Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Aging and Loneliness at Christmas

Two poignant stories about the invisible lives of Seniors as they fall by the wayside at Christmas.
Tastefully written monologues by agency DRUM, performed by two established British actors James Bolam and Miriam Margoyles while directed by Liz Unna at Independent Films. These two TV spots speak for the charity Age UK's phone line. Both messages end with the fabulous tag line:  "No one should have no one."  It's to encourage Seniors to call and speak to someone when they need to hear a human voice.

These messages stand as a reminder to us all that many many people live silent lonely lives.  These are our Elders. In many cultures the Elders are revered, cared for and sought after for advice and
council, but less and less in our western world.

Again it's the British bringing us this message.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Burger King goes Back to the Future....

Burger King in introducing the newest bit of fast food the "cheesy tots" reprises two of the lead characters from Napoleon Dynamite: Pedro and of course Napoleon. This cult movie is now over 13 years old so all the young followers are almost thirty somethings...as are Pedro and Napoleon in this
shill piece.

Unfortunately the commercial doesn't work. It just lies there like a cold tater tot. And the reason is obvious:  these thirty something guys look thirty something trying to reprise the bumbling, awkward
nerdy high school kids they once were known for in the movie.

The sad part is they look like old guys who never grew up and really have become the losers they portray in the movie because at thirtysomething they have stopped growing even in their ability to act.

This is a sad case of nostalgia gone off the rails. People grow, people change, even if they don't want to. Of course you see people who try to resist time by dressing and keeping a semblance of the same hair as their high school days when that was the apex of their lives, usually those are the shots you see under the title: The People at Walmart... sad to say. But when you see it reprised here for Burger King it's just pathetic.

What might have been more interesting is to have seen Napoleon now married to Deb and bringing their own kids to try one of Dad's favorites, the cheesy tots. That would be interesting and
cover off a larger target.

Or even the two dads Napoleon and Pedro meeting up with their various broods of kids and doing the same.

However this may appeal to all those thirty somethings still living in their parent's basements.

Sad to see these two mature guys, who haven't had any acting roles of note since,  trying to recreate the gawky/geeky/nerdy teenagers they once were in a cult movie is just bad
bad bad....the unique chemistry of then has gone through the cruelty of time now....

1 out of 10

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

H&M Delivers a Christmas Confection...

Wes Anderson, Adrien Brody and H&M team up to create a sweet Christmas tale. Taking a page from the John Lewis playbook, H&M gives full rein to Wes Anderson. He takes us on a train ride where Adrien Brody as the Conductor resolutely announces a delay of the train on Christmas due to bad weather and mechanical difficulties. As we enjoy Wes Anderson's vision of a pastel green passenger train rhythmically bobbing to and fro down the endless track, we peek into various riders window settings. Adrien Brody's 'Conductor Ralph' projects a blend of calm yet officious determination but also has a slightly unpolished edge which makes him doubly sweet.

Anderson creates this ditty with his signature childlike vision.  While the traditional Drummer Boy song plays over the radio, the soft watery colors, set details and wonderful light changing he uses in the train hallway, conveys the passing of time. Passengers cleverly use the train's hall as runway passing by a window to us viewers as they head to the dining car.

Anderson tells a simple tale of strangers being thrown together on a delayed train on Christmas. 'Conductor Ralph' becomes the hero and saves the day with his imagination and ingenuity in transforming the dining car into a Christmas celebration while John Lennon's "So This is Christmas"  shifts the mood.


There's no mention of H&M in the script. And only faintly in a few scenes do you notice the familiar H&M red logo while wrapped packages in each passenger window show a subtle card with a picture of a person (wearing the gift?).

Overall it's a non-sell sell message. H&M knows their customers know what they sell. H&M also knows the smartest thing a retailer can do at this time of year is to play down the hard sell and play up the good feelings with a season of imagination and celebration going right for your heart.

The idea for H&M to be represented by Wes Anderson was from H&M's agency Adam & Eve/DDB London. Another wonderful aspect of this production  was letting Wes Anderson be Wes Anderson and create a message for the client in his signature rather than the brands. Many times agencies enlist top directors, spokespeople, or other well known artists but they are limited in presenting an idea about a product in their own persona by having the client insist they be more representative of the product's voice. When you do that you lose the idea of what the famous name can bring to the brand. Not the case here with H&M.

H&M is British. And the British love their ads. When you watch the telly in England, ads come at the beginning and end of shows. They don't interrupt the shows like in North America. Brits watch their ads as passionately as the shows themselves. Brits are proud of the ads produced for them and recognize the talent, hard work and ability needed to create great ideas. Consumers there are encouraged to complain to their industry standards board if they find an ad not to their taste or level of expectation. Plus when they do complain, they are heard. If the ad is not liked, it gets pulled immediately.

A few other key things about the Brits is they have a keen sense of humour. While NorthAmericans live in fear and fret over appearances, the Brits under the same circumstances just have a bloody good laugh.  Plus their vocabularies run circles around North Americans. As a people, they are highly articulate and know regional dialects, they appreciate nuance, rhymes and innuendo along with satire and a verbal joust. Which leaves North Americans sadly lacking in all these areas. And I am not speaking of only the Lords and Ladies, I mean the most common commoner has a much bigger, broader vocabulary all round. It makes for superlative and untouchable ad copywriting (sigh).

