GEICO – Geckos, Caveman, and Kash, Oh My!

August 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, economy, Florida, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

GeicoI doubt that when Leo Goodwin founded Government Employees Insurance Company, GEICO, in 1936 the thought crossed his mind that the company would produce such a hailstorm of odd characters as to make the Brothers Grimm jealous. No doubt it’s great to have an effective and well developed ad campaign for your company. Advertisements have life spans and like anything else once they have surpassed their usefulness it’s time to let them go. With this in mind, I ask myself “why is it possible that during a one our television show I can see three completely different and distinct advertisements for one company?” Why is GEICO going through such a spastic identity crisis?

To begin the journey through GEICO’s multiple personalities we have to go back to the last millennium to the Screen Actor’s Guild strikes of 1999. The Martin Agency came up with the idea of using an anthropomorphic Gecko in attempts to work around the strike. Originally voiced by Kelsey Grammer, the GEICO Gecko now has an English accent. After 10 years we’re getting a little tired of him, but Day Geckos can live for up to 15 year so I guess they’ll keep animating him at for least 5 more.

Since 2004 GEICO has been running the Caveman commercials. These commercials originally aired with the tagline “so easy, a caveman could do it.” The caveman ads proved to be so successful that ABC decided to make a sitcom based on the idea – it was the shortest-lived ABC sitcom of 2007, quietly sinking away into obscurity. Over the years the company has dedicated several websites in the caveman’s honor, all of them have been shut down. Even in their death throws the caveman GEICO commercials live on. The ad has been around so long that the tagline doesn’t even need to be present anymore – in the most recent ad we witness the caveman just running down a street to the song “Let me be myself” by 3 Doors Down. What does it mean? I still don’t know.

For a little while GEICO aired commercials featuring “real GEICO customers” telling their stories while celebrities embellished and narrated the tale. These featured celebrities like Charo, Little Richard, and Don LaFontaine to name a few. I actually liked these; they came, made their mark, and then left with dignity.

In 2008 we were subjected to a stack of money with eyes named Kash. The “googly-eyed” character reminds me of the old Florida Orange Juice commercial with a talking sandwich, just not nearly as cool (if that was even cool). The character for me is creepy and, frankly annoying. I get it, it’s a stack of money, his name is Kash, he follows people around to remind them they can save money – I just can’t get behind a creepy sales persona who stalks people.

So in 10 years we have had nearly 20 years worth of advertising space dedicated to GEICO – I think I saw that in The Butterfly Effect. It’s time that GEICO saw a therapist and worked through it’s multiple personality disorders. Let the Gecko live out his golden years in retirement, the cavemen should be allowed to party all night hassle free, and, please, put a restraining order out on Kash!

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Creepy Commercials

August 1, 2009 at 3:45 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, Design, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What is with the creepy commercials recently?! The latest commercial to haunt our TV screens and disrupt our sleep is for the Palm Pre. These commercials center around a very pale, soft-spoken woman who shares stories that are completely unrelated to phones. They remind me of someone who just got totally baked and now wants to share an in-depth story about how something works.

The best description of this commercial’s unsettling nature was found in a blog post by Roberto Baldwin on Maclife.com: “The script isn’t soothing either. Bing, bing, bing, has officially replaced the Freddy Kruger nursery rhyme in my nightmares. If you’re goal was to frighten people, mission accomplished. I can’t even look at a Pre now without ending up in the fetal position under my desk mumbling about green lights and flow.”

Of course this series of commercials are not the first to put out the creepy vibe. Who can forget the King from Burger King. Created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) in 2003 to put a new spin on the original King from the 1960’s and 70’s. Having worked on set with “The King,” I can tell you he’s just as scary in real life.

Another one of CP+B’s creepy cast of characters came with the resurrection of Orville Redenbacher. Ken Wheaton of Adage.com has a great post relating the CG Redenbacher to a “dead-eyed zombie.”

One of the most controversial beer ads came about in 2007. It shows a fembot who produces a Heineken mini keg from her torso. This ad has been named by some to be the creepiest beer commercial of all time, and by others as the sexiest – I’m going with creepy.

We’ve had vampires selling smart phones, disturbing royal effigies pimping burgers, resurrected the dead for the sake of popcorn, and created a robotic flapper to serve us beer. I can’t wait to see what new and exciting ways advertisers will think to scare us away from their products in the future!

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Crying Indian – Why Do We Remember?

July 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, Education, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The other day myself and some other instructors were preparing for a presentation to kids covering First Aid for the Environment. Jokingly I said, “Why don’t we show the crying Indian ad.” That got me thinking; what makes this ad memorable?

