Asterios Kokkinos, a freelance creative director and copywriter who works in the advertising industry, joins me on this episode of We Built This Brand to discuss one of the most challenging and critical elements of building a brand - getting people to pay attention to you. Asterios shares how he was able to break into advertising through his stand-up comedy career, and how humor not only helps develop effective content but also drives relationships and projects forward. We also discuss the risks brands take when advertising in a highly-politicized culture, and the different strategies brands will take to either mitigate or embrace risk depending on their positioning. Asterios also gives an insightful look into his creative process, including the approach he takes for effective B2B sales copy that makes it the easiest form of content for him to create.
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(01:29) Chris introduces Asterios, who is a freelance copywriter and creative director in advertising
(02:53) How Asterios wound up going from stand-up comedy to advertising
(06:42) Asterios explains how creating a viral video comes with inherent risk
(11:06) How positioning can reduce or even eliminate the risk of traditional advertising
(13:23) Chris and Asterios discuss the recent Bud Light controversy and the phenomenon of seeing market leaders struggle in our fast-moving culture
(20:30) Asterios describes how so-called “edgy” brands are using the illusion of edge, but not actually risking controversy
(23:20) Chris and Asterios discuss the political minefields that exist in advertising today and how risk is often avoided by the fact that most advertising ideas don’t come to fruition
(27:01) Asterios’ creative process for coming up with advertising pitches
(31:05) How Asterios approaches sales content writing and why he feels it’s the easiest content to write
(37:08) Asterios’ favorite brand right now and why he feels their advertising strategy strikes a good balance
Asterios Kokkinos is an advertising creative with nearly fifteen years of experience writing for the biggest companies on the planet. He enjoys Babylon 5, yelling at the TV with his elderly father, and naps.
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/asterioskokkinos/
- The Loudest Podcast: https://www.asteriospodcasts.com/
- Loudest Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/@theloudestpodcast
Chris: What’s up, We Built This Brand listeners? This is your host, Chris Hill. And today we’re talking to Asterios Kokkinos. He is a freelance writer who has done a lot of writing in advertising and marketing over the years and worked with some huge brands. He’s worked on viral marketing campaigns—and yes, I do mean actual viral content—and has a very interesting career balance between having a background in comedy and a writing background that has helped him to create some very interesting, influential campaigns.
So unfortunately, we couldn’t talk a lot of detail about the brands he worked with specifically, but, you know, can look him up on LinkedIn, you’ll get a feel for what he does. We’ll include a link here if he’ll let us. This was a great interview with Asterios. It’s very wide-ranging, so be prepared. We go all over the place, we talk about what makes content viral, how he got his start in advertising, if he was a stand-up comic in LA, how did he end up in New York, and everything that happened in between.
It’s quite the journey that he’s had with his career and we talk a little bit about that. We also talk about what it takes to be edgy in this day and age and why it’s better to play things safe or, frankly, why it’s not better to play things safe and when to take risks and when not to within advertising. So overall, I really enjoyed this conversation and I think you will, too, so let’s get into it.
Chris: Welcome to We Built This Brand. I’m excited to be joined today by Asterios Kokkinos.
Chris: Asterios, thank you for joining me.
Asterios: Thanks for having me.
Chris: Yeah, man. Asterios is a freelance copywriter and creative director, and honestly, he’s an all-around cool guy. I’ve gotten to know him through one of my employees, John Zwick, and we actually share him as an editor. And he’s been great for both of us. And he was like, “You two need to talk. I just think you’d have a fun time talking.”
And Asterios knows a ton about branding. He’s worked for some big brands, and we’ll just—yeah, I’ll just let you take it away from here and share a little bit about yourself. So Asterios, welcome.
Asterios: Thank you for having me. Yeah, look, if you want to know about me. I’m a copywriter, I’m a creative director, I’m like an ad guy, advertising guy. And I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands on planet Earth. And I cannot tell you their names, but you’ve heard of them. You might be drinking them right now. These products may be in your house, improving your kids’ health and safety. Look out for these great brands.
And, yeah, I write TV commercials and I do big campaigns and I pitch big crazy PR stunts and stuff that goes viral, and I have a lot of fun doing it.
Chris: That’s right. That’s right. So, we’re going to dive into a lot of that tonight and talk about the creative side of branding, the creative side of marketing, creating these campaigns, and doing all of that. So, let’s start way back. What did you really want to be when you grew up when you were first—yeah, when you were a kid?
Asterios: Well, when I was young, I thought it’d be pretty cool to be a baseball player. Didn’t work out because baseball players are notoriously uncool. They’re just—I don’t know, there’s not a lot of baseball player swag, you know? Basketball players, football play—look, with basketball and football players, they’re like the elites. They’re immediately celebrities.