Great choice for H&M, Great for Wes Anderson who I adore, Adrien Brody too....9 for 10 here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Progressive Flounders in Parentamorphosis




Progressive Insurance, known primarily for its auto insurance and long-time auto insurance spokesperson "Flo" has now turned its attention and ad dollars to Millennial home ownership insurance.

Two ads created by Arnold and directed by Roman Coppola are planned to air over the Thanksgiving weekend. The two share some of the dark production undertones of dim lighting, darker sets, and  eerie music track to recreate a Coppola-cover of David Lynch's movie Blue Velvet and TV series: Twin Peaks.

The setup is the same for both ads: a couple with a new home where one of the two has, in essence "become"one of their parents. The "twist" is the Millennial woman becomes her father and adopts not just his lame sayings but his dress, his demeanour and his childlike approach (giving the husband nuggies) to her male partner. The Millennial male of the other couple in the second ad becomes his mother with extremely feminine traits in both speech, mannerisms and actions which even on the Millennial-Hipster level seems off the charts here. This twist vampires the ads. But I don't think Mr. Charney or his agency, Arnold can see that. From my point of view, both of these people who have become their opposite gender parent seem more like closeted gays or trans-genders, trapped in a rigid heterosexual relationship.... which Progressive and Arnold have chosen to put a spin on and call the behaviour : "Parentamorphosis."

Jeff Charney, the head of marketing at Progressive who made his name with the 'Flomercials' seems
anxious to once again be putting his thumbprint on the creative by again coining new expressions as he has done with the 'Flomercial' series.

One thing Mr. Charney is not, is a Millennial. And one sure fact about Millennial's is they don't take kindly to any form of behavioural scrutiny.

The other bad news for these two ads is the copy that tries to segue into selling Progressive for home insurance is really just a throw away one liner in both spots. Plus it is treated as such an afterthought it seems a force fit within the context of both the acting and the premise of these ads.

Insurance is a very difficult category. They are boring products that everyone begrudgingly resents having to  pay for over and over again,  with no real sense of ever seeing any benefit from the endless payouts. Second they are highly regulated. So what you can say and do and show about the products themselves is extremely limited. And most if not all insurance products are virtually the same.  So insurance companies have almost no way to differentiate themselves except by trying to create bizarre characters or famous spokespeople or animated mascots or crazy situations that when done over and over enough times,  insurers hope people will associate with their brand name.

So for creatives that work on insurance, the creative pressure is immense.
But so is the payout.

Progressive is a fat account. And Mr. Charney holds the purse strings and final say in the creative.
Because of the level of difficulty in carving out a memorable place within an over crowded market,
these categories test to death. But even with a 'Label' director (Roman Coppola) at a 'Designer' price bringing his David Lynch cover mixed with the trans-gender Millennial parent identities it doesn't work. It's like a vinegar and oil dressing that just refuses to combine no matter how much you shake it.

But perhaps Mr. Charney has a sequel in mind? He certainly has done many of those with 'Flo'... imagine both the 'Parentamorphosis' spouses 'come out' and finds a kindred spirit,  purchases yet another house with yet another need for house insurance....cue the music....

Now that would be Progressive.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

John Lewis changes direction with new Christmas ad and offers a lesson in retail advertising


I have been counting the days and titillated by the short teaser of the boxer dog panting before the release of the annual John Lewis Christmas ad. I see the John Lewis ad as a refreshing
change from the usual bombardment of sell sell sell ads that sprinkle in a few corny xmas bells or ho ho ho's or star-power hard selling to try to offset their hard hawking of wares.

Most Christmas and seasonal advertising at this time is pretty hardcore selling and not very creative nor very watchable. John Lewis is and has been the exception year after year.

John Lewis ads are known for exquisite production values, great emotive music tracks and of course
heart tugging stories of Christmas as seen usually through the eyes of a child. This year's spot is different. The longing now comes from the eyes of a jowly, young, brindle boxer dog known as Buster the Boxer and the child becomes just an ornament to the storyline.

The music is a powerful cover of Randy Crawford's 1980 "One Day I'll Fly Away" performed by an electronic trio called Vaults. The director is once again Dougal Wilson who also worked on three other John Lewis Christmas spots: "The Long Wait" in 2011, "The Journey" in 2012 and my all-time favorite "Monty's Christmas" in 2014.




In addition to this being the kick-off spot for the Christmas season in Britain, it is like most retailers,
a critical part of the marketing arsenal for John Lewis. The Christmas  season accounts for a crucial 20% of sales and 40% of profits for the John Lewis year. So don't kid yourself, this is all about sales too.

Additionally in the mix this year as part of the John Lewis selling strategy is a virtual trampoline setup at the store where kids can bounce with the animals shown in the TV commercial or if you can't make it to the store a Google trampoline experience can be accessed via JohnLewis.com or on Youtube as a Snapchat lens transforms users into Buster the Boxer!!!....very clever marketing here.

John Lewis demonstrates the power of spending and producing a single TV commercial that has become anticipated almost as much as the ads at SuperBowl time....with one spot...year after year.
John Lewis creates a spot that has long-lasting watching power. People want to watch this ad.

How many other retailers can make that claim? Certainly none in the U.S. market that I can think of.
But it could be and should be the model for retailers everywhere. The lesson being: you don't have to make bad ads with garish and groaningly desperate sell sell sell messaging.

