Friday, November 6, 2015

The annual John Lewis Christmas Commercial

Every year I eagerly await the John Lewis Christmas Commercial. Because I know John Lewis is going to sum up in 30 seconds all the things Christmas is about. Lewis doesn't worry about shilling products, about models showing stuff, about their logo and their name being repeated every two seconds. About tons of products stuffed into one commercial.
Year after year, John Lewis rises above the commercialism they so dominate.

Lewis portrays the season of giving by demonstrating it in such a singularly powerfully beautiful, simple, heartwarming way. Always with a simple story. Always with kids.

Lewis makes these Christmas messages of 30 seconds a completely magical moment. Melting our hearts, once again, for one time a year, into that of a child.

Not with lots of gimmicks. Not with lots of garish old hackneyed Christmas chestnuts but with taste and with feeling, sensitivity and dignity.

And it makes everyone LOVE John Lewis for doing this.

The work is always heart wrenching. The work is always brilliant. The work is always top-drawer production values. The work stands as a testament to the calibre of company John Lewis is.

And I view this as a John Lewis' gift to the consumer.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

What has Ikea got that others don't?

Let's face it. Ikea is cheap furniture you have to put together with ONE universal tool.

The designs are sleek, very minimal which is great for small spaces and cheap.

But they have a certain cache because they are designed and prefabbed in Sweden, which
dials up the 'cool' factor and dials down the 'cheap' factor.

What also helps are the dozens and dozens of Swedish-born accessories that are colourful, useful, charming and of course, cheap.

Globally their advertising is first rate and clever. And one of the reasons I think it is is because
if I had the chance to peek over an agencies copy of their global creative strategy I imagine
the very first word at the top of the page after their logo is:


Make our brand, make our position, make our products, make our experience:   FUN

And I think this spot created for the Grand Opening of a Store in Cheras Malaysia created by BBH Asia Pacific, does this hands down. Take a look and I dare you not to be at least toe tapping half way through;)

What this ad has is the perfect retail blend of great Art Directing and Copywriting....clever and balanced the use of the all yellow b.g. with puppeteers manipulating various items in the store combines with some of the best use of store stock items used as a double entedre I have ever heard in an engaging, musical effect. Using the store stock as dancers and magically bringing them to life in this broadway musical effect is wonderfully clever and award worthy work. This is not simple. The production values, editing, use of color, stop motion in some cases and I am sure computer animations here are amazing, complicated and made to all sync with the music and copy.
It's brilliant, fun and makes you smile.
10 for 10 on my scale.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Top Effie award winner

Every once in awhile I see ads that make me say:  This is why I am in the advertising business.
Mullen Lowe deservedly has taken the Grand Effy for this fantastic American Greetings ad.

                                             All I can say is grab some tissues and watch!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Poo with Panache

Ackermania Creative proves that online video advertising works if it contains the basics of all great ads:
1. A big idea   2. Great script writing  3. Quality production values which Joel Ackerman and his
partner Jay P Morgan have shown. It's the best way for small brands to compete with the big brands.

Joel comes from a comedic background. Because of this, he utilizes his humour in his writing to bring the necessary irreverence needed to pull off this kind of messaging. No ad guy here, no having had to fight his way through endless internal meetings presenting and defending and conceding to minutia driven strategic "must haves" that wears most creatives and their work down before it even gets presented to a client.

And small brands, the upstarts, are willing to take the risks you need to take to get noticed now.

When I first saw these spots I thought they were British. Not because the spokesperson is British but because of the calibre of the writing, the quality of delivery, the production values and the irreverence for the product. I was amazed to see it was out of L.A.

Jay P. Morgan, Ackerman's partner, brings his commercial photography, film credentials to video with shots that look cinematic. The art direction, attention to lighting and detail, the editing, it's all crisp and interesting. Each spot moves along quickly and without any kind of production value hitch. This is high quality work. The audio and video work together seamlessly to create a strong message. Morgan doesn't do any gimmicks here...which if he did, would turn this charmer into poo.

The casting is a brilliant juxtaposition. These are quality actors, well directed and delivering a message that could be easily over-acted or border on buffoonery but isn't. Each spot has the right amount of twinkle in the actors eyes. This calibre of acting restraint comes from directing you would expect from the likes of a Joe Pytka or Wes Anderson.