And then with hockey players, it’s like, oh, it’s like the working man’s profession. Oh, they make good husbands. Baseball players, oh, you’re stuck somewhere in the middle. So, it didn’t work out with baseball. So instead, I started doing comedy, stand-up comedy, things like that.
And I was like the only Asian American stand-up comedian in Los Angeles who had the build to play Genghis Khan in a series of viral videos for Hungry Man Dinners, where Genghis Khan [laugh] time-travels in a magical freezer to the far future and discovers Hungry Man Dinners and thinks they’re awesome.
Chris: Wow. You know, I can actually see it though, now that you say that.
Asterios: Google ‘Genghis Khan Asterios Kokkinos.’ I think you’ll [laugh] you’ll see a lot of pictures of me in a $10,000 costume and—well, got, that costume cost way more than I did. And so, yeah. And so, there were like no other Asian American comedians who are, like, beefy in town. They’re all too tiny. So, I just got the part.
Like, I didn’t audition. Like, they gave me the role. And I was like, “Then I will do it.” And then they were like, “Well, you’re a comedian. Why don’t you write some of these virus spots, too.” And I was like, “Yes, I will.” And then that agency hung on to me and then I hopped from there. I got recommended somewhere else, I got recommended somewhere else, and then the next thing you know, it’s going on, like, 15 years of advertising, just because I happen to be stocky enough.
Chris: Yeah, that’s wild. So, you were doing comedy in LA, it sounds like. And it sounds, like, you had no anticipation, no desire to go into advertising at first, either?
Asterios: Well, how do you get in? It’s like, that’s the weird thing where it’s like, look, you get into advertising because you went to college with someone and then their dad worked in advertising. Like, otherwise you can’t, like—I don’t know, you can get an internship, which—it’s like, well, if you’re poor, then no, you can’t do that. Like, you can’t [laugh], like, choose to work for free in the most expensive cities in America. So, it’s like, look, I got lucky. Like, I just, I fit a need at a certain time. And then, like, when I got—and then, like, I got my foot in the door and I’ve kind of, you know, been in the door since.
Chris: That’s awesome. I mean, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of need for humor, obviously, in advertising to draw and attract attention, and I’m sure having those comedy chops really helped with that.
Asterios: It is fun to be able to be the most fun part of someone’s day. Like, you know, to go in and pitch a big crazy comedy thing. Even if they don’t buy it, they’re like, “Look, I may not like that thing, but I like those guys.” And then I don’t know, someone comes along and we can work together on that, we work on that. It’s like, you know… we, no one wants to watch an ad, so what’s in it for us?
Like, either blow my mind with this incredible product or be funny or something. And it’s like for a lot of brands, clearly, the answer to the question of, like, how do you have people pay attention to me, is to you know, be funny, be outrageous, you know, be humorous. And it’s, I don’t know, it’s worked for me for a while. I’ve stayed employed.
Chris: And we all love employment, don’t we [laugh]?
Asterios: [laugh]. Yes, we do.
Chris: It’s good for surviving, I guess. But that’s really cool. So, you’ve done a lot with comedy, you’ve done a lot… like, the branding piece, the thing that I’m really curious about, you say viral videos. How did they know they were going to go viral? I mean, I feel like, at least for me, living in East Tennessee in a more rural community, I hear people say viral and we hear him say, [in East Tennessean accent], “Go viiiral.” It’s not viral, it’s viiiral.
And they really think that anything halfway funny is going to all of a sudden get eaten up by the internet and be amazing. But how do you become a part of something like that? And how do you create that? Is it just magic or money or what?
Asterios: Well, the interesting thing is, it’s like, I almost stuttered when I used the phrase ‘viral video’ to describe, like, my first advertising job because it was before we had the term. Like, there wasn’t the term ‘viral video’ or, like, ‘internet videos.’ It was like, I don’t typically upload them to YouTube. I forget where—I—they lived on, like, a weird Facebook and a MySpace page. Um, you know, but look, if the question is, how do you get something to go viral right now, today in 2023, it’s to do something easy to describe that somebody cares about.
Like, it can be the dumbest thing in the world. It could be, like, oh what’s a good—okay, yeah, look at there are these kids and for 20 years, they’ve wanted this, like, Nintendo game called Mother 3 translated—
Chris: Oh, yeah [laugh].
Asterios: —from Japanese—you know about this?
Chris: Mm-hm I do.
Asterios: You know—can you explain this [laugh]? Would you like to hop in?
Chris: I don’t know how well I know this. I just know the Nintendo fandom and I know that the Mother series is a big series, and yeah, there’s this one game that’s just never been translated into US. And it’s like, I swear every time I’m on Reddit, or something in some Nintendo forum, they’re like, “Oh, we’re going to bring this retro game in. Please let it be Mother 3.” And it’s like… okay.