John Lewis marketing and advertising is a classic case history for all retailers in what you should do to make profits and make the people who shop want to shop at your store and watch your ads which draws them into your store.

John Lewis knows this. They spend for their Christmas season. They plan for this season. And they know how critical the content, production values, storylines, casting, directing, music, pre and post production is to their bottom line. It's a big package that they anticipate a big spend on. And not only does it work it makes $8 profit for every $1 spent....

Plus John Lewis strives to make Christmas a whole lot more fun, enjoyable and anticipated like a child for all of us adults and children alike.

If the U.S. retailers could only follow John Lewis lead, what a wonderful season this would be.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dos Equis Most Interesting Man Revamp Part 2

Well here we are AGAIN. You all know what happens to a creative project when you try too hard? When revision after revision of the same dog just keeps getting worse but for some egotistical headblock you just CAN'T LET GO??

Well the Most Interesting Man in the World revamp is this sort of project. This new take on Goldsmith's original by Augustin Legrand is a complete FLOP.

They have turned this grease ball guy into a frat boy tailgater.....which couldn't get more ordinary.

With all the 'competition' of a pickup artist and his of course female 'companion' his antics just don't cut the mustard for me. For all the supposed "key differences" what those "key differences" do is drag this effort completely down to ordinary frat boy/ alumni antics. Sand dune races?  Carving a coconut into a football just in case we consumers don't confuse what it is supposed to be?....come on.....this is just fodder for idiots. The rationalization being the new "Most Interesting Man" is now "A man of ACTION" hahaha that's absurd at best. But bolsters the biggest base for this kind of brew: the college boy.

The writing actually fights all the antics in the spot and it just becomes a mess. It's crammed full of gimmicky frat boy wishful ridiculous stunts....

This is just a party spot. With imbecillic frat-boy antics under the guise of being a part of the new Most Interesting Man in the World.  The subtext being:  Frat boys and football and females and beer is still the same old suds and same old recipe for selling. It's Heineken...what can you expect.

Oh yeah I almost forgot the grease ball's brave new line too: Stay thirsty mis amigos.  I can almost hear the Latino butt kissing behind this line.



This isn't even worth rating.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Toronto Sick Kids launches Strong Empowering Message

Controversy is swirling around the newly launched ad for Toronto Sick Kids fundraising TV spot.
Parents whose children face life threatening or terminal illnesses view this new ad as 'too violent' and not inclusive of their child's diseases.

This hard driving message works with complex intercutting between Sick Kids kids in emergency and fantasy 'Super Power' imagery. In sync with a rap track Undeniable by Donnie Daydream  that screams over cold blue neon supers words like: kidney failure, cystic fibrosis, autism, worry, infant mortality,  cancer, and defeat cut in time to pounding rythms and the repetition of being 'undeniable'.  Exploding arm casts, fightclub imagery, emergency ward gore, surgeries, knights in armour, and helmets intercut  with surgical laser headgear,  tigers, tattoos, kid power anime scenes juxtapose with live action along with tiger growl audio all combine into riveting, disturbing imagery as it screams again 'undeniable' and ends with 'Fund the Fight.'

Upsetting scenes of kids and babies as fighters and warriors against their own enemies their unseen diseases as they fight to beat the odds as if their lives depended on it? Yes.

Personally I think the creative is some of the most original I have ever seen in this cateogory.  It is disturbing and unforgettable. And it is just because of this disturbance that we are awakened to the reality of what these kids are going through. When you are a kid in this situation, this is your main challenge, your only goal...to beat the disease with all that you have no matter how tiny your fist is. It's pure instinct. And for me, as a possible donor and being a parent, I find this carries the powerful message needed to open my wallet and heart to their struggles.

For once, there is no sugar coating what these kids are going through. For once there's no sappy, dirge music or soft, bucolic phony scenes of sympathy and Hallmark card sentiments. This TV commercial cuts through all that with the harsh realities of the fights all these young people face daily, hourly and when every second counts. Kudos for the bravery of this creative. Kudos to the real kids from Sick kids who took part in this spot. What works is the balance of the harshness of the kids reality of their illnesses with the fantasy of being a super hero and super fighter in dealing with this ongoing battle.

The production values and media buy for this is a cool $2million. And a bigger budget push is planned for next year.

This works and I give it a 10 out of 10.




Thursday, October 20, 2016

RIP Snoopy

Metlife kills Snoopy.

Today Metlife announced the death of their beloved and long time spokes dog Snoopy.


Snoopy faithfully served Metlife as their mascot and companion for over thirty years (almost 170 dog years.) For years Snoopy loyally helped humans understand the complexities of Metlife's insurance plans. Snoopy was commanding in 
his abilities to always perform to the human's need for simple, humorous and loving connections. His contribution to 
Metlife was invaluable. He helped set Metlife apart from the pack of bad dog insurance companies. 

Snoopy represents a time when advertising was creative and fun. Snoopy represents an era where he could bridge the gap
between complex ideas and misgivings humans held about insurance by acting as a symbol of reassurance and calm.

Now Metlife has decided to pink slip Snoopy because they feel he has no place in corporate America, the area Metlife has decided to focus their efforts on.  Even a 'bring your dog to work' campaign would be perceived as a flea bitten idea in this new corporate thrust. 

