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A NYC Folk Hero and a German Car-Rental Brand Teamed Up for This Bizarre Election Ad


Did you think you'd heard the last of Jimmy McMillan, hirsute founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High party?

Just because he "retired" late last year, calling New York voters "brainwashed," doesn't mean the failed politician and self-styled karate expert is gone for good. As it turns out, he's sold his trademark (price undisclosed) to a German car-rental giant for its first ad campaign in the U.S. It seems the two have the same budget-conscious message, and at least one of them is in on the joke.

Sixt, known for pushing boundaries in its European ads by using images of Prince Charles, Angela Merkel and other public figures, is latching onto erstwhile activist McMillan in new digital spots. The company, a budget franchise with about 70 U.S. locations, is also coat-tailing on the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

"We wanted to get Sixt into the political discussion in this last week of the election, but we didn't want to get sued for using Trump or Clinton because that could be really expensive," says Georg Baur, managing creative director of ad agency Thjnk. "The brand is brave, but not that brave."

Since McMillan announced last December that his trademark was essentially up for grabs, execs at Sixt and Thjnk realized they didn't have to start from scratch (think: Bud Light's underwhelming whistle-stop-themed ads). So they've co-opted McMillan's political agenda and his musical mantra. They rejiggered his hip-hop anthem and added journalist Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks and rapper The Fat Jew for a mock press conference. 

Wackiness ensues.

"This election is so intense that we just wanted to give people a break," said Baur, whose agency roster also includes Ikea, Audi, McDonald's and others. "Even if it's a commercial break, people need to laugh."

In this meme-heavy world, it's vital to capture someone at the height of his popularity. Red sweater-clad Ken Bone shilling for Uber, for instance. But McMillan still has juice, Baur said, with folks on the street treating him like "a local hero" during shooting in New York. And the agency team tried to make the ad as absurd as possible so that "it should be funny even if you don't remember him."

The ad launched Wednesday morning on the Young Turks' Facebook page, as well as on YouTube and other social media. 

Client: Sixt
President, Sixt USA: Johannes Boeinghoff
Senior Marketing Manager USA: Amy Ostermayr
Head of Social Media: Matthias Stock
Agency: thjnk New York
Managing Creative Directors: Torben Otten, Georg Baur
Creative Art: Suzanne Levesque
Account Director: Julia Kottowski
Junior Account Manager: Henrik Jonsson
Client Services Director: Gilles Guilbert
Agency Producer: Ralph Teichmann
Film Production: The Collective @ LAIR
Director/Writer: Brad Hasse
Director of Photography: Evan Jake Cohen
Executive Producer: Mark Aji & Theresa Loguercio
Associate Producer: Lara Geis
Editor: Jeremy Baumann
Assitant Editor: Julio Alvia
Casting: Side Car Casting

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