Asterios: Yeah. That is exactly right. You know about as much as I know about this thing—
Chris: Okay, good.
Asterios: —which is that other people care about it.
Asterios: So, it doesn’t matter—well, let’s say you’re gum. Let’s say your Big Red gum. Big Red gum presents, like, the Big Red push to save Mother 3. And it’s like, I don’t know, we get a bunch of signatures, and we, I don’t know, we make a commercial and we donate a bunch of charity money to save big redwood trees, some crap. But like, that’s what it takes to go viral, is, like, you got to, like, do something that people care about.
They are these kids that really do care about Mother 3 being translated. They really do care. And it’s like it if you solve their problem, they will buy your gum or your tanning spray or your car forever. It’s like, these links don’t even need to be very close. You don’t need to be, like, a Mother’s Day greeting card company or, like, you don’t need to be, like, promoting, like, three of something; it could be anything.
It’s like, if—because if there’s one thing people don’t care about, it’s you and your product. If they did, you wouldn’t be asking yourself, “How can I go viral and get people to care about my product?” So, what you do have to do is you have to find something they do care about and then help them. And if you can do that, you can go viral and forge relationships and gain fans for life. But the problem is, it costs money to do stuff, and you get in trouble if you do something and it goes wrong.
Chris: So, there’s risk?
Asterios: Yes. And the easiest thing to do is to do nothing. But you can really only do nothing once you’re successful and the money is already rolling in [laugh]. So, you have to do something to get yourself attention, but, like, trying to get yourself attention also creates risk. So, it’s this, like, very interesting dance that, like, must be done before you can advertise a product. And there’s a lot of billable hours in there for people like me.
Chris: [laugh]. Yeah, exactly. And there’s a lot of—I mean, there’s a lot of effort and creativity that goes into stuff. And I’m sure stuff gets canned all the time, too, because of the risk or the issues or the challenges that come with creating content like that as well.
Asterios: Nobody ever got fired for saying no. That’s the thing. It’s like, it’s the yesses that get you fired. You can do nothing and accomplish nothing—and plenty of people do—and it’s pretty smart. Because it’s like, if you can just find a way to hide in a big organization and not make waves, eventually, you can leave with your 401(k) fully vested.
Like, um, but you know, if you’re not looking to, like, live, like, just kind of a safe life, if you’re looking to, like, go out there and win and succeed and, like, be the biggest, craziest brand and the biggest selling product there is, well, nobody got there without risk unless the product was so good that the advertising didn’t matter.
Chris: You know, and that all comes down to positioning, right? Like making sure that you’ve got a brand that is positioned in such a way that you’re maybe first to the market or people just associate that brand with whatever that is. Like, you know, we used to say, you know, we would go to Xerox something as opposed to copy it, or you know, you put on a Band-Aid. But a Band-Aid is a brand; it’s not the actual bandage you put on your hand. But everybody associates it so closely that they don’t need a bunch of marketing to advertise new Band-Aids. I mean, I don’t know the last time I saw a Band-Aid ad on TV.
Asterios: It would mean something was wrong—
Asterios: If you saw a Band-Aid [laugh] ad. It’d be, like, “Uh-oh, there’s some sort of new kind of spray skin that has made our product irrelevant.” We better have, like, a bunch of mommies putting Band-Aids on a bunch of kids.
Chris: I have them all over my house, by the way. I have two young kids and they lo—they think they’re stickers.
Asterios: They are stickers. They’re not doing anything. They’re just there to make the kid feel like something got done.
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. Most of the time, you’re exactly right, too, because it’s like I got a—they got a tiny little scratch that didn’t even break the surface, but there’s a Band-Aid on it.
Asterios: Yes. Look, the Band—what you’re selling with the Band-Aid is you’re selling the end of the story. And it’s done. There we go. We kissed it, blah, blah, blah. Look, if you’re in a situation where you need more than one Band-Aid, it means you’re dying.
Asterios: Like, two Band-Aids is not the solution to what one Band-Aid couldn’t fix. But I know what you’re saying about, like, you know, essentially becoming, well, the market leader, which is interesting because the moment you become the market leader, it’s incumbent upon you to take absolutely no risk and do nothing [laugh] differently. Because why—you know, why mess with a good thing, like if something’s working?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, look at what’s just happened with Bud Light. I mean, in that situation, like, regardless of how you feel about the issues surrounding it—because I know there’s probably a varying array of opinions on it—like, they botched that from beginning to end. And, like, they lost market share as a result of it. So yeah, but hey, they got Kid Rock drinking it again, so who knows?
