Steve Henry gets his teenage ad cast stoned | You Couldn’t Make This Crap Up

Once upon a time, Decoded co-founder Steve Henry tried to overtake the power of American denim advertising with a few joints in a south London park.

To stray from the benchmark of jeans advertising at the time, Henry decided the campaign for Pepe Jeans should break from the typical conventions of the genre that existed thanks to Bargle Bogle Hegarty's creative forays for Levi Strauss.

The team swapped Americana and boy meets girl for a group of average-looking English people on Tooting Common, and got them stoned to get them laughing.

After a lot of hard work, his agency filmed the group laughing for a minute and used the line: 'Pepe Jeans, because one day you’ll die'. The director Keith Allen had also taken a not-quite-legal substance, according to Henry.

When it was finished, the ad wasn’t well-received on air, and the client lost faith and fired them.

“We decided to break every rule in that marketplace," said Henry. "So what I say to people now is don’t break every rule… make sure you break at least one.”

You Couldn't Make This Crap Up is directed by Nicole Bosky and filmed by Tom Baker.

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Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

All by Katie