Thursday, November 29, 2018

Merrry Christmas or Let's make a show in a barn!

Most holiday advertising begins to be created in the early summer. While it’s 90F outside and
people are looking forward to a summer vacation, ad people are knee deep in winter
thoughts. By the time Fall rolls around no sooner is the Halloween stuff displayed before it’s
vampired by Christmas shelf space. As we all know it’s no small holiday. And for many many retailers, it’s a make or break time of year.

Admittedly, I anticipate Christmas ads more than even Super Bowl ads. Often the economic climate can be gauged by the creative we see pre-Christmas. And for me, it’s like waiting to unwrap a package impatient to know what’s inside. Lately, more and more I have been disappointed. It’s not because my senses have been dulled or overindulged or over stimulated by holiday white noise. It’s mostly because a lot of Christmas ads have lost the heart and essence of the season.

But wait, what just caught my eye?

Why Santa of course and he didn’t even have to try.

Out of a small indie shop in Poughkeepsie NY called Ashworth Creative, they are busy as elves
making ads and seeming to have FUN doing it.

The minute I happened on this tale of Santa tapping out his own Christmas list I settled in to see a tired, beleaguered Santa facing yet another glass of milk looming large in the foreground. And I realized how poor Santee’s tummy must be reeeeeling after his 9 billionth glass of this stuff. So, I began to sympathize and wonder who and what Santa could possibly be making HIS wish list for.
Turns out Santa was wishing and writing for a nice hot cuppa…. tea that is from Harney and Sons Fine Teas.

And who wouldn’t after a night like his. At last, we see Mrs. C making The Great Man his tea as he appreciatively pats her paw as a thank you.

Ashworth and Harney and Sons Fine Teas chose a classic Christmas approach that reminds me of a black and white 1939 movie with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney (you have to be a real film/Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney fan to know this) who eagerly and spontaneously decide to put on a show in a barn. It’s about family, fun, friends, festivity and the ingenuity needed in getting it produced. And so it is at Ashworth with Harney and Sons Fine Teas where there’s no apology for it being a clear celebration of Christmas. There’s no apology for featuring Santa, who is resplendent in costume and demeanor. And it leaves a good feeling at the end just like the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney film and a nice hot cuppa tea does.

The ad is simple and sweet. A classic Christmas choice that isn’t trying to be too clever. And it is putting a show on in a barn.

And what do I mean by that?

This ad will run only on social media:  YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. It was shot with a local small production house and took one day. The set was the home of one of the owners. And Mr. and Mrs. C ? Agency and family. From getting the assignment to uploading on social media, maybe it took six weeks. It was a collaborative effort by both Ashworth and Harney and Sons. All in it cost less than most big NYC ad agency Christmas parties.

When you see behemoths like JWT and Wunderman having to merge, who haven’t done anything fun or creative or insightful or risky for over fifty years you can see why they are endangered. They stopped having fun. They stopped taking risks. They stopped being an ad agency. They stopped making a show in a barn.

Harvey and Sons Fine Teas headquarters aren’t far from Poughkeepsie. They are family owned and run, as is Ashworth Creative.

More and more it’s little shops like these beginning to mushroom with handling solid, local businesses and established not for profits. They are actively pitching and getting and doing bigger and bigger assignments. Why? Because they are lean, local, smart, nimble and accommodating.

So my new advice to agencies for 2019 is: Make a show in a barn!

From time to time I am going to feature smaller agency work that works. Because these shops are the new reality teeming with positive energy, teaming with openness to new work, new approaches, and fresh ideas that attract supportive clients that inclusively believe in them.

To view more of Ashworth’s work, here’s their website:

If you’d like to be considered for my review, send me your stuff.

Giving this sweet Santa spot a cheerful 8 out of 10.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

This is WHY we have advertising agencies ....

Apparently, over 6 million people have viewed this 'advert' on Facebook and have declared that John Lewis should hire this guy to do their next Christmas ad.


First, this isn't an ad about Christmas.

This is an ad about a guy who has a serious Oedipus complex.

Second, this is about a Millennial guy who probably went to some film or art school and needs a job.

Third, this is so maudlin and sappy it's ridiculous, ludicrous and completely bad taste.

Fourth it has nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with Millennials wanting to turn Christmas into some PC 'meaningful' Gwenneth Paltrow-esque GOOP ridiculous madeup significance about the true meaning of love.

Give me a barf bag.

