As you can tell from the subject matter this post is getting finished a little later than I would have liked but my workload and travel schedule haven’t given me the freedom to write as much as I would like lately.
There have been very few advertisers who have chosen to use 9/11 as the basis of an ad campaign since it is such an emotional and branding minefield. The most famous and infamous ad to tread on this ground was the World Wildlife Fund Tsunami Twin Towers Ad Campaign that compared the September 11th attacks to the 2005 Tsunami that sent WWF and DDB scrambling away from bring linked it’s creation. With the tenth anniversary on the September 11th attacks we saw a few brands like Budweiser dust off old commercials and other brands like Statefarm create a new ones. The Statefarm ad was created by Spike Lee and shows 150 schoolchildren from the New York City area visiting four firehouses and thanking firefighters with their own version of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ song “Empire State of Mind.” closing on the new 9/11 memorial and the words “Never forgotten. Forever grateful.”
I saw a lot of posts from friends on Facebook gushing over how much they loved the Statefarm ad and how it brought them to tears but for me I had the complete opposite reaction. I thought the ad was cheap profiteering that had nothing to do with the Statefarm brand and used the easy emotional response they knew they could generate by trading on Spike Lee’s NYC credibility and pairing children, firefighters and the emotional gravity of the day. By comparison, even though it was created a few years ago, I didn’t think the Budweiser ad was nearly as bad because it was done in the framework of their ad campaigns and most importantly it came across to what it was suppose to be – a memorial. For me the Statefarm ad wasn’t anything close to a memorial but was instead a collection greeting card components put together as a cheap play on raw emotions for pure financial benefit .
Read more of: Starfarm’s 9/11 commercial was shameless profiteering »
From time to time in my career I am presented with a piece of advertising that is bad on an epic scale. When I come to such a cross roads the only way I seem to know how to process these crimes against the profession I love is to write about them seemingly in the hopes that by putting the stupidity out into the universe it will somehow stop it from happening again. The latest offender arrived in my mailbox this evening so get ready universe because here it comes.
I came home from work and got the mail from the mailbox on my front porch as usual. I started to flip the assortment of junk mail and tome like fashion magazines my wife seems to receive on a daily basis. In the middle of the pile I found a medium size white envelope that had been hand written with my name and no return address (this should have been the first clue) but it had a local postage stamp. I was curious and I opened the envelope and pulled out what appeared to be a page torn from a newspaper with a yellow sticky note on it. The note written in bad penmanship read ‘Stephen, Check this out. -J”. I stood there for a second pondering what I just read before even looking at the paper as I don’t know anyone who signs their name “J”. I then read the newspaper page which was for a sale at my local Nissan Dealer. I little investigation and I realized that “J” was someone from the Nissan dealership who sent me the ad and used the note to pretend to be someone who knows me.
Lets take a second and walk through this logic on this genius marketing strategy. You start with the average consumer not trusting salesmen at car dealerships because there is a perception that those salesmen are fast talkers who lie and say anything to make a deal. So in this case my local Nissan dealership is going to fight this tragic stereotype by trying to lie me and pose as someone who knows me to try to get me into the dealership. That is so staggeringly stupid on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. I’m normally not a arrogant ass but this is one time where these guys need to leave the big thoughts to the professionals.
Read more of: Local advertising strategy gone terribly wrong »
Now that the big game is over I’ve been able to put the disappointment that my beloved Steelers lost the game aside, I figured out where the dogs where hiding from me yelling at the TV and I used my DVR go back through all the commercial to put together my own best and worst top 5 Super Bowl commercial lists for this year.
1 – VW The Force
I know this didn’t rank very high on a lot of critics lists but this was my favorite for a lot of reasons. First was that if you are going to spend all that money on a big pop culture license like Star Wars then get your money’s work and make a big impact. The 14+ million views on YouTube make me think I’m not alone in thinking that this commercial reached a lot of people. Second was that it connected the core human truth that every little boy wanted to be Darth Vader or to be able to use The Force at least once in his life. And finally because I love the fact that it didn’t a single word to tell the story.
2 – Best Buy – w/ Ozzy & Bieber
I can’t believe that I actually like anything with Justin Beiber in it but that’s one of reason it ranked so high for me. Anyone who can make an adult male like Justin Beiber deserves an award. Plus it actually focused on selling their buy back program through the humor.
3 – Chrysler Detroit w/Eminem
The opening was a blatant play on patriotism but I like how it transitioned into a defiant stance on putting Detroit back on the map. ’Imported from Detroit.’ was a nice tag line finishing touch.
4 – NFL s/ sitcom families
This was unique because unlike every other commercial it wasn’t selling anything and a nod to how football effects our culture by using other cultural references. So it was fun to see which teams all the sitcom characters rooted for and personally I loved that Homer Simpson is a Steelers fan.
5 – Motorola’s tablet
I liked that Motorola stepped up and took a shot at Apple and they did it by making their own version of 1984. It showed off the product and created intrigue to find out more about their product.
1 – Stella w/ Adrien Brody
Tell me again why you think having Adrien Brody singing to crying women in a French jazz club is going to make any man want to walk into a bar tomorrow and order a Stella?
2 – GoDaddy
Not even Joan Rivers could save GoDaddy as this showed us that they are still the trailer park of advertising – cheap and no one wants to go there unless they have to.
3 – Sketchers Kardashian
This probably should have been a tie with GoDaddy but their track record of horrible ads edged them ahead of this one. Why Sketchers wanted to remind us that their spokeswoman made a sex tape is beyond me. I also hated it because this type of work is why so many people think in-house creative teams are some kind of second class creative citizens who are only capable of this level of lame ideation.