The ad I was referring to was actually a Public Service Announcement  (PSA) that first aired more than 10 years before I was born; yet I remember it to this day. That is a testament to how long the ad ran, and how memorable it was. With its “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.” tagline, the PSA arguably kicked off the green movement (though Keep America Beautiful had been running PSAs since the early ‘60s).

Yes, this PSA is memorable, but what did it actually accomplish? According to the Ad Council “By the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries.”

So what makes this and other ads so memorable and effective? Do we connect with it emotionally – responding to the Indian crying? Did it bring to the surface something we hadn’t thought of before – what litter does to the environment? Was it just provocative enough to get us thinking? I believe it was a combination of these factors, along with the simple clear message that it put in front of the viewer.

Ironically an Italian played the Indian, and there were a few more Keep America Beautiful PSAs of similar style and content made, but none as successful as the crying Indian in the canoe. Regardless, it remains one of the most memorable and impactful ads almost 40 years after it first aired.

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Creative Truths

July 22, 2009 at 10:10 pm (advertising, Art, Branding, commercials, Design, marketing, News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Vendor Client Relationship Video is a fantastic representation of what designers go through every day. Most transactions that people face day to day are non-negotiable, or partially negotiable. As designers we deal with perceived value in a much different way. People say “why would I pay you that much when my [insert friend or family’s name and relation here] can build a website” or “knows Photoshop.” Many people do not understand that an attitude like that is like saying: “my friend can give you stitches just as good as a medical professional and at a deep discount” just because she know how to cross stitch.

The video presents this disproportioned view of the design business in a comical and uncomfortably true way. On top of the comedic genius of the final product itself, the video is an example of viral video done well. The creative force behind this video is Scofield Editorial – creator of videos, web spots, documentaries, and the like. They did a great job of creating a successful, humorous, and non-sophomoric viral video. Now if they can only figure out how to use proper kerning on their logo!

The video reminds me of the Designing a Stop Sign video that featured Al Samuels and Katie Nahnsen from Chicago area improv theaters and the NBC show Sports Action Team.

Both these videos are a must see for anyone in the creative arts!

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Ad Age Celebrity

July 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

News1_0

Sure we know Billy Mays, Anthony Sullivan, and the ShamWow Guy because their job is for us to remember them, trust them, and as a result buy their amazingly life changing products. But what about the actors who have repeating roles on commercials?

In the past we had some memorable endorsers, such as Donavan Freberg – the Encyclopedia Britannica Kid, but now there seems to be a new and growing multitude of these single product (or company) pitchmen.

Starting in 2001 we were introduced to Paul Marcarelli – the Verizon guy who brought us the “Can you hear me know” phrase. They’ve even gone so far as to bring the “network” to an actual customer (or so it seems). Some people claim the phrase is more popular than the service.

We had the GEICO Caveman ads, which have aired for GEICO Insurance since 2004. The ad series has produced 19 commercials to date, had a short-lived TV spin-off, and has also had viral videos, websites, and a short film made with the characters.

2006 brought us the “Get a Mac” commercials with John Hodgman as a PC and Justin Long as a Mac. The American version of this ad runs in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, while other spin-offs are shown with different actors in Britain and Japan, according to wikipedia. The number of TV and web based ads for this campaign is nearing 70 for the US and Canada alone.

In 2008 we were introduced to Flo, the friendly & helping Progressive Insurance cashier played by Stephanie Courtney. The actress, already known by some for her work with The Groundlings, has an ever-growing fan base.

So who will be the next great ad age celebrity? Time can only tell, but for now we have some strong competitors.

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Futuretro and Vintage 2.0

July 6, 2009 at 7:34 am (Art, Branding, commercials, Design, marketing, Video Game) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

TF2_Screen01

Left to Right: the Pyro, the Engineer, the Spy, the Heavy, the Sniper, the Scout, the Soldier, the Demoman, and the Medic

Inspired Magazine recently had a post entitled “Vintage 2.0 – Glossy Retro Takes Over Web Design.” The post explained that the ultra shiny rounded corner buttons and look of Web 2.0 is going the way of the lines, circles, and techno music infused websites that hurt our online souls in the not so distant past. Replacing this is the “new futuretro style that combines the web 2.0 (clean) look with a vintage touch.”

The article gives 25 examples of this new and improved 2.0. My favorite was the website for Team Fortress 2, a class-based team warfare game developed by Valve and distributed by Electronic Arts and Steam. The website has it’s aesthetic roots in the mid-century styling that the game embodies, while bringing in that new twist. The character development for the game is amazing. Each mercenary has an introductory video on the “Meet the Team” section of the site. This video really defines the character’s back-story in a comical way almost reminiscent of The Incredibles.

Here’s a list of each mercenary with their video release date and a short quote:

The Heavy (May ’07, updated August ‘08):
“Some people think they can out smart me. Maybe, maybe. I have yet to meet one that can outsmart bullet.”