Look all you snowflakes, advertising is about selling. Not about some severely conflicted bearded guy who so dotes on his Mother that it borders on clinical and represents something really really more for a Public Service ad for a Helpline.

And apparently, there are over 6 million people out there that need that helpline phone number.

I give this a -10.....

Goodluck in your job search fella.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Annual John Lewis 2018 Christmas Ad

John Lewis pays tribute not to Christmas, but to an institution about as revered in England: Elton John or Sir Elton John as he's now referred to.
This is a two minute very glossy retrospective of Sir Elton John's career and how he started it by being gifted a piano-the implied message being it was purchased at John Lewis-when he was but a young boy.

I am a North American who honestly doesn't find Elton John's music as iconic as the Brits do.
His canon of work has made him a superstar and made him exceedingly rich...hence the Sir before his name, and obviously John Lewis feels Sir Elton John's 'story' will touch the Brits enough to imagine their own little Elton or Eltoona banging away on a piano purchased from John Lewis....which by the way is a product John Lewis has just started carrying since this ad launched. John Lewis hadn't sold a piano in 70 years apparently until this ad dropped.

So instead of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" it's been goodbye to John Lewis' usual charming, highly anticipated and festive Christmas ads, to embracing a storyline about Elton John which reads as fictitiously as "The Night Before Christmas." This is an ollllllddd chestnut they have roasted here for a story of Elton John. It's the "A Star is Born" short....starring Elton John....glitzy, glossy, syruppy,
sappy, over art directed, the mum is sooo stereotypical, noooo dad in sight, uptight little and bespectacled prim and proper Elton at a local recital and a choppily edited mixed bag of real and photoshopped and setup shots of John's easy/fast/spectacular "A Star Is Born' rise to mythicalness in 120 seconds.

Perhaps Sir Elton John has purchased the John Lewis stores? Or is now the major shareholder? Or
is planning on flogging his own line of Elton John pianos? Dunno.

But this is one weird ad. And it's one of two Christmas ads John Lewis has done in a row now that are a complete 'swing and a miss' for me who so loved the store's ads in years past.
This is just too much of a tribute to Elton John than a universal Christmas message for my taste.
It's indulgent and panders to a level of fame made mythical with this fictional tale of Elton John's life.
The underlying message being he's a boy who came up from nothing and so might you. And it all began with a gift...welllllll it just doesn't have the universal charm or the emotional connection most of the John Lewis ads have had in the past. It's just all about Elton John.

And now that Sir Elton is himself into his 70's he's become maudlin. But instead of reviving his band like so many of his era are trying to do, he has chosen to co-opt John Lewis into revisiting his past through those big round rose colored glasses he used to wear at all his performances and now has forced John Lewis customers to wear them as well.

I for one just am not buying it. And I wish John Lewis hadn't either. Pity.

I give this ad a generous 2 out of 10.  And hope John Lewis can shake these last two years off and  get back on track for Christmas 2019.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Honestly, it's not for everyone."

John Ricks goes to great lengths to explain the thinking behind the new slogan and campaign. This strategy and creative came from Nebraska ranking last of all the states for a desireable or even top of mind place to visit.  Ricks is the Nebraska Tourism Executive Director and has held the position for under two years. He is from Colorado and was formerly the Director of Colorado Tourism. The agency he chose to develop this creative positioning is also from Denver called Vladimir somethingor other I might add. Which makes me cringe to think that he has shown favoritism to a Colorado agency that has little knowledge of Nebraska or anyone who has probably ever worked or lived there.

The last campaign slogan was: Nebraska. Nice. or Visit Nebraska Visit Nice, something lame created by Bailey Lauerman. But at least it was a Nebraska ad agency creating that mess. I commented on the absolute lameness of the campaign in an earlier blogpost here last year.

Ricks justification for this campaign is "self-deprecation" is gonna drive people here to see us out of pity. This sounds like something repeatedly said from the agency powerpoint presentation as their smoke and mirrors buzzwords for this again horrible campaign. 

Some advice: Nebraska, fire Ricks. Nebraska, fire the Colorado ad agency. Nebraska, start saving your tourism money. 

I now am completely embarrassed to say Nebraska is my home state. And perhaps now readers you can understand why anyone in advertising worth their salt left Nebraska to be able to pursue a serious ad career.

Nebraska just doesn't get it. 

This campaign is worse or as bad as the others. It isn't even self-deprecating. It's embarrassing.
And the media play they are getting from this is in ridicule, not in support. It will blow over as fast as it started with no revenue benefits.

