Mysterious billboard near Naval Academy asks: Who is 'That Guy'?

The website ThatGuy.com invites users to take a quiz.


By JACK LAMBERT | The (Annapolis, Md.) Capital (TNS) | Published: December 4, 2014

A mysterious new billboard in downtown Annapolis, Md., has a simple warning: Don't be "That guy."

Never heard of that guy? He, or she, is the loudest drunk at the bar, the one starting fights after their fifth beer and clutching the porcelain goddess at the end of the evening.

The billboard's message is cloaked in mystery. The advertisement shows the devolution of man, from first standing to eventually passed out on the floor. Underneath the pictures is "The evolution of that guy" and the web address http://www.thatguy.com.

No company names, slogans or logos appear on the billboard leaving the question: who is warning about the dangers of "That guy"?

Turns out, it's Uncle Sam.

"That Guy" is a marketing campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Defense aimed at reducing binge drinking among young military personnel. The campaign was created in 2005 and has its own website, mobile game and YouTube page.

"That Guy," by the way, is "anyone who, after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, loses control of self or situation with humiliating and compromising results," according to its website.

The ad campaign is decidedly un-military, with no identification of its affiliation with the federal government anywhere on its billboard or homepage. At first glance, the ads look like the promotion for an upcoming movie.

The ad's mystery is intentional, said Paul Fitzpatrick, program manager for the "That Guy" campaign with the Department of Defense. Ideally, young servicemen and women will seek out the website on their own, Fitzpatrick said.

"We want servicemembers to collect the material, absorb the material and use it on their own without it seeming too preachy," he said.

The Department of Defense funded the campaign on the Annapolis billboard, which is owned by the Campbell Family Trust run by downtown landlords Jane Campbell and Pete Chambliss. The couple leases the billboard to Clear Channel Outdoor, an outdoor advertising company with offices in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The Naval Academy sits yards away from the downtown billboard; however, a spokeswoman for the academy said she was unaware of the ad campaign. The Department of Defense began marketing "That Guy" at the service academies three years ago, Fitzpatrick said.

Downtown Annapolis' location next to the Naval Academy made it the right spot for a billboard aimed at young servicemen and women, he said.

"The reality is that some people will drink under (21) and there are people in the Naval Academy over 21," Fitzpatrick said.

Judging by online materials, "That Guy" is typically not seen or heard in traditional media. A list of guidelines for the campaign, accessed through the website for the U.S. Marines, state five "do's and don'ts" for "That Guy."

"Don't generate news or articles about That Guy for broadcast, print or online publication," one of the guidelines says. "As a viral campaign, overemphasizing the intention and origin of That Guy as a (Department of Defense) funded campaign undermines the self-discovery process of the junior enlisted audience."

Everything on the "That Guy" website appears aimed at creating a viral hit. The website allows user to take quizzes on "Are You That Guy," create memes, share photos and play interactive games.

Brendan Fisher, co-owner and manager of Armadillo's Bar and Grill at City Dock, said he rarely has a problem with "That Guy." Midshipmen, Fisher said, are typically respectful patrons at the popular downtown watering hole.

In fact, Fisher did not even know what, or who, "That Guy" was until Wednesday afternoon. Neither did Bill Scott, a resident of Cape St. Claire out walking with his grandson in downtown Annapolis. At first, Scott guessed the sign was for a beer commercial.

"Whoever paid for that," he said, "should be fired."

Nonnie Standish, a downtown jogger, looked up "That Guy" after seeing the billboard a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Jimmy Roman walks by the billboard everyday and never noticed the campaign until Wednesday. When asked about "That Guy", Roman had little interest.

"Who pays attention to the billboard anyway?" he said.

©2014 The (Annapolis, Md.) Capital. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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