Asterios: Yeah, exactly. It’s like that’s the thing about people who are, like, “I will never drink Bud Light again.” It’s like, until it’s the most convenient beer there is. Which Kid Rock found out at baseball stadium. It’s like, well, Bud Light is the closest. Okay. So, if you’re not willing to walk, like, two more minutes for a different beer, then how much do you really care about Bud Light [laugh]? It’s like all this outrage is so quickly disposable.
But yeah, listen, the problem with Bud Light wasn’t… the problem with Bud Light wasn’t the influencer campaign. The problem was the response to the influencer campaign.
Asterios: The story so quickly became that they didn’t stand behind, like, a freelancer they hired. Like, that’s the problem. Like, the problem is, like, you hired this person; you hired her to, like, make these, like, Bud Light posts, then the posts come under attack and then it’s, like, your instinct is to hide? Like, what? That’s not—you can’t do that.
Chris: That’s that person looking to retire with a 401(k).
Asterios: Yes. I get why you want to hide. It’s easier than dealing with whatever’s happening outside. It is easier. Closing your eyes will provide a short-term solution. It’s just a long-term problem. Look, just on a completely different thing about Bud Light, it’s like… for a long time, both Bud Light and Disney were the kind of place where you could have, like, a—not Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch and Disney were the kind of place where you could, kind of like, have, like, a 50-year career.
Like, as long as you didn’t, like, mess up anything, or I don’t know, piss off the wrong person, like, you could, like, start in the mailroom and then graduate as I don’t know, junior vice president of garbage. Whatever, who cares? But it’s like, oh, my God, I can’t believe how fast the culture is moving. Where, like, if you told me, like, a couple of years ago that, like, Bud Light and Disney would, like, be facing, like, stock market response responses to, like, cultural and political issues, I’d be, like, “What the? What? They’re, like, unsinkable titans.”
It’s like, imagine—it’s like if Coca-Cola were to suddenly, like, encounter some sort of controversy, and then all of a sudden, like, Coke is number one. It’s like, what do you mean—Pepsi is number one—it’s like, “What do you mean Pepsi is number one? Pepsi’s [unintelligible 00:17:30] number one since Back to the Future Part Two was in theaters.” It’s like, “What do you mean Pepsi’s number one?”
Chris: Remember that guy Biff?
Asterios: Of course I do.
Chris: Yeah, he kind of came to life in reality, didn’t he?
Asterios: Yeah, well, I don’t know. Was it Biff ot—I guess that would be Biff.
Chris: It was Biff. Yeah. They said—
Asterios: Would it be Biff the Third?
Chris: —they based him on a certain former president.
Asterios: When you say—
Chris: —which were not a political podcast, so we’re not going to go too far down that road. But—
Asterios: When you say, Biff, well, it’s like, okay, well, you mean Biff Tannen—
Asterios: —who was Marty McFly’s age? Did Biff become president or did Biff’s shitty grandkid become pre—
Chris: I think it was Biff.
Asterios: It was straight-up Biff who became president?
Chris: Because it would have been—
Chris: 30 years, 30 years from the ’50s would have been the ’80s.
Asterios: Would have been the ’80s.
Chris: Yeah. And they went to the alternate reality, right?
Asterios: And he’s 18 in high school, so 20—so 20, 30, 40, he’s old enough to run.
Asterios: Biff Tannen?
Asterios: Great-great-grandson of “Wild Dog” Griff Tannen. Wow. Who’da thought?
Chris: Exactly. Exactly.
Asterios: To the highest—
Chris: But anyways.
Asterios: But listen, but anyway, it’s like, what do you mean? Coca-Cola’s got—who made that commercial with the—with Chris J—with the Jenner kid when they got pissed off about the [crosstalk 00:18:58].
Chris: Oh, I forgot about—uh…
Asterios: Remember that? There was like a Jenner, like, a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial or—
Chris: Oh, yes. The Pepsi commercial. Yes. Mm-hm. Mm-hm. And that was like the most cringe-worthy political statement. Like yeah, it didn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, that was just awkward. It was just so poorly done. And yeah, in bad taste. Almost as bad as Pepsi.
Asterios: Imagine, it’s like if Coke had done that, would that have been it for Coke? Like, look, I have no idea how Coke has arrived. Because of those commerc—you remember those commercials a year or two ago where, like, someone’s grandma ghost in the painting help them cook Thanksgiving dinner?
Chris: No, I’m not remembering that one, to be honest with you.
Asterios: You didn’t see the Pepsi—the Coke commercial? I’m sorry. I keep mixing these two great products.
Chris: I can’t—no I really don’t remember that one. I’m sorry.
Asterios: You didn’t see the Coke commercial where the grandma ghost in the painting helps Thanksgiving dinner get made?
Chris: I did not. I’m going to have to look this up now.
