IKEA Happy Inside

September 14, 2010 at 9:20 am (advertising, Branding, commercials, marketing, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What happens when you release 100 cats into an IKEA for a night?

The final cut:

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Levis – Go Forth

October 25, 2009 at 11:33 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, TV advertising, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Have you seen the TV commercials for the Levi’s Go Forth Campaign? I really enjoy these commercials. The first one that I saw caught my attention and never let go. I didn’t know what I was watching, but the documentary style and simple voiceover combined with provocative images was enough to engage me long enough to forego the TiVo fast forwarding ritual for a full 62 seconds.

The original ad was shot in black and white and opens with a neon sign half-submerged in water and flickering. It simply states “AMERICA”. Fireworks go off as the voiceover begins. The recording is actually what is thought to be 36 seconds of Walt Whitman reading lines from his poem “America” taken from a wax cylinder recording. The campaign was created by Wieden + Kennedy out of Portland, Oregon.

The only thing better than the first commercial is the second. – This commercial features “O’ Pioneers”, once again by Walt Whitman. The whole ad campaign is intriguing. It really pushes the envelope without being in your face. By paying attention to the ads you’ll see they address social taboos in a subtle ways – interracial relationships, sexuality, homosexuality, free spirited youthfulness, etc.

These commercials are deep; yet say nothing about Levi’s until the end, and literally nothing more than a web address about the Go Forth Campaign. In fact the only actual tie in with the campaign, or competition rather, is that the voiceover recordings are on wax cylinders. You see, the Levi’s Go Forth Campaign is actually a multi-player online treasure hunt – didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

The website describes the last will and testament of Grayson Ozias IV (G.O. the 4th), a friend of Nathan Strauss (Nephew of Levi Strauss). Grayson disappeared into the American Wilderness where he buried a small fortune. Levi’s found the fortune, reburied it, and has placed clues recorded by G.O. on the website so America can find it.

This is an interesting concept that we have seen from a few companies over the years. Instead of some random give-away, they make competitors work for their prize. Volvo did a similar competition in conjunction with Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and Wired Magazine recently did a version that was more like a national hide-and-seek contest. The development and production of these contests is quite interesting as they are really defined as the game progresses. Each stage has a set goal – do x, y, z and be rewarded by the acquisition of the next clue. Many times the game is actually set so no single person would be able to pull the resources and knowledge necessary to complete the tasks, so a group must do the grunt work.

I have to give props to both Levi’s and Wieden + Kennedy for developing such a clever campaign and not throwing it our face. The commercials challenge our views on political and social values, while the contest is well defined and cleverly narrated. Best of all Levi’s has pledged to match the $100,000 prize for the Go Forth Campaign with a gift to America’s chosen charity. So I say go forth o’ pioneers and discover a new world of your own.

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Social Media in Advertising – Know When to Hold, Know When to Fold.

October 21, 2009 at 11:41 pm (advertising, commercials, marketing, social media, TV advertising, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Is your company cool? Is it cool enough to try to work social media lexicon into it’s advertising. Apparently two companies thought they were. I’m sorry to report they were wrong.

The first advertisement in question is part one of the multiple-part Twix Get The Girl series. In this delightful ad we have two people conversing at what appears to be a party of some sort – I don’t know if it’s a college party in a big room, or if a bunch of people broke into the local ZGallerie and decided to throw a party. Our “hero” character, who bears a resemblance to Bluto from Animal House, is listening to a cute, way-out-of-his-league, girl rant on about some political issue that, in his current state of inebriation, he obviously doesn’t care about. As soon as he stumbles upon a nearly cohesive response to her banter the inevitable “…I know, right? You want to go to my apartment?” comment slips out. Then the announcer comes on in a “meanwhile, at the hall of justice” moment and our hero discretely sucks down an apparently sobering Twix in order to shoot back with some half-witted comment about “blogging about our ideals, but…” And of course our female friend “loves blogging.” as if it were an activity one would perform at a regular social gathering. In this context it sounds more like she would be saying “oh, bowling, I love bowling” or “oh, pie I love pie!” instead of an online publishing tool.

The next commercial is even more awkward in its attempted use of pop-culture name-dropping. Bud Light’s The Breakup is a great commercial. It puts a couple driving in a car with the girl breaking up with boy. The first pass she’s too nice with the comment “we’ll just be together a lot less, like separate” as a means of breaking up. On the second go round when he asks, “are you breaking up with me” she shoves him out of the moving car. This commercial is great! Fantastic, move on, cut to the product shot – sold. But wait there’s more! As our recently discarded guy pulls himself upright he yells, “I’ll Facebook you.” Really. Really! If this couple were dating would they not already be connected, if not “in a relationship with” each other on Facebook. Even in the context of a Facebook Message this does not make since to me. If they broke up in such a violent manner I think she would unfriend him, thus making him unable to “Facebook her.”

