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TV Ad Roach Frightens Viewers

That cockroach crawling across the screen isn't ON your television. It's IN it.

Many viewers have felt like suckers after being frightened by the roach in a commercial for Orkin Pest Control. Two viewers even asked the company to repair sets that they damaged when they hurled objects at the bug.

``Apparently, when you're sitting in your darkened den it seems pretty real,'' said Michael Lollis, executive creative director at the Atlanta office of J. Walter Thompson, which created the ads, titled ``Fake Out.'' They began airing, mostly at night, on March 1 in 90 percent of the country.

Orkin and the ad agency have received dozens of calls from people who reported being frightened, amused or both by the commercial, which starts as an ad for a fictional fabric softener.

Matt, from Tallahassee, Fla., wrote to Orkin, saying he had just stepped from the shower when he saw the roach on his TV set.

``I immediately snatched my towel off and proceeded to snap the roach with the towel,'' he wrote. ``He did not die or even get knocked off the TV. I thought it was SuperRoach or something. Then to realize that it was just a commercial, well, I felt dumb. But got a great laugh out of it.''

A woman from Greensboro, Md., said she woke up two neighbors late at night to come to her house to hunt and kill the roach. One of the neighbors quickly figured out the bug was from the commercial.

``I felt really stupid for getting my neighbors out of bed in the middle of the night,'' Darlyn wrote. ``You really got me!''

An irate Tampa, Fla., woman who tried to kill the roach by tossing a motorcycle helmet at it and instead broke her TV set demanded that Atlanta-based Orkin buy her a new one. Another man said his set was damaged after he threw a shoe at it.

Sorry, the Orkin Man doesn't do TV repair.

``Both of them were very startled and they wanted us to fix their TVs, but that's not going to happen, I'm afraid,'' said Martha May, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Orkin.

The commercial opens with a cheery woman doing laundry when a cockroach scurries from the right side of the screen. Midway through, an exterminator emerges to zap the bug.

``The thing that we're trying to go for is that shock value that is stimulated when you see a roach in your home,'' May said. ``And that's when you call the Orkin Man.''

Lollis said the spot required ``lots of little technical tricks.'' The creators added a slight glow around the edge of the bug so it would appear to be sitting on the screen.

The success of the commercial has prompted Orkin's public relations department to tailor another promotion around the commercial _ the ``Orkin Got Me'' contest, with the winner of a random drawing receiving a new television. Postcard or e-mail entries are due by April 30.


JUSTIN BACHMAN, AP Business Writer, April 5, 2000 , ATLANTA (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation

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