“We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” said Esther Lee, MetLife’s global chief marketing officer. “Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time.”

So it goes. As Metlife now heads into the cold and distant corporate boardrooms of the world, perhaps they will reflect upon a finer time, a simpler time, and at some point down this road, who knows....perhaps Snoopy will rise again like a
phoenix only this time to enlighten uptight and reluctant CEO's.

RIP Snoopy. And know you may be gone, but not forgotten.

I have had a day or two to mourn the loss of Melife and Snoopy and the questions that keep popping up for me are:

1.) Snoopy represents the domestic side of the brand i.e.: home, life insurance, car insurance

yet they are dropping Snoopy to focus on the CORPORATE side of business. 

Well why do you have to drop Snoopy?  He isn't even remotely part of the business side?

Couldn't you KEEP SNOOPY for all the domestic and local business and do something cold and corporate for the cold and corporate side????

I don't know why they sacrificed Snoopy for a part of their business that has no imprint on the other.

But they walked away from 30 years (170 dog years) of domestic brand building and investment
in a character that had grown to become synonymous with the brand. The equity in Snoopy is huge.

To throw away your equity because people's recognition is so automatic to me is absurd. And this 
change to focus on the business side is fine, but you could have just let Snoopy  keep doing his business for the real folks.... and not walk away from your base.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dos Equis Strikes Out with New Sequel



A few entries ago, I raved about how interesting the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign was as created by Euro RSCG.

In a second follow-up entry when it was announced the campaign's original actor Jonathan Goldsmith was in a dispute with the agency and was leaving,  I wrote about the backstory of how often great campaigns end up in the wastebasket but Dos Equis and The Most Interesting Man idea  was one that survived. Not only did it survive, it built a small unknown brand into a cult brand with a following that was as loyal to the advertising as it was to the product.

Now Havas Worldwide...a new agency name or merger from the original Euro RSCG (hard to keep up with all these mergers and acquisitions) has launched a totally new campaign for  The Most Interesting Man in the World effort with a SECOND most interesting man in the world. 

This time around The Second Most Interesting Man is a lot younger. This time around the idea centers not on stories, but on stunts. And this time around he is not interesting.

Unfortunately Dos Equis has struck out on this. And here are a few reasons why:

The Jonathan Goldsmith character  worked because he was OLDER
and consequently  seemed more MYTHICAL.  His stories were adventures you could imagine an
older man being able to conjure and embellish as outrageous exploits that were truly HILARIOUS. 
It was tongue in cheek delivered in such a straightup,  understated, classy way with 
a man who came across as  having the gravitas to possibly just have done some of this craziness.
And because at the time this brand was a virtual unknown with nothing to lose in share or recall
it could take the risk of doing off the wall antics in a way that was endearing and unique.

My guess is the agency now sees the growth of Dos Equis as an opportunity to go more mainstream and attract the younger Millennials.

And that's exactly why it fails. It has gone from a small niche brand that was built on a small crazy campaign that was singularly unique and could afford to make fun of the situations Goldsmith represented.

This watered down copy has basically gone whitebread. The creatives decided on a new guy who looks like a younger clone of a far more interesting original. Another mistake. And even to those who may not have ever seen the original campaign, this new representative is just too ordinary. In the launch ad what they have him doing is not even remotely interesting. They are stunts, not stories.
In this ad the guy looks like a big greasy guy out to pickup a woman in a bar.

What made the original so original was the delivery with a serious voiceover, like someone doing
commentary on CNN. It was the extra layer of irony that added that much more fun and hilarity
to the campaign.

From my ECD couch, had I been briefing this new team, the first thing I would have said or thrown out was any ideas that introduced a SECOND Most Interesting Man idea.
Why?
Because it's the easiest and most obvious thing to expect and do. And it's a recipe that has proven a sure thing to fail. You can't top something that was the best...or even begin to. And the moment you bring that 'me too' mentality to a campaign with a spin off, the odds are it will never shine in the eyes of the client, like the original. And you as the creative team will be the ones ultimately walking the plank for that very reason.

I would have briefed them right off the top by saying to do work that is as original, as outrageous and daring. That anything goes. Anything BUT a Second most interesting man idea.

What is happening now is the only thing that can happen with a brand that is stuck with second generation spin off creative that doesn't even hold a candle to its original:  Dos Equis new campaign has struck out and is now in that horrible place where most beer ads go....totally forgettable and totally ordinary.

The agency creative group should have knowingly and wisely managed everyone's expectations by saying: 
                                                                 "adios amigos...."

to any talk or suggestions of continuing on with an idea that had its moment in the sun.




Monday, August 22, 2016

Here I Go Again

Walmart's new back to school launch spot is a shoutout to parents who were kids in the 80's...and the way this is shot, it could be viewed almost as a flashback.

The kids are singing to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" as they are shown saying goodbye to summer and hello to getting ready for the first day of school.

It's a simple spot done by Saatchi & Saatchi. And it is what I call a fairly formula spot with various  kid scenarios and intercutting between them as all the kids are singing the same song. No big
creative breakthrough going on here.

But what it does do is empower kids to as they say: "Own the day" which for kids
is positive permission and a kid self esteem booster.  Which is always a good thing. The other great thing is Walmart doesn't hawk their wares directly AT you. Yes there are some in-store shots but all in all, it's fairly subtle and laid back in their selling. Kudos to Walmart for upping positive kid empowerment.

