Every once in a while, we’ll bemoan the fact that the state of our own promotional work is not nearly as clever as the work we do on our pages.

But also every once in a rare while, someone will pop up with a house ad or promotional campaign so clever and so cool that you wonder why no one else has put resources into this.

Today is one of those days. Our old pal Robert Zavala — multimedia editor of the Victoria Advocate — writes to share his latest project:

Once again, editor Chris Cobler has green-lighted another one of my questionable ideas. This time we decided to make the first television commercial in the paper’s 167-year history.

Chris let me, a first time director, run with a fairly non-standard idea for promoting a serious product like a newspaper. My idea was to riff off the zombie craze and debut the commercial during the Halloween season.

Unfortunately, the commercial isn’t available for embedding. You can find it here.

But here’s a short recap: A man walks down the street in downtown Victoria…


…when — Boom! — he’s attacked by zombies.


He’s rescued by a man in a post-apocalyptic-like vehicle. Safe from having his brains eaten, the man whips out a daily newspaper…


…only to find that Advocate readers are a lot better informed than he was today.


Don’t worry — there are plenty more surprises in the ad, so don’t hesitate to go watch it. It’s definitely worth 30 seconds.

Robert tells us:

I started preliminary work on the special effects work about six months ago to see if I could pull it off, since that would be the most challenging aspect of the production. I used 3D models purchased from Daz3D.com for the car, some of the zombies and the T-Rex.


I created 3D models of downtown Victoria myself and animated the whole thing in Carrara 8.5 Pro.


We hired a professional actor to play the lead part. His name is Matthew Albrecht and he has been in several indie movies, had a small part in the Oscar-winning movie The Artist and has his own production company. Coincidentally, he has a zombie movie coming out this year called Buck Wild.


He was a great addition to our group since he was  only one of two involved, that had real production experience. He was really helpful.

We also hired a professional makeup artist, but he cancelled before the shoot. My wife, Julie Zavala, and our librarian, Robbi Patterson, volunteered to step in. They spent a week on Google, researching how to pull off the special makeup that our main four zombies wore.


Our page designer Blain Hefner, who also had some movie experience, did a wonderful job designing, sewing, painting and sculpting our Zombie rescuer’s costume. He also played the part in the outside shots.


Editor Chris Cobler, reporter Melissa Crowe and Features Editor J. R. Ortega all came in two hours before the shoot and sat in the make up chair. These three, along with outside volunteer Bobby Trevino (in the wheelchair) made up our zombie stars.


Photographers Angeli Wright and Frank Tilley were both cinematographers. Angeli did a wonderful job on the outside shoot. She climbed up on platforms, laid on the road and dodged onlookers to get the shots that I asked for.


Frank handled the indoor shoot and also set up the lighting and green screen. He also cracked everybody up with the stories he traded with local celebrity Gary Moses.

Gary, also known around town as Brother Gary since he calls everyone brother, was cast as the Zombie rescuer. When he pulls off his helmet to reveal who he is, hopefully, local people will get this little in-joke.


The Halloween-sounding music at the beginning was composed and performed by our head of IT, Ruben Trevino. The happy music at the end was composed and performed by my son, Jeremy Zavala.

Victoria Advocate operations manager Charles Kulow handled security and transportation. He set up the roadblocks that were used in the outside shoot.

HR Director Peggy Venglar provided cookies and drinks to the cast and crew on the outside shoot.

About a week before the outside shoot, we ran several print and Facebook promos asking for people to participate as extras.

All told, it took about three hours for both shoots combined and about a week of editing and special effects work.

In addition, Advocate intern Ian Terry shot a “making-of” video. Find that here.


A graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Robert used to work here at the Orange County Register. Find my most recent posts about his work here and here. Find his blog and portfolio site here.

Because of the wacky creative solutions they come up with and the chances they take, the 26,531-circulation Victoria Advocate is one of my favorite smaller papers. Read more about them here.