4 – Teleflora
There is always at least one commercial a year where they think they can get a laugh out of the ‘men are stupid’ card and this was it this year. Plus whoever talked Faith Hill into doing this spot was a gold tongued devil because this really hurt her clean cut, wholesome brand.
5 – Bud Light Hack Job
It seemed like Bud Light really mailed it in this year but ‘Hack Job’ was the worst of the bunch. Their play off home improvement just wasn’t funny with creativity that paled by comparison to their house made of Bud Light commercial from last year.
So tell me if you agree or disagree with my list in the comments.
Read more of: My 2011 Super Bowl report card »
Last week I cam across some really interesting work by the Access Agency which is a multi-disciplinary agency lead by Bill Tikos the found of TheCoolHunter.net. The project was called The Audi Spectacle which explores the idea that outdoor advertising has lost it’s effectiveness so if you want to reach consumers you need to create a spectacle. Also because of media savvy, social media infused lifestyles the spectacle needs to go beyond the final creation to include the anticipation, the process of creation, the engineering of the installation and the launch event. In this case it is four life-size Audi cars suspended inside the silver rings of a massive Audi symbol that are then attached to an iconic landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge or the Tower Bridge in Venice. The rings rotate, light-up and move up and down the the structures to create a kinetic piece of branded art.
I think this approach is based in some really solid insights into how people consume media these days and the lengths you need to go through to break through all the advertising clutter. I also like it because the solution is so brand and product focused as they found a way for the solution to include their logo and their products. Based on the language in the case study and and mock-up look of the photos I am assuming this was pitch work but it I think there is a lot of great thinking and insights here that could lead to a really interesting new direction in outdoor advertising.
Read more of: The Audi Spectacle – billboards evolved »
I get calls, email, letters, posters, boxes and everything else you can think of sent to my office on a weekly basis from agencies who are try to get my attention and so I will give them some work. 99.8% of these attempts end up in my delete folder or garbage can because this type of shotgun attention getting just isn’t how I look for new agencies to work with. A few weeks ago my cell phone rang about 7:30 p.m. with a number a didn’t know and I did what I always do with those calls – I sent it to my voicemail. I picked up my phone a few hours later to see that the unknown caller left me a voice mail so I punched play and listened to this message. When you get this message as a cold call you have to listen to it more than once to be sure you understand what just happened but the creativity, writing and improv comedy style delivery got my attention. As you heard in the message it was created by Hammerhead Advertising from Hoboken, NJ. There are several other version of the voicemail campaign you can listen to here with security guard and dreamy as the other two standouts in the campaign.
So it was a really great success story because the campaign and the voicemail technique worked because they got my attention which tons of other agencies hadn’t been able to do. I was truly impressed with their creativity and originality. If only there was a happy ending waiting at the conclusion of this story where we went on to create a long list of brilliant campaigns together. But sadly all that positive energy and interest came crashing down when I hung up the phone from their voicemail, picked up my laptop and found a site that was painfully out of date with a collection of work that didn’t seem to demonstrate a fraction of the creativity I just experienced.
So whether you’re doing your own PR or working for a client please think about the ENTIRE experience the customer is going to have. If one part of your campaign is brilliant then you have created the expectation is that the rest of the experience is going to maintain that same level of quality. If it doesn’t then the customer will have a strong negative reaction to it and you’ll see them dropping off in huge numbers and wasting all that great thinking (see Domino’s latest campaign for another good example).
Read more of: Creativity can even save a cold call »
McDonald’s is putting digital signage to good use with their new ‘Catch The Goodies’ campaign where viewers are invited to try and capture a cell phone photo one of their products like an Apple Pie or Coffee that is flying around on the digital sign. Once they have the photo they can redeem it for the real thing at the nearest McDonald’s. I continue to love this combination of more traditional outdoor advertising that is enhanced by technology because it creates a spectacle and it’s creating real results by driving consumers into the stores. I think simple and smart is always the best way to go.
Read more of: McDonald’s ‘Catch the Goodies’ Interactive Billboard »
Saw this FedEx ad today and loved it because I am a sucker for a visual and concept that is so strong it doesn’t even need a single word of copy. It plays up to the consumer to have a brain that can figure out the two icons and what they mean. Also as a designer who has to create global advertising all the time I also love that this ad can work anywhere in the world with no translation needed. Click on the ad to get the full sized version which obviously works better than the thumbnail.
Read more of: FedEx delivers great visual only ad »
DDB Brasil in an attempt to get an ad called “Tsunami” for the World Wildlife Fund into major award shows ran it once in a small Sao Paulo newspaper a few months ago. A blogger unearthed the ad in the One Show’s online archive and posted it on his blog and you can click on the ad above to see it in detail. The subject matter drew immediate and severe reactions for obvious reasons. Shortly after a video version of ad also surfaced which can be seen below.
Both WWF-Brasil and DDB Brasil have said the ad “never should have been created, approved or run” and it is unclear of the video was created by the agency or not. I have my opinion of the ads but I want to know if you think that ads create a powerful visual that gets the message across and makes you pay attention or goes despicably over the line? Put your thoughts in the comments!
Since I first write this article I wanted to add two additions to the story.
First, is that DDB is actively erasing all copies of the commercial and ad from every major site they can get their hands on and I have had to replace the video several times. If you find this article and video is broken searching for ‘wwf tsunami ad’ in Yahoo! Video will probably point you in the right direction.
Second I want to applaud the actions taken by The One Club today to punish and agency or creative team who enter “ads made or run without a client’s approval, and ads created expressly for award shows that are run once to meet the requirements of a tear sheet.” Their punishment has teeth as violating agencies and entire team credited on the entry will be banned from the show for 5 years.
Read more of: DDB WWF Tsunami Twin Towers Ad – Powerful or Despicable? »