By Gaile Robinson
Knight Ridder News Service
He dropped his pants, did a dance, and the rest is advertising history.
Vaughn Lowery, the 28-year-old Joe Boxer dance man, is joining the ranks of all-star pitchmen, right up there with the Dell Guy and Mr. Whipple.
Lowery has been doing his doofus dance in Kmart ads, dressed only in Joe Boxer underwear, since July, and already he has his own Web site, a fan club and many television appearances, such as one recently when he tried to teach Katie Couric on NBC's Today show how to do his inimitable dance. (Note: Talent doesn't matter; enthusiasm does.)
That is the secret to Lowery's success: His dance is ridiculous, his attitude infectiously giggly. He says everyone has a secret dance they do in front of the bathroom mirror in their underwear; he just does his for the camera. He smiles a huge smile, and the TV audience smiles with him.
Kmart gets fan mail about Lowery. When the giant discounter put Lowery's dance on the Internet (kmart.com) , it was downloaded 30,000 times in the first week. When the store put up a site, kmartboxers.com, to preview the holiday commercials that featured Lowery doing his dance dressed in a silver gift box that is stripped away to reveal Santa boxers, it received 180,000 hits in the first week. (The Web site lets you customize the Santa shorts and send them and Vaughn as an e-mail greeting card.)
This frivolity is new to Lowery's career. On his Internet site there are photos from his modeling days. He looks GQ-cool and aloof. It's a lie. Lowery is "exactly like the commercials. He's like a hyperactive puppy," says Kmart spokesman David Karraker, adding that the company likes that energy and has Lowery "under a long-term contract."
The Boxer Boogie ads consistently rate in the top 10 commercials that consumers remember. Karraker says e-mail that has crossed his screen indicates that what fans like is the good-natured fun of the ads. It's not sex that's selling this time, but silliness.
Some Vaughn wannabes have sent their own dancing-in-my-shorts shorts to Kmart and, though there are no plans to commercially exploit any of the average Joes and their homemade films, "they might be put on the Web site," says Karraker.
Inspired dancing is how Lowery got the gig - it wasn't scripted. He was auditioning for a group of Joe Boxer commercials, one with two guys, another with a couple. When he was asked to say his name and show his enthusiasm for the product, Lowery "dropped his drawers and did his boogie and we got something really magic," says Colette Landi Sipperly of Kmart. Lowery was shocked at his own behavior and thought he had blown the audition, but the ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles and Kmart, based in Detroit, Lowery's hometown, knew they had to have that man and that dance. Lowery was asked to re-create his screen-test moment, again and again, for 25 takes.
As a result of his impromptu performance, TV and movie offers are coming in, though no one wants to jinx a deal by talking prematurely. Lowery has four other national commercials, but what he really wants to do is - drum roll, please - act in a major motion picture. For now, though, he is content to be the major motion on the small screen.
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