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Ad based on bungled burglary goes viral, along with the pastrami

Rocky Slaughter
Rocky Slaughter

The owner of Kent’s Meat and Groceries viewed a botched break-in of his Redding, Calif., convenience store from a monetary perspective: $500 in damages. Rocky Slaughter, on the other hand, a 2010 graduate who founded the marketing and PR agency Sugar Pine Media, considered it a golden opportunity to promote the mom-and-pop shop.

The footage of the bungled burglary had already gone viral once, when police released the surveillance tape with the hope of identifying the suspect. In the video, the suspect throws a rock at the storefront window, triggering an alarm; frightened, the suspect runs away and falls on his face.

Slaughter repurposed the original video, speeding up the clip and adding music evocative of the zany theme song from The Benny Hill Show. The ad—which has been featured on national news programs such as Good Morning America and generated almost 1 million YouTube hits—promotes the store by proclaiming that it sells “award-winning New York pastrami so good some people will do just about anything to get it.” The burglar has yet to be caught, but the clip has already paid dividends for Kent’s and Slaughter alike.

“Their pastrami is selling like hotcakes,” Slaughter said, “just flying off the shelves.”

The majority of Slaughter’s clients in Redding—local banks, law firms, construction companies—have never employed an agency like his, which specializes in social media and trackable web-based campaigns.

Kent’s was an exception. It hired Slaughter’s agency to promote the launch of its online store. The viral ad has accomplished that goal, and has also boosted business at the counter.

The ad’s success is indicative of a viral campaign’s potential impact on expanding any kind of business, regardless of where it’s located. But, said Slaughter, “Until businesses see that it can work, they’re often skeptical of social media and that kind of marketing in general.”

Slaughter, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” sharpened his business acumen at Northeastern. As an undergraduate political science major, he netted a six-month job with the Kendall Jackson winery, using social media to promote the brand to the millennial generation. He also worked on co-op building a postcard business and teamed up with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator, to create a startup that would have let bar patrons control the venue’s sound system with a smartphone application. Neither took off—the postcard business “barely broke even,” Slaughter said, and the stereo app “just wasn’t a very good idea”—but the entrepreneurial culture on campus helped him develop skills that would prove useful in future endeavors.

“IDEA and the Entrepreneurs Club were great resources and taught me lessons that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else, and co-op allowed me to get out in the real world and do things on my own,” Slaughter said.