by Dennis Daniel
I give you the saga of Viva Loco. What is a Viva Loco, you ask? Viva Loco is the world's first Italian/Mexican restaurant. Why is it called "the world's first?" Because, that's what I decided to call it. Funny how those things work, huh? It's almost like saying, "the number one...." Who the hell knows if it's number one? For that matter, who cares?
Anyway, I received this order to write a commercial for Viva Loco. The salesperson said, "Be creative." Goody! My idea was simple enough: the old "two guys talking to each other at an ad agency discussing ideas for a commercial" concept. My slant on it was having the guy doing the idea pitch saying, "We'll have two characters, an Italian and a Mexican. The Italian guys says...." Then I would do an Italian character accent with Italian music behind him. "And then the Mexican guys says...." Ditto. Cute idea. Won't win any awards. Just a slightly abstract way of getting across some pretty straight forward copy. Wasn't looking to set the world on fire with this spot. Simple. Mildly amusing. I also felt the idea had potential for further use in other commercials for Viva Loco. Each time a new ad was needed, we'd have the same scenario, with the Italian and Mexican saying different amusing stuff. (It's always good to think this way. Try and come up with ideas that can be applied in the future for the same client -- a bendable concept.)
So, the spot runs. The client loves it. Wonderful. NEXT!
Two weeks pass. The salesperson asks me to come with her to Viva Loco for lunch. The guy wants to meet me and discuss the next spot. Personally, I'm not a big fan of going to meet clients in their own turf. First off, it wastes my time. These little meetings can go on for 2 or 3 hours (with most of the time being taken up by rambling BS and client ass kissing). Secondly, it's really not necessary. Give me the facts; I'll write a spot. Period. I don't have to see the big box with lights and a bar. I don't need to see your authentic brick ovens. But hey, is life perfect? You gots to do what you've gots to do. Besides, I don't mind a free lunch once and awhile.
This meeting was to die for! A classic. I sat in my chair amazed. He told me, "You see Dennis, your commercials are basically a sounding board between me and my clientele." (A SOUNDING BOARD?) He then proceeded to tell me that the commercial was too funny. (TOO FUNNY?) He wanted me to tone down the humor. Point of fact, he wanted me to eliminate the humor. He just wanted the Italian and Mexican characters telling you about Viva Loco in their oh so cute little voices. In other words, he wanted it his way. He totally bastardized what little I had going for me in the way of a concept anyway. He turned a semi-cute idea about an ad agency yoyo trying to sell these two characters and putting words into their mouths into just having these two characters (who weren't even "characters" anymore in the true sense of the word -- they had just become funny voices selling copy) reading info to you about Viva Loco.
Yeah, the client is always right. (BS) I did what I was told. Now don't get me wrong fellow production types; this isn't a million dollar idea that I feel compelled to champion my point of view on, no matter the cost. This is just a prime example of a client putting in his two cents and JUST TOTALLY DESTROYING ANY HOPE OF HAVING A HALFWAY DECENT COMMERCIAL AS OPPOSED TO A BORING PIECE OF S@#T!!! (Pant...Pant...Pant...)
It's okay. I'm alright. Just venting a little, that's all. Now where was I? Oh yeah. I recut the commercial and did it his stupid, snotty, yucky old new way, and the thing ran for about a month. Every time I heard it I wanted to slash my wrists and vomit blood. But, what could I do? At the end of a month, he asked for another one -- same deal, different boring rap. Yes sir. No problem. We aim to please. Just let me bend over here and...ahhhh. To add insult to injury, I tried to be slightly clever and had the two voices sing the Frito Bandito song with lyrics associated with Viva Loco. Well, I learned to regret that because that freakin' spot ran for almost two months! Talk about annoying! I BEGGED the salesperson, "Please, please try to convince this schmuck to let us cut him a new spot and give us creative control. Please! Please! I'll pay for his time!" The kicker on this whole deal is the spots were getting results! It had become one of those annoying spots that can't be avoided, therefore they have to work. Ah, fate....
Finally, the spots' effectiveness began to wear off. After months of torture, the ball was finally being placed back in our court. "Viva Loco said you could do whatever you want with the spot." Picture me standing in the halls, a grinding evil grin on my face, back hunched over, clawing at me hands and laughing like a mad witch on wippets. I walked into my partner Steve Morrison's office and said, "Viva Loco...do whatever you want. A HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!" As we wiped the spittle from the sides of our mouths, we got down to business.
Revenge is a dish better served cold.
We went from boring Peppi and Luigi (those were the characters names) singing a horrid song and reading boring copy, to starting the spot with Peppi lighting his own farts in the bathroom while Luigi knocked on the door and asked him why he was "igniting his gas again."
Oh yes. We did do what you just read.
Naturally, the client had to approve the copy first. But in the great tradition of clients not listening to a word you say or not admitting that they don't understand what they're reading, it was approved. "Cut it." So, Steve and I entered the hallowed walls of Studio A, sat down before the mikes with scripts in hand, and exacted our revenge. The spot ran for two weeks before the client called to say, "Is Peppi lighting farts? We can't have that! This is a restaurant! Go back to the old spots immediately!!"
And so, the Frito Bandito song made its comeback. As for me, I licked my wounds, counted my blessings, and thanked God for allowing me to work in such a crazy, fun business.