Just a couple of glitches technically for me and for the corn factor for me:  the girl in bed with eyes closed yet still has her glasses on....that is a bad oversight (pardon the pun)... it's like the client wanted to make sure you knew it was the same girl that started the spot...which is ridiculous.

Then for the corn factor all the parents waving goodbye to their kids, opening the car door for the kid....that's a pander to the target parents paying for the Walmart stuff. However, these kids aren't five year olds. So for me it was silly. In reality all these kids would have been embarrassed to have their parents waving to them like they are never going to see them again. It just made the adults look like severe helicopter parents.

All in all it's a 6 out of 10 for this effort and for Walmart buying into it.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

To: Let Toys Be Toys, Marjorie Blackman and all other self righteous PC POLICE


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3718308/How-seriously-think-OK-Gap-Kids-provokes-fury-sexist-ad-calling-little-boys-scholars-girls-social-butterflies-spells-Einstein-s-wrong.html


Two self-appointed PC groups that stand as "watchdogs" for any kind of public messaging that might
be geared to steering your child into a sexist "gender" direction have swooped down on GAP kids for their Fall Back to School email campaign. In one ad it shows a very young little girl (oops, maybe I am making an assumption here that I might be held up as indicating a gender that I shouldn't)....wearing a pair of kitten ears headband and a "pink"....ooops there I go again, she or he or whatever gender this little person is is wearing of all things PINK!!! OMG....pink should be OUTLAWED as a color!  I really think the "Let Toys Be Toys" people and Ms. Blackman are missing an even BIGGER ISSUE here....PINK ... the color.....should never be used on any gender of any kind or really on anything because it means gosh, do I dare say this it means.... GIRL....there! I have said it....please don't report me for that....I am just pointing out how PINK should NEVER be used EVER again....AND to top it all off....this gender neutral young person is wearing horror of horrors.....one step even further over the PC line....the letter "G"..... again Let Toys Be Toys and Ms. Blackman, do not report me for this but I must say what that "G" in your eyes must be representing....could it be...
GIRL??? OMG OMG  so sorry so sorry..... that is a word that should be against the law to ever say, use or indicate as a gender to anyone of any age. I realize how sensitive everyone is to that word and it's implications. But may I venture another opinion?  Perhaps, just perhaps that "G" might mean:  GAP?  Ya think???? Can we give them the benefit of the doubt on this one???  Let's toss them that bone shall we???  And how DARE GAP imply that this little gender neutral person should be the only sociable one!!! What a thing to say!!!! That this gender neutral little person should be so labelled is .... well words fail me....but reach for my cell and dial my civil liberties lawyer immediately on this one!

And we haven't even gotten to the other example. The you know....BLUE one....ooops now here we go again with another stereotypical color coding that is gender specific that should be absolutely
OUTLAWED. How dare GAP! And to add insult to injury, we have a MISSPELLED T-shirt, someone call Einstein's agent and SUE SUE SUE!!!!

Why after we get done with this, GAP should at the very least issue a PUBLIC APOLOGY...for creating such revolutionary and controversial ads that when viewed, will have a deep psychological impact on any young genderless children in their formative years,  for the rest of their lives.

PARENTS BEWARE....and I suggest to GAP that they post a notice that these ads contain a "trigger" that may offend some people when viewed. That is the least GAP can and should do to rectify their reckless use of these innocents in such alarming and controversial ads.

Shame on GAP. Shame of big bad advertising. Shame on us for not complaining. Thank you PC Police: Let Toys Be Toys and Ms. Marjorie Blackman for once again rescuing us from such shocking  and inappropriate materials. You have taken us one step closer to closing the GAP in your ongoing vigilance and fight for gender stereotyping.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ashley Madison Comes Back Swinging....


After being hacked and having exposed some high profile marrieds Ashley Madison is back with a slick 3-some of TV spots to try to entice users back into the club. Using upscale cinematography and original sound tracks sung soulfully solo, AM tries to ratchet up production values.

Now they are even expanding the possibilities. Suggesting in one spot perhaps you and your significant person might like to join the Swing Set.

Now my imagination always runs to the weird and wonderful on this note because I am a movie fan and when I think of swinging it always calls to mind for me the scene in Borat where Sasha Baron Cohen walks into what looks to be a sleazy, gaudy suburban basement replete with the requisite cheap genuine imitation wood panelling, garish lighting and everyone going at it doggy-style. As he walks through fully clothed, no one seems to care and he is asked if he wants to join in. It's raw and hilarious.

So who goes to an Ashley Madison. That's the first thing I always ask myself when I see this stuff.

But the answer is really obvious.

It's the silent majority of course.

Silent within their relationships. Silent about their relationships. And most of all, silent to themselves about why such a service is something they think they need to make their lives more interesting or alive or more complete or whatever they seem to not be getting from their significant person.

My reaction, aside from the sordid factor, is sadness.

This campaign is sad.  The people this appeals to are sad. These spots are sad.
It's sad to me that we live such isolated lives even with the person who is supposed to be our person.

Now Ashley Madison is trying to broaden their reach so to speak, by encouraging polyamorous hookups.  In other words:  threesomes, foursomes, moresomes whatever.....with both partners now participating...one assumes.

In this commercial, the woman kisses her comatose male partner. Cut to some semi-social scene and  what I first took to be a waitress turns out to be the hookup....looking at them in an inviting way....is pure sleaze.

It just all ends up looking and feeling tawdry despite the production values....

It would be really difficult to work on this kind of account unless you can just ignore the desperateness about this service. And whoever did the creative tried to interject some sort
of empathy into it I think.

But at the end of the day, it is selling cheating....with or without your significant person knowing.
And I think most of us want to believe that we would never be using this service. But sadly, there is
a big market out there.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chipotle needs to divorce themselves from themselves....



I have been following the Chipotle story ever since Edelman blatantly stole the scarecrow and storyline from The Wizard of Oz and cobbled it with the wonderful song from the original movie version  Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in a desperate attempt to position themselves as far away from the idea of them being a typical fast food franchise as they could.

If anything, it did the opposite.

Now in its latest animated allegory we have the simple story of competition. It drags on for-ev-er with each side getting bigger and bigger....of course. Until finally both have reached the saturated market point and decide to join forces i.e.; "marry" and save the world with what they want you to think is an anti-fast food franchise.

But is really just another fast food franchise.

My problem with this all along is their lack of honesty. Not just with their position in the marketplace but to themselves as an organization.

Who do they think they are kidding?

Chipotle is a fast food franchise. Yes, they may offer "local" lettuce or tomatoes etc. when in season but generally they operate like everyone else. Once a week that big truck filled with prefab, readymade, and sourced from the lowest bidder foodstuffs rolls into their receiving areas and unloads....just like every other QSR.

Plus E-coli and cocaine have sent this brand into a death spiral. And recovering from any of these
is not an easy fix. Especially e-coli...people don't easily forget something like that because the odds are it can happen all over again so fast.

I have only ever been in a Chipotle once. And that was just to see who they are and how they do operate as a food place. It is nothing special. And nowhere did I see anyone chopping any vegetables or doing anything remotely to suggest this is a freshly made alternative to fast food.

I don't see a bright future for this brand. Quite honestly I am amazed it is still doing as well as it is.

Whoever suggested them doing this "love" story as they are calling it, should be fired. It lends nothing to furthering their brand's image to the consumer. The content of this 'love' story is just a pander piece to Chipotle's management, to reassure them that their brand is still intact and is in fact 'different' from all the other franchises. But it doesn't work. The premise doesn't work. And never did.

This company needs a strong agency that can turn it around.

My understanding is the client is difficult...you can see that by the work.
There is no ad agency attached to this brand....again you can see that.
There is no real grasp of who they are as a brand....again you can see that.
And this is a real case history of a floundering brand in a desperate place ...

Chipotle will it see the light themselves and seek a strong agency to help them turn things around???

Stay tuned....

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cyber Grand Prix awards at Cannes 2016




Two Grand Prix Cyber awards were given out this year. One for a charmingly sweet and simple animated story about a night watchman in a mannequin shop. Conceived by Leo Burnett Madrid this digitally animated delight is heartfelt from client Loterias y Apuestas del Estado...in other words the big El Gordo Christmas lottery where many in Europe become millionaires. While this particular spot isn't anything 'new' as far as storyline or emotional touchpoints for dreaming about the lottery win...what is new is the media used to distribute this cutey. This was done just for social media consumption....not the traditional TV, radio or print.


http://www.netimperative.com/2016/06/cannes-lions-2016-top-digital-winners-announced/

The second Grand Prix was awarded to client ING done by JWT Amsterdam for data driven creative of the possible idea for Rembrandt's next painting..called "The Next Rembrandt". The 'creative' was driven not by human creativity but by math and data and past paintings... pretty dry stuff....and nothing really 'creative' about it...other than allowing a lot of number crunchers to cobble a lot of data together to 'create' a cyber facsimile of what Rembrandt would PREDICTABLY paint next???
Basically it was a number nerd's dream project. And has absolutely no bearing on creativity in the sense that creative humans do creative. Are you still with me???

As an armchair judge, of course I love the Burnett Madrid animation...it is a sweet little story....nothing mind blowing nor revelatory...just simple and innocent and sweet....but what this tells me about social media consumption is not so sweet. Alarmingly it is a red flag for me. Here we have this new social hi-tech capability and what kind of content is being circulated? Well on an intellectual plane of technological capablilities vs. content...we are peddling backwards folks. The ideas and dreck that fills social media is on a level of a toddler. For everyone's obsession and addiction to their various tech tools, this simplistic animation is the best we get????  This is as creative as we can be on this format? Shame on us. It speaks to what is so obvious....a great big WASTE of time. We are creating nothing new on a very important level here; what we spend most of our time absorbed in watching.....and it's a real eye opener to me that this is what is obviously acceptable as great social creative.....when really it has nothing to do with social creative at all....this is just a simple child's tale....cutely animated and rendered like some kind of candy floss cuddly stuffed animals....it's absurd.


So what does this SAY about the HUMAN level of Creativity that is going on within the digital/cyber realm? 

For me it says emojis are the height of cyber creative and for those of you who think this category has any real aesthetic contribution or strategic idea making that is going to blow tech away with it's ability to truly become one with the medium itself .... that isn't possible because we humans have one thing cyber and digital and all the technology in the world doesn't ....  emotions....and developing creative that reaches beyond the cloying simple stuff isn't where humans want to go anymore....
they want no pain, no reality, no inner examination....just serve any creative up plain, cute and simple....like a robot ....