They should just take their budget and do something for their state other than try to promote it.
Because what they are doing is a total waste of money. 

Why not do something with the budget that will maybe protect a special area of wetlands or some historical sites or restore some places in Brownville or somewhere like it or something that will be interesting enough to bring people there. 

Showing people on rocks, little blonde kids with oversize glasses, people sitting in cow water tanks is NOT unique or interesting or even remotely enough to bring people there to spend their time or money. Oh and one other painfully obvious faux pas (mistake) you Nebraska numbskulls made is using the state in red....believe it or not, not everyone associates or is as enamored with Nebraska "go big red" football as you guys which isn't an attraction per se either, especially lately. And it also looks like Nebraska is a completely Republican state, which it is, but if you are trying to attract people and not repel them, this isn't the color to represent Nebraska then...and it can be misconstrued as being a state only welcoming to those interest groups and rednecks. So I would ax that symbol color immediately....Just sayin....and at no charge for those professional observations.

Nebraska, save your tourism dollars. Invest in your state's attractions and I don't mean theme parks and the same shitty stuff every other state has....find something, anything that is unique to the state, spend some time and money on restoring or enhancing it over the next 5 years or so and then maybe just maybe you might have invested enough to bring a few people there....

And use Nebraska agencies for this. Don't use outsiders unless they're from Nebraska and really know and can relate to why people never go there.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Frampa. Makes buying oil filters fun....

Fram is an American auto aftermarket oil filter company that's been around for over eighty-five years.

The tagline: "Filter out the nonsense.The right place with the right filters at the right price."

The newest member of the Fram team is a spokesperson they call: Frampa and should look familiar to anyone who has ever watched Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul's "Mike" the brilliant Jonathan Banks.

Banks is a perfect spokesperson for this brand. He extends his already well-known character who in both series of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul embodies the hardscrabble, rough-edged retired cop and has seen and done it all. In many of the episodes, Mike is seen as a handyman fiddling with cars and setting up complex ways to outwit bad guys with simple tools and hardware improvised by years of having to make do.

Frampa is the everyman you see spending hours in aftermarket auto stores rooting around for this n that. We all know a Frampa.

In this ad series, cleverly written to the borrowed interest of Mike's no b.s. authoritarian character, we see Frampa, the old wise-guy in the auto aftermarket segment popping up and making sure the young pups know what's what when it comes to oil filters.

Frampa is no Mr. Whipple caught creepily and vicariously squeezing the Charmin.

He's in your face with no apologies for young male millennials ignorance about keeping a car or truck properly lubed. And he's completely irreverent about their lifestyles. He sums this up by his great tag line: "It's the orange one, numbnuts."  Which again slams home the vacuousness of the male millennial life.

The only part of this campaign I find 'cheesy' is the opening sting which is a vocal: "He's Frampa!"
I suppose it's meant to be cheesy and if you're making your seagrass smoothie in the next room, hearing this will bring you to watch the ad. However, I find it a bit of overkill. But I am sure the client loves it.

For a very niche market segment that used to only be seen in auto body/car trader ads, this is a prime example of how cleverly an obscure brand can become a household name.

The brilliant choice of Banks and using the borrowed interest of his well established Mike character is perfect for this product. Spokespersons are a dime a dozen and an old-school form of reaching your target. The critical factor is matching the product with the right spokesperson and writing to that character. So often this approach doesn't work because you sign the right person but you don't let the character of the person or the character they are famous for, carry it. And this is a brilliant example of how well this works when it's done right. But this can also be a Catch 22 for the same reasons.The caution for this campaign and I am sure they tested for this was the fact that most of the target would always see Frampa as Mike. But maybe in this case, given how obscure the product segment is, that's ok too.

It's fun. It's irreverent. It's well written and well delivered, production values are good and overall it must be totally building this brand with those snowflake millennials.

Cudos to Laughlin Constable an Indie agency in Milwaukee.

I give this campaign a 10 for 10.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Race to the Bottom Last in a series of amazon2

Still no word on what city is going to be chosen for the new Amazon2 Headquarters. Presumably 
Besos and his teams are deep into due diligence on the final ten, twenty???? However many cities are still hoping to be the chosen one.

For a huge corporation like amazon to initially have made this a public free for all by announcing any city interested amazon would look at is typical of large corporate HR hiring policies when you think about it. 

