\"Do not try this at home. Especially if you like to see, smell, hear, touch, talk and breathe." That's the warning viewers get before seeing a little more than a minute of burning foil, an exploding egg, juice-spewing fruit, bubbling soap, a shattering champagne bottle, and other mayhem, all caused by a microwave in a YouTube video from Moe's Southwest Grill.
The message? "Microwaves ruin everything," and Moe's doesn't use them.
As of Tuesday, the video had more than 1 million views. Not bad for a video pulled together on a shoestring budget and promoted in-house.
"It really was a grass-roots effort," says Lauren Barash, director of PR and corporate communications for Moe's.
Lighting the fuse
Last spring, Moe's was preparing an advertising campaign based on its mission to use fresh ingredients. It primarily targeted women and families, so the company's creative team started thinking of ways to include the dudes.
"One of the things that popped into our heads was, guys love to blow stuff up," says Brandon Friedman, senior copywriter at Moe's. Friedman and his team searched YouTube for videos of stuff being destroyed in microwaves, but "it all felt pretty amateurish."
Management liked the simplicity and the fun of the idea but wondered whether it could be done with virtually no money. "We have a budget, and this wasn't in it," Barash says.
So Friedman started calling in favors. Eventually, his team happened upon a local Atlanta director willing to work within the monetary constraints. "Once we got him, we were able to open some doors," Friedman says. The team contacted Jam Edit, a company it had worked with on some previous videos, and started firing up the microwaves.
Shooting and splattering
The crew shot the video all in one day in late May using a high-speed Weisscam.
"It was definitely the most fun we've had on set," Friedman says. "We felt like we were 8-year-olds, going, 'Try this! Try this!'" Not everything the crew tried worked. Trying to nuke a tennis ball didn't result in many interesting visuals, but it did leave a burnt rubber smell in everyone's clothes.
Safety was a huge consideration on the set. Everyone wore ski goggles and had respirators on hand, just in case of an accident. Luckily, the only damage was to the three microwaves the crew used.
The camera, the rental of which Friedman says was the most expensive part of the production, could shoot in extremely slow motion, from 500 frames per second all the way up to 2,000.
"We were able to catch things that otherwise wouldn't have been that cool. It became kind of art."
The 2,000-frame-per-second camera helped catch the champagne bottle explosion, which took about nine minutes to happen, but was really fast once it did. "It was like a bomb went off," Friedman says.
Editing the video took about two months—the editor had "a very tough task," Friedman says. It was finished around August. Even though the team was anxious to get the video out there, Moe's held onto it until the release of its new TV ad campaign, which debuted in January.
Getting the word out about the video started internally, Barash says. "We sent an email out to everybody that works for the company and said, 'Hey, we just posted this video on YouTube. Send it to all your friends, and friends of friends.'"
As Moe's employees shared the video on Facebook and elsewhere, Barash, Friedman, and others were reaching out to blogs such as Scary Ideas and Copyranter through email and Twitter. Soon, it was on Geekologie, Buzzfeed, and the CBS News blog. Wired magazine even tweeted about it.
"It's getting picked up where we never thought we would," Friedman says. "Blogs feed off blogs."
Most of the online response to the video doesn't necessarily mention the lack of microwaves at Moe's—it largely echoes one user's comment, which succinctly opines, "Awesome." But Barash says it's keeping the brand top of mind, and it's reaching out to a new audience.
Friedman says his team is planning the next video and trying to live up to the hype this one created. "We'll just have to be more forward-thinking about it," he says.
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