Asterios: It happened. And I’m watching this and I’m like, “What do you mean that grandma ghost is—” And then it’s for—it’s for Coke? It’s like, “What are you doing? What is this?” I think that’s the thing with these giant brands where it’s like most of what they make is, like, stuff that’s very hard to object to. It’s kind of like, you really got to think about getting pissed off at this grandma ghost ad. Are you seeing the grandma ghost?
Chris: I am. I’m seeing some stuff, but I’m not seeing… I don’t know. I don’t want to click through these while we’re talking.
Asterios: It’s okay. It’s okay.
Chris: I don’t want to get too distracted. But yeah, I think Coke gets sentimental in the holidays, yeah.
Asterios: There’s a painting.
Asterios: She’s looking on. She’s like, “You did it.” She’s like, “I may be dead, but Thanksgiving lives on, thanks to you and Coke.”
Asterios: You see it?
Chris: Yep. I see it. I see it. Okay.
Asterios: It’s like what the? What?
Chris: Yeah, I mean—but when I think of Coke going viral, like, talking about the risk factor, like, I’ve noticed, like, they’ve done some things with, like, programming—several years ago, like, programming a Coke machine to, like, give Cokes away.
Asterios: Oh, The Happiness Project? Yes.
Asterios: The machine.
Chris: Like, it’s safe. They play it safe. It’s fun and viral, but it’s safe. Who’s going to get offended at The Happiness Project?
Asterios: We’re running out of room on sa—we’re running out of safety room. And the thing is, like, if you’re playing safe, you better be making that money. God bless you, Coca-Cola, you keep raking it in.
Chris: You know, as we talk about creativity as we talk about, you know, the safe side, what about the brands that don’t play safe, the edgier stuff that comes out, like, the people that really ride the line? How do you—I don’t know, have you written anything of that nature that you can disclose?
Asterios: I can’t disclose anything and I never will.
Chris: Oh. Oh no.
Asterios: But—listen, I will say this.
Chris: Let’s talk around it [laugh].
Asterios: Listen, I will say this. I don’t know if there are any brands right now that are, like—because it’s like… it’s the appearance of edge, but it’s not edge. It’s not, like, actual transgressive stuff that could get you in trouble. It’s stuff that, like, appeals to, like, a kid who wants to, like, a danger but not too much. You know, like, a Hardy Boys mystery. They’re not going to get tortured.
They may get roughed up a little, these Hardy Boys, but you just got to send him a message. “Stay out of Riverdale and stay off this case. I’m telling you right now, what’s happening with the Lodge family fortune is none of your business.” That’s right. I am pitching a Hardy Boys/Archie crossover for no reason. I’m trying to answer a question.
Asterios: Edgy brands. I mean—
Chris: I’m thinking, like, Liquid Death when I think of, like, quote-unquote, “Edgy,” but kind of meet that description you’re talking about of, like—
Asterios: That’s exactly what I’m talking about where it’s the appearance to match, but it’s not actually edgy.
Chris: Yeah. No, it’s not really. But it’s death, so it sounds really edgy.
Asterios: No, it’s nostalgic. That’s the thing. Death Metal ’80s, like, horn hands, hair rock is the safest you could be now [laugh].
Chris: I mean, it’s basically Gwar.
Asterios: Yes [laugh].
Chris: It's Liquid Gwar [laugh] is what it is.
Asterios: Yes [laugh].
Chris: Especially if you’ve seen their mascot and their characters and stuff, man.
Asterios: I agree. I—listen, I am trying to—look, the edgiest thing you could do right now would be to help someone in need [laugh]. It’s like, it’s unfortunate. The edgiest thing you could do right now would be to, like, create products and services that help the, like, distressed community. It’s like the biggest issue that we’re facing right now as a country is, like, the migrant crisis.
It’s like oh, okay, but oh, that’s political. All right, well, global warming? Ah, that’s political. Can we help gay people? That’s somehow political, too. And it’s just [laugh] like, everything’s political to the point where you’re, like, how about a movie about Barbie? And stars Barbie—
Chris: Oh no, that’s political. Believe me, that’s political.
Asterios: And then they made that political. You’re right. I didn’t even think about that.
Chris: Fight the patriarchy, man. People are upset about that.
Asterios: Oh, I forgot. I forgot that there was a whole outrage cycle about that movie about that toy. Yeah, no, good point. I’ve—withdrawn.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, everything, everything is political these days. I mean, they might as well make the next Lego Movie ‘Everything is Political’ now, instead of ‘Everything is Awesome.’
Asterios: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: [singing] Everything is political.
Chris: It doesn’t really go, but you get the idea.
Asterios: I do.
Asterios: Of course I get it.
Chris: It’s just it’s insane train to trying navigate that field. Like, being a copywriter and creating this kind of content, I’m sure you deal with that probably on a day-in, day-out basis, just thinking about how can I maintain creative control and, you know, navigate that field. So, how do you navigate that?
