Best Way to Test Stair Treads? Throw an Orchestra Down Them

Marcus Thomas crafts Roppe's smashing product demos

How would you demonstrate the durability of Roppe's new kevlar-reinforced rubber stair treads? By dropping pianos and tubas and trophy cases bam! slam! crash! down the stairs and surveying the treads for damage, naturally.

Marcus Thomas filmed two such "ridiculous feats" after hours at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. The first clip features 1,000 pounds of musical instruments, and one powder-blue mascot, with horns on its head, riding a floor scrubber:

Roppe | Orchestra

Actually, that didn't sound much worse that most high-school marching bands.

Next, six decades of sports awards come tumbling down, thanks to a linebacker on roller skates:

Roppe | Trophy Case

Smashing stuff! Heh.

"On the surface, the idea of adding DuPont Kevlar, the material found in ballistic body armor and military vehicles, to rubber stair treads seems a bit ridiculous," Marcus Thomas management supervisor Jason Schafer tells Muse. "But it helps solve a very real problem. Stair treads, particularly in educational buildings, but in other spaces as well, are wearing down faster than usual due to abuse. Not just everyday wear and tear, but damage from students tossing things down stairs and surfing down staircases on trays and tables."

So, basically, ridiculous things are already happening in stairwells nationwide, "and we just took it to a new level to show off the strength of this product," Schafer says.

All props were real, either donated or purchased online, and the action was captured in camera, with no special effects. That meant each clip could only be shot once, which "required a lot of planning and some educated guessing related to how the physics would all work," Schafer says. (Presumably, the agency couldn't consult any physics majors for help because they were surfing down stairs someplace else on campus.)

The team employed four Phantom high-speed cameras, including one directed at a mirror, so the objects could be shown falling head-on, while protecting the camera itself.

"As for how the product would perform, we were confident in its durability, but the engineers had never thrown a piano or a tuba at the treads, so this was really new territory," Schafer says. "Luckily, the items tumbled beautifully down the stairs and the treads held up."

No one was harmed while making the spots, though the mascot had a close call.

"Its head was very difficult to see out of," Schafer recalls, "so the crew had to yell 'Stop!' every time our talent got close to the stairs."


Client: Roppe
Agency: Marcus Thomas
Chief Creative Officer: Jamie Venorsky
Creative Director: Stephanie Burris
Art Directors: Doug Herberich, Brian Roach
Writers: Stephanie Burris, Scott Pierce
Producer: Jena Lesar 
Director of Digital Design: Kelly Ziel
Digital Producer: Carolyn Fertig 
Social Content Creator: Michael Nichols
Production Company: Think Media Studios
Director: Julia Thorndike
Executive Producer: Brian Glazen
Planner: Stefanie Zawack
Account Lead:  Jason Schafer

David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is managing editor at Clio Awards.

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