Big brands and big agencies can learn from these results. To quote Joel Ackerman, who sounds more like an account executive here: "Online video advertising is more expansive, less expensive, searchable, shareable--incomparable--expedient, significant--most magnificent--instantly trackable, easily testable, precise in targeting--effective marketing."

First and foremost it ALWAYS depends on the content....once again, if the idea is poo so will the results be.

In that regard, nothing changes.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Step right up and see the two headed lady ....

Welcome to the Show.

Hurry hurry hurry step right up! Watch the little blind lady tell you her story about what she sees as beauty.
And in this ring, the little girl will fake a Lena Denham attitude about how life really is now in the world of eleven year old self discovery.
And over in this ring smell dead peoples scents in a bottle to forever remind you of your dead Mom or Gran.

This stuff, all featured in "Creativity" is tasteless garbage. Sheer FREAKSHOW garbage. 

But what can you expect when there are no boundaries any more? Every day real news and real life is 
replaced with freak accidents, extreme freak sexual identities or lack thereof, rights for this and rights for that, lawsuits against this insensitivity or that political correctness infraction, wear a ribbon to get money for this and crowd fund for money for that...extreme reality shows that pander to the lowest common denominator.

it's all in your face 24/7....and it's all a 3 ring  FREAK SHOW.  

We have been fed this garbage for ever.  

And because we are only shown "selective" creative by all the industry publications; AdWeek, Creativity, Marketing, AdNews, etc etc. from really a very few shops over and over and over again, we have come to expect this level of crap as being award-worthy. And so it gets the awards and the PR and the ink coverage until finally, you begin to think this is really the gold standard. I mean, you begin to question your own sense of creative rightness.

After all. Who are we to question Ogilvy? They have enough hardware to sink a battleship for this Olay beauty campaign and have milked it for years. However, if you were to really look at the sum of the work they did, there are some major cracks in this campaign. But one great initial campaign inevitably leads to variations on this same theme. And of course, although no one will ever say so, they long ago started eating their own tail by using cheap tricks like 
a police (man) who usually renders women that have been raped, missing or murdered now elevated to  a person who is capable of rendering beauty as described by slick copywriting and even slicker female acting.
But lets not stop there, we have to top that with the even more macabre campaign of blind women describing beauty. To me this is beyond the pale.  It's creepy, tasteless and sad to me.

So along comes Leo who cleans up on the Webby's for a smart-assed eleven year old that has a mouth headed towards potty quicker than her usage of fem hi products and who is directed to show little if any respect for her "Mother" what? How dare we question this....why it's Ogilvy after all or Leo for heavens of the "Big Boy" AAAA's who pays pays pays pays to get ink in these pubs. Just their media buys makes any other agencies total revenues look paltry. 

So who am I to say they aint creative huh?? 

I was mentored to believe that as a Creative person in the ad industry, we had a tremendous amount of responsibility. Not just to the clients and their brands but to the public at large. We were supposed to be the futurists. We had it in us to set the stage for trends and attitudes and were the social compass. There was dignity and class and great pride from that. That was the DDB's, the Ogilvy's,
the Leo's we all wanted to work for.

Now "creative" departments all think they are doing breakthrough work because it's digital and the standard has become McLuhan's prophecy of the medium being the message.

Now Creative is all about SEO's and CS6,7,whatever and html and coding, YouTube and flash 

and anything BUT great ideas. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Famous Kissers....

Coca-Cola celebrates 100 years of the bottle design with a great international poster campaign featuring Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Ray Charles. Three highly recognizable American icons who are photographed with a bottle of Coca-Cola. The line for each poster is: I kissed Elvis  or I kissed Marilyn or I kissed Ray. Aside from the simplicity of the message is the sheer sense of intimacy those words imply...the idea of being on a first name basis with a celebrity creates the idea of closeness both to these stars and with Coca-Cola. And somewhere in my imagination as I read this was the idea that perhaps one of the bottles I kissed was also kissed at some point by someone equally as famous as these bottles are recycled. So it played out the whole seven degrees of separation thing for me as well. Very smart. It's a wonderful twist on endorsement from the dead to keep the brand alive and real.

