Why the Lying Fool in These Goofy Ads Is a Real Threat to Brands

Yext's anti-hero just can't get his facts straight

You can't believe everything you hear in Yext's first ad campaign, "The Man Without the Answers," which introduces Todd Munion, a guy who loves sharing false information. 

When challenged, he doubles down on his ludicrous assertions. (Remind you of any elected officials? Nah.) 

In the 90-second spot below, Munion erroneously informs us that "over 1.1 billion Americans suffer from dry eyes," misidentifies a chestnut sided warbler as "a bat in heat," and insists Black Friday falls on a Tuesday this year.

The Man Without The Answers

We're told near the end of the ad that "82% of online information about brands is unverified." The spot concludes: "Don't let Todd ruin your business. Get Yext, and deliver brand-verified answers." 

Yext provides data management tools that sync business information (names, addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, staff bios, etc.) across more than 100 platforms—including Facebook, Google, Google Maps, TripAdvisor and Yelp—keeping relevant data refreshed and up to date.

In other words, it can help companies foil the Todd Munions of the world, who disseminate crap facts and figures, either through a conscious desire to deceive or plain old ignorance. 

"Born from the widespread nature of misinformation online, the creative addresses the inherent dangers and potential missed opportunity for brands, and consumers, who may see a glimpse of themselves and their own role in the spread of misinformation in central character Todd Munion," says Chris Beresford-Hill, creative chief at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, which developed the campaign.

The approach stems from research showing marketers believe only 35 percent of online information about their brands is accurate. "Yext exists to put perfect answers everywhere, so in the campaign we made misinformation the villain," says client interim marketing chief Andy Cunningham. "Misinformation online is a serious problem. When people see Todd Munion, we want to make the problem feel real to them and for them to feel the urgency of protecting the facts about their businesses from people like Todd." 

Munion returns to torpedo the truth in these brief clips that focus on specific segments such as finance, retail and healthcare:

Well, if Philadelphia banks don't actually close on National Cheesesteak Day, they should, right? 

Given the tenor of the times, the concept of misinformation has played into several recent campaigns. These include the Columbia Journalism Review's fake newsstand (also by TBWA\C\D New York), the Foolitzer Prizes from Brazilian fact-checking site E-Farcasa, and most recently, the Florida Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' effort to trademark the phrase "Fake News" and spark conversations about the importance of truth in media and government. 

Yext's business model makes it an natural to tackle such themes, and it does so here with just the right satirical tone.  

Veteran actor Mike Rock (who's work includes "NFL Replay" and, ironically, the "Truth" anti-smoking ads) plays Munion to a T. He comes across as self-assured and smarmy, but never clownish or over-the-top evil. 

"It was a tricky role to cast—we knew we wanted a seasoned improv actor with the self-discipline to not let our audience in on the joke too fast," says Beresford-Hill. "He needed to be able to say ridiculous things with total confidence, and be charming enough that you kind of want to believe him, even though he is clearly wrong." 

O Positive director Kenny Herzog lets the humor unfold at a steady pace, with just enough build-up to keep viewers slightly off balance as the punch lines hit home.

"We shot 10 vignettes in two days, including a day at a zoo in New Jersey," Beresford-Hill recalls. "One of the vignettes took place inside a penguin exhibit. Kenny's a master at thinking up jokes on the fly, and there was lots of ad-libbing that had the cast and crew cackling. One that didn't make the final cut was about penguin steaks. We're saving it for the holiday party."

CREDITS

Client: 
Founder & CEO – Howard Lerman 
Interim CMO – Andy Cunningham 
VP, Creative Director – Owen Fegan 
VP, Marketing – Liz Walton 
Marketing – Josh Grau 
Director of Strategic Marketing – Isalyn Connell 

Agency: 
CCO  - Chris Beresford-Hill
CSO – James Sowden 
Head of Production – John Doris 
Global Business Director - Shannon Nunn 
Executive Producer - Chris Klein
Senior Producer – Kyla Bridge 
Strategy Director – Billy Murphy 
Senior Talent Manager – Ellen Bates 
Director of Integrated Business Affairs – Jennifer Bilyk 
Business Manager - Emily Downs
Associate Creative Director - Shannon Murphy
Writer – Ian Reichenthal 
Designer – Vivian Lee 

Production (O Positive): 
Director - Kenny Herzog
Executive Producer – Ralph Laucella
UPM – Ken Licata 
DP – Joe Zizzo

Editor (MacKenzie Cutler): 
Editor - Nick Divers
Executive Producer - Gina Pagano
Producer - Margarita Mutuc
Assistant Editor - Kenneth Munoz
Audio Engineer - Sam Shaffer
Conformist - Jimmy Hayhow
Telecine - Steve Picano

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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