Oct 09

Missing rock star alert!

Guess the real Ajay was too geeky for the role

Guess the real Ajay was too geeky even by Intel's standards

In an earlier post, I was heaping praise upon Intel and agency Venables Bell & Partners for churning out a surprisingly good campaign. The Rock Star spot shines the spotlight on Intel employee Ajay Bhatt for co-inventing the USB port. “Our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars,” they say. Well, it turns out that their rock star isn’t like anyone’s rock star — he’s just an actor. Conan O’Brien sits down with the real Ajay here. Maybe I’m just a stickler for detail, but in my experience you can’t say “this is the guy” if this really isn’t the guy. Is it “Be Kind To Creatives Month” at the Intel legal department? One reason I liked this idea was that it authentically captured Intel’s values. Hmm. Maybe it still does…

(Thanks, Adam, for the tip!)

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  • Jason

    Im a big fan of this campaign and was a little confused when I first found out it wasn’t the real Ajay Bhatt. When I looked at all the press materials, however, Intel was very upfront from the very beginning that they would be using actors in all of their spots. I think there may have been legal reasons. Either way, they never tried to hide the fact that they were using pro talent in the ads. Personally, I really dont think it matters. The effect is still the same, the ad is hilarious, and we get a completely different view of Intel then we had before. At least they didn’t pull a Microsoft in their Laptop Hunter Campaign and use actors to make believe they were shopping for a PC! What a disgrace! Have you seen the new Intel ads? I think I may like them even more than the first few.

  • ken segall


    I find this all pretty fascinating. I hadn’t seen any press materials, so you inspired me to go look. You are correct, Intel did say up front that they were using actors to represent their employees. Of course the obvious flaw in this defense is that consumers don’t read press releases, they only see the ads — so most people (like both of us in this case) are surprised/disappointed when they find out the truth. According to Intel’s press release:

    “… For this concept and other creative in which Intel engineers are identified, the engineers are personified by hired actors, a practice common to marketing campaigns of a quirky, tongue-in-cheek nature …”

    Huh? I’d say it’s more of a practice common to people who create their way into a corner and can’t figure a way out. Honestly, a simple disclaimer would have been fine. No need to give the general population one more reason to distrust advertising.

    (I still like the spot, I just don’t like the subterfuge.)

  • Liebman

    I don’t understand what all the whining is about. To protect ourselves, all we consumers need to do is squeeze in a half hour of PR release reading before we flick on the TV.

  • it’s always ‘not the real person’ on camera… unless you count horrible self-indulgent tripe like the Whiteacre spot for GM…

    even the ‘hidden camera’ stuff, like CPB’s ‘no more whoppers’ spots, where the hidden camera shoots from 3 POV’s, one of them a very tight closeup…

    MS is no guiltier than the rest, they just have poorer judgement… although the Intel spots carry on in the predictable manner, they are at least amusing and portray the company in a much more human light.

    the real charm of the spot, for me, is the closer with the assembled cast singing the Intel ditty, NO not their real voices either, i know, but a paid choir…

    and why would you want to hire ‘the real person’? judging by how badly Whiteacre and the Orville Deadenbacher ‘zombie’ fiasco’s turned out, use actors, they perform better, take direction better and look like they belong on camera…

  • ken segall


    Man, you guys are giving me a real workout here. You shattered my world about the CPB Whopper Freakout spots, so I had to go scurrying around the Internet on that one. All stories I find, including an interview with the CPB cd, confirm that the people in that campaign are real. One account, from someone supposedly involved in the production, says that some of the Burger King employees were improv actors, but all customers are real. I’d be disappointed to find out otherwise, as “reality” is the power of that campaign. This is actually the same reason I had this reaction to finding out truth about the Intel Rock Star spot. Sure, I know that the world of advertising is filled with “real people” who are not real. But when the whole point of a spot is to feature a real person, and that person is identified right down to his/her name and talent, then you have an integrity issue. (And putting your disclaimer in the press release doesn’t count!)

  • sorry ken, i should have been more clear about the CPB spot… i didn’t mean to say that people in it were the actors, but that’s a case of ‘reality TV’ portrayal of a situation… the spot was set up to show actual responses from real customers reacting to the removal of their favorite grease-encrusted mystery meat patty…

    but it was hard for me to believe that it was cinema verité when the same reaction was shown from 3 different POV’s and one of them was a close-up…

    i could just hear Alex on the background saying ‘alright, if we could try it again but bring the camera just a bit closer and if you could gush the lines a bit more and give us a pregnant pause before uttering your disbelief?’ it stops being anywhere near real once the camera stops, gets repostioned and the real people get redirected and you role into take 15…

    point being, real people in real situations for advertising makes for great bloopers but bad spots…

  • tony

    stickler for detail? Conan O’Brian?

    get it right

  • ken segall

    Yikes. Can’t believe I did that. Fixed now. Thanks for the alert.