It's so nice to see a poster campaign again that's fresh, iconic and spans generations of usage.  Further celebrations include an exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta ( corporate HQ for Coca-Cola) featuring two Warhol bottle paintings. There's also a book coming out about the bottle design called: Kiss the Past Hello.

Few brands can celebrate their packaging the way Coca-Cola can. Nor can many brands elevate their packaging to the level of consumer Art as this has over the last 100 years. The bottle is a roughly the form of the female figure which was such a radical design idea 100 years ago. The bottle is known around the globe and has endured through a myriad of ad campaigns, slogans and positionings. It was the key prop to a charming movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy, a 1980 South African comedy.

Coupled with the equally famous Coca-Cola script logo they form the key anchors and symbols  for the brand.

This is a rare example of the packaging being as famous as the product it contains. And stands as
a testament to all of Coca-Cola's many marketers over the years who have inherently known when
not to touch something that really works.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Two Birds on a Wire....

The Dove campaigns have been a bone of contention for me for many seasons and reasons. Not the least of which is the essential ultimate goal of a massive corporation becoming rich and all-powerful and such a strong influence on women's personal views about themselves.

Going back some years the original campaign that launched all this didn't start in Canada as two prominent Toronto female creative directors who built their entire reputations on this singular campaign would like you to think.  But in England.  It was the billboard Dove Real Beauty campaign that showed the evolution through makeup and lighting and photoshop how a model is transformed from one type of 'natural' beauty into a more 'commercial Barbie Beauty'. This campaign is now over ten years old. And it has sparked many awards, much recognition, many articles and much discussion, major PR pushes for seeing this as the way to coattail and launch female empowerment,  many copycat campaigns by other major female products, many 'likes', and most importantly, many many sales of Dove products.

And of course, it sparked the marketing classic: where do you go from here? An envious problem from one perspective yet a daunting one from another. Anyone in the agency world knows this is a precarious moment (or could be) and that like things that go viral,  a big part of the success of this initial effort was luck and the stars having aligned just so.

Basically the Dove message is about a woman feeling good in her own skin. Whatever that means.
Since the original outdoor campaign, Dove has had several other variations on this theme with women being "sketched" as one woman describes another (to a man....which is interesting in itself).
A "patches" campaign where women were duped into thinking wearing a skin patch will somehow make them "more beautiful" and of course along with this the requisite social media pushes, p.r. coverages and hype from articles in fashion mags right down to now both Always Like a Girl campaign aimed at pre-pubescent, pre-menstral females to Pantene's Shine Strong, Not Sorry stories and Goldieblox's The Princess Machine.

But Dove is still perceived as the gold standard for having launched, nurtured and fanned the flames for this idea.

Now Dove has launched a singularly social campaign on Twitter. One thing Dove and Unilever are really good at is mining data. Their planners must spend zillions of hours sifting through minutia. Because they uncovered the Twitterfactoid that women on Twitter trend/tend to say a lot of negative things about their perceptions of their bodies on this forum. So Dove's social media vultures have honed in on this and launched their Dove's Speakbeautiful campaign. The premise is that every time some female says something remotely negative about herself, Dove swoops in with a sappy worse-than- Hallmark card feel-good anecdote to make you think better of yourself.

It was the insightful article in the Washington Post
that has prompted my 2cents worth here. I totally agree with Ms. Dewey's take on this invasive, creepy and condescending approach Dove is taking. They have crossed the line.

While my blog has a cautionary "beware" of the social media feeding ground peppered throughout various campaigns I sight and present campaigns that have inadvertantly been co-opted and become social fodder.  But this latest effort by Dove is truly deserving of scrutiny,  because it is Dove's first ad campaign that is completely social.

And while the whole ad world screams it's all about social stories and connecting with consumers in a more intimate way, I think this example is one that will show us the error of how invasively deceptive this approach is. It is corrupt. It is presumptous. It is demeaning. It is decadant to assume a point of view and contributes to the opposite effect it thinks it will achieve.

And personally,  as a woman, I have always felt Dove's campaigns were cloying, condescending and corrupting to women's inner-self esteem so this campaign de-evolution does not surprise me. In fact, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

More and more clients/brands/agencies have forgotten when to stop. When to let a good thing just be in that moment, that moment when all the stars seemed to align just so.