"Stomp Mel Gibson" Ad Gets Press for Fitness Chain, But Not for the Semi-Employed Genius Behind It

Last Updated Jun 24, 2011 7:15 PM EDT

Synergy, a chain of gyms in New York and New Jersey, has gotten lots of free media mentions for an ad claiming that its treadmills have the face of Mel Gibson painted on them, so you can work out your anger against his appalling behavior while getting fit. The ad, written on a sidewalk chalkboard, should get entrepreneurs thinking about how even the most humble promo vehicle can get mass media attention. The "Stomp Mel Gibson special" promo was picked up -- without PR promotion -- in Ad Age, Animal, BuzzFeed, Ology, MomLogic, DietsInReview, FitSugar, among many others. Not bad for an 18th century medium that isn't online.

The Mel Gibson ad was the work of Joe D'Allegro, who works part time at the gym. As residents of Jersey City, N.J., know, the Synergy branch there puts out a new chalkboard every few days with a new wisecrack about current events. A recent example: "No risk of pirate attack," with an arrow pointing at the gym. Commuters love them, and often stop to take photos.

D'Allegro also works freelance as a writer for Institutional Investor, and he's a blogger at True/Slant. But he doesn't work in advertising, and he writes Synergy's ads for free. In terms of money spent ($0) to media earned, Dallegro is arguably the best copywriter not working in advertising today.

His chalkboard on the eviction of director Kevin Smith from a Southwest Airlines plane because he was too obese to fit into a seat ("We'll help you avoid Kevin Smith-like situations. We're not referring to uneven-quality filmmaking") got a similar reaction in the blogosphere to the Gibson ad.

Not all of D'Allegro's ads are a hit, he says. My personal favorite, "If you stare into the Abyss long enough, the Abyss stares back.--Nietzsche; The abyss is totally checking you out!--Synergy" was a dud with customers because no one knew who Nietzsche was, D'Allegro says.

Let's see if BNET can get D'Allegro a proper job on Madison Avenue. Here's a sample of his "portfolio" (see photo gallery below). You can see dozens more on his Flickr site. Does your agency need a writer who can get this kind of media attention just by chalking on a sidewalk? Contact me at jim edwards 123 at gmail dot com and I'll forward your job offers to Joe.