Tommy John Put Live Ferrets Inside Men’s Shirts for This Shockingly Squirmy Ad

'Fortunately, we had no bites'

Ad agency Preacher shoved live ferrets down actors' shirts for the latest Tommy John commercial. It did so to illustrate the indignities men often suffer owing to ill-fitting undershirts, and position the client's products as the solution.

Way to go, actors! You struggled through all those drama classes and years of waiting tables … for this. Behold the squirmy action, as the men's tops bunch up, stretch out and come untucked in various situations:

"Our first idea started with cats," Preacher creative chief Rob Baird tells AdFreak. "That lasted one presentation. Once we got serious about pursuing this idea, the combination of logistics of size and concern about cat lovers' response to putting them under dress shirts made us move to other options. Ferrets were on a shortlist of players, including hamsters and snakes. But once we found out they love to burrow and then Googled ferrets for a visual refresher—seeing their aggressive little faces—they seemed perfect."

"Perfect." That's one word for it.

Running at 60 seconds online, with shorter TV edits, "Undershirt Undoing" follows "The Big Adjustment," Tommy John's popular spot from last year that gets its kicks below the waistline. No ferrets were used in the making of that commercial. (Or so they say.)

"Obviously, following the success of 'The Big Adjustment' was a tough challenge," says client chief marketer Josh Dean. "Undershirts are a low-engagement category, so we needed to do something that stood out creatively, but also educated men on the product itself and show what differentiates Tommy John from everything else in the market. Ferrets always help!"

Do they? Do they really?

In the making-of video, they're hella creepy. Those "aggressive little faces" poke out of shirts like fuzzy Aliens emerging from the depths of the actors' digestive tracks.

"Usually, once the ferrets were tucked inside the shirts for several fast-action takes, they wanted to sleep," says Baird. "Our animal handlers had plenty of treats tucked throughout our actors' shirts to keep them moving and causing annoyance for our guys. The smart ones usually ate their treats and found the quickest exit—usually through a neck or button opening in the shirt. We have to give our actors a lot of credit for playing it so well and staying calm—the discomfort was real. Fortunately, we had no bites."

Lingering nightmares, we imagine, are another matter entirely.


Client: Tommy John

Chief Executive Officer: Tom Patterson

Chief Marketing Officer: Josh Dean

Senior Art Director: Fawad Khan

Producer: Allison Wicke

Director of Social Media: Monica Fineis

Agency: Preacher

Chief Creative Officer: Rob Baird

Copywriter: Mark Svartz

Executive Producer: Stacey Higgins

Agency Producer: Katie Stoller

Assistant Agency Producer: Zach Tavel

Brand Director: Amanda VanAntwerp

Chief Executive Officer: Krystle Loyland

Chief Strategy Officer: Seth Gaffney

Senior Strategist: Carson Mobley

Business Affairs: Miiko Martin

Production Company: Smuggler

Executive Producers: Patrick Milling Smith, Brian Carmody, Jacqui Wilkinson

Director: Neil Harris

Head of Production: Andrew Colon

Line Producer: Claire Jones

Director of Photography: Tat Radcliffe

Production Services (Lithuania): Nordic Productions

Services Producer: Greta Kleine

Edit House: Cartel

Executive Producer: Lauren Bleiweiss

Head of Production: Meagan Carroll

Producer: Dale Nicholls

Editor: Andy McGraw 

Assistant Editors: Matt Berardi, Micah Chase

Music: Black Iris

Track: Misery

Composer: Trey Pollard

Executive Creative Director: Justin Bailey

Creative Director: Rich Stine

Executive Producer: Jon Spencer

Senior Producer: Amanda Patterson

Mix: Lime

Sound Engineer: Rohan Young

Assistant Sound Engineer: Ben Tomastik

Finish House: Cartel

Senior Flame Artist: Wes Waldron

Color: Ntropic

Colorist: Marshall Plante

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.
Publish date: September 15, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT