Twenty-five-year old Jesse Meeker is pretty attuned to pop culture, but until about two months ago, he'd never heard of a Snuggie. He had apparently missed that spate of late-night infomercials that begin with a woman lying on her couch, attempting to swaddle herself in blankets. "They slip and slide! When you want to reach for something, your hands are trapped inside!" He'd apparently never seen an OKCupid profile that listed "Snuggie" under "Object I could not live without" or "The most private thing I'm willing to admit about myself." When Meeker heard that Snuggie was holding a contest to see who could make the best three-minute advertisement for its line of giant, sleeved blankets, he was intrigued.
"I Googled 'Snuggie' and found out it was this pop icon," he said.
Meeker got wind of the contest while working at a web-based marketing firm in San Francisco. "They were like, 'We can't enter because we're a legit, fancy company,'" he said. "But you should try." Meeker agreed. The Snuggie blanket commercials had already generated dozens of spin-offs on YouTube: The "What the F#%K Blanket" ("The blanket that will ruin your sex life!"); The "Snugger" (which covers your entire body and your hands), The "Snuggest" (which covers your entire body and everything within a ten-feet radius); The "Snuggernaut" ("200 ft. of luxurious fleece that captures 10-14 people"); The "Mega-Snuggernaut" (covers your entire house); The "Blanket" ("A Snuggie without holes"); "The Snuggie Cult" ("Cults keep you warm!"); and even the "What the F#%K Blanket Dead Animal edition." There were two ways for Snuggie to respond: Either ignore the spoofs, or embrace them.
Snuggie went the latter route, said Linda Hotz, director of marketing for Allstar Products Group, which makes the Snuggie blanket line. "The impetus for the Snuggie Choice Film Awards was to celebrate the fans and pay homage to the thousands of Snuggie-inspired videos on the Internet," Hotz wrote, in a recent e-mail interview.
Music was not a requirement, but the best video-makers opted to use it anyway. In fact, the top two contestants both used hip-hop. Dorothy Benson of Leesburg, Virginia, snagged the $5,000 first-place prize with her video "Snuggy Rap Kidz," which featured a pre-teen and a toddler rapping about sleeveless blankies. Meeker took second place with "Teach You How to Snuggie," another blankie rap video inspired by the popular Cali Swag District hit, "Teach Me How to Dougie."
By the time Meeker entered the contest, he already had a fairly substantial résumé. He'd shot and directed music videos for an ambient, psychedelic band called Human Mirror, and for Richmond rapper Akil Fadil — who asked for several gratuitous "bling shots" and a series of billboards with his image pasted inside. He also crafted a "Yes on Prop 19" advertisement, which touts marijuana as a cure for everything from back aches to depression to boredom. A part-time pizza chef, Meeker devotes most of his time to running his own production company, Shiny House Video.
The concept for "Teach You How to Snuggie" was simple. Meeker got together with producer Lukas Noah and engineer Eliot Curtis at their West Oakland recording studio — a dark, squat, windowless building that they call "The Rec Center." Noah and Meeker wrote the rap and conscripted a local emcee, Sochalant, to deliver it. Then all they needed was a dancer. And what better place to find one than Craigslist? Three days before their video shoot, the guys posted a classified ad: "Seeking sexy female dancers for funky music video." The ad called for a hot, seductive amateur model who would be willing to trade her feminine wiles for "YouTube fame," rather than paper returns. They got three replies, but only one — Sasha Selvin — showed up on the day of the video shoot. Luckily, she was a perfect fit, Meeker said. And she had the right accoutrements: spike-heeled booties, black negligee; slinky brown Snuggie.
As satire, their video is brilliant. It begins with Sochalant yellowing frustratedly into his cell phone: "Man, Jerome, man, where is my Snuggie, man? I'm just not feelin' it, man. You know what I mean, I'm trying to lay this track down man, it's just —" He sighed. "I can't do it man, I need to feel warm and fuzzy right now." Noah cues in the music: A slow, burpy beat that follows the same bass pattern as Michael Jackson's "Bad." Sochalant slips into a leopard-print Snuggie and instantly transforms into a rap video titan. Teach you how to Snuggie, yeah, teach you how to Snuggie, he says, floating across an animated green screen with the Snuggie logo inscribed in the background. Teach me how to Snuggie, yeah, teach me how to Snuggie! Noah responds, with a look of wide-eyed, bewildered glee. Selvin appears in an armchair, slipping in and out of her fleece Snuggie. She's perhaps the first Internet video star to recast a Snuggie as something that would help you get laid.
The whole process took just a few hours, then Meeker pulled an all-nighter to add all the animation. After that, they submitted the video, and a couple weeks later were informed that they'd been chosen as one of six finalists by a panel of judges from Snuggie. All six videos were posted on the web site SnuggieFanClub.com, where anyone could vote on the video of her choice. Meeker launched a huge Facebook campaign to promote "Teach Me How to Snuggie." "It was pretty taxing on my social-networking life," he admitted."
Once the votes were tallied, Meeker got a call from Snuggie. Last week the company flew his team out to New York for a fancy awards ceremony. They got $2,500, which went right back into the Rec Center coffers. They bought new lights and some audio equipment. They're also trying to pimp another video for yet another product-promotion contest, this time sponsored by Blue Angel Vodka. Meeker thinks this one might be harder to win. He and Noah shot a 44-second flick, in which an attractive San Francisco bartender (Christine Imfeld) pours Blue Angel martinis for a couple of slobbering dogs (Vito and Brazil). "It wasn't received as well," Meeker said. "The Snuggie was so goofy and over-the-top."
A couple days ago, Meeker received one last gift from Snuggie: twenty-three big, amorphous, sleeved blankies that won't trap his hands inside. They'll make good Christmas gifts, he assured. And now that he knows what a Snuggie is, he's developed a bit of brand loyalty. "I slept in mine last night."