Asterios: A lot of it is earned through experience, you know? Luckily, I’ve been in this game for a while. And it doesn’t matter what it is, there’s almost no chance it’s going to get made. Like, it could be the safest or the most dangerous thing. It’s just, stuff moves too fast, budgets get reallocated, and the person that was in charge of this thing gets fired or promoted, and now there’s a new person, and they got to put their stamp on it.
And, like, so it’s just, like, in advertising, almost nothing gets made. And so, there’s almost nothing to lose by trying something big or crazy. Because if it’s not going to get made anyway, why—it might as well not get made great.
Chris: And what do you mean by in advertising, nothing gets—almost nothing gets made? You mean so many people are saying no, that nothing gets made?
Asterios: Hmm, how do I explain this? All right, let’s say there’s a new kind of painkiller. There’s, like, a new kind of a killer for your brain. And it’s great; it makes your headaches go away. It makes your brain feel great.
All right. So, you know that things coming out. And you’re like, “All right, we got to start thinking about advertising for it.” And then, like, two people are going to spend, like, a year working on, like, the strategy and, like, they’re going to, like, do a bunch of focus groups and they’re going to, like, test a bunch of stuff and they’re probably going to get, like, AI now they’re going to say, like, “We also used the computer.” And then… and then it’s going to be, like, “Oh, crap. Okay, well, we only have, like, eight months to make these commercials.”
So then, like, we’re going to pitch a bunch of stuff and pitch a bunch of stuff, and then the client’s going to tell us that they don’t like it and this and that, and we’re going to go back and forth, we’re going to go back and forth. We’re going to write up a script and then we’re going to cast it and we’re going to hire people and then, like, we’re going to book, like, a thing. And we’re, like, going to go to Brazil. And it’s like, “All right, we’re going to Brazil. We have our visas.”
And then it’s like, “Ah, turns out when I’m making that pill anymore for your brain.” And it’s like, and that’s advertising. Or it’s like, the person that approved the pill is now the CEO of, like, our parent company and the guy that replaced him doesn’t care about pills. The guy that replaced him likes syringes, so we’re not doing it now. Or it’ll just be, like, you come in one day, and it’s like, someone was cheating on someone else and now you don’t work at a place.
Like, it turns out this whole place that you work for was owned by a weird family and now the whole family is fighting and we’re all fired. It’s like, that’s advertising. What you pitch, the chance to be getting made are, like, one-half of one percent. So, have fun with it. Go in there and pitch your heart out and pitch the best thing you possibly can because, God forbid whatever you pitch does survive, if you don't like it, you’re stuck with it for two years. Because, like, that’s also how long it could take this dumb thing to get made.
Chris: That is a good point [laugh].
Asterios: So, make it good. Or at least maybe some of you won’t get sick of.
Chris: [laugh]. So, how do you—what’s your process when it comes to that? Is it just you got to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall, always make it as fun as possible? Do you have, like, a thought process for this? Like, how do you keep going in that regard?
Asterios: The fact that it is a team effort is incredibly helpful. The fact that, like, you’re in a room with a bunch of people and they are facing the same problem that you are, like, there’s a blank page and it’s either fill the page or get fired. And so, it’s like, well, that’ll make you fill a page pretty fast. But I mean, for me, I think it is just about coming up with as many ideas as possible because… because there’s always going to be something you don’t expect. Like a lawyer is going to come out of nowhere and tell you that, like, you can’t use the word ‘and.’
And they’ll have a really good reason and you—what are you going to do, argue with them? Like, in front of the client like an asshole? No. You’re just, like, okay. I can’t use the word and. Well, that invalidates some of my commercials, but not all of them. It’s just, like, yeah, shit’s going to happen. And so, it’s like, it’s better to have a lot of stuff with you.
Chris: I can definitely see that. I mean, doing creative work at HumblePod and the things that we do, like, we definitely run into, like, oh, this is a great idea. We need to go down this road. And all of a sudden, we can’t do it because someone else has already named it that or already has that branding, or already has that idea in mind. And so, yeah, I can definitely identify with that piece of it.
And [I’ve worked in it 00:30:17] enough, I know—like, once you described it, like, I get exactly what you’re saying. I’ve been in enough scenarios where, you know, in front of big companies, where we have had creative stuff out there and it just dies on the vine because of exactly what you described. Anything. It could be just the, you know, the leaves were the wrong color this fall so we’re [laugh] not doing it. And, you know, things just go wrong. So yeah, it’s a very improvisational field, which I’m sure you know, ties back to your comedy background is probably helpful [laugh].
