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WME Punks CAA With 'CAAN'T' Posters Around Hollywood

CAAn't Poster Screen Shot - P 2013

An agency insider confirms the prank, which extended to T-shirts that appeared on the "Today" show.

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The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that William Morris Endeavor is behind the series of CAAN’T posters that have appeared around Hollywood on Tuesday. The red posters are a clear parody of rival agency CAA’s white-on-red logo, as well as a reference to a May 13 New York Post blind item about an Oscar-nominated director venting about his agency: “They should be called Caan’t! Caan’t, Caan’t, Caan’ttttttt!”

That quote has been attributed to Silver Linings Playbook’s famously hotheaded director David O. Russell, a CAA client. Russell vehemently denied that he is the subject of the blind item.

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The posters have been spotted along sidewalks from Hollywood to Santa Monica, as well as in 78 display cases at the Westfield Century City mall, which is near several talent agencies, including CAA.

WME also silkscreened the logo onto T-shirts, one of which was spotted among the crowd at this morning’s Today show taping in New York. A WME insider confirmed that the Today placement was “not incidental.”

CAA did not respond to requests for comment. WME declined to comment.

WME also is behind a website, caant.com, which sources say it acquired shortly after it heard about the director's outburst. It now displays the Post gossip item that inspired the prank. Domain-name registration data confirms the site was updated on May 7, a few days before the Post item ran. That means the attack campaign was orchestrated for weeks.

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Sources tell THR that the ad blitz, which cost several thousand dollars, was authorized by WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, and is intended as a joke. But the potshot comes at time when WME has seriously stepped up its competitiveness against CAA. The two agencies are currently fighting in court over commissions from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises after Nolan followed his agent Dan Aloni from CAA to WME last March. Last week, Great Gatsby actress Carey Mulligan left CAA for WME as well, and Steven Spielberg recently took his TV business from CAA to WME.

As photos of the CAAN'T posters circulated around Hollywood on Tuesday, reaction was split. One top producer marvels, "We haven't seen anything this delicious since the Ovitz days," though another agency source not tied to CAA or WME calls the ad stunt "pretty tacky."

But all agreed that it bolsters WME's image as more freewheeling than its buttoned-down rival.  

"I knew it had to be Ari," the producer tells THR. "This exactly falls into his sense of humor. Who else has any fun in this business? The intent is clear — just to piss them off. Which I'm sure it's succeeded in doing."