The fake news conference shtick has been overwrought in advertising more times than anyone would care to ever admit. It’s tired, been done and is usually a recipe for disaster. The operative word here is “usually.” However, when putting together “The Rent is Too Damn High” party founder Jimmy McMillan, the Young Turks’ host Cenk Uygur and influencer/media personality The Fat Jew together — well, that’s a completely different story altogether and a formula for video and brand gold — and that’s exactly what German car rental company Sixt and their agencies, New York-based The Collective @ Lair and German creative agency Thjnk, had on their hands.
Directed by award-winning Brad Hasse, the two-minute video takes a page from the theater of the absurd, with Uygur and McMillan bandying back and forth and the former claiming the latter has “sold out” by making it about a car rental company. From there, McMillan busts out a rhyme and The Fat Jew, Josh Ostrovsky, appears, showing off his superior dabbing skills.
It’s one of those “I can’t believe I’m watching this, but I can’t stop watching this and this is awesome” moments, perfectly tailored for an aggressive brand and the Internet age. As of this moment, it has garnered 7.3m views on Sixt’s Facebook page and close to a million from Ostrovsky’s popular Instagram account — 9.1m followers strong.
“You have basically these people with very colorful personalities and they're all known for different things,” said Hasse. “We get to work with each one of them and we get to put something in there which is going to make this that much more incredible because of it. It's exciting because you come in with a whole bunch of energy.”
Embracing the absurd
For Hasse’s part, this fits quite nicely into a niche he has created for himself and his work — things that are quirky, bizarre and sometimes absurd — yet not so far off the proverbial grid that it’s hard to understand. Hasse has previously done interesting, funny work with brands like Yahoo, Listerine and Vicks.
One spot for Auto Trader, “Overly Attached Girlfriend,” featuring YouTube star Laina Morris, encapsulates his unique style and sensibility. To Hasse, the critical component to an ad working is collaboration with the talent and the brand from the start — and ensuring that it is truly authentic.
“Any time you have a web celebrity like that they already have a brand built in, you have to respect and understand that — and they have to feel comfortable,” said Hasse. “When you're working with people like that, you ask them to say something that isn't authentic to them they get uncomfortable and say, ‘I wouldn't normally say that.’ The day before the shoot on that one I sat down with Laina and we went through all the dialogue and changed things around so it was more close to her and matched her. So there's an opportunity.”
The Fat Jew magic with Sixt
Ostrovsky, who has a massive following both online and in real life as The Fat Jew, has worked with brands like Virgin Mobile, Burger King, Bud Light and Beats. When he's approached for brand work, they try to capture The Fat Jew magic, but most seem to fall short.
“Every brand is like, ‘we're crazy. We're nuts. We want to do Fat Jew stuff that's out of control. Give us some ideas!’ said Ostrovsky. “Then I submit an idea and they're like, ‘definitely not that. That's insane. Legal will never let us do that.’ I'm thinking, ‘alright, you guys aren't actually nuts. I don't know why you don't just like tell me that we can't actually do whatever we want.’”
Ostrovsky quickly learned that Sixt was an entirely different beast.
“I started researching Sixt and they actually really fucking stir the pot. They really do what they want. They push the envelope in Europe, which, by the way, is not that easy because in Europe a lot of people are pushing the envelope,” enthused Ostrovsky.
“Every time you hear the same thing. It's like, ‘think outside the box,’” added Hasse. “‘Whatever you guys want to do’ and then when you say ‘this, this, or this?’ it comes back as ‘No, let's put more of a product in there.’ With Sixt and the agency, it felt more like doing a short film than doing a piece of advertising. They have that history of really going for it. It's kind of like it was an open book. Let's just have some fun and make this a comedic thing.”
With that issue of brand interference out of the way, Hasse, Ostrovsky and the others simply set off to do the work the best way they know how. All three brought something unique to the set, but like the Kosher Pied Piper he is, Ostrovsky lit a different kind of light and excitement onto the proceedings.
“In person, the dude is super, super pro, incredibly nice,” noted Hasse. “And so famous. I was just blown away. He was so easy to have on set. When he did come on to set, the energy level rose. You just feel the energy out there, which is fun as a director because then you know everyone heightens up. Everyone steps up to the opportunity to do something crazy with him so that's a lot of fun to do all that.”
The influencer thing
McMillan, Uygur and Ostrovsky are all influencers in their own unique ways. McMillan fires people up through his activism. Uygur is on the vanguard of reinventing news and opinion. Ostrovsky? He’s certainly a pop culture sensation — polarizing and controversial to be sure in light of plagiarism claims against him — but also one that can be hard to categorize. Ask anyone of a certain age, “do you know The Fat Jew?” and the answer is invariably, “I LOVE The Fat Jew!” but there are different reasons why he endear himself to the audience — not one straight line to the ‘why.’
“The Kosher Pied Piper” moniker isn’t exactly wrong either. At past Advertising Weeks in New York, Ostrovsky was the star of the show, with swarms of younger industry people following him around The Times Center just to grab a selfie or some time in his halo.
What’s most interesting, though, is the way that Ostrovsky, who is represented by CAA, continues to morph — and it’s not all necessarily about the Internet.
“I think that real life is going to get really hot again. I think we're just going to hit a point of social media burnout,” said Ostrovsky. “I mean, obviously the Internet is forever and ever. I love it more than probably my mother and my father. I honestly think that there's just so many people sharing pictures of babies, acai bowls and fucking half marathons — and I just think we're all getting a little bit burned out. I'm actually really banking on real life. I've been working on a ton of shit that's sort of offline and obviously using the platform to help get people aware of that stuff and get them out here.”
The “real life” Ostrovsky is talking about includes a free music festival, The Fat Jew IRL. He’s also is behind White Girl Rosé, a wine brand that, according to Inc., sold more than 30,000 cases and began after what was called a “massive rosé shortage” in The Hamptons in the summer of 2015.
It’s all part of the brand and the plan and Ostrovsky is learning that it’s not as easy as it seems.
“Having your own brand and not using your platform to promote other people's shit takes a tremendous amount of actual work,” said Ostrovsky. “It's definitely taking more work than just what influencers are doing which is promoting people's products on the Internet. That's too easy.”
But that doesn’t mean that Ostrovsky is eschewing the opportunities with brands, as is evident with his brand roster and Sixt — and it’s unclear as to whether or not the story will continue for the brand — but The Fat Jew has his opinion on the matter.
“I would hope this leads to more magic. I feel like this saga is not over. This is like, ‘what if there was only one Lethal Weapon?’ You know what I mean?”