like this, even with prequels to the launch making some noise about this guy. Who is he, and where did he come from? I would like to know why, personally, he is against fun.

OMMA: How would you rate NOLAF overall?
Rudduck: So many things we experience these days just take themselves too seriously, and it's a relief to find a brand that's prepared to say, "Hey, you know what? We are what we are. We're a product that puts a smile on your face. You consume us during fun times. Let's have some fun with this as well."
Inamoto: From the execution side of things, it's well done. From a communications-marketing perspective, it has the right level of messaging woven throughout. But overall, everything seems contrived, and it is trying too hard.
Hofstetter: They could have taken 20 grand, handed it to a comedian with a handheld camera and gotten something 10 times as good.

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