This Ad Guy Spent His Entire Promotion Budget For A Hollywood Blockbuster On Typhoon Relief

Watch as Casey Neistat takes the $25,000 that a movie studio gave him to make a viral promo about The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and instead makes an even better video–about helping people in the Philippines.

This may be the best use of Hollywood marketing dollars ever. When filmmaker Casey Neistat got a call from 20th Century Fox asking him to make a promotional video for the new movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on the theme of “chasing your dream,” he agreed on one condition: He wanted to spend the entire budget for the video helping victims of Typhoon Haiyan.


Somewhat to his surprise, the studio agreed, and just days after the disaster happened, Neistat found himself on a plane to the Philippines. He had no plan in place, just an idea that he’d connect with relief agencies already on the ground and hand them a check–but the nonprofits didn’t show much interest in working with him. So Neistat launched his own relief effort.

“Anyone know anyone in Manila who knows how to make shit happen?” he tweeted. Then he headed to a local warehouse store to stock up on supplies, loading it all up on the passenger buses he rented when regular trucks couldn’t fit everything he wanted to buy.

“It was complicated and at first improbable but with the help of an extremely loving group of locals, all who were total strangers, we were able to stretch the production budget really far,” Neistat said.

This isn’t the first time he’s used marketing dollars to create something viral (you might say it’s his “thing”). He recently made a video for Nike in which he took the whole budget and filmed himself traveling around the world, promoting the idea of “making it count”–and Nike Fuelbands.

In the end, he was able to visit 35 villages and provide food for 10,000 disaster victims. He also worked with a local nurse to buy medicine, and bought tools to aid in rebuilding.

Neistat writes:


never have i met such people with the resilience of these typhoon victims. there was one thing that stuck out, one big huge tiny thing, that was; of everyone we were face to face with, thousands of people, not once, at anytime for any reason did anyone complain. no one. their focus was on rebuilding and healing, not sympathy.

To their credit, Fox rolled with the whole thing. Let’s hope that as the views rack up the video reminds people not just about the movie but the fact that millions of people in the Philippines still need help.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.