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by Dean Ryan, Art Director

Weird Work Works

I could show you a phenomenal piece of advertising that is saving the world and cleaning up at award ceremonies. But I won’t. I wanted to take this chance to talk about what I want to see more of in advertising. The undeniable fact that weird work works. And by weird work I mean the uncanny, the strange, the bizarre. The mix of random, catchy, and odd that makes weird advertising memorable. 

But why does it work? Well, the short answer is, we don’t fully know. Weird ads demand your attention and stay with you. And that’s exactly what great advertising should do. From a gorilla playing the drums to a Japanese commercial that features a mouth eating a snack from the back of a person’s neck. It doesn’t make sense, but it just works. 

I think right now we are at a turning point in advertising. The heaviness of being locked in our homes and living life on repeat has made us yearn for something new. Something odd and far away from the everyday. People want to be entertained and it’s our chance to win people over. For people to (dare I say) actually like advertising again. 

A great example of the weird renaissance on the way is the piece I have chosen to discuss. Starburst’s 2007 commercial “Bus Station” better known as “Little Lad” created by TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. It’s beautifully random and odd but underneath it drives the key product message -highlighting a new flavour. It was a risk and could have been a very different ad but everything worked out perfectly. The right director, (Randy Krallman) perfect casting, wardrobe, writing and a very trusting client. 

Although a successful ad at the time it has had a resurgence and became relevant again after 14 years. In the past few months the character’s repetitive song and weird dance have been viewed more than 350 million times on TikTok. The ad has been remixed, danced to, haunted dreams and even inspired its own genre of fan fiction. So what is the magic that revived an ad 14 years later, on one of world’s most popular platforms? Weirdness. No outrageous gags. It’s just really and universally weird. Plain and simple. Those weird ads bury themselves in your mind. And there’s a new generation that love to see it. 


@Justin McElroy this is entirely your doing #berriesandcream

♬ original sound – Jacob Sutherland