"If you’re going to do something like this, you have to have a little Philadelphia in it,” Jamie Casino told me with the unmistakable accent of someone from our area.
Casino is talking about his epic Super Bowl commercial that aired in his Savannah, Ga. market. Casino, a personal injury lawyer, bought up two minutes of local time to tell the story of his brother Michael, one of four “machine-gunned down” on Labor Day 2012, and to call out of Savannah Chief of Police Willie Lovett for saying that none of the victims were innocent (Lovett retired amid a sex scandal in September of last year). The ad features heavy metal guitars, explosions and Casino, who calls himself religious, destroying a headstone with a sledge hammer. “I hate gravestones. Graveyards have a beauty to them,” Casino said explaining the symbolism. “But a gravestone to me is not a memorial. It’s a reminder of this tragedy.”
Casino's first sentiment is correct: To do something on that grandiose scale, you need to be a little crazy. Or from Philadelphia.
Casino had no idea the ad would blow up in the way that it did. The bombastic spot gained the attention of sites like Deadspin, Time, the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, among countless others. Casino, a Harry S. Truman High School and Temple alum from Bristol, told me he was talking to “Good Morning America” about the ad. It has over two million hits on YouTube.
Casino, a/k/a Jamie Biancosino, wrote and directed the two-minute spot himself that took three days to film. He wouldn’t tell me how much the spot cost. “It wasn’t cheap, I’ll put it that way,” he said. Casino used to hire an outside company to direct his ads—he expressed disdain at his need to advertise, admitting it was part of the personal injury lawyer biz—but they had no vision. These guys wanted to put him in front of a green screen. Casino wanted more. So he took over, adding his trademark style of a metal soundtrack and special effects to the mix.
Last Christmas, his wife found a Red camera—an industry standard for digital filmmaking—with all the trappings on eBay for a steal: only $35,000. Casino was always planning on doing a Super Bowl spot. His original idea featured him in an Eagles jersey, saying, “Next year, brother!” Casino, who says Southerners love his Philly attitude, still reps the Eagles down in Savannah. “You have no choice if you’re from Philadelphia,” he said.
But then inspiration struck. Why not make the ad a tribute to his brother, as a gift to his parents? (Casino’s father is Joe Biancosino-Downey, the former mayor of Tullytown.) Casino remembered what it felt like to sit at his brother’s funeral. “You know, I had cancer. Then my brother gets machine-gunned down. The chief says there were no innocent victims. I sat in that church with utter disdain and all my thoughts were about the shame my parents felt,” Casino said. “It shouldn’t be like that.” He wanted to call out the “old boys club” that runs Savannah. “If people around here misbehave, there I’ll be to showcase them,” he said. Casino noted it was not an ad for his law firm. Casino Law Group is mentioned minimally and neither the phone number or website run across the screen at any time.
"You take a big chance when you do things like this,” Casino said. “But I’d do it again. No matter what.”