Using Zombie Pitchmen Doesn’t Take Braiiiiiiiinssss


A few weeks ago, the Web was abuzz with news of the Center for Disease Control’s “zombie apocalypse preparedness” marketing stunt to promote hurricane preparation in an amusing fashion. The stunt went so viral that it crashed the servers, revealing just how unprepared the CDC itself was.

Now, a fast-on-the-uptake author is using the CDC’s zombie viral marketing to do a bit of zombie guerrilla marketing of his own.[more] 

The press release begins: “LISTEN TO CDC AND YOU’LL BE EATEN BY ZOMBIES. Zombie Author Says CDC ‘Preparedness Guide’ Would Be Akin to ‘Duck and Cover’.” Yes, it’s another zombie markjeting plan.

Pat Kilbane, former cast member of comedy sketch show Mad TV, has used the CDC’s marketing sensation to call out the agency, saying its recommendations are “woefully too little.”

The satirical release is tone perfect, hitting all the PR cues and capitalizing on a hot-right-now story to snag interest where there may have been little before. The full, unedited release below:

May 20, 2011 — Los Angeles, CA – Pat Kilbane, author of The Brain Eater’s Bible, wants you to be ready for the zombie apocalypse, and he doesn’t think the CDC is helping.  “The emergency kit they recommend is woefully too little,” Kilbane says, “A zombie plague would be so violent and cataclysmic that a gallon of water and a change of underwear wouldn’t get you very far.”

Kilbane explains that the CDC’s kit is good for bridging the gap between the advent of a disaster and the time when help arrives, but in the case of a zombie apocalypse, help is not on the way.  “Historically, riots in the U.S. call for 15-20,000 troops to regain control of a city.  But given the logistical support that those forces require, the government may be able to secure only ten or fifteen panic-stricken cities in the entire United States, protecting less than one percent of our population.  When the zombies come, you and your family will be very much on your own.”

“For a zombie plague, it is weeks of food you will need, not days,” Kilbane says, “and though the CDC can’t recommend this, weapons are also a big part of the equation.  You will almost certainly be called upon to defend yourself physically.”

The author goes on to compare the CDC’s “Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Guide” to the “Duck and Cover” messages produced by the U.S. Government during the Cold War.  Among other things, that campaign encouraged school children to hide under their desks when they see a nuclear mushroom cloud.  “Like ‘Duck and Cover,’” Kilbane says, “the ‘Preparedness Guide’ is an impotent measure in the face of something so powerful.  It’s like whistling through the graveyard, both figuratively and literally.”

Pat Kilbane is best known for his three-year run on Fox’s Mad TV, though many remember him for his role as the “anti-Kramer” in the Superman-themedSeinfeld episode “The Bizarro Jerry.”  He has appeared in sci-fi films such as Evolution, Meet Dave, and Day of the Dead, and recently released the book The Brain Eater’s Bible: Sound Advice for the Newly Reanimated Zombie, which is available in hardcover on Amazon and as a multi-media iPad app in the iTunes Store.

Meanwhile, the CDC’s gag is just the latest occurrence of the word “zombie” in a marketing mix, and we don’t mean detergent brand Woolite’s recent announcement that horror master Rob Zombie would be directing its next commercial in Australia, where the brand is known for being irreverent.

Honda tapped into “zombie” fever for its latest Civic campaign, featuring Mitch the Zombie (top).

Meanwhile, positioned perfectly to marketing to the zombie-aware demographic is ammunition retailer USA Ammo, which promoted 9mm rounds on Twitter as “Zombie stoppers.” It’s not the only one.

Firearm equipement retailer Cheaper Than Dirt also promoted a sales deal with a zombie mention:

The trend is hardly new. Every couple months a zombie makes its way into mainstream advertising.

Last year, Starburst used one.

Or how about Doritos?

Then there are the always-fun spec commercials. One spec campaign pitched at Polaroid featured a erudite zombie named Greg.

Last year, the magazine Outdoor Life even ran a feature story (Surviving the Undead) in which “Shooting Editor John Snow showcases his choices of guns for surviving the zombie apocalypse.”

But it’s not just American marketers making a living off the living dead. A Snickers commercial from Spain featured a zombie plotline.

Why are zombies so popular for advertisers? For one, they’re situationally funny. Playing against type, a nice or intelligent zombie is an immediate attention-grabber. And, last we’ve heard, no advertiser or brand has ever received any letters of protest from the Advocates for Zombie Equality.


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