Thursday, June 2, 2016

NICE=BORING

                                                                           


My home state is Nebraska.
So just out of curiosity the other day, I Googled to see if Nebraska
had any kind of tourism campaign. And wasn't I surprised to find it does!

 Done by the local agency out of Omaha, (my home town) BaileyLauerman, who have produced award winning work most notably for local clients like Union Pacific Railroad. However, I was shocked to see what they have developed as a position for Nebraska. And to tell you the truth, I honestly don't know how this ever ever got out Baily Lauerman's doors yet alone produced.

                    The 'THEME' for this campaign is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me:

                                                 VISIT NEBRASKA. VISIT NICE.

Now when I saw this, it made me cringe. The last thing you ever want to be remembered for or about
is being.....NICE.  Nice is truly an unforgettable person, place or thing in general. When you refer to something as being 'nice' it is usually in a more derogatory sense, than kindly. It isn't positive. And it implies that the particular person place or thing has nothing particularly outstanding to recommend it so it is a 'safe' PC bet to refer to said person, place or thing as being 'nice'. It's what you politely say when you can't think of anything else to say. To me nice equates to a swear word. And 'nice' in the creative department as a critique is the death word, the word you dread ever ever hearing from anyone about any of your creative ideas, especially from the Creative Directors. So imagine my surprise when I see my home state adopting such a position. It's pathetic really. And brings flashbacks of my many sessions with my shrink rushing back to me as a reminder of why I scrambled so hard to leave Nebraska.

NICE = NOTHING           NICE=NO PULSE     NICE=BORING    NICE=DON'T STOP

The ONE THING you never ever want advertising or your brand or your takeaway to be is


                                                                     NICE

                                                       http://visitnebraska.com

I have worked on a lot of tourism accounts. I know how fraught with politics it is. I know how big
and bureaucratic the decision making is. And I know how frustrating it can be for any real creative
to get produced. But this is just awful. If they tested this idea, they showed it to the wrong group.
If you want to get any one to visit your state, from out of state,  you don't ever test it with the folks from your state. And I have a feeling any "testing" that was done for this, was the local kind.

Nebraska is a treasure trove of history and historical places. Nebraska has the sandhills which is
an amazing natural phenomenon. Nebraska has a big story it can show and tell. Nebraska really is a very interesting place or could be if given half a chance.

But this campaign isn't going to help...it's just boring. The site is boring. The photos are so 'stock'
they are boring. The writing is mundane and boring.  Everything about it is so boring it isn't even nice.... it's just boring.

And sadly the site and theme re-enforce the very barrier it needs to overcome with the out of state
vacationer which is; if Nebraska is ONLY  'nice'  then let's just drive through this state as fast as we can to get to somewhere else more interesting and hope we don't fall asleep trying.

If you look at a post I have here about the Swedish Number....compare that to the Nebraska attempt at tourism and you can see how very very different in strength of idea, in execution, in friendliness, in being original, in being engaging and making you feel good and curious about Sweden is compared to the ho-hum me-too sameness and ordinariness of the Nebraska campaign.

All I can advise the Nebraska Tourism Board is this:   Change this. Call me and we will change this.



This nice idea gets a 1 out of 10 and I am being nice.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Martin Agency launches first work for Purina with a Print and TV Campaign for Animal Feeds

The Martin Agency launched their first print and TV campaign for Purina animal feeds. The print campaign is stunningly stunning with portraits of a horse, chicken, pig and cow shot by an



Austin TX. animal portrait photographer.

There is minimal copy using the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words they cleverly put the "Purina red" as quotation marks between the heads of the pictures of the animals.

The idea is a good one: that the feed purina provides makes these creatures sound and healthy and beautiful. That the animals themselves speak louder than words works as the idea here.

For as much as it works beautifully in the print, I didn't feel it was nearly as powerful when translated over to live action. Why?

Well the production values visually were not as stunning as the print...

What they could have done was gone for a much more dramatic, extremely slowed down camera view of the horse, making the viewer wonder just what they were looking at. Using a snorkel you could create wonderful slow landscape effects of the contours of the horse before finally revealing exactly what it is you are looking at.

What really was a swing and a miss for me however was the "beer jargon" copy and music which was completely off putting.  The country/Texas-style guitar was monotonous and boring. The copy tone of voice was wrong. The announcer voice was wrong.
While the video's audio says the "Animals speak louder than words" concept it is lost in strategy must have speak but then goes on to hammer it home with a stronger Purina corporate line: Purina Feeds Greatness.

An integrated campaign has to have each media creative approach be stand alone strong yet be similar enough to add and enhance the whole campaign. In this case, it does to some extent with the visual side of the TV but falls down in the audio portion.

Less is more. Let the audience put the pieces together rather than "dummy-ing down" with copy that clients want to wallpaper a TV spot with.

Just imagine if the TV had no audio except maybe the horse whinnying and maybe just two audio
lines: Animals speak louder than words. Purina Feeds Greatness.

That's what I would have done or pushed for...but it's far easier for me to criticize from my couch at home than coaching and/or struggling for the most impactful first creative from the couch of an ECD at the Martin Agency.

The print is powerful and portfolio worthy....the TV, not so much.

