It’s safe to say that, despite its best efforts, Clark Pest Control won’t be the next Ghostbusters — the fictitious “ghost-fighting” team from the 1984 movie of the same name. While its technicians are used to tackling the horrors of bed bugs, ants and termites, they haven’t quite mastered the extermination of an 1800s ghost or a perpetually hungry werewolf. Clark, a Lodi, Calif.-based company, has launched a new version of pest control broadcast advertising, one that says goodbye to mascot-sized bugs and welcomes a supernatural spin.
The 30-second commercials come in three installments and feature “Clark,” the trusty neighborhood pest control technician who begins receiving calls about pest infestations. Upon arrival, Clark learns that these home infestations are actually of the supernatural kind rather than natural pests. Homeowners ask Clark to get rid of an unwanted werewolf, ghost and even a mother-in-law (never mind the killer clown hanging around the pool). While Clark’s looks of alarm and fearful gasps prove he may not be capable of exorcising these creatures, the viewer learns that he can help these people with their more ordinary pests like ants, termites, rats or bed bugs. The ghostly commercials also manage to slip in examples of how Clark uses products and makes treatments that minimize risks to pets and the environment.
The ad campaign comes from a partnership between Clark Pest Control, Nimmea Advertising and Hollywood TV production firm Hazy Mills Production, which is best known for producing the hit NBC TV show “Grimm,” as well as “Hollywood Game Night” and “Hot in Cleveland.” Together, the companies sought a new approach to pest control advertising that would stand out in the busy pest control space.
“We loved the idea of homeowners casually calling Clark to rid their houses of werewolves, ghosts, clowns — unexpected intruders that have nothing to do with traditional pest control but everything to do with demonstrating their level of trust in Clark,” said Nicole Keefe, Clark’s director of marketing and advertising. “We also wanted our pest control technician to seem more relatable — more of an ‘everyman’ type of character.”
Bringing these commercials to life from storyboard to television screen was not an easy undertaking. The Clark marketing team, alongside Hazy Mills and Nimmea, only had three months to piece together their collaborative efforts. “That’s an extremely aggressive timeline to have three different commercials get shot, edited and aired,” said Keefe.
Paul Velten, partner at Nimmea Advertising, said he and his team began this task by combing through the history of pest control TV advertising. “Our team prepped by watching several years’ worth of pest control commercials, making note of what we liked and what we didn’t like. We then brainstormed as a team over the course of a week, came away with about six to seven ideas that we pitched to the client,” he said. “Through client feedback, we eventually dwindled it down to a final two or so and then landed on supernatural pests.”
Next came the creative part for Nimmea — photo boards and script writing, which was collaborated with the Clark marketing team “to make sure that they were on point with our Clark brand guidelines,” said Keefe.
Working with different people from a wide spectrum of media backgrounds allowed Clark to deliver a memorable message, as the commercials break with traditional pest control advertising, in which bugs are often portrayed as giant monsters and the pest control technician swoops in to save the day as a larger-than-life superhero. “We believe it is scaring people when you show big, creepy insects,” said Keefe.
However, this departure from the creative norm doesn’t mean Clark Pest Control’s core focus has changed. “For our brand, the sentiment has always been to be more jovial and empathetic — that we are your team member helping to solve things and bring humor — that looks at that creepy werewolf and says, ‘I may not be able to take care of the werewolf, but I will take care of you,’” said Keefe.
The supernatural ad campaign was a way to have fun and try something different while still letting people know that Clark can help with any (earthly) pest removal. Keefe added that the company wanted the ads to use humor to talk about what can often be a worrying situation for many homeowners.
“People don’t like talking about pest problems, and sometimes it’s kind of stressful for people. So, we want to add some levity and show that we trust ourselves enough, trust our workmanship enough, that we are able to smile about it,” said Keefe.
The levity and smiles came through during the campaign in the form of the professionally created supernatural pests and their nonchalant attitudes. While we can credit the scriptwriters for the attitudes, the cinematic-quality appearance of the supernatural pests comes from the partnership with Hazy Mills, and one man in particular. The werewolf, killer clown and ghost were made with the help of Barney Burman, an Academy Award-winning makeup artist. “Having big names attached to a project — like Emmy Award-winning talent and Academy Award-winning special effects makeup artists — goes a long way in attracting attention to a campaign,” said Velten.
Burman drew inspiration for the unwanted supernatural intruders from the macabre characters he created for NBC’s TV show “Grimm,” in which a homicide detective learns he is descended from warriors who fight supernatural beings. Burman even stepped in front of the camera, and his own makeup brush, for this ad campaign, playing the part of the fridge-raiding werewolf.
“Barney is an exceptional talent and a true professional,” said Velten. He added that because the commercials were substantial in the special effects makeup department, Burman spent most of production in his North Hollywood studio working on the supernatural characters’ makeup.
“It wasn’t until the end that Barney showed up on set in full werewolf makeup,” said Velten. “He had told us that he wanted to play the werewolf, and we cast him in the role, but you don’t grasp the magnitude of a makeup artist of that caliber throwing himself into character until you see it. I’m pretty sure we had an actual werewolf on set for two hours. I had to look over my shoulder a few times to make sure that I wasn’t about to get bit.”
While no future ads are planned yet, Clark hopes to continue its pursuit of creative and humorous TV ads working alongside Hazy Mills and Nimmea, as they have received mostly positive feedback for the supernatural pest campaign on social media and from friends and family, said Keefe.
She added, “As with any of our creative campaigns, we hope to increase our brand affinity, showcase our friendly, reliable service and gain new customers as a result.”
Velten said that when comparing the data from early May to early July 2018 to the same date range as last year, branded search traffic for Clark Pest Control is up 34 percent and local directory phone calls (Google Maps, Yelp, etc.) are up almost 46 percent.
“While it’s still way too early to gauge the campaign’s business impact, these are positive signs of brand recognition during our busy time of the year,” said Velten.
The author is an Ohio-based writer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.