The Soldier: (August ’07)
“If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight. Sun Tzu said that, I’d say he knows a little more about fighting then you do pal, cuz he invented it!”

The Engineer: (September ’07)
“How am I gonna stop some big, mean mother-hubbard from tearing me a structurally superfluous new behind. The answer, use a gun. If that don’t work, us more gun.”

The Demoman: (October 2007)
“What makes me a good demo man? If I was a bad demo man, I wouldn’t be sittin’ here dicussin’ it wit’cha, would I?”

The Scout: (April ’08)
“Grass grows, birds fly, sunshines, and brother, I hurt people.”

The Sniper: (June ’08)
“Not a crazed gunman dad, I’m an assassin. Well the difference being, one is a job, the other’s a mental sickness.”

The Spy: (May ’09)
“He is a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, shrouded in riddles, lovingly sprinkled with intrigue…”

The Pyro: (not released)

The Medic: (not released)

With the level of character development and applied aesthetic language this game, and complimenting website, captured my attention. That says a lot coming from someone whose last gaming system was the original Game Boy™, and who hasn’t been proficient at a video game since Tetris.

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Air New Zealand Flies with Landing Gear Down

July 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, marketing, News, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Flight_crewWhat better way to ease your mind about picking an airline, or safety aboard a 737-300 aircraft, other than a naked flight crew?

That’s right, Air New Zealand’s latest ad campaign features the airline’s staff and crew wearing only body paint, shoes, and the occasional hat. What’s the message behind this – that they have nothing to hide; in other words, they give you everything…upfront.

So beyond the fun spirit of nudity and double entendre what else makes this ad interesting? It was shot in 1 day at 10 to 15% the cost of a regular ad. They way they did this was by using actual employees of the airline to act as talent. Even the CEO stripped for the cause, he’s one of the baggage handlers.

In addition to the ad, the flight safety video, Bare Essentials,  is created in the same way. The videos already have over 2 Million views on YouTube – and that’s the naked truth.

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Find a Cure – Bing.com

July 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Have you seen the latest ad campaign for Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing.com?

I’m a fan. They take the simple premise that whatever you type into a search engine returns thousands of unrelated and unwanted results. They then apply this concept to normal human interactions and conversations.

One ad has a father and son in a TV store. The father asks the simple question “So do we want an LCD or Plasma?” to which the boy replies “plasma is an ionized gas.” Later in the spot we cut back to the father and son where other people have chimed in “plasma cutter,” “blood plasma,” etc. Each commercial ends on a black screen with yellow and white text proclaiming “WHAT HAS SEARCH OVERLOAD DONE TO US?”

TV Store

It’s a clever campaign reminiscent of a sketch from the Carol Burnett Show in which product placement comes to life and terrorizes our protagonist. The Bing.com commercials are successful in the way they provide memorable humor that connects to an everyday occurrence for web users. It also lends itself to cross generation and demographic flexibility, as demonstrated in another ad that features a couple getting ready for bed.

Couple

The commercials got me to try bing.com – at least to find their commercials. From what I can tell there are some good points, and some negative parts to their search engine. For right now I think I’ll stick with Google.

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World’s Most Interesting…

June 26, 2009 at 11:49 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, print media, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Dos EquisHe once had an awkward moment to see how it feels.

He taught a German shepherd to bark in Spanish.

You can see his charisma from space.

It is said the sun comes up later on the 6th of May, in case his Cinco parties run long.

He’d never initiate a conversation about the weather, even in a typhoon.

He is The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Beer is one of the most competitive arenas for advertising. So when the creatives at Euro RSCG Worldwide were presented with a project for Dos Equis they wanted to take a new approach and set the brand apart.

Apparently it wasn’t enough to attempt the now-too-common viral video campaign, and clever commercials are funny, but not always memorable. The scenes of college-aged guys chasing after scantily clad girls are about as boring as they come, and most Mexican beer ads show pictures of beautiful beaches, blue ocean, or stereotypical Mexican flair.

Enter The Most Interesting Man in the World. He’s a seasoned, adventurous, and charismatic individual who performs amazing feats of interestingness and absurdity. Women love him; men want to be him. After all “the Mayans prophesized his birth.”

All the TV and radio spots end with “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty my friends.”

Whooaa!? He’s not even telling us to buy the product, just mentioning that he enjoys it sometimes! There’s a good article from Slate that discusses this phenomenon.

So did the agency meet their goal “to do more than just create awareness… by generating conversation among the target audience,” and “find a way to insert the brand into culture, to present Dos Equis in a way that would spark chatter and pique curiosity…”?

The short answer is, YES – by over a third in yearly total dollar sales! I’ve been telling all my friends, and now the world, how much I enjoy this campaign.

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