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Ad Age applies heat to Salonpas 'Fauxbama' ads

By Erika Engle

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:51 a.m. HST, Dec 31, 2010


KITV Senior Producer/Director Sid Milburn's resemblance to President Barack Obama is being cast to a much wider audience than those in the seats at Diamond Head Theatre for the annual "Gridiron" variety show staged by the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter.

Milburn has appeared as Obama in "Gridiron" since the fall of 2008 when the now-POTUS (president of the United States) from Hawaii was but a candidate. His debut appearance in a nonspeaking role then became a recurring, speaking role following Obama's election.

Milburn as "Fauxbama" now appears in online-only commercials for Salonpas analgesic patches, the pungent stick-on mustard plaster that was ubiquitous in Japan and Hawaii long before anybody ever heard of Phiten.

One commercial shows "Fauxbama" being barraged by a series of issues he must deal with as president, leading up to a sort of "Calgon take me away" moment when the Salonpas is applied to relieve the presidential "pain in the neck" caused by all the problems.

Another shows "Fauxbama" receiving a box full of tea bags in an apparent taunt from the conservative tea party. But then, as if to turn lemons into lemonade, he applies a Salonpas and sits back to enjoy a cup of the tea.

The spots drew a near-instantaneous response from Advertising Age magazine -- considered an industry Bible -- to both the honor and dismay of producer Rob Kay, a longtime public relations man. The commercials represent his first such effort and enlisted the freelance talents of Milburn, Hawaii News Now weather anchor Ben Gutierrez and marketing producer Kerry Yoshida and others whom Kay met through "Gridiron."

Aside from the amusing "Fauxbama" nomenclature for Milburn "who, like the president, hails from Hawaii (unless somehow the birthers are right)," Ad Age was not particularly kind, nor were those who posted comments online.

The magazine's coverage explained the pitfalls of using celebrities without permission as well as look-alikes in marketing campaigns. It cited some examples of celebs who have fought such things and won in court. However, commercial parody has a stronger First Amendment defense, Ad Age reported.

Salonpas wants to expand sales of the product to the mainland, hence the marketing effort.

Hisamitsu does not have the resources of a Procter and Gamble, so "they're pretty much allowing us to sort of think out of the box," Kay said. The spots were done "on kind of a shoestring (budget)."

"It was not prepared to be a TV spot at all," Kay said. "I thought we'd just try to have some fun ... and throw it up on the wall to see if it sticks." He hopes the series of videos will go viral online. At least one more is in production, but the two spots created thus far are embedded on the Ad Age website.

Kay is happy to have gotten Ad Age's attention, albeit less than glowing. "So that's cool. ... It'd be nice to get the attention of the (presidential press) pool here," he said.

In addition to "Gridiron" and the Salonpas spots, Milburn has played the "Fauxbama" role for private parties and a church appearance. As for the possibility of the spot opening the door to bigger and better opportunities, "who knows?" he said, adding with a laugh, "I'm certainly not quitting my day job at this point."

On the Net:

» adage.com/adages/post?article_id=147906






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