Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are lifelong besties with a very peculiar passion. While you may groan and flip the channel when those poorly produced local commercials appear on the TV (we’re looking at you, Ms. Cleo), these guys consider them to be works of art.
“Some of the greatest commercials are full of what most people would call mistakes but we consider them brush strokes of an artist,” Neal explains. “When there’s an editing mistake or when the acting is horrible, those are the things that we love to see and the things that we emulate in our commercials. It’s a point of inspiration.”
The North Carolina natives love those spots so much that they developed a popular web series called “I Love Local Commercials” which then birthed IFC’s new show “Commercial Kings” in which the guys track down a small business in need of public outreach and produce an ad for them that adheres to the lo-fi aesthetic of a no-frills, no-budget but with loads of humor and eccentricity.
Take for example the ad they did for the Holiday Hotel for Cats, in which company owner Margaret speaks in “cat” to her potential residents, or the Heavy Hill Trash Service, which, in the Rhett and Link commercial, collects rural clients' trash by riding a “trashicorn” – which is owner Hill’s pet mule Jack with a horn stuck on his head. Not only do the guys produce strange and amusing ads, they seek out companies with an equally idiosyncratic goal.
“It’s not like we’re going to go to a car dealership that‘s already has a bunch of its own local ads,” McLaughlin explains. “We’re going to go to a business like a trash hauler, like a hot yoga studio or a hair salon. We go in exploring, but it’s nice to have a business that presents a world for us to explore – something that we can learn and that we can latch on to.”
The boys find inspiration from the lack of resources and manage to pull off some memorable moments that, from the show alone, have already brought many companies more business.
“Our budgets are almost always zero for these commercials,” says McLaughlin. “We use the resources that are around us. The main mistake people make on the local level is that they’re trying to emulate something that was done with a very large budget. We’re embracing those limitations and that’s what brings about this sort of homegrown, endearing feeling that our commercials have.”