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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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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