BUCKFIELD — The Diet Coke and Mentos guys are trying to get serious.

After having videos of exploding geysers of soda and cascading sticky notes go viral and garner worldwide press, the two creators of EepyBird now want some structure — adult supervision, if you will, to oversee their advertising antics.

Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz are writing two books, have a series of projects ready to pitch, and have client interest from Europe to Asia to South America. What they don’t have is someone to handle the daily business nuisances.

“If we had a check, we’d hire three people today. We’d let one of them run the business and put out fires,” Voltz said. “There are people who can do that. It would be nice to have. It would be tricky to find the right person.”

EepyBird — named after a gawky, squawking bird character that Grobe created — wants to stay in Maine and remain in the supportive creative hub they enjoy in Buckfield.

“One of the reasons we love this community is that they don’t think we’re weird. This is a place where a lot of crazy things happen,” said Grobe, who is also a professional juggler. “There’s three major creative centers in the country: New York, L.A. and Buckfield, Maine.”


EepyBird was almost ahead of its time when it launched its Diet Coke and Mentos video in 2006.

“A lot of brands thought of online videos as something free to replace advertising,” said Voltz, who is also a lawyer. “The business world hadn’t connected with the Internet. The money was still going to TV ads. We couldn’t get into the room with the money people. The big ships were slow to turn.”

Mentos quickly jumped on the bandwagon and called, asking how they could work with EepyBird. Coca-Cola was a little slow to understand how much promotional activity they were getting and viewed EepyBird’s exploding soda video as more of an antic than advertising.

“It’s an entertaining phenomenon,” Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott said in 2006. “We would hope people want to drink (Diet Coke) more than try experiments with it.” She went on to say that the “craziness with Mentos … doesn’t fit with the brand personality” of Diet Coke.

Coca-Cola quickly changed its tune as traffic to www.coke.com doubled and sales of Mentos rose as much as 20 percent, EepyBird said. Now, the soda giant and Mentos sponsor the shenanigans EepyBird has performed in Paris, Istanbul, Holland, Belgium and more. EepyBird will bring its act to the Portland Performing Arts Festival on June 28.

“The problem is there’s lots of companies that have one-off successes,” said Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “Social media is a busy space. You see a lot of creativity. But it’s not easy to have consistent viral success.”


EepyBird doesn’t see itself as a one-hit wonder.

At a recent presentation with the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program, which takes startups statewide and matches them with mentors who guide them as they develop their business, EepyBird said it has the capacity to produce three to four projects a year. If those assumptions panned out, the company said it could garner $4 million to $6 million in revenues. EepyBird declined to disclose its current revenues.

“You are showmen. The impact of what you are doing is clear. The value proposition from a creative standpoint is unimpeachable,” Steven Koltai, founder of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Warner Bros. Online, told EepyBird at the Top Gun event.

EepyBird is armed with a campaign book to pitch ideas to prospective clients in the coming months. One project involves the dancing flames of a gas grill that respond to the reverberations of music. It’s also doing a Coca-Cola and McDonald’s video that will launch in Europe and Asia in the next few weeks, Grobe said.

EepyBird sees viral campaigns as key to the future of advertising.

By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing, as much as they do on television today, according to a 2011 research report by Forrester Research Inc. That’s almost double the $34.5 billion spent on interactive marketing budgets in 2011.


Interactive marketing, which ranges from social media to email marketing to Internet display advertising, will represent 26 percent of all advertising dollars in 2016, up from 16 percent in 2011, Forrester said.

One critic said EepyBird put on a polished TopGun presentation, but it sounded like they needed some structure.

“It seemed to me they were looking for adult supervision,” said Mike Perlmutter, a Top Gun panelist who is a member of the Massachusetts-based investment firm CommonAngels.

The idea of bringing in a business executive to help structure the company could be complicated and may never happen.

Combining business smarts with creative talent can be tricky, but would help EepyBird longer term by giving it some structure, said Berger, the assistant professor.

Finding an executive for EepyBird would be similar to Ben & Jerry’s “Yo! I’m your CEO!” essay contest in 1994, which the ice cream maker used to recruit an experienced business executive so its co-founder, Ben Cohen, could concentrate on “fun stuff.”


Ben & Jerry’s received more than 25,000 responses before turning to a traditional search firm to tap Robert Holland, who had 13 years at the blue-blood management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Holland stayed only until 1996. Ben & Jerry’s was scooped up for $326 million from Unilever in 2000.

EepyBird does not expect to be acquired anytime soon, if ever. The firm had some discussions with Disney in 2008 about a possible acquisition deal, but the talks ended when the economy tanked.

“We can grow surprisingly big with the team we have in place,” Voltz said.

Grobe keeps EepyBird’s success in perspective and sees the potential for growth.

“One hundred and fifty million people have seen us, but that means there’s several billion who haven’t yet,” Grobe said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.