The Actual Teeth.
I live in Washington Crossing, PA, about a half mile from where George Washington crossed the Delaware river on Christmas night, 1776. That was a big part of the reason I wanted to live here – I’ve always been a huge Washington fan, and this is where the country got real. Had Washington not crossed the Delaware, had he not won that early victory, the whole independence thing would have probably collapsed. So to my way of thinking – I’m a 10 minute walk away from “the” single biggest / most important historical event in modern times. Moreover, the man was a hero’s hero – smart, polite, disarming, charming and a total bad ass. And I know everyone knows all that, but my point:
When I walked into the National Constitution Center with my partner (who was also a big Washington fan) on a spring day a few years ago, to get briefed by the Center’s VP of Marketing on the summer’s big upcoming exhibit, we were delighted to hear it was all about George Washington, but mortified to find out that the charge was: "lead with the teeth.” Meaning, instead of building a campaign to pay homage to our greatest General, our first and second President – the first not-King leader of the world’s first totally free country, we were asked to lead with the man’s dentures. (On billboards and buses all over the city.) I was mortified, I resisted, but I was told "kids love the wooden teeth story" (the teeth were not made of wood, btw) – and the Center would have the actual teeth for the entire summer – on loan from the Washington Museum in Mount Vernon.
After I got back to the agency, I penned the most persuasive letter I could, in hopes I could embarrass the Center into doing the right thing… but I failed.
In the end, we did get to make a website that told more of the Washington story, and we did get to shoot a nice :30 TV spot of Washington getting dressed for battle (in an authentic Washington residence in Philadelphia). As for the teeth, though I came up with a humorous outdoor and print advertising campaign (left) intended to show my client just how wrong (in bad taste) this idea was, I wound up liking it in the end – and so did they.
So yeah, I guess I sold out. But that's okay... it's a free country.