Asterios: No look, it’s fun. It’s fun to be able to, like—because that’s what comedy is, it’s like thinking as fast as you can. And, yeah—but, like, I think that the interesting thing is that the idea that’s going to work, it’s like, whoever’s listening to this podcast, if there’s an idea that’s going to work for you, it’s probably not going to be because you got there first. Like, there will always be someone who gets there first, there will always be someone who’s better or who’s cheaper. It’s like, the only way you can win is to just be the most yourself.
And like that—like, because if there’s a campaign or a project that you’re tying a lot of hours to and it’s really personal to you and it’s the kind of thing that, like, kind of only you could say, well, then you can’t get scooped on it because it’s, like, entirely yours, you know? It’s like, if you’re going to be first to market, then you need speed, and you don’t get speed without money. And if you’re starting out, you’re going to have money, so you don’t have speed.
Chris: Yeah. That’s a very good point, like, being yourself, especially in [clear throat]—especially in, you know, in the types of things that you’re doing, like, means a lot because you have to, like, the person you’re working with. If you’re being forced to be in a room with a bunch of people, like, there’s that aspect of it and then there’s also just your unique perspective that you bring. I mean, you know, I’ve definitely heard in my day, like, the customer says, you know, “We’re here because of you.” Like, “We like working with you. We want to keep working with you. We’re sticking with you.”
And so, like, I get that. I get what you’re saying there and that definitely makes for, you know, a lot of value, I think, when you’re really in that space where you are the brand, essentially, that you’re having to bring every day to the table. So, switching gears a little bit, something I noticed as I was looking through your LinkedIn profile—which may or may not be as accurate as I thought it was, but I’m going to ask anyway—is you know, I noticed that you’ve been doing or at least talking to a lot of sales copy and having a sales background. I’m really curious, like, how do you go—how do you approach sales, content writing, like, sales marketing, really helping a brand get more out of, like, their online retail or online marketing?
Asterios: I think it’s the easiest and best stuff to write is, like, B2B sales-y stuff because you’re not, like, trying to convince someone that, like, you’re nice. Like, I feel like a lot of brands, it’s like, look, you know, Coke—you know, Coke tastes good. Like, you don’t need a commercial to convince me that Coke tastes good. You’re seeing commercials that you’re kind of like, “Yeah, I kind of like those guys. They seem nice.”
Like, that’s kind of why you’re—but it’s like, you know, with sales-y stuff and with B2B stuff, it’s like, well, how can whatever you’re trying to sell me make me more money? And if you can’t answer that question, then you’re in trouble [laugh] so it’s like, that’s what I, like, about advertising sales in B2B. It’s, we’re not here to talk about anything but how can our company or product help your company? Like, it’s so simple. There’s, like, you know, we don’t need to worry about, like, oh, are we injecting enough humanity? Is there enough humor in this? Like, is this reaching, like, you know, enough quadrants? It’s just, like, does this ad communicate that, like, we can help you sell more widgets? And, like, if this ad doesn’t, then it’s like a terrible ad. And so it’s, it’s fun. It’s fun to just be laser-focused on what are the benefits of the product.
Chris: So, is that what makes good copy then? Focusing on the—what’s good in the product? I mean, you say it’s easy, so I know some people struggle with it. So, how do you make it easier? Or what do you focus on to really make sales copy direct when you’re thinking about that stuff?
Asterios: Um, it’s honestly, the best ad that you’re going to see is going to be the one that has as few words as possible. So if, like, you are listening to this and you’re, like, “How can I make a good ad?” It’s like, the best ad is a short one. Because if you’re trying to say—it’s like, you know, if you’re trying to write down all the stuff you’re trying to communicate and you’re trying to communicate, like, two or more things, then you’re not communicating anything. It’s like, you’ll be lucky if they remember one thing. So, that’s kind of the trick.
It’s like, what’s the one thing I want them to remember from this ad? And then you’re, like, all right, well, how do I add, like, a tiny bit more to that and a tiny bit more to that, but not too much? And then that’s kind of how the process of advertising becomes, like, an unwieldy mess, which is, that oftentimes, people start with, like, the 20 things they want to communicate because they love their product and they think all these 20 things are great. Or because their boss gave them a list of 20 things, and if all these 20 things aren’t in the ad, they’re in trouble. So, it’s like, often, advertising starts out, like, in an area of crisis or panic, where it’s like, we’re not selling enough of this thing and we don’t have a ton of money. Now, you’re telling us, like, we have to spend more money to get people to buy the thing?
It’s like, already that’s bad. You don’t want to be coming to us. And then the thing—the other thing about advertising is, well for it to be effective, we need to blanket it. Like [laugh], we can’t just, like, run a commercial one time for one guy. Like… and then that costs money, too.
