Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock cameoed in every one of the 39 major motion pictures he made after moving to Hollywood in 1940, just missing a bus in North by Northwest, for example, exiting a pet shop with his Sealyham terriers as Tippi Hedren enters in The Birds, and appearing in a before-and-after weight-loss newspaper ad in Lifeboat. And while the principals of Karlin+Pimsler don’t always appear in their own spots, they occasionally make cameos or cast a client or family member. “This business is hard work, and we thought it would be fun to put in these inside jokes,” says Mal Karlin, chief creative officer of the New York City-based creative agency.
In Sitting Pretty, one of a series of :60 spots promoting structured settlements and annuities for the financial services company J.G. Wentworth, the moviegoer handing a bucket of popcorn to a friend who’s literally “sitting on a pile of cash” is Steve Pimsler, then the firm’s vice president and creative director. It was a convenient and cost-effective casting option. “Steve came cheap,” Karlin says. “Not a lot of money goes into these campaigns, but as creative people, we want it to have high production values.” Karlin himself steps in as a soda jerk in the same ad, so that the partners wouldn’t double up on roles. “We couldn’t show Steve behind the counter, so the only contender was me,” he says.
Pimsler also appeared in Bus Opera and other spots in the J.G. Wentworth campaign. “We had a client in the role before that, and we went with Steve; he was the best one,” Karlin says. “People still stop him in airports and say, ‘I know you from someplace.’”