It's 8 out of 10 for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

THE SWEDISH NUMBER




I am of Swedish descent....and very proud to say so. Gone are the days of seeing Swedes as the blonde people who contributed the smorgasbord, knitted earflap hats with reindeer designs and Ikea.

The Swedish Tourist Association have come up with a brilliant idea for putting Sweden on your bucket list. They gave the country a phone number! Dial the number and it connects with a real Swedish person who can talk with you about any topic. Why?  Because Sweden abolished censorship and is celebrating the anniversary of the importance of that law. No PC stuff in Sweden! Very Very Clever. What they are doing is letting outsiders communicate openly and freely with the Swedish people who are their own country's ambassadors! What a liberating idea.....



                                               The Swedish number  +46 771 793 336

Here's the website  http://theswedishnumber.com

and you can see which countries have called the most. So far it's the US and that is understandable given these scary PC times.

This campaign is warm, friendly, open and tastefully done. Kudos to Sweden...I am proud to be a Svensk Flicka!

Monday, April 4, 2016

How the Most Interesting Man Campaign was just blind luck...

All great things come to an end. And so it is with one of my favorite campaigns Dos Equis and The Most Interesting Man beer campaign....

Ad Age ran a great article ( see link at end of my article) about how this campaign died time and time again and it was really just like Lemony Snicket in reverse...A series of lucky fortunate events....that this campaign ever saw the light of day.

No one believed in it at first, not even the creative team that came up with it. They were flying by the proverbial seat of their pants when they came up against a deadline to present something. And thus from this scenario of from nothing comes greatness.

Is the best stuff always this random or accidental? MMMMmmmmm no. But what was luck was the fact that despite no one believing the campaign had any merit, it kept getting presented and working its way up the ladder closer and closer to being a done deal.

Most of us from the creative side really do present great ideas...probably as worthy as The Most Interesting Man. But what happens is 9 times out of 10 they never get beyond the internal presentation to the account group or they are so redone or messed with before getting to the client that those great ideas are a mere shadow of their former self.

Ad agency people usually are their own worse enemies for over thinking, over reacting and fearful of really presenting different work. For every one great The Most Interesting Man-calibre campaign that makes it to air or reaches the public, I would guess at least 1000 equally as good campaigns for other products don't. They die. They die from second guessing the clients. They die for lack of support from the whole team. They die because the team that came up with it was the junior team and an  agency cannot possibly justify their billing for all the Seniors that work on the same assignment but because the Seniors are cynical from all of their earlier campaigns having been shot down, i.e.: read that as basically given up....yet still pull in honking huge salaries. They die because the account team is afraid to present risky work and are afraid that even if they do present it, the client will insist they come back with something else and the account teams don't know how to rationally, calmly and with great vision and insight themselves, lead the client to imagine the long term benefits of radical yet brilliant creative for their brand. They die because account teams never guide their clients into long term brand building...it's always about immediate measurement/response. They die because the ECD is a prick and has a grudge against the creative team that came up with it. Or because the ECD is threatened by the creative team that came up with it. They die because the Senior team sees the Junior team has a better idea and so they kill it.
Or it's killed because the production is too expensive or because because because....

In other words, there are about 2000 reasons agencies don't let great work ever see the light of day these days.

And maybe that is why advertising is dying. Maybe that is why they keep looking for that easy silver bullet that is going to change everything for advertising. When in fact, if agencies could just really be about being what they produce or say is their product "Great Advertising Ideas" and really stand by that and work hard with their clients to offer that...maybe then advertising would have a resurgence.

But the absolute saddest and worse case scenario is what really happened here with Dos Equis. This great creative campaign really was like winning the lottery.  It was all just blind luck.

Monday, February 15, 2016

SuperBowl 50 Commercials

I always feel like the Grinch when it comes to the Superbowl commercials because, quite frankly, to me very few really pass muster. But you know, the industry has to build hype and relevance around the annual event to keep it relevant and keep those media moguls making the SuperBowl commercial airspace the most expensive and heady opportunity to showcase your wares.

That being said just two and a half campaigns stand out for me (sigh)....the first is the Heinz catsup weiner dogs running to the catsup bottles. How many years ago was it that running through fields and meeting up was the newest commercial trick du jour? Well long enough ago that we can reprise it now to the Millennials and they don't remember a thing....haha....we are so lucky to have this new group of consumers, because all their attention spans are quite short....lucky for the ad game. None the less, this chestnut is cute. And I know why. It's those darling dogs in the hot dog costumes that just get us going....we all love our dogs....so this was a great way for Heinz to showcase not one, not two but the whole lineup of their catsup condiment variables....and in a totally engaging way. So good for Heinz.

I also kind of liked Drake for TMobile....because it so resonated with me how clients take a great spot
and try to cram it full of all the legaleze and boring stuff that can only be found on the legal agreement document everybody is required to "Agree" with. That was funny and also a great way to satisfy just that boring stuff...it was cute.

Saving the best for last for me was the first time ever on the SuperBowl roster campaign for Apartments.com (Agency RPA) with Wheezy LilWayne, Jeff Goldblum,  George Washington, a choir and the whole Jefferson's thing....it's fun and brilliant. They evidently received like 50 million internet hits on this....and the idea is just a real slam dunk for all ages. This moves apartments.com up to be top of mind for all apartment rentals nationwide....it's just the best....