The process of crafting the ads that sell Vegas is lengthy and painstaking, but there’s still plenty of room for improvisation and happy accidents. The “What’s Your Excuse: Chinchilli Day” television ad—which has won several awards, including a Bronze Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in June 2010—grew from a comment an MGM Resorts executive made when R&R was ready to shoot a completed script. “He said, ‘I really wish people had an excuse to stay another day,’ and that started us thinking,” says Arnie DiGeorge the executive creative director at R&R Partners. “We tossed out everything we’d been working on and started from scratch. You’ve got to keep your mind open for that one little thing that might come from somebody else, at any time.” Here are DiGeorge’s notes on the birth of the ad:
“Chinchilli Day” was written by Tony Marin, a writer who no longer works for me, but a good guy and a good friend. Basically a team of Tony, Steve Andrews (assistant creative director), Doug Finelli (creative director), Dustin Oliver (producer) and I had most of the early discussions on how to do the spot. Add to that the director and a ton of folks from the account side and a client that needed to eventually be brought in on the discussion. First off, we talked a lot about whether the chinchilla would be computer generated or not. And right away we thought, “Hey, it’s a fake story. They should look a little fake. A little mechanical.” But it shouldn’t be perfect. That way, the audience will be even more in on the joke.
We also thought it would add to the humor and it would have more character. We didn’t want it to look like a video game. We wanted it to look like a made-up story that has come to life in a guy’s mind. We also had discussions on “Chinchilli Day” versus “Chinchilla Day.” In the end, we liked the way it sounded and thought the difference would give us ownership of that day versus an actual Chinchilla Day.
For the voice, we thought about them actually talking and decided it would be better if they just had a battle cry that was kind of animal-like but not really like a chinchilla. We listened to a lot of things from our sound design company and went with what you hear. Later on, when we were doing virals, we decided that the chinchilla could talk. And we ended up using my voice because there wasn’t a big budget for them. Which got some critics on YouTube going… .
I had inserted a gunshot sound at the end just after seeing the last chinchilla with his arms up. I thought it was funny that even though he was surrendering, the town shot him anyway because of all the trouble he caused. Rossi [Ralenkotter, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority] really liked the chinchillas and thought it was too harsh, so we took it out. I think it was the right thing to do. I probably got a little too much of my own sensibilities in on that one… .
We wanted to get the shell of one of our mechanical chinchillas for the LVCVA office, but the guy we got to create the mechanicals would barely let us even touch it. He said there was something like $50,000 worth of proprietary technology inside and that was that. No touching….
We hired Roderick Fenske from Hungry Man to direct this series of ads. The guys were fascinated with him not only because he had a great reel, he was also living in England, sporting very trendy, eclectic clothes—basically had the look of someone very creative. We came to find out that he went to school where I did, at the University of Nevada-Reno. He’d changed his name and moved to the UK. I had a great time with that. And since then, I’ve thought about changing my name and moving to Europe many times.
If you look at the original director treatment, the line “It’s a cultural obligation,” was not in the script. That was something that happened in the casting that made it to the final. The thing we try to always do is keep options open. On Twitter, there were dozens of people saying that they had to go to Chinchilli Day because it was a cultural obligation. We loved that.