Dressed in plaid flannel and tight jeans, he waits in the lakeside cabin (a fire crackling in the fireplace), bandaging a stuffed Shetland pony's leg with some paper towel. Looking up with a soft smile as you return from the beauty shop, he doesn't ask how much the haircut cost (like I always do). Instead, he greets you warmly and then - after a little prodding (he's very modest) - he whispers (he always whispers) a poem he wrote about your new haircut. "Your hair like an angel's," he says, "turning heads of strangers, falling like a river to your cheek ... "
Every time you come home, it's something like this. He's painted a picture of two deer - one is you and one is him (they are in love). He's made you hot cocoa ("with marshmallows, right?").
Is this man for real? Sort of. The Brawny Man - of super-absorbent paper towel fame - lives in the "Innocent Escapes" section of www.brawnyman.com, a Web site supporting the Georgia-Pacific paper product.
I discovered Innocent Escapes thanks to a phone call from a New York PR man named Brenton Downey. Instead of blowing it off like usual - I've been obsessed with the Brawny Man since childhood - I checked out the site. Soon, several others in the NUVO office gathered around my computer (lured by my laughter and the Brawny Man's soft-core-porn voice). After watching all 10 "greetings" with titles like "Every Day is Valentine's Day," we still couldn't determine if the surreal humor of it all was intentional, accidental or a little bit of both. We only knew we were mesmerized.
The press release Downey e-mailed me plays it straight: "Innocent Escapes is a fun, online program that allows women to 'escape' from their daily lives by inviting them to create their perfect afternoon with the perfect man - the Brawny Man. He his strong, yet sensitive, and he is skilled in everything from building a footbridge to sympathizing with 'buyer's remorse.' To create an experience that feels both authentic and intimate, the camera assumes the perspective of the viewer. The end result makes users feel as though they are right there in the moment with the Brawny Man."
Be it fantasy or lunacy, people love Innocent Escapes. The site had 100,000 hits in April, with people spending 20 to 30 minutes interacting with the clips, according to Downey.
Editors note: From our experience in the office, this creation by Fallon Worldwide (the firm behind BMW's recent Internet film campaign) is best experienced in a group. You can join others watching the Brawny Man on the big screen this Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Big Car Gallery at the Murphy Art Center, 1043 Virginia Ave., Suite 215. Visit www.bigcar.org for more information.