Here’s the story behind those Storrowing PSA parodies

Off Beat

DCR celebrated a move-in week free of Storrowings with an impression of Bender from “The Breakfast Club,” in all his “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” glory. 

The new “Cars Only” sign at the entrance to Storrow Drive on David G. Mugar Way. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe Staff

It was the fist-pump of victory heard ’round the Esplanade. 

Armed with parodies, memes, and plenty of GIFs, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation set out to thwart would-be Storrowings and keep oversized trucks far away from Storrow Drive’s low-hanging bridges on Sept. 1.

So when DCR made it through move-in week with no reported bridge strikes, what better way to celebrate than with another spoof?

Posted to social media on Monday, the clever video features DCR Digital Strategist Ryan Hutton doing his best impression of “The Breakfast Club” character John Bender, in all his “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” glory. 

While the victory was short-lived — a tractor-trailer got stuck under a bridge on Soldiers Field Road just days later — the agency’s new social media strategy seems here to stay. 

Hutton told Boston.com that the story behind the videos stretches back to the early days of the Healey-Driscoll Administration, when he was introduced to Maria Hardiman, communications director for DCR’s parent agency, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Hardiman was in favor of loosening the reins a little on DCR’s social media, and as the agency inched closer to the dreaded Sept. 1 move-in, she suggested they parody Sarah McLachlan’s iconic “Angel” ASPCA commercials to prevent Storrowing.

So Hutton set up a primitive green screen in his basement, the video racked up thousands upon thousands of views, and the rest is history. 

Video ideas exploded from there; Hutton’s wife suggested DCR borrow a scene from “The Office” where Michael Scott blindly follows his GPS into a lake. Even DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo got in on the action, recommending a few memes that fit the bill. 

When DCR escaped move-in week with only one report of a truck needing to be turned around on the low-clearance roads, Hutton said he initially wanted to use Queen’s “We Are the Champions” for a victory lap. However, Bender’s fist pump played better on screen.

The agency’s online engagement shot up thanks to the creative campaign, and Hutton said there’s been plenty of positive feedback. 

He said he knew the Storrowing PSAs were something special when he walked into his parents’ house recently and saw the TV paused on one of his videos, which had been featured on the news.

“Even just agency-wise, people are being very receptive to this kind of open and fun form of getting across something that’s routine,” Hutton said. “We’re happy that people think at least we’re coming up with a funny way to do it.”

DCR has some ideas for more lighthearted videos moving forward, and Hutton said he hopes to put the agency’s staff in the spotlight.

“I want to make sure they’re the face of what they’re experts in, because they’re all very good at it, and a lot of them are also very funny and amusing,” he explained. 

DCR’s back catalog (and tips for avoiding those pesky low-clearance overpasses) is available on social media and YouTube.


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