Holiday Joy? Kinda.

21 12 2015

Speaking in generalities, I think creatives have opened a door and walked their clients right through into a commercial reality in which people over 50 are still attractive and sexually viable, women come in all shapes and sizes, families sometimes have two moms or two dads, tattooed people are not criminals, love is dissolving racial boundaries (*bows down to Cheerios*), and the sales discourse ranges across formerly taboo subjects like incontinence, ED, toenail fungus invading the red carpets of Hollywood, and so much more.

Another has opened, and it stands starkly in contrast to all of the warm, fuzzy, and often funny/cute holiday adverts that sprinkle us with yummy sparkling bow-tied rainbows of consumerism. There has always been one or two of these maudlin little :30 tales of heart-tugging, home-for-the-holidays manipulation. But this year, as Advertising Age pointed out, ads number in the double digits that aim to have you sobbing; you can troll for them on its sister site, Creativity-Online.com.

The one that has sparked the most social discourse, even a feature on The Today Show, comes from German supermarket brand Edeka. It opens on an absolutely heartbreaking elderly man, left to spend the holidays by himself because his adult children are too busy with their own lives. Cut to scenes of said adult children receiving devastating news, which appears to be that their father died. Alone. Now, too late, they all rush home.

Fake out! He’s still alive!  “How else could I have brought you all together?” he asks his tearful, grief-stricken family. Cut to relief and a big dinner, served up with food from the grocery store totally forgotten as you blow your nose, feeling both happy he’s not dead and shamelessly manipulated.

Not to be outdone, there’s a Claymation ad from German online retailer Otto, involving a lost letter to a (really) dead grandfather, and a special delivery decades too late. Cue the waterworks.

There’s a Brazilian Coca Cola ad, part of a longer-form series, titled “A Bridge for Santa.” In a nutshell (nutcracker?), young boy has father send letter to Santa, letter explains how his dead mother (all this mayhem!) promised to introduce him to Santa. The town’s bridge it out, so Santa can’t get to the town. Dad reads, Dad rebuilds bridge with entire town’s help. Santa rides in, courtesy of a caravan of Coke trucks rolling in to save the (holi)day. And – upshot — Dad seems to have found a new mom for our tiny protagonist. Awww. This one is so transparent, I couldn’t squeeze out a single tear.

Lest you think we can’t game it here in the U.S., there’s this spot for Toys “R” Us – dad and son getting ready for Christmas, mom noticeably absent. Never fear – a remote control truck leads our adorable son to the front door, where mom, still in her military uniform, is there to surprise him. I double-dare you to not cry.

Now that we’ve stepped away from the mayhem, we have Tylenol showing us #HowWeFamily in this spot, featuring peace, love, and families of all races, creeds, and sexual orientation. One minute, no voiceover, less than six lines of copy (counting logo and hashtag). Brilliant.

U.K. advertisers are widely credited within our industry as starting this manipulative, tear-jerking trend, where the holiday advertising season has become the emotionally competitive equivalent of our Superbowl – in particular the rivalry between Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. Here we have a perfect example in John Lewis’ “Monty’s Christmas”:

I was crying tears of joy when Monty found his true love.

And then there’s the spot for U.K. Supermarket chain Co-operative Food, a subtle bit about two millennials prepping for a party. One goes out for ice and anonymously drops off a bag of groceries for an elderly neighbor he noted was afraid to traverse the slippery streets. Yep, tears.

Whether you see these as jaded attempts to capitalize on the heightened emotionalism of the season, or the softer side of marketers, they elevate brand recognition and – with the exception of jaded industry folks such as we – make consumers feel pretty warm and fuzzy about these brands. Bet your local grocery chain has something pretty similar running right now. I know both Publix and Winn-Dixie – my local supermarkets — are hard at it.

And if all of this emotional exploitation is bring out the Scrooge in you, Ad Age points out there is always the “Yule Log” vid for Lagavulin Scotch – 45 minutes of noted manly man (and “Parks and Recreation” actor) Nick Offerman sitting next to a fireplace sipping Scotch in blessed silence for 45 minutes.

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The Branding Spectrum: From Poo Faces to Facebook

8 07 2015

How’s that for a headline? And yet we’re not being overly provocative here – the last week has seen some of the most over-the-top (or under-the-bottom, to be 100% accurate) and under-the-radar branding campaigns go viral, at least in the ad trades.

First, Facebook rolled out a logo “refresh” that only font wonks noticed until Facebook had to point it out – the company, now allegedly valued higher than Walmart, dropped the Klavika font it started with in 2005 to a custom, in-house designed font still used on the familiar blue background.

According to Adweek, “the new typeface is an attempt to ‘modernize’ the logo and make it appear more ‘friendly and approachable,’ says Josh Higgins, Facebook’s creative director. Higgins also noted that Facebook explored many options but ultimately landed on updating its logo instead of redesigning it completely.”

