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A Startup Ad Pivot: Behind The Dollar Shave Club Promo

Dollar Shave Club is a real thing. And its CEO made this ad.

Think "startup video" and your thoughts may turn to shockingly un-self aware lip dubs, or a smooth Adam Lisagor demo. Dollar Shave Club’s launch ad takes a different approach.

Dollar Shave Club is, apparently, a real company, launched out of Santa Monica tech studio Science. But, watching "Our Blades Are F***ing Great," you’re never really sure if the whole thing is a gag.

For a small fee each month, Dollar Shave Club members do indeed receive high quality razors delivered right to their door, rather than buying expensive ones and holding onto them for too long. The tagline? "Shave time. Shave Money."

In its parody-toned ad, the company CEO takes us on a tour of the Dollar Shave Club warehouse. He seems almost aggressively committed to the product he’s hawking—angry that people would be foolish enough to buy razors any other way than from a club. "Do you like spending $20/month on razors? 19 go to Roger Federer," the CEO says, catching a tennis racket thrown from offscreen. "I’m good at tennis," he promises, immediately swinging for a ball thrown his way, missing it, and moving along.

It turns out the guy in the video really is the founder and CEO of the new start-up, Michael Dubin. What’s more surprising, though, is the fact that he made the ad himself.

"The world is filled with bad commercials and people who are marketing too hard," Dubin says. "I think what we wanted to do is not take ourselves too seriously, and deliver an irreverent smart tone."

Dubin wrote the spot last October and shot it with his good friend and co-director, Lucia Aniello. It cost about $4,500 and the team managed to bang it out in a single day, shooting on location at the actual factory warehouse, at their fulfillment center in Gardena, California.

Not every CEO is cut out for making Funny or Die quality sketch-like ads, obviously. When he was living in New York, Michael Dubin took classes at beloved comedy training grounds, the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre, and has long dabbled in funny business.

"Sketch has always been a hobby of mine," Dubin says, "but I’m also passionate about business. Nowadays the line between art and commercial is very blurry, especially on the web. This is a great opportunity to create art that can actually boost a business. I’m passionate about the internet and comedy, and this is a perfect intersection of those two passions for me."

People have responded passionately to the ad too. The amount of traffic Dollar Shave Club received from a Reddit post slowed its website to a crawl. (When Dubin and I spoke on the phone, I could practically hear the sounds of people scrambling for more hosting bandwidth in the background.) This is a luxury problem for a startup to have, though, of course, and a sign of the efficiency of the new model of blurry advertainment.

"Our challenge is to build a brand that people are going to feel good about using," Dubin says. "We’re going to be doing that with all kinds of content. There will be lots more coming very soon."

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