By Matt Smith

Today we go back to the Kentucky Derby to show off some really smart, good work by our pals at Viget, headquartered in Falls Church, VA.

Did I say smart, good work?  Yes, it’s all that.  But it’s more.  It’s fun.  And silly. And that makes it all the more interesting to watch.

For last year’s derby, the talented Viget team of designers and engineers created something totally unique, completely engaging and really fun for Johnny Weir, the NBC on-air personality and former Olympic figure skater. Weir is known for making fashion statements, so to complement his Churchill Downs outfit, Viget built a brooch in the shape of a racehorse that Weir wore on the lapel of his flashy ensemble.

But here’s the really fun part—the brooch (named Lawrence the Stallion) was Twitter-powered.  He lit up and “galloped” whenever fans tweeted the hashtag “#WatchMeNeighNeigh.” I know, it sounds crazy, and it was.  You can read what Adweek had to say about it here. And here is the story behind the story from the Viget folks.

But here’s my point.  When it’s done properly, silly and fun works in marketing.  Why?  Because NO ONE, and I MEAN NO ONE watches TV for anything other than to be entertained. That’s it. So, when you get all serious about stuff, you might just as well just run a campaign for an insurance company with a slogan that shouts: Hey Kids, Let’s All Go To A Lecture Series On Car Insurance.

Or you could run the kind of goofy, fun, silly and engaging ads that the super smart Martin agency in Richmond, VA, has been creating for GEICO for the past several years.

As I said, the key is to do it properly because there’s a fine line between silly and fun and silly and dumb.  And consumers can tell the difference.  Silly and fun can enhance a brand and even out it on the map.  Silly and dumb can result in a social media and public relations disaster.  One tip is that the work needs to stay on brand in much the way that Lawrence the galloping stallion does for Johnny Weir.

I think Viget’s Twitter-powered brooch is pure genius and I love this company.  These guys are the real deal and although they have very trendy offices in Boulder, the center of the hipster universe, they’re headquartered right near us in Falls Church, the other Hipster capitol.  Okay. Maybe not a capitol, but we’re getting there.

Matt Smith is founder of SmithGifford, and has close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies.  SmithGifford is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

You can find Matt’s earlier columns at Oh, That’s Good.

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