Big corporations like amazon publicly run in their 'want ads' the jobs needed to be filled and accept any and all applications. Once they have weeded out the crackpots and chronic psycho applications then they get down to the business of finding a few that actually qualify. And this is from the public slush applications which they are required by law to waste their time on. In the meantime, the real hiring, the real choosing is done behind closed doors and either with a professional search team or is an inside hire from internal ranks or from a long time associate who knows someone (inside networking).

And so too is the amazon team following this mundane, corporate playbook in choosing the real next city for amazon2. It's not nearly as exciting or as original or as groundbreaking as Besos wants everyone to believe. Nor is it equitable. But neither Besos nor other big corporations care a whit about that.

Basically, it was a smoke and mirrors, dangle the bait tactic all along that again, many many large corporations do to entice potential candidates for lots of things like contracts, employment, tenders and so on. 

And the general rule of thumb here, if you want to really figure out who the next amazon2 city will be, is this:  follow the money. I am sure bookies have odds on each city and are just waiting but pretty much have an idea who is going to be chosen.

The saddest part of this whole exercise (yes, there always is a sad side) is seeing how many cities in the US are desperate for an injection of commerce to bolster their futures. And there are many. And we have seen only a few. 

Besos exposed the underbelly of these cities. How? By offering them HOPE. And some of these cities certainly need more than hope to run on. Cities like Detroit, Newark, Indianapolis, Columbus and yes, even Chicago are on the brink or have been bankrupted. These cities, going on the slim promise of Besos public announcement, pulled out all the stops to try to capture this golden ticket.
Not just by promising Besos free reign over their cities tax and development incentives, but by a desperate need to do anything to get a stronger heartbeat happening for cities that have been long abandoned by other businesses.

Besos is no different than previous robber barons who once wielded an immense economic stick. However, the chances for small business startups like Besos rising and succeeding in the US are one in a zillion compared to what they were a century ago. Besos business is not in being innovative as 
a maker of things. Besos created a humongous shipping pipeline from one computer to another. He capitalizes on logistics. He capitalizes on consumerism and hunger. 

He is a leader of the employment movement for 'precarious work' where people live from paycheck to paycheck, have no job security, have no benefits and basically are enslaved by a system that no longer works or cares to work to improve the common worker's lives and help provide a middle-class existence the US.  

Already he has raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour but he has also taken away any chances for employees to hold stock in the company, which ultimately was and is worth far more over time. Besos treats his employees badly both in the workplace and in principle having almost no regard for any employees well being. Since amazon's inception, he has routinely insisted on grueling work conditions with absolutely no consideration for employees making a livable wage or having any semblance life/work balance.

By Besos increasing the minimum wage he makes working at amazon look attractive while smaller, independent companies cannot begin to match that hourly wage. Thus Besos is forcing small companies to either meet the wage hike or deliberately drives them out of business.

Besos biggest move now with the second amazon headquarters is just another monopoly piece on his takeover board.

My guess if I was a betting person would be around the Washington D.C. area. Besos seems to be gearing up for some kind of political puppet mastery beyond his company. 

However, I also can see him selling or stepping aside very soon.

So where amazon2 or even if amazon2 ever happens, is still anyone's guess.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Amazon Pitch Series #4 Nashville

It's interesting that Nashville was chosen as one of the top 20 cities for the new Amazon2 headquarters.


Because unlike many of the cities that are vying for this business boost who will bend over backwards with tax incentives and all kinds of perks for Amazon2, Nashville doesn't have to. Nashville's economy is thriving. Nashville is a healthy city whether Amazon2 arrives or not.

And some might argue that Nashville, although it participated in the original bid, isn't ready to give up its identity or risk its infrastructure with the explosion of housing and transit demands that are bound to happen wherever Amazon2 ends up. And that's just the beginning of some of the demands that Amazon2 will put on whatever city it ends up in.

Nashville seems to have no fancy videos, no hardcore pitch materials or any information about their offer that have been made public to woo Amazon2 and Besos.

Nashville isn't offering any extra incentives that it wouldn't for any other company interested in bringing its business to their city from what I have read. Their tax incentives, their perks all seem to be by the books.

So in essence Nashville isn't going to over promise, grovel or give up their identity to gain Amazon2.

When you are a healthy city economically you don't have to do anything. When you are a vibrant city your view is more objective. When you are a thriving city you might even be more protective and see Amazon2 as a possible hostile takeover. The pluses for one city become minuses for another.

