Life Imitates Idiocracy

In today’s New York Times Magazine, “Consumed” columnist Rob Walker takes a look at the real-life marketing of Brawndo, which was made up for the movie “Idiocracy.”

This happened not because of a movie-studio marketing brainstorm. It happened because of an “Idiocracy” fan in Oakland named Pete Hottelet. A graphic designer with very particular pop-culture tastes, Hottelet has started a business devoted to bringing to life certain products from movies. His business is called Omni Consumer Products, a name borrowed from the fictional megacorporation in “Robocop.” In addition to Brawndo, Omni has acquired from Paramount the license to market Sex Panther, a made-up cologne from the Will Ferrell vehicle “Anchorman” (“150% More Awesome Than Any Other Cologne. Ever.”).
Hottelet’s manufacturing partner is Redux Beverages. Redux was founded in 2006 by Jamey Kirby, a former software engineer, and is best known for a real energy drink called Cocaine. Cocaine received a lot of attention before “we had some issues with the F.D.A.,” Kirby says. He pulled it out of stores, and while he was retooling the marketing to address F.D.A. objections (he says it went back on the market in February), he heard from Hottelet — “an absolutely brilliant guy.” Hottelet explained the pitch: the drink had to contain electrolytes and had to be an alarmingly bright green, as in the movie.
“I watched ‘Idiocracy,’ and I was like, ‘O.K., we’re in,’ ” Kirby says. “Based on how things are going on in the world, and especially our country right now, this is a shoo-in.” He laughs as he says this, so I wasn’t sure what he meant. Are we already living “Idiocracy”? “Absolutely,” he says. “It’s all about overcommercialization.” The video ads on the Brawndo site, commissioned by Hottelet, feature members of Picnicface, a Canadian comedy troop, shouting hilariously over-the-top pitches: “It’s like a monster truck you pour into your face!” (The pitches actually owe quite a bit to videos Picnicface has made for a drink called Powerthirst — which doesn’t exist. I don’t think.)

There’s nothin’ stupid about capitalizing on a fake brand, I suppose.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.