The billboard seems to be an advertisement for being, well, a dick. “Dick to Dick, LLC Executive Consulting. Handing Out Abuse, Getting the Respect Your Title Deserves, That’s the Dick to Dick Way. – Drew Dogan III,” the text reads. A smarmy beardo sneers next to it.
The billboard is at Highway 40 westbound near Boyle. Analytics suggests that about 500 St. Louisans are googling it every day — but not from their work computers.
And if you do a little of that after-hours googling, you’ll find two web sites, www.iinventeddicktodick.com and www.dicktodickllc.com, featuring two videos showcasing high-powered executives trampling over subordinates while wearing shit-eating grins and talking about respect. For $25,000, you can apparently buy respect, and a certificate saying you are the inventor of Dick to Dick, which seems to be both a mindset and also a “handshake” consisting of two pointer fingers meeting.
The billboard, websites and videos are all the brainchild of Andrew Farrington, a 42-year-old independent financial consultant in Los Angeles.
“It’s more or less performance art,” Farrington says of his dickish empire. “It’s a form of therapy.”
The financial devastation of 2008 was particularly tough to watch. Farrington had always believed that hard work would rewarded. He put himself through college and went to night school, earning an MBA and toiling long hours to provide for his wife and children. But he realized it just wasn’t so, and had a panic attack.
“It was my wife that actually said, ‘You can either care less, or find an outlet,’” he says.
So he cashed out a portion of his 401(k) four years ago, using half on his undergrad debt and half to get Dick to Dick off the ground. The production values of the videos and websites clearly required some cash, and the spots ran on basic cable in Los Angeles, which required more. He had a lot of help from friends, but it was still an investment with absolutely no financial return.
“Zero revenue in four years,” he says. “It’s all personally funded.”
The basic message is to get people to question the ways big businesses work and how they protect the biggest fish, and to contemplate how people stay trapped in jobs because they need to make a living.
“I’m just voicing my frustration with living in America,” he says. “I’m trying to raise kids.”
So why is a guy in Los Angeles ponying up for a billboard in St. Louis? (It’s not a multi-city stunt; the one on Highway 40 is the only one.)
Blame social media, and a fledgling St. Louis film festival. Matt Newlin is the founder of the Sham Film Festival, a two-year-old event dedicated to mockery, spoof and satire. It runs September 25 and 26 at the Winifred Moore Auditorium at Webster University.
Newlin came across the commercials online and was instantly smitten.
“They are so well done, at first when I saw them I was like, ‘Are they real?’ They were doing it with barely a smirk,” Newlin says. He emailed director Eric Sheffield, who connected him with Farrington. “It’s Andy Kaufman-level commitment,” Newlin says. “The films I love to see at Sham are the ones that commit to the joke. You never break. As long as you stick to it, people are going to go with you.”
So, for the second annual Sham Film Festival, the presenting sponsor is Dick to Dick LLC Executive Consulting. The shorts will play at the festival.
Farrington had actually more or less shelved Dick to Dick before hearing from Newlin. But at that point, he decided that the billboard was the perfect complement to his sponsorship.
He got a bit of questioning from the billboard company, he says, but not much. He has a registered trademark on Dick to Dick.
“This isn’t profanity. It’s the name of the company!” Farrington says. “If the federal government doesn’t think it’s profanity…”