Both of these ads had potential until they started trying to be cool. It reminds me of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when he tries to do the Macarena to show Scott that he’s “Hip” (minute 6:50). One of the best commercials for dropping the fashionable lingo of today’s youth was the Palm Pre Now Network ad series (especially the first one). Why was it so good – because it was relevant and didn’t try to be anything that it was not. It had up-to-date topics, and was ahead of the curve by citing “26% of you viewing this have no idea what [twitter] means.

Here’s some advice to our advertising execs out there: Don’t drop in some awkward attempt at connect to a demographic that you don’t understand. If you want to appeal to a new demographic do your research, hire some competent consultants, and don’t just throw around buzzwords to make yourself feel better. It just makes you look distant and out of touch.

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AmEx – Turn That Frown Upside Down!

October 4, 2009 at 11:17 pm (advertising, commercials, Design, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I think this new spot from American Express is both clever and fun – I mean, who doesn’t like anthropomorphosised products? I know when I look around I see faces on many different products, and it looks like I’m not the only one. American Express took this idea and added a story around it. I like the frowning shower curtain and how the hanger is swinging in the “…they can be stolen” shot, as if the item was just taken. Toward the end of the commercial there are two shots are nearly perfect – one is a smiling chair (0:33), the other is filmed on a boat (0:45). Not all the images are clearly faces, at about 48 seconds in to the commercial there is an image of a baggage claim, which is a little too obscure, it took a few viewings to determine where the face was hiding. The music, an excerpt from Suite for Cello No.1 in G Major by Johann Sebastian Bach, was perfect as it can conveys both a somber tone and happy tone equally.

This ad has stirred a little controversy since it came out last month. Many praise it for the simplicity of the imagery, beautiful tonalities of the music (excerpt from Suite for Cello No.1 in G Major by Johann Sebastian Bach?), and simple message, but some are crying foul. The photographic duo of brothers Francois and Jean Robert have produced 3 books – Face to Face (1996), Faces (2000), and Find a Face (2004) – which show everyday objects appearing as faces. There are individuals who are claiming that this ad is a blatant plagiarism of the Robert’s photographic genius; the brothers are not a part of these accusations at this time. Below are images from both the commercial and the works of the Robert brothers – remarkably similar I must admit.

Whether you look at this spot as a beautifully simple expression of everyday objects set to a story, or as an offensive piece of derivative commercialization, you have to admit that the use of such pedestrian objects in a creative way is well done. I enjoyed the commercial; it has entertained me, and even if it is not an intentional piracy of Francois and Jean Robert’s work it has at least introduced me to it, and for that I am grateful.

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AARP Joins the Fight with Canes a Swing’n

August 18, 2009 at 2:21 pm (advertising, commercials, economy, marketing, News, print media, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amidst the debate of national healthcare reform, one television commercial really stands out. Regardless of your opinions on this controversial topic, this commercial has the perfect metaphor for AARP’s message; an ambulance running lights and sirens, getting cut-off at every turn – brilliant. I didn’t even listen to the words the first few times I saw the commercial, I watched the imagery and instantly got it. Maybe I connect with the spot because of my brief stint as a state certified Emergency Medical Technician and 8 years as a part-time health and safety educator, or maybe the symbolism is just that strong. Either way I though it was well done.

In the past few days this commercial has stirred more controversy than most advertisements ever will, here’s some comments:

From AARP.org on August 17th & 18th:
“My first impression was laughter.  I thought all of those cars were rich ambulance-chasing trial lawyers fighting to get a new client.”

“The AARP commercial looks pretty good – it takes on the myths and facts.  Take a look.

I love the comments about the use of American cars in the commercial (some people reallllllly have too much time on their hands to look for conspiracy theories.  They’re probably disappointed that black helicopters aren’t featured as well.)”

“WE WERE MASSIVELY OFFENDED by the commercial we saw tonight showing an ambulance being cut off by expensive cars at every turn. SHAME ON AARP for thinking that we are so gullible as to be influenced by such obvious tripe.”

I didn’t know the Dodge Caliber, the car most visible throughout the commercial, was considered an “expensive car”, but okay.

From YouTube on August 17th:

“This video is awsome it really shows how good the government has got at sponsoring propaganda!! 2 thumbs up!!”

“I hope AARP paid enough to make this commercial because I definitely think less of them after having seen it.”

Pretty strong opinions for a commercial sponsored by a non-governmental organization (and interest group). Whatever your feelings about the healthcare reform bill are, you have to admit that this is a strong commercial with unmistakable symbolism – people getting in the way of healthcare.

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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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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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