Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content

A streaker on a football pitch, the Last Supper at a press conference, and a green frog that's always somewhere

Easter eggs are secret messages hidden in computer games, movies, and advertisements. They help content creators bring new meanings to ideas or add a dash of humor to a creative concept. Someone edits a favorite character into a clip, or embellishes a story with cultural references. Some additions gain cult status. Advertising agency representatives spoke about what hidden messages they left in creative content for their colleagues and most attentive viewers.

Artem Tsaregorodtsev, creative producer at Zebra Hero

In 2018, we at Zebra Hour shot a comedy short with the support of Internet provider Dom.ru. The main characters in the video were scientists who gave a girl the ability to emit WiFi. Their leadership is furious: under the terms of the tender, they were supposed to create a superhuman capable of moving boulders with the power of thought. The team has two days to find a way out of the situation.

At the heart of the story lies a paradox: scientists have created a new messiah, a "God of the Internet," which is worshiped by millions today. Rather than talk about this directly, we hid it between the lines and emphasized it with references to biblical themes. For example, the scene of the scientists' press conference pays homage to the famous painting of The Last Supper, with the main character in the center: the spot where Jesus sits. In addition, in one of the first scenes, we briefly showed a painting of Sisyphus to underline the irony of the situation: scientists created a miracle, but no one needs it.

And in the end? The video was watched more than 1.1 million times. An excellent result!

Holger Paasch, holgerpaasch.com

I worked in Moscow at a large network agency. The team was given the challenge of creating an advertising campaign for the winter Mercedes-Benz sale. We could have just shown a still of the car with a price tag, like other brands do, or we could come up with something interesting. In the end, we agreed to create "psychological pictures"—snapshots "in the first person."

Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content

We portrayed the potential customer at an opera and at a football match. He's holding a Mercedes-Benz magazine in his hands and isn't paying any attention to the stage or pitch: he is completely absorbed in our content. In the shot at the stadium, we decided to take the concept to the extreme and hide an Easter egg. If you look closely, you can see a naked man running across the pitch—a streaker. But even this outrageous incident isn't enough to distract the reader: he is far too interested in the offers from his favorite brand.

The idea of putting in an Easter egg came up when we were designing the creative. We started a brainstorming session with the phrase: "Mercedes-Benz's winter offers are so attractive that…" In an attempt to end the sentence, we tossed a lot of puns and ideas back and forth. All of them fit the concept perfectly, and the Easter egg only strengthened the message: there is nothing more interesting than what Mercedes-Benz has to offer. The client approved the creative, but whether or not he saw the Easter egg is up in the air. We did send him a high-resolution picture, at least!

Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content

Andrey Ilyasov, creative director at Proximity

There was a period when I put monkeys in all my clips. It might be an inconspicuous detail like an image on a plate or wall, or a living monkey, like in the "MMS" ad for MTS. One day, two monkeys were brought straight to the set: Mokka and Lada. The three of us played for a long time, until I picked one of them up. In response, the other bit my hand. I learned a life lesson that day: all monkeys should be given equal attention. In the photo, you can see me with one of the monkeys an instant before her friend bit me.

Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content

There was also a funny moment when Evgenia Churbanova, then marketing director of MTS, asked us not to even hint at any monkeys in the new clip. On set, we honestly followed her instructions, buy when it came to the CGI, we couldn't help ourselves. We ended up with a giant robot shaped like a gorilla. Evgenia found out at the final screening. She laughed and was furious at the same time, but didn't ask us to change anything. So, it stayed like that.

Yaroslav Zelensky, McCann Moscow

It was the second flight of the MTS youth campaign for the "Hype" tariff. We knew that the target audience spent a lot of time on the Internet, endlessly watching videos and scrolling through feeds on social networks. We decided to one-up this and design a "sticky" creative. We used optical illusions, multi-screen and other tricks to achieve it.

During final editing, we hid several Easter eggs in the video with Ellen Sheidlin. For example, we inserted a photo from the shoot and no one noticed it for a good while. It appeared quite organically, so we left it in.

Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content

The voice acting in the video also turned into a saga. All three speakers from MTS had an unsuitable timbre. Then we put ourselves forward, the client approved, and art director Yaroslav Sinitsyn and I voiced several radio and video clips. You could say that we've become the voice of the MTS youth network.

In general, Easter eggs are often entertainment not for the target audience, but for the creators themselves. In particular, the legend of the green MegaFon frog, one of the first Easter eggs in Russia, goes back a long time. Once, the brand manager who the client was collaborating with asked for the toy green frog to be removed from the sofa—he didn't like it. To which we responded: "How could you? It's in all the videos!" In the end, the frog was either a picture on the refrigerator or a figurine on a shelf, something like that. It became a kind of game between advertisers to see who could find it among all the details.

Sergey Shabrov, creative director at Madness

In 2019, the brand Zatecky Gus launched its ruby beer. The promotion of the new item was down to the Madness team. We took the time to get to know the product: it became obvious that its color and taste were unique on the Russian market, and it must have taken the brewers extra effort to achieve it. So, in the creative, we decided to play with the contrast between the pleasure of enjoying a new product and the complexity of preparing it. And we didn't hold back on our signature humor, even in the brand's product communication.

In the TV commercial, the Zatec brewers grab the malt when it is red hot and try to rush it to the tun so they can achieve the beer's ruby color. Neither pain nor physical barriers can prevent them from reaching their goal. The feeling of touching a hot pan is not only conveyed on the faces of our heroes, but also in the "scalded Czech" interpretation of Grieg's legendary "In the Hall of the Mountain King" playing in the background. Andras Arato (he of "Hide the Pain Harold" meme fame) was invited to make a cameo appearance.

His participation perfectly fits the story of the brewers who persevere through the pain to craft their beer. It's also an Easter egg for the brand's younger audience, which has made the word "khoroshechno," spoken by the head brewer in the ad, a popular meme online.

Secret messages from advertisers: Easter eggs in creative content
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