TAMPA — Organ donation is no joke.
Jason Woody gets that. He is chairman of Donate Life America and CEO of Tampa's Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research. It's his job to persuade people to become organ donors. And like everybody else, DLA is having trouble reaching millennials.
So his agency decided to try something a little different. Something edgy. Something funny. Something profane.
The result is a 2-minute, 47-second video featuring the world's biggest, um, jerk. (The video uses another word that nearly rhymes with tadpole.)
The jerk is Coleman F. Sweeney, played by actor Thomas Jane (who starred in the movie The Punisher, which was filmed in Tampa).
In the new video, he throws a stranger's wet laundry out of a dryer at the laundromat to avoid paying for his own load. Along the way, he pockets a pair of lace panties. He honks and hollers incessantly at an elderly woman with a walker and a nurse's aide crossing the street in front of him. He shoots his neighbor's dog with a paintball gun. He opens the door to trick-or-treaters wearing only a Speedo and holding a bottle of tequila (and he takes their candy).
Then he's in a diner, arguing with a server over whether extra fries should be included in a $1.99 early-bird breakfast — and dies of a sudden brain aneurysm.
But he dies a hero.
Actor and comedian Will Arnett, the narrator of the public service announcement, explains:
"Coleman Sweeney had registered to be an organ donor. Nobody knew what caused Coleman to do it, but there it was. Generous and majestic," Arnett says.
Sweeney's liver goes to a father of two. His heart to a teacher who taught for 25 more years. His tendons to a staff sergeant who would walk again. And his corneas to his 82-year-old neighbor, who "could finally see the crap that her dog made in the side yard and pick it up."
The commercial is funny, smart and more than a bit inappropriate. But its message is clear: Even a jerk can save a life.
The PSA, which went live Friday, already has more than 1.2 million views. Forbes and Upworthy have written about it. It has become a more successful campaign than DLA's recently announced partnership with Apple. That deal will allow iPhone users to sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor from the health app that comes with the release of iOS 10 in October.
"It was nothing in comparison" to the exposure DLA has gotten from the video so far, Woody said.
The Martin Agency is responsible for the video. Martin is a high-profile advertising agency known for campaigns like the Geico caveman and lizard. Martin offered its help, and DLA gave it "free rein" to come up with something that would help them reach a younger audience. The ad creation and production were donated to DLA for free.
"We have to look at how we reach all our constituents. Now we have Gen X and the millennials," Woody said. "The heartfelt stories of a mother getting a new heart … doesn't work with everyone. People still hear those stories all the time."
So far Woody is elated by the buzz the video is creating. It's available to view online only and won't run on local cable stations.
"This is going to be tough to one-up," Woody said about what's next for the DLA. "But based on the public's reaction, I think we'll find ourselves pushing the envelope more."
Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.