And so, before you even—and then here’s the thing. It’s like, and then we run the ads, and what if it doesn’t work? Like, what if at the end of the day, the ad just doesn’t work? It just doesn’t break through. People didn’t like the actor’s face? Like, you know, there wa—it’s like, it comes down—what if it just comes down to something real dumb like that?
Like, then you’re in a far worse position than you were in before you came to us when you were already in trouble. So, this is why, like, this is why advertising gets tough because so much is at stake. So, much money is at stake, your job, your kids’ ability to go to college, and as a result, it’s like, well, doesn’t it make sense to make the safest thing possible? It’s what creates the least risk for you. The only reason people play with risk is if they’re forced to, is if they’re like, back is against the wall and they’re put in, like, a literal fight or flight situation.
Then maybe they’ll consider, like, doing something that gets some attention, making a donation, you know, helping a person, helping a group of people. It’s like, but until they’re pushed to that point… it’s kind of easier to do nothing. Which is kind of where we started with, where it was like, Bud Light got into this—got into this situation and it was easier for them to do nothing than to do something. And of course, it’s easier to do nothing. It’s much easier [laugh]. It just doesn’t fix the problem.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, we can all just stick our heads in the sand, but that’s not really going to help the situation.
Chris: Yeah. Man. So, it’s just, let’s just do nothing then [laugh].
Asterios: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: Let’s just play it safe, not make any waves, and just do nothing.
Asterios: Sounds good.
Chris: Why take a stand?
Chris: Yeah. Unless you want to get people angry.
Asterios: Which you don’t. Unless you do.
Chris: Unless you do.
Asterios: Unless that’s somehow linked to a sales goal of yours is riling up an audience [laugh].
Chris: [laugh]. That’s right. That’s right. That’s our goal today is to make people angry.
Asterios: Exactly. It works.
Chris: Yeah. Make us the most hated brand in some political party. That’d be awesome. And people kind of live on that, too. There’s that other side of it. But that’s crazy. But anyways. Um, well, very cool. Very cool. Um, I mean, that kind of brings us to the end. I’ve got one last question for you, Asterios, and we will go from there. And that last question is, what is a brand you’re in love with right now and why?
Asterios: Oh, my goodness. That’s a good question. I really like the brand DraftKings.
Asterios: Um… yeah. They advertise everywhere and they do it in a very clever way where they’re just, like, they’re in the background and they’re not super annoying about it. And, like, they’ll do fun stuff where they’ll be, like, you can for free gamble on a professional wrestling match. And it’s like, that’s very silly. It’s like—it would be like betting on the finale of Breaking Bad. Like, who’s going to live, who's going to die? It’s like, what do you mean I can bet on fiction?
It’s like, no, you can bet on fiction now. And I like what DraftKings does with influencers. I think that, like, they hire celebrities and, like, I think they hire athletes who are credible and, like, when they give predictions, I get the—I do get the sense that they wrote those predictions. Someone didn’t write them for them ten seconds beforehand. So, even if they did, even if they are fake, they’re fooling me and so they did a good job.
I think that, like, their product look and feel is so simple and clean, you know, just the green and white. Everything DraftKings is doing right now I think it’s fantastic. And I—do they have an IPO? Are they huge now? Are they, like, the biggest company—
Chris: I don’t know.
Chris: That’s actually a good question.
Asterios: —I think, I think—I’m going to look this up. DraftKings IPO. Let me see if they—yeah, oh, yeah. They—yeah, they went public a year or two ago. Yeah. That doesn’t surprise me. They’re doing a good job.
Chris: They are. They are. Well, that’s really cool. And they’re definitely not a brand that’s sitting around doing nothing.
Asterios: No. They have all the money in the world. They have gambling money.
Chris: Because the house always wins.
Asterios: Because the house always wins. Because there’s a thing called [the vig 00:41:53]. And so—and yeah, and because of that, they can have fun, they can hire “Big Papi” David Ortiz to tell us who he’s going to predict in a completely different sport. If you want Big Papi’s US Open Tennis predictions, you go to DraftKings today. You’ll see them. Didn’t know he cared. He cares.
Chris: That’s crazy. Well, Asterios, thank you so much. Is there anything you’d like to plug or promote? While we’ve got you here?
Asterios: Yeah. Look, listen if you enjoyed listening to me be loud on this podcast, then you’ll enjoy listening to my very loud podcast, The Loudest Podcast. You can find it anywhere you can find podcasts, your Spotifys and your iTunes and whatever.
And it’s a show where my insane, terminally online fiancée just kind of walks me through the horrors of the internet and I don’t like it.
Asterios: And you can wa—and you—go to Loudest Podcast on YouTube. It’s everywhere. Anywhere you can find podcasts you can find The Loudest Podcast. And thanks for having me on.
Chris: Yeah, man. Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming on. And with that, we’ll wrap it up. Thank you.
Asterios: Hell yeah.