How do Joss Whedon fans sneak a dozen Firefly references into a video ad for a car rental company?
By asking. Twice.
This is the story of how Epipheo and Firefly Car Rental worked together to give a huge nod to beloved TV shows while also poking fun at conventional marketing ploys. Oh, and built a whole new brand.
Firefly is a newcomer, but it stems from the established Hertz company. Having had the pleasure of working with Hertz on several different promotional videos, we were honored when approached with their Firefly account.
And a bit geeked out. The first thing that popped into our heads was, “We need the cast of Firefly. We need Nathan Fillion.” We were 195% sure he’d be willing and ready to drop everything for us.
However, we were a long way from that part of production. As a burgeoning brand, Firefly needed, well, almost everything. So we asked, “What grabs people? What are the marketing moves that get people to engage?” Things like a jingle, a catch phrase, a logo animation, sonic branding, popular spokespersons, etc.
But we thought we could go beyond leveraging those things. The truth is important at Epipheo, and, since finding it in advertising seems to be getting harder, we wanted to pull back the curtain on marketing ploys. Our pitch was really about calling them out and saying,
“Isn’t it funny that Samuel L. Jackson is selling credit cards?”
Also important at Epipheo: being true fans. Which led us to be like fireflies. See, a firefly lights up the night in search of a significant other. We wanted to blink our little butts off, too, saying to our fellow geeks, “We’re here! We know you! We care about what you care about! Whoa, our butts blink?!” The idea was to make a video by fans and for fans.
So we asked if we could. Though the point person at Firefly was receptive to both the meta-marketing approach and the Firefly references, she herself was not familiar with the TV show. She didn’t fully understand the jokes and the appeal, but she did fully trust Epipheo’s creative (read: nerdy) touch.
We got going! We called Nathan Fillion! He showed up at the studio within the hour!
Or not. Instead, we looked for the best way. One for both the fans and the brand. And we found that this meant using animated characters, not actors. Nathan was so bummed.
Then, just as we got all the pieces in place and all the references in the script, uncertainty hit like a Reaver ship attacking the outer ring!!! Oops, sorry. Nerdspasm.
The point person left. Which meant we had to pitch everything to a new contact whose trust we didn’t fully have. How would he react to the ideas? Would he even know who Joss Whedon was? Was it worth the risk?
We thought so. We asked again.
Turned out he not only was receptive to the concept but was a huge geek, too. He was another firefly in the night, and our blinking butt attracted him to — um, maybe the analogy falls apart here. But the video, with his support, came together.
In some way or another, we’re all fans. We all like certain crazy ideas, risky concepts, and nerdy geek-outs. And when we join forces, well, that kind of partnership is golden. What we were able to do because of Firefly’s trust is quite amazing, and it all came from being fans of Firefly and Firefly.
Really, the video is a love letter to all kinds of fans. Fans of TV shows, fans of marketing, fans of satire, fans of fans, and fans of saving money for the things that matter.
Written by Levi Bethune, Director of Brand Communication
[blog_consultation_block bgcolor="#1f1f1f" background_img="/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Firefly_Needs_a_Celebrity_Endorsement_-_YouTube.png" title="It Starts Here" text="The strategy we built for Hertz Firefly started with a simple contact form. Let's tell that story with you."]