And when you are as healthy and vibrant as Nashville, you don't have to put on any dog and pony show or beg or be willing to sell your city's soul....

On the other hand, maybe Nashville is using reverse psychology:  you know...kind of like when you are flirting but not flirting, you like them but you don't like them but you do like's a courting ritual for some that can be quite attractive....

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Amazon Pitch Series #3 Chicago

Chicago's bid for Amazon2 is a cheeky Star Trekky (a nod to known super Trekkie Jeff Besos here) homage to brilliant delivery by William Shatner (not a Chicago native) I have to add that whoever directed Shatner's read, more than likely the copywriter, did a fantastic job both with him and even more so with the brilliant copywriting.

The video is fabulously edited with tons of quick cuts and pauses in lock-step with Shatner's delivery. It's a highly bespoke video where seemingly futuristic shots and abstract visuals are quick cut and shaped into interesting visual heights. The music is again based on the Star Trek theme but not overly so that it vampires the message. Plus there are wonderful futuristic layered sound effects punctuating the visuals and copy that makes the overall feeling of this message otherworldly. Everything is perfectly balanced in this presentation. It is in a word, stunning.

Again I have to go back to the copy. There are no apologies here. This is no meat and potatoes presentation. This is all about the future for a city that is already well into it. Close your eyes and just listen to Shatner's delivery and it is magic. His intonations, his low key yet steady familiar voice is subtle in its meaning...a pause, a slight upturn to his voice, is enough to convey he is the reassuring and familiar captain of Enterprise now located in Chicago.

It is just so clever and smart.

The Chicago video really takes the pitches to a new level.

What's interesting is how this video subliminally makes you feel like things are moving in Chicago at warp speed. And isn't that what Amazon is all about as a company? Chicago presents the future by positioning itself as already being there.

Again, it is just so clever and smart.

And ultimately this is what a new business pitch has to be.

Great ad agencies in the day used to do these. They took weeks of planning, weeks for development, weeks to flesh out and produce. And Chicago's pitch video has all those qualities. And it isn't surprising given that Chicago is one of the three main ad agency cities in the U.S. It shows.

Chicago is now one of the twenty cities still under consideration for Amazon2.

Next up:  Nashville.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Amazon Pitch series #2 Detroit

Move Here Move the World is the theme from Detroit. It speaks to up and down times and coming back from the rust to reconfigure again. Detroit's new kind of assembly line rejigged to startup and move forward. Dreamchasers, builders, movers who are determined to move the world again. It's hard driving copy. An anthem plea from a city that's been abandoned. Their pitch is a prayer and reminder from a people who were sold out by the very American industry that built and brought generations to the city of movement: Motor City.

Detroit needs an Amazon. It needs a jolt of jobs, of income, of reconfiguring industrial land that has fallen to waste.

But Jeff Bezos won't be falling for any hard scrabble story. He has no interest in making his mark by saving a city no matter how much it is deserving of it. Quite the opposite.

Detroit needs major investment to be able to turn around and revitalize their crumbling infrastructure, schools and bare bones basic services that now hardly exist. So Detroit's incentive package to Amazon comes from a weak position compared to other cities in the race. And therein lies the rub for Detroit. Detroit has an uphill battle, not just with Amazon but with any major businesses considering them as a possible relocation city. I am sure Detroit would have to present bigger tax breaks, bigger and more incentives which could put their city in jeopardy of ever breaking even on such a deal.

Detroit's video is fabulous. The copy is brilliant. The reader is strong and hard driving and proud. She reflects the perfect tone of Detroit in all it stands for. It's very emotional without being soppy or maudlin. And it's memorable.

Detroit's reinvention won't be overnight. It can't be. But they are making inroads, they are attracting
small businesses and with pitch videos like this who could resist the opportunity to get in and really reshape and redefine a city. For Amazon2 this could have been their defining moment for America.
But Bezos isn't about America. He isn't about helping people or cities or anything remotely humanitarian. Bezos is one of our Robber Barons right up there with Fisk, Gould, Schwab and all the current big corporate banks and businesses where bonuses exceed performance and the 1%
trumps all.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Amazon City Pitch Series #1PHILADELPHIA

What magic combination of products, services and population is going to turn Amazon's head to choose them as their next Second City?  How do you position a whole city to be worthy in a fiercely competitively creative way that weaves just the right amount of magic, vision, potential and drive to a bohemoth like Amazon,  that holds such immense power over the future of that city?