Compare for yourself:

fb-logo-final-hed-2015

 

How many of Facebook’s reported 1.44 billion monthly active users noticed? Our guess would be next to none, but probably more that those who noticed Google’s two-pixel logo tweak a year ago May. Yes, you read that right. Two pixels – and Reddit users actually noticed, and Gizmodo reported on it.

And now for the Pampers spot that took the bronze Lion in Film at Cannes, and a silver and a bronze in Film Craft. Entitled “Pooface,” it is a medley of babies’ faces, filmed in slow motion (400 fps) as they fill their diapers, set to Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” and produced by Saatchi & Saatchi London. After 75 seconds of steadily reddening, highly occupied faces, there is a hashtag #pooface, a shot of a beautifully lit box of Pampers Sensitives wipes, and a final message “Don’t fear the mess.

 

This clip has been viewed over 600,000 times at the writing of this post, and has spawned articles in all the ad trades, as well as comparisons to a 2012 Australian ad for Mamia diapers with an operatic score. It won a Clio.

Whether the creatives at Saatchi were influenced by the Aussie ad or not, the spot is brilliant – and no one I’ve shared it with was able to sit through it without laughing out loud.

The point here is that getting the buzz going about your brand often resides at the extreme ends of the spectrum, and not so much in the middle. We all need to think out of the nappy.





Intellectual Property in the Social Media

21 04 2015

So, we have a new addition to Alchemy, and even though this is extremely difficult for such a control freak (yes, me), she should get to write some stuff, too. And so she has…KMO

On April 26th every year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to promote discussion of the role of IP in encouraging innovation and creativity. I was just reflecting upon this while advising copyrights to a potential client regarding the promotion of her children’s music and story books. Then our office experienced a social media etiquette faux pas during an online marketing campaign for one of our retail destination client’s outdoor concert festival events. Part of our job was designing all of the graphic needs for posters, signage, print and digital ads, and a collection of imagery to use on social media that would capture Facebook viewing attention and brand this “Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival” for our client, while making this artwork available for use by any of the participating retail tenants, businesses, vendors, and the bands. This particular client uses events as its primary source of marketing, outside of a year-round general branding campaign, and we have fun creating visual identities for each event. The Peace Love & Wellness campaign proved very successful with image likes and shares growing viewership to its 3rd Annual event page more than 100% over last year’s page. The ROI was worth the effort.

Alchemy's marketing for the event

Alchemy’s marketing for the event

Obviously, the object of marketing through social media is to entice viewers to attach their identity to the event and share it with others to extend the buzz field. Yes, share the original images on their timeline, add their own descriptive announcement with the post, and tag their friends and businesses. But we had one vendor take things a bit further than that. And I’m certain if you asked him he would say that he was just helping out and thought it was okay to promote his business by making his own flyer out of our client’s collateral. After all, he did slide their logo, although poorly resolute and altered in shape, onto his new graphic. So that’s more than okay, right?

Alchemy's marketing before alteration

Alchemy’s marketing before alteration

Well, actually, not. Our client paid for the artwork to be presented in the approved composition. This vendor did not ask for permission to change it. He did not hire Alchemy to make a poster out of this collateral and change it to feature his business. He added his own banner boldly across the top, juxtaposed shoddy font styles in an unprofessional layout of low quality, dropped in a low-resolution logo, and added his own copy. At this point, neither the client nor we would want our names attached to the altered artwork for credit. We had a conundrum: allow him to promote to his patrons or ask him to take it down. Our client made the decision not to offend him.

More of Alchemy's marketing

More of Alchemy’s marketing

Social media is now a balancing act of etiquette and manners. What is acceptable here is not acceptable there, and the rules are bent and stretched to fit a variety of scenarios. Unfortunately intellectual property, once uploaded into the digital slipstream, has very little protection. According to Facebook Copyright Infringements, violations have to be noticed by the author, reported to the powers that be on Facebook by the author, and then the violator must be contacted by the author and agree to take down their post and make amends. Only after these steps are refused is the author advised to claim a lawsuit. Furthermore, it is up to the author to set the privacy settings to limit the viewership and shares. One has limited protection of ownership if they want their work to be seen. So, in the scenario of a visual marketing campaign, images are out there with permission for the public to share until the original is removed. And according to an article written by a local West Palm Beach, Florida-based intellectual property attorney, Joseph J. Stafford, TO PIN OR NOT TO PINonce something is uploaded on to Pinterest, the author must understand that Pinterest takes no responsibility for the image sharing and usage. The artwork will remain on Pinterest indefinitely. And anything without a registered copyright or trademark is seriously at risk for loss of ownership.

...and Alchemy's marketing post-alteration

…and Alchemy’s marketing post-alteration

The increasing cultural trend is to share, save, tweet, or post any image as your own without thought or concern over identifying the true author. This virtually attaches ownership to any pinner for multiple re-compositions. The only protection would be to add a backend code for tracking violations or the application of a watermark across the image that would be difficult to remove or alter. So what can professional social media communicators do? