November 22, 2018

Meadville hopes downtown holiday shopping commercial goes viral

published on The Meadville Tribune
written by Mike Crowley

Meadville officials and downtown business leaders are hoping for a viral outbreak that spreads from Meadville to the three nearest major metropolitan areas over the Thanksgiving weekend. If all goes well, the effects of the outbreak will be felt throughout the holiday season and that result, to quote the video’s cheeky catchphrase, would be “flipping great.”

A viral video is the source of the contagion in question — or at least a video that the makers hope will rapidly attain viral status once it is released on the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page this afternoon.

In a parody of a well-known Dollar Shave Club video from 2012, the Meadville holiday shopping video opens with a straight-faced Andy Walker addressing the camera in a deadpan tone.

“Hi, I’m Andy from the city of Meadville. Where’s Meadville? We’re in northwest PA and we’ve got one of the most charming downtowns for holiday shopping,” Walker says. “Yeah, holiday shopping. Is our downtown really that good?

“No, it’s flipping great.”

With Walker’s delivery, the meme-ready catchphrase and cameos by some of downtown’s most recognizable people and places, the people behind the two-minute commercial for holiday shopping in Meadville are confident it will prove irresistible to those who encounter it online.

“Social media advertising done correctly on the proper channels can be highly effective in reaching specific audiences,” said Ron Mattocks, co-owner of Bull Moose Marketing, the agency responsible for the campaign.

Perhaps even more important than the offbeat form of the message, according to Mattocks, is its content — the city itself.

“Trends continue to show that people in urban markets are looking for the authenticity in their experiences and products which is exactly what small-town America offers,” he said.

In addition to being posted on the chamber’s Facebook page, where locals and others can share it, Mattocks said the video will run in the form of ads on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for select viewers in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Jamestown and Buffalo markets. The ads will begin in the targeted markets on Friday and run until Christmas, Mattocks said.

Not only will viewers have a chance to see the city manager with an engineer’s cap on, riding in a toy wagon with Mike Reed, owner of Tarot Bean Roasting Co., they’ll see the unflappable Walker perform a no-look catch of a tube of wrapping paper and then flawlessly deflect a football tossed at him from off camera — actions inspired by the Dollar Shave Club video.

“That was all one take, that scene,” Walker said after the video premiered to a room full of applause and guffaws at City Council’s meeting Wednesday.

Other sequences took longer, according to Heather Reichel of Reichel Films, who partnered with Bull Moose Marketing to handle filming and production of the commercial.

“The most takes (for a scene) was eight,” Reichel told council. “And that was because of the wheels on the poor little wagon. They were squeaky because I don’t think it’s ever held two grown men before.”

In the scene that proved most challenging to film, Walker and Reed appear in the Market House, squeezed into a tiny toy wagon. Wearing the engineer’s cap and seated behind Reed, Walker addresses an audience of big-city viewers.

“Worried we won’t have friendly tattooed hipsters making $9 gingerbread lattes?” he asks the camera. “What do you Mike?”

“I make gingerbread lattes,” Reed replies.

“And how much do they cost?” Walker continues.

“Not $9,” Reed answers.

“I’m no Mark Cuban, but that’s a sound investment,” Walker deadpans, with the double-toot of a train whistle reinforcing the punchline.

Filmed Sunday with the assistance of numerous volunteers, the video’s conception and execution also highlighted the collective spirit of the Meadville community, according to Mattocks. Once it was pitched, a number of organizations quickly threw their support behind the project, including city government, Meadville Redevelopment Authority, Meadville Independent Business Alliance, Allegheny College, Meadville Medical Center and the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce.

As council members and those in the audience at Wednesday’s meeting laughed at the video and congratulated Mattocks, Reichel and others involved in its production, Mayor LeRoy Stearns jokingly warned his city manager not to let his recent starring role to go to his head.

“He’s keeping his daytime job,” Stearns said.

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