Munro is featured in a television commercial for insurer Mutual of Omaha. The commercial was set to premiere this week during “60 Minutes,” “The Biggest Loser” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
The Munro ad is one of 16 spots with people talking about the moment when they realized their lives had changed.
For Munro, who went from unemployed to a self-employed “toothpick engineer,” the aha moment was realizing that he could make a living doing something he considered a hobby.
“I never thought I’d be doing this,” he says in the commercial.
Gloria Wright / The Post-Standard, 2009Stan Munro works on a replica of Aspire, a tower in Qatar, in February 2009 as part of his Temples and Towers creation at the MOST in downtown Syracuse. Aha moments is a play on the last two syllables of the insurance company’s name, said Brittany Thomas, a spokesperson for Mutual of Omaha.
For Munro, the run-up to the first broadcast of the ads have spread his fame beyond the thousands who have seen his work in person. Mutual of Omaha put dozens of ads, including the one featuring Munro, on a Web site and asked visitors to choose the top 10.
The exposure led to interviews from around the world. In the fall he was interviewed, by phone, for a morning show in Australia and did another interview for someone in Fiji, he said. The Discovery Channel Canada sent a crew to see his work. Days before, the crew had been in Dubai, in the Middle East, he said.
All of Munro’s buildings are built at a scale of 1 to 164. Why? Because one of his first creations, a toothpick Chrysler Building, needed to be small enough to fit in his home’s TV room.
Since then, he’s stayed with that scale so that visitors can see what it would look like if some of the world’s most famous buildings — St. Peter’s Basilica, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Temple at Angkor Wat are just three of the dozens he has built — were all next to each other.
As a business, toothpick engineering is challenging, Munro said. Revenue comes from making custom projects for customers who contact him through his Web site — www.toothpickcity.com — and from selling entire exhibits. His first project — which included models of the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, Toronto’s CN Tower and 47 other famous buildings — was sold to a museum in Mallorca, Spain.
The second project, on which Munro has been working for months, could be sold, he said. Or it could become a traveling exhibit. Or, Munro said, it could become the core of a permanent exhibit, something he might call Toothpick World.
It could be a major tourist attraction in Central New York, he said. The idea was spurred by calls from tour groups passing through Syracuse that want to stop by the MOST to see his current project.
“It’s just a thought,” Munro said.
Well, a thought and a Web address he’s already registered.
For Mutual of Omaha, the Aha Moments campaign turned into an experiment with social media on the Internet. After sending a converted Airstream trailer to 25 cities to video people explaining moments that changed their lives, the insurance company asked the public to vote on which stories they wanted to see in ads.
Seventy-five thousand people voted.
“It was overwhelmingly positive,” said Todd Lieman, founder and co-president of Skadaddle Media, which came up with the idea for Mutual of Omaha.
The campaign started with commercials in early 2009, and will continue at least until the end of July, he said.
For people of a certain age, the insurance company is linked forever to “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” While Marlin Perkins is long gone, the show is still on the air, said Andrew Rouillard, the company’s vice president of brand management and advertising. It airs on the Animal Planet channel.
The show provided “incredible brand recognition,” for the insurer, Lieman said.
The new campaign, which Lieman and his partner developed just as the nation’s economy was diving into recession, builds on that with stories told by people in their own voices, he said.
“We felt the country was ready for a very uplifting kind of message,” he said, “about taking risks and being rewarded.”
--Contact Charles McChesney at email@example.com.
Original article: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2010/03/cny_toothpick_engineer_to_be_f.html
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