Starting with the RFP from Amazon, it's down to twenty possibles across NorthAmerica who have been vying for consideration to become Amazon's Second Headquarters.

Amazon's outline of requirements on paper is straightforward and simple. The impact on the city
finally chosen will be anything but. As politicians, city leaders, businessmen, city planners, educators,
estimators and projectors for the future of the chosen city runs the gamut from complete resuscitation and revitalization to complete compromise of the already established business models and directions cities have chosen to be known for. This new headquarters does not even begin to mention how it will undoubtedly redraw political lines with proposed new executive level hires alone somewhere in the 50,000 range.

Never in the history of the U.S. has one company had such power or impact on deciding the fate of a city. Never in the history of the U.S. have people scrambled to woo and cut deals and taxes and offer incentives and who knows what else to get a company to move there.

First we look at Philadelphia. Considered the northern arm of the famous D.C. Beltway of Philly,
DC and Baltimore it offers great access to government where undoubtedly Amazon already has an army of high placed executives working to expedite legislations and making deals both nationally and internationally for import/exports.

One of the big areas Amazon is looking at needing to fill is logistics. Airports, roads, water shipping how to get stuff moved fast.

Another big box that needs to be ticked: talented manpower. What does the city have available in its gene pool and creative brainpower in the areas of software development, stable and business-friendly environment to move Amazon beyond being the U.S.'s biggest warehouse of STUFF to finding new and innovative ways to warehouse and move more STUFF.

And the third big consideration is: How Amazon fast and how Amazon ready can this city be to meet Amazon's invasion.

So here is Philly's video pitch. And it is all a testimonial. Plain meat and potatoes right down the list of what they see as Amazon's immediate needs and how Philly can and will supply them. It's a straight up business pitch to this Captain of Industry.

Is it inspirational? No. Is it creative? No. Does it seem 'visionary'? No. Would it make Jeff Bezos want to live there? Well, it is close to one of his newest acquisitions: The Washington Post.

And Bezos seems more business focussed than concerned about aesthetics or
ambiance or how his employees will take to the city. He is known for viewing employees as an "expendable resource." And Amazon has one of the worse employee retention records of any employer. Perhaps Philadelphia knows Bezos doesn't care about anything other than business
and sees this as their chance to push Bezo's straight-business brain buttons.

In any pitch for business there is usually always at least one boring, straight down the line kind of approach no matter what that business might be. And Philly opted to grab that position. It's sad really because Philadelphia is a beautiful, historic, and vibrant city that decided not to play up those great qualities.

As my criteria is a strictly creative pitch for positioning a city,  I give this a 3 out of 10.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sweden builds brands brilliantly over and over, again and again....

How refreshing. How absolutely brilliant are these usages of posters and windows for demonstrating  the various challenges of daily life in a thoughtful, simple, tasteful and interesting way. Apotek drugstores in Sweden working with Akestam Holst ad agency have created a vibrant campaign utilizing motion technology that works to wakeup texters, commuters and smokers to name a few and brilliantly manages to get their hard earned attention.

This is what great creative is all about. It isn't massively overproduced TV ads like you are inundated with on SuperBowl day. It isn't about using famous people to spout words and hawk products that they don't use, never have used and never will but are paid millions and millions of dollars just so clients can claim they employ them and can brag they had lunch with them on the set of the tv shoot.

It isn't about analytics or data or  pay per click which mostly attracts and reflects the lowest bottom feeder information. It isn't about integration, phone apps, downloads and popups.

This is about common sense. This is about connecting with real people in their real environment and connecting in a real way.

The Swedes demonstrate how to utilize technology in a way that resonates with people on the go and in the streets.

The net take away for the people exposed to these posters and windows is first:  Apotek drug store understands me.

They aren't trying to glitz and glam me. The story is my story, everyday as I walk in the dark to work, as I pass a smoker everyday and as I take the subway everyday. Simple. 

And the second takeaway is: Apotek drugstore chain understands that all these simple things we do everyday add up.

And as Apotek drugstores continue this campaign, more and more people will find comfort in the knowledge that Apotek recognizes and can relate to the continual hassles of everyday. The goodwill alone in these demonstrations is worth more than all the money of one overproduced, slick, overdone, overhyped, no idea advertisement shown on SuperBowl and totally forgotten the next day.

The Swedes know how to build a brand slowly.

Cudos to Akestam Holst the ad agency for this outstanding work.

