You've surely seen the AT&T commercial—the one where the fake boy band stands rooted to the spot at a concert, confusing fans who expect them to dance while singing their hit "Summertime Lover." It's part of the "Just OK" series of spots by BBDO, in which various underwhelming people and things (which are "just OK") are contrasted with AT&T's service, which is much better than OK.
But then a funny thing happened with the spot. Viewers loved "Summertime Lover" and wanted to hear more of it. And BBDO was happy to oblige—rolling out a full 2:30 track by the fake band, which goes by the name 300 Likes.
Muse caught up with the folks at BBDO for the backstory. Turns out the song came from the music company South Music & Sound, which had tapped pop producer/songwriter/vocalist Nathan Walters to write it.
"What we got from South was a 90-second sample—but it had a hook, a first verse, a pre-chorus, chorus, a breakdown section, and a big finish," says BBDO L.A. creative director Cooper Olson. "It was written, mastered and ready to go in like 48 hours. It was utterly impressive, and we were using the word 'banger' from day one."
"We didn't know we'd soon have a 'low key bop' on our hands—a 'banger' that is 'fire emoji,' and 'slaps,' and 'spanks,'" says BBDO L.A. writer Ally Farrish, quoting some of the hundreds of tweets that have been posted about the spot.
"One article said 'AT&T accidentally created a bop,' but it was no accident. We all were playing it in our cars and an agency party before the spot came out," adds BBDO art director Kory Brocious.
"I played the track five times in a row on my drive home when we first got it, and was still left still wanting more. So I turned up the volume and hit play again. It had all the makings of a bop," says BBDO L.A. account director Andrea Bass.
For its part, South Music & Sound wrote a whole blog post about the project.
"They absolutely needed the 'real thing' to make the joke land," the company says. "In this instance, the 'real thing' was a legitimate boy-band-style pop song so convincing, you'd assume BBDO and AT&T went out and hired a real band and used a song from their actual record. ... The end result, an absolute banger, aptly titled 'Summertime Lover,' not only fit the spot like a glove, but also grew into a viral sensation all its own."
While they provided the 90-second sample, which BBDO used for 30-second spot, South did have the full track ready to go. And when #DropSummertimeLover started appearing on Twitter, BBDO and AT&T obliged.
That fucking AT&T song has been stuck in my head for a week so hell why not #DropSummertimeLover— eroom is pretty spooky 🎃👻😱 (@eroomyt) September 9, 2019
I’m obsessed with the fake song “Summertime Lover” by a fake boy band in an AT&T commercial. I looked up if it was real. Apparently, there is an unreleased full version and a fan movement to release it. 😂— Jenn Sigwart (@terpgrrl) September 9, 2019
That song is a bop so I’m all in: #DropSummertimeLover
I am a 65 year old male and I love this song and hope it actually gets released!! #dropsummertimelover— Al Knecht (@flextone1) September 19, 2019
"We've seen tweets about people making 300 Likes their group Halloween costume, tweets requesting 300 Likes as the Super Bowl halftime show, tweets where people type out the full lyrics, " says Olson. "There were two different change.org petitions requesting a full-length version of the song. It's been so much fun to watch all the different reactions come in."
"We had plans for a full-length version from the start," says Brocious. "But we didn't expect a whole online movement to really release it as the song of the summer, or become the unofficial anthem of college football."
BBDO also had fun with casting, and coming up with the band name.
"Casting the members of the boy band was obviously an advertising dream come true," says Farrish. "We got to find a Cute One, a Boy Next Door, the Backwards Baseball Hat, etc…"
"All of the boy band members are accomplished dancers in real life—it was tough to get them to stand still and not do something cool," adds Olson.
The agency also worked with Rich+Tone, creative directors for the current Backstreet Boys tour, for authenticity and choreography (such as it was—considering they don't really move.
Olson adds that coming up with the name involved "an intense, white-boarded discussion." They chose 300 Likes, with the backstory being that they started posting music to YouTube in 2016 and they decided they were getting famous when one video got 300 likes.
And if you were wondering, yes, the band's members all have names: K💥RY (who always spells his name with capital letters and a different emoji in place of the O), Jesse, Aiden, JJ and Cool D'von."
Boy Band :30 TV Spot
Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
EVP, Group Executive Creative Director: Matt MacDonald
Executive Creative Director: David Povill
Executive Creative Director: David Cuccinello
Creative Director: Cooper Olson
Creative Director: Wendy Leicht
Art Director: Kory Brocious
Copywriter: Ally Farrish
VP, Director of Project Management, BBDO: Colin Vidika
Project Manager, BBDO: Kelli Szymczak
Managing Director: Rachel Nairn
SVP, Senior Director: Tobey Bennett
SVP, Senior Director: Stacia Parseghian
Account Director: Andrea Bass
Account Supervisor: Jhordan Ford
Chief Strategy Officer: Crystal Rix
EVP, Head of Brand Planning: Tim Millar
Director, Brand Planning: Reza Rostampisheh
Senior Brand Planner: Alex Morrison
Head of Integrated Production: Dave Rolfe
Group Executive Producer: Julie Collins
Executive Producer: Andrew Tucci
Producer: Whitney Husnik
Production Company: Moxie Pictures
Director: Martin Granger
Executive Producer: Karol Zeno
Producer: Heidi Soltesz
Editorial Company: Cabin Edit
Editor: Chan Hatcher
Producer: Liz Lydecker
Visual Effects Company: The Mill
VFX Supervisor: Phil Crowe
VFX Lead: Ahmed El-Amza
Producer: Michele Watkins
Music Company: South Music & Sound
Creative Director: Jon Darling
Creative Director: Dan Pritikin
Songwriter: Nathan Walters
Producer: Ignacio Zas