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An Unbelievably Successful Idea: Props to Big Boyz Bail Bonds
By: Brian Keller
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Baltimore has a population of 619,500. Big Boyz Bail Bonds distributes 500,000 pink-and-yellow pens, with their information celebrated on them, annually. This is their advertising: the pen. They are found in law firms, bars, businesses, restaurants, offices, and almost anywhere. Big Boyz has two employees that deal only with pens. Order from their website, have them delivered. They’re free. They are promoted via social media and a web presence that speaks, almost, more to the pens than services offered. Almost anywhere in Baltimore, you’ll find their pens.
To judge the effectiveness, a Baltimore agency asked citizens about Big Boyz. 100 of 100 knew Big Boyz Bail Bonds. 78 people had “owned” a pen. One woman laughed: “We came to see the Orioles. We hadn’t heard of Big Boyz Bail Bonds until this morning, when we signed our check with their pen and kept it.” The agency offered them 10 dollars for the “free pen.” They accepted.
An agency idea was born to extend the brand with an original effort that would make the pen a star. The story of Big Boyz Bail Bonds was to be told through the pen, the street, and the city. Photographers were vetted and a hot New Zealander was chosen to shoot the purchased pen during a night shoot in Baltimore. 1,500 stunt pens were needed for lighting tests. They bought them ($10 per), as they didn’t want Big Boyz Bail Bonds to know about the effort. A prop master “wrangled” the pens. The original pen would be used only for the final. A hand model would pick it up off a bar, starting the pen’s journey. They retained a wardrobe stylist for the cuffs of his sleeves, and a manicurist to care for his hands. They later Photoshopped the (union stunt) hand out. Large lighting instruments illuminated the outdoor set. A water truck was needed to wet down the street. Later effects were created to put a moon in the shot. The Art Director didn’t like the idea. It was Photoshopped out. A generator failed, so the company went into overtime on crew. Craft service was kept on board to feed people. The group had grown to 95 as more crew for the behind-the-scenes video look at the Big Boyz Bail Bonds PEN photo shoot started to arrive. The Director, Director of Photography, Executive Producer, Producer, Unit Production Manager, and Assistant Director flew from Los Angeles to lead the video production. They didn’t want to share set lighting with the photographer. They wanted to light their own set and brought their own Gaffer, Assistant Camera, and Best Boy Electric from New York. Due to the overtime on the photo shoot, the video shoot was extended as “day for night” through the next morning, causing more overtime. An editor came from London to put the piece together and do the post work (key to the viral video and potential broadcast and digital material). The agency felt bringing an editor to do the post as well as edit was a great cost-savings measure.

The music department is still looking at the feasibility of buying a known track or doing an original score.
The cost for the “spec” production? $685,000.00. The agency production department put together a credentials kit, mood boards, a redesigned Big Boyz logo, ads, brochures, digital material for social media use, and an agency portfolio. From the video, the agency put together the completed video, sample TV spots, viral videos, audio for radio, and a mobile app that imitates a pen (digitally) to present to Big Boyz Bail Bonds. The media director put together a plan to expand reach. The agency Account Planners and Account Services put together a brilliant strategy and two creative groups gave birth to a luminous new campaign.
The “spec” work was completed in February 2014. We called the agency spokesperson and she said, when we asked about meeting with Big Boyz Bail Bonds, “We are efforting, with vigor, to establish an in-person, in-depth meeting with the client to discuss the comprehensive plan we’ve developed. Calls have been well received by our potential client. Staff members received writing instruments. We are dynamically expressing, as management, that our staff use the pens in lieu of computers when possible as an onsite visit could happen at any unexpected time. We don’t want to be caught with our pens down, as it were. We’ll endeavor to update Beyond Madison Avenue on events leading to our expansion of the Big Boyz Bail Bonds brand.”
We spoke briefly with Big Boyz Bail Bonds. They said: “We like giving away pens. Everyone knows us.”
Big Boyz Bail Bonds is real, as are their pens, and should be studied at ad schools (bigboyzbailbonds.com). The man-in-the-street interviews also happened. Other stuff may have been fudged.  
Home Depot, there’s no “spring Black Friday.” What’s wrong with you? 
A special shout-out goes to Ron Johnson and Michael Francis (exes) of JC Penney, who wrecked that brand’s message, acting more like Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute of Dunder Miflin than the men that had been so wildly successful previous to the Penney disaster.  
A few years ago we gave a nod to the Burger King “King” and the alteration of messages that had caught on with the public. The list is long.
We don’t say to do it with pens, but if pens work, use them until they don’t. Study the brand you’re stewarding before you steward money out of their pockets and customers away from their brand.  

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About the Author
Brian Keller is the Creative Director at teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English), went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends University of Baltimore School of Law.

Brian's been working primarily in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.

He has built the creative departments at two agencies.

He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son. When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.

Find him online here and at www.teenyagency.com.
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