U.S. Cellular Made a 7-Hour Preroll Ad That Just Lets You Watch Grass Grow

With a few Easter eggs thrown in there

U.S. Cellular sets a new standard for tedium with this preroll ad that lasts seven hours.

It's about as exciting as watching grass grow. In fact, that's mostly what happens during its 420-minute running time: Grass grows … and grows … and grows. Imperceptibly. As grass is wont to do.

Crafted by MullenLowe, the ad opens with brand spokesman Darien riding a lawnmower across an expansive green field. "Switch to U.S. Cellular," he says, "and get seven gigs of data for just $49 per month. You'll have so much data, you can stream almost anything. Even hours and hours of grass growing. Enjoy!"

His pitch lasts about 15 seconds. Then he drives off, and the grass grows, as the sun tracks its inexorable path across the sky. Check it out here:

Did you hang in all the way to the end? Will anyone? Who cares. It's potent publicity!

"When the concept was originally pitched, we had a couple other ideas to visualize the deal, like watching paint dry, finding out if a watched pot ever boils, and watching as we wait to see if the cows ever come home," agency creative director John Kearse tells AdFreak. "Grass growing was always our first choice because it was a universal concept and offered a fun environment to showcase some entertaining Easter eggs."

Easter eggs in a grassy field—perfect! Here, they include Darien playing croquet (around 1:29), flying a kite (3:09), fending off bees (3:36) and ordering a pizza (4:13). Oh, and there's a UFO sighting near the very end, of course.

Congrats to U.S. Cellular and MullenLowe for besting, by a full hour, Virgin America's brilliantly boring 2014 preroll from ad shop Eleven. That earlier video—likely the previous record holder for the world's longest preroll—had creepy mannequins, but no UFOs.

"Yeah, always bummed when someone beats a record you might hold," says Bryan Houlette, currently a creative director at Roundhouse, and a member of the Eleven team behind the Virgin spot.

Chin up, Bryan. Maybe you can stuff all your friends and family into a phone booth (if you can still fine one), or come up with the world's shortest preroll or something.

"When we originally concepted the idea, we were not aware of Virgin's six-hour spot," says MullenLowe creative director Rob Kottkamp. "However, when it was brought to our attention, we'd be lying if we said we didn't want to officially make our preroll ad the longest."

Darien's 15-second opening segment appears as a preroll on AOL, CBS and Hulu. The full-length affair runs exclusively as a preroll on YouTube, and those viewing it as such may be retargeted later with a bumper ad that picks up where they left off—with that grass still s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y growing. Awesome!

In case you were wondering, the ad was shot in one continuous take.

"We went into it prepared for as much as possible and agreed to let the day play out," Kottkamp says, "but we were very purposeful to not put the camera near any tree," lest a falling branch at the six-and-a-half-hour mark ruin a lot of extremely monotonous work.

"Throughout the day, we brainstormed activities for Darien, timed out intervals for those actions, and built the day around that," says Kottkamp. "When Darien was performing these different actions on camera, movements and direction were communicated to him from the director and MullenLowe creatives via a hidden headset. The goal was to get a seamless visual payoff by keeping any cheats to a minimum."

"If you watch the entire piece," he says, "you will also see small, organic moments like butterflies passing through the frame and the sky changing from day to the dark of night. In our minds, this made the overall piece more interesting than just looping footage."


Agency: MullenLowe, Boston

Client: U.S. Cellular—Randy Klodz, Digital Marketing Manager

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Executive Creative Directors: Tim Vaccarino, David Weist

Creative Directors: Rob Kottkamp, John Kearse

Senior Art Director: Pier Madonia

Copywriter: Macie Soler-Sala

Group Account Director: Gillian Casey

Account Director: Mike Casey

Account Supervisor:Elissa Adler

Assistant Account Executive: Eloise O'Connor

Senior Digital Strategist: Lucia Corso

Executive Director of Integrated Production: Liza Near

Director of Broadcast Production: Zeke Bowman

Executive Producer: Josh Litwhiler

Assistant Broadcast Producer: Ashley Donovan

Senior Business Affairs Manager: Vanessa Fazio

Project Manager: Caroline Hulin

Director: David Gray

Producer: Rachel Perkins

EditbarProducer: Maggie Flatley

Editbar Editor: Charlie Coffou

Brickyard Producer: Ellen Schmitt

Abrams Artists Agency Endorsements Assistant: Susie Dunner

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.