OCEAN CITY – On television, Rodney the Lifeguard will rescue people from their boring lives and take them to Ocean City, but can he rescue the town from what many are fearing to be a slow summer season?
Blake Adams, the 27-year-old New York-based actor who plays Rodney the Lifeguard in Ocean City’s soon-to-be-released television advertising campaign, charmed his way into the gig, according to MGH Advertising Creative Director John Patterson, and was one of the last actors that auditioned for the part in New York City last year.
“It was the end of the day, and we were essentially striking out,” said Patterson. “Some people were good but they were just trying too hard, you know, but then in walked Blake Adams, and he just won us over by how charming he was. We are really hoping that he catches on.”
Patterson said that literally hundreds of people auditioned for the role of “Rodney the Lifeguard,” who is a character created by MGH to essentially be the mascot for Ocean City for at least the next two years.
Adams, a University of North Carolina-Wilmington graduate with a BA in Communications, is “just breaking into the business,” according to Patterson, but his big smile and carefree demeanor made him the perfect choice to personify Ocean City.
“He’s a very likeable character and I think he represents Ocean City very well”, said Patterson, “and unlike every other resort that is telling you to come to them, we are literally going and pulling people out of their cars in the campaign.”
In the commercials, Rodney the Lifeguard rushes into a corporate office setting and an urban traffic jam respectively and “rescues” a man and a woman from their “boring” lives and takes them to Ocean City.
Both of the commercials take a comical angle at presenting Ocean City as a quality summertime destination by showing a likeable character dragging people out of their daily lives and pulling them to the “safety” of the beach.
“Being fun and funny is a good thing for a resort ad campaign,” said Patterson. “It is very contemporary and that does tend to be humorous in style, but showing Ocean City wasn’t enough, we wanted to tell a bigger story.”
MGH President Andy Malis showed other resort’s television advertising campaigns at the recent Tourism Commission meeting and noted that all use a similar and somewhat clichéd format to get their message across.
“With the way people watch television now, you have to do more to catch their eye and keep their interest,” said Malis, “and we think that this campaign achieves that goal.”
Patterson said the name Rodney was chosen as it has a “wholesome earnestness” to it, and essentially “makes you feel good and smile when you hear it.”
Coincidentally, the name Butch was thrown around, according to Patterson as a potential name for the character, but was opted against, as it mirrored too closely to the nickname of the figurehead of the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP), (Captain Melbourne “Butch” Arbin.)
Patterson said the OCBP was “very instrumental” in helping make the character of Rodney the Lifeguard as “authentic as possible”, and were on location for last August’s commercial shoot and helped with dialogue, and training for the character.
“Lifeguards do a very serious job and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t make the character look like a buffoon just because the commercial took a perhaps comical take,” said Patterson.
According to Adams’ agent, Heather Finn of Frontier International Booking Agency in New York, this is the actor’s “biggest campaign” that he’s booked in his short career, and that Adams is “waiting for his big break like everyone else.”
Adams, on the other hand, has been very active since booking and shooting the ad campaign last August in Ocean City. During a phone interview, Adams spoke about his first thoughts on Ocean City and his feeling about being the resort’s face of tourism to the surrounding markets.
“I loved Ocean City, it is a great town, and everyone was incredibly nice to me,” said Adams. “I still can’t get Thrasher’s French fries out of my mind, they were awesome.”
The actor said he was drawn to the comic undertones that he was able to play-up during the shoot.
“I love comedy and in trying to play Rodney so seriously, I think some of the humor plays out even more,” said Adams, “but I did have a lot of help from the lifeguards in Ocean City, who gave me about an hour breakdown of how they do things there so I looked authentic.”
Since the shoot, Adams said that he has booked a national Red Lobster commercial, a reoccurring role on “All My Children” as Susan Lucci’s massage therapist, a billboard campaign in the heart of New York City for the Showtime series “The Tudors” and is also awaiting word on a role in a feature film scheduled to shoot in North Carolina sometime at the end of the year starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Neither Adams’ agent nor MGH would cite the exact dollar amount that Adams will be paid for the campaign, and they only conceded that the character of Rodney the lifeguard would be used for at least the next two years.
A source who was a former talent agent in Philadelphia hinted that a campaign of this magnitude with a young actor could garner upwards of $5,000 for the aforementioned actor, but neither MGH nor Frontier Booking International would say if Adams’ cut for playing Rodney was close to the source’s estimated figure.
Adams’ agency was started by the late Ian Copeland, brother of Police drummer Stewart, and is the same company that booked Courtney Cox’s big break into the business as the “girl in the video” for Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video.
Whether or not playing Rodney the Lifeguard will be Blake Adams’ big break, the fact remains that people are going to associate his face with Ocean City for at least the near future, and in talking to him, it’s apparent that the campaign’s message is not just a script that he memorized.
“Life is about sun and happiness, not about the daily grind,” said Adams. “I am very excited for this to come out, and I truly believe that people need to get away from their usual routines and get to a beautiful beach like Ocean City.”
Patterson said that there are some public appearances planned for “Rodney” at some point in the summer, but nothing has been set in stone yet.
“Ocean City should play well in these economic times because it’s so close to so many major cities, and we are going to play to the fact that everyone needs a vacation very badly right now,” said Patterson.