If you delve at all into the world of online viral videos, odds are good that you’ve seen at least something of their work. Whether it’s the bizarrely sung and overtly multicultural Red House ad, the simultaneously violent and cute Bucks First clip — with people dressed in six-point buck outfits — the used car spot featuring the Cuban gynecologist or any of their other commercials, if you’ve seen them, you remember them. They’re the work of Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal — Rhett & Link, purveyors of local commercials online at ilovelocalcommercials.com, and they’re appropriately coming to the small screen with a new series all about their exploits in their wildly idiosyncratic version of the ad-making business.
Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings, premiering on IFC June 24, takes viewers on the journey these two face every time they set out to make one of their ads. In each episode, the boys will take on one or two businesses and help them to meet a particular advertising goal with that Rhett & Link touch. We caught up with them to discuss their new series and to find out what it is about local ads that drives their passion.
“Our background is Internet videos,” Rhett explains of their start in the business. “We love local commercials. We love those concepts — they’re so memorable. … Even from a young age, just being glued to the television — the things from television that stuck in my mind, besides, like, The Smurfs, were the crazy used car lot ads. Why is that guy in a chicken suit? And why can’t I erase it from my memory, even though I’m only 7 years old? I mean, we’ve been fans of that ‘Where did that come from??’ type of local commercial as long as I can remember.”
When it comes to their own ads, Link has one important point that people often misunderstand: “We are not making parodies of local commercials,” he asserts. “We are making real local commercials. Really, our aim is to serve these businesses and help them. And most of the time, the best way to do that is to take them to a place that is still 100 percent them, but it’s a place they never expected they could go.”
According to Rhett, that place is different every time, but the road map to getting there is pretty much always the same. “What we always want is, we want to start with someone who has a specific need for a commercial. They’re not just like, ‘Hey, I think this would be fun,’ but like, ‘We actually have a marketing challenge.'”
Link agrees, even if they do have the occasional tall order that puts them through their paces. “There are a lot of challenges,” he says. “We were at a pro-wrestling school a couple of weeks ago. It’s called Make Me a Pro Wrestler Wrestling School. … These wrestlers have made their own personas, but we want to take them and say, ‘OK, let’s change them a little bit for the commercial.’ That gets a little dicey. When you’re asking a wrestler three times your size to alter his persona a little bit to be a little better for the commercial, you encounter a little bit of resistance — especially if you think the best idea is for him to be ‘The Baby.’ Like, a full-grown man wearing a diaper. … But we’ve yet to run into a problem that we weren’t able to solve in the end.”