I give this campaign a resounding 10 for 10.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Can we talk about the Ram Truck ads? Or when to say: NO

"The Year of the Farmer" 3 minute soliloquy spoken by Paul Harvey is a nostalgic tribute to the hard work and dedication of the "farmer" in all of us across America.

Last November in recognition of all military Ram created a moving tribute with musicians Jeff Coffin and Rod McGaha who combine America the Beautiful with Amazing Grace.

Their third ad, again anthemic but now highly controversial, ran during SuperBowl. It focuses on
a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was bound to happen sooner or later in this campaign when you 'borrow' from big moments, moments intended to raise awareness and build integrity and make your heart beat a little bit stronger and faster by the powerful delivery of a message intended to build a people, that it will be abused when you have a campaign like Dodge Ram's that so leans on these messages as a way to shoehorn in a product.

Whoever the CD and ECD's were at this boutique agency Highdive on this Dodge Ram campaign could have and should have been prepared for just this type of trespass. Experience is what was lacking here. Discernment is what was lacking here. Taste and respect is what was lacking here
in proceeding with this ad for a truck. And that is what all of these ads are...ADS FOR A TRUCK.

The agency claims the King estate approved this ad. And Rev. King's image has been intercut on previous ads along with Mohammed Ali for Mercedes and General Motors. And who knows what was promised to the estate, what monies were dangled in front of this estate...we don't know what devils were placed on the shoulders of the protectors of the Reverend King Estate.


This was more than just quick cuts of a photographic image. This was completely retro fitting a moving speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on Feb. 4, 1968. And I am sure Reverend King, if he were alive today, would NOT HAVE APPROVED of his powerful and impactful words being used to sell a truck or any product. Period.

This is sooooooo not in good taste. This is such a violation and bastardization of what Reverend King's speech was intended for. And that is the TRUE bottom line.

I know that Dodge means well. I know they are running these anthems on the borrowed interest of powerful American moments. And perhaps now they know just how far they have trod on sacred ground because this is too far. Too too far. And this agency, who probably felt they were on a roll,
took liberties, crossed boundaries and took advantage of their vantage campaign position.

When you take the words of a speech that is meant to empower a people and use it for commercial matter how you try to dress it up like it really is about 'service' all you are doing is creating
a false front for selling. It's a bait and switch. It's a con.

But most importantly:  it is DISRESPECTFUL to Reverend King, to his goals as a leader, to the people he was speaking to at the time and to his life's work and intentions as a leader.

This and all great moments in American history should be totally OFF LIMITS for selling anything.

Shame on you Highdive, shame on you Dodge Ram. And truly I question the ability of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to have the ability to discern what constitutes dignity and what doesn't when it comes to protecting a great persons life's dedication. But trust me, this ad doesn't. Not for any amount of usage money.

This agency should be fired. And creative people need to know when they have crossed boundaries.
They should be fired. End of story.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

And the BEST SuperBowl ad for 2018 is................

AMAZON's Alexa loses her voice.

Fantastic ad, full of surprise cameos: Rebel Wilson, Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins who are all true to their best known entertainment characters and engages you the whole much so that I personally could watch this instead of the game. It is a clever way of showing the range of inquiries Alexa receives...

Danny DeVito just doesn't cut it as an M&M spokesperson and his one line is gross....the Morgan Freeman doing Missy Elliott and Peter Dinklage/Busta Rhymes faceoff pre-commercial teaser for Mtn. Dew and Doritos respectively is far better than the actual spot.

The Skittle premise and ads around that one person only being able to see the real ad is totally meh. Skittles needs to stop using the dated ending they always's just horrible.

Pringles, Kia, febreze, Bud Light in a word: terrible.

Just in viewership numbers and pre-ad awareness it doesn't matter to any of these actors what they are
selling, it's huge dollars for them and huge win Ka-ching Ka-ching$

Second place for me was a tie between e-trade and Evelyn in the Sprint ad. There was something
horribly sad about eighty five year olds still needing to work so that is really a scare tactic that
may or may not be a sufficient wakeup call. The AI ad for Sprint I found amusing....although
the Sprint pitch could have been slightly toned down from Evelyn....otherwise having all the other
AI's laughing and being amused at the foibles of being human was funny.

So all in all it's a typical collection of brands that have spent a fortune in both endorsement and production value monies as well as placement millions to be seen for just a few seconds and talked about and remembered for also about as long.

One interesting new idea is happening however that has nothing to do with the SuperBowl ads this year. But may be a peek into the future of where we are going as viewers.

Interupting the SuperBowl halftime this year with a one time $25,000 jackpot this live trivia gameshow is breaking new ground. Played and watched only on a smartphone it is the first foray into live broadcasting on a smartphone. Owned and developed by Vine creators Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll this is a cross between Jeopardy and Facebook.  It's a 15 minute game held twice a day and hosted by a quirky, funny millennial host Scott Rogowski. He is hilarious. I am addicted to the show
just because of him.

It's interesting as a business model because I don't know how they are making any money from this. There's no advertising, no promotions by Rogowski before, during or after the game. If the numbers are to be believed it pulls an instant audience over a million participants twice daily.

Check it out. It's a free app. I predict this as a real game changer (pardon the pun) as a live viewing medium and I am sure they are trying to figure out how to make money from this.

10 out of 10 on the meter for Amazon's Alexa ad and HQ's Scott Rogowski!!!!!

Friday, January 19, 2018

How Facebook Has Changed The Dynamics of Advertising

I just read a recent article about Facebook that's taken from a CBC radio interview with Roger McNamee an early investor in Facebook.

The article is entitled: "Mark Zuckerberg's former mentor says 'parasitic' Facebook threatens our health and democracy."

McNamee discusses the 'fixes' that are needed to prevent interference from nation states such as Russia, who used Facebook to influence the outcome of the last Presidential election.

What McNamee points out is the fundamental flaw in the Facebook model that legally allows outsiders, using Facebook in the way it's model is setup to be used, to undermine a country's perceptions and thinking.

Addressing the second problem with Facebook McNamee points to our addiction to the program and
other public health issues associated with social media in general.

Then he goes on to elaborate about the basic premise of the Facebook product and here is where things begin to get really ugly for the direction advertising seems to be taking McNamee says:

"When Facebook says we give people what they want, what they're really saying is that their goal is to reinforce existing beliefs, to make them more extreme.
Essentially, for Facebook, the most valuable emotions, the things that generate the most engagement and the most sharing, are fear and anger. The business model right now, which is to say advertising, is dependent on getting people afraid and angry. It's not like they do that explicitly, it's just that that what the system rewards most. So the people who have a message that emphasizes fear and anger have a giant advantage over anybody who is emphasizing something that is calm or constructing."
This insight is frightening. It's also the OPPOSITE of what advertising should be doing. Alarm bells should be going off in every agency that uses a social platform for their products and services. 
People who work in advertising, especially creatives, should be students of human nature. It is our insights into human nature that allow us to focus or predict future attitudes and behaviours. The caveat always being that in the end the results are positive.
However for some time now advertising has been a follower, not a leader in shaping attitudes and outlooks. And the reason is the advent of social media where now everyone "seemingly" has a voice, has a "right" to an open opinion be it good, bad or indifferent, and the "right" to vent that voice be it good, bad or indifferent. And when computerized social forums translate all this "voice" it becomes the DATA that is used as a human yardstick. And advertising has blithely gone along, which means now the tail wags the dog when it comes to shaping advertising outcomes.
Because EVERYTHING on social media is shaped and dictated by the new god, DATA.  
And DATA has no emotions. DATA isn't human, and in fact,  DATA dehumanizes humans. And because it has been lauded as the new silver bullet, revitalizing advertising in social media, it has become a DICTATORSHIP in ad agencies. It shapes everything from predictables to probables to type sizes and sweater colors....yes it is that pervasive. 
Insight: human nature loves to go to the negative space. It just does. Human nature is destructive. Maybe because it's easier or it's more acceptable or it garners more sympathy and attention...for whatever motive, that is where human nature most times will migrate given no direction or boundaries.
It has always been advertising's job TO NOT GO TO A NEGATIVE PLACE ABOUT A PRODUCT OR SERVICE. And it's only humans who can shape that direction in advertising, not the data.
Insight: it is one of the big challenges for creatives to take the work to a positive place.
And looking at social media as a case history for WHAT NOT TO DO to shape perceptions about products or services, these insights of McNamee's are critical to advertising's creative success.
Ad agencies need to beware when using social media that bows to data and dictates all else. This is a wakeup call. All the bells and alarms should be ringing now and agencies need to be vigilant in how they use social media. They need to make sure they are in control of this media and it isn't a victim of the constant negative data that oils all social machines.