With vibrant orange hair atop his six-foot-something frame (and a pale complexion to boot), there’s no question that Greg Keating looks like Conan O’Brien.
It’s what the 20-year-old sophomore advertising major from Verona, N.J., has done with what he calls “a hodgepodge of recessive genes thrown into one awkward person” that’s making him really stand out. You might know Keating better as “Son of Conan,” a character that made a splash in a YouTube video early this year that showcases his longing for his supposed father’s acceptance.
It’s not just the fact that nearly 200,000 people have now viewed his video, it’s who has viewed it that has brought Keating’s brand to the next level.
Johnson and Sekin, a Dallas-based advertising agency, scoured the Internet for a Conan look-alike for a guerilla marketing campaign on April Fools Day. O’Brien was filming his show in Dallas that week and they wanted a way for their clients to tap into the buzz on social media.
Mike Stopper, account director at Johnson and Sekin, saw Keating had written “the first chapter of his story” with his video. “We saw this as the second chapter.”
They connected on March 28 and Keating found himself in Dallas on March 31, the day before April Fools Day.
“He really wasn’t a brand” before he arrived in Dallas, Stopper said.
“Second of all, we got him a suit and tie,” Stopper said.
For the next 48 hours, it was freestyle marketing. Keating appeared on morning radio and television shows. They took to social media, tweeting about some of their clients, and using the mass audiences of other brands. Through @SonofConan, Keating tweeted a photo of himself and O’Brien on a giant screen at the American Airlines Center. The airline replied:
@sonofconan How exciting. Have a great day!
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) April 1, 2014
“Now, you have 1 million people seeing a retweet of something they knew nothing about previously,” said Krista Hogg, the firm’s associate creative director and writer.
She said the strategy was successful because brands are realizing they have a license to have fun on social media.
The brands’ social media managers “all made sure they responded quickly, because it wouldn’t have been relevant in 10 minutes,” Hogg said of social marketing. “Any time you give a brand a chance to humanize themselves, they’re going to take it.”
Very early on, Stopper and Hogg knew Keating was going to be beneficial to their campaign.
“By 7:15 a.m., we knew that we had something that was working,” Stopper said. “Because he is a personal guy with a writing background, it really gave the two of us a third partner.”
Keating has found some partners back at Temple, too. Emily Lux, an adjunct advertising professor and creative director at EHL Creative in Mt. Laurel, N.J., has made “Son of Conan” the focus of a project in her Broadcast Copywriting class. She asked that her students pitch a video idea to advance the brand.
“When I first learned about it, I thought it was an idea bigger than Greg even realized,” Lux said. “When something great arises, you have to grab onto it and see where it takes you.”
And Keating certainly is moving forward. Thanks to the collaboration with Lux’s class and the Dallas agency, he has plenty of ideas for future videos about this “boy on a perpetual quest for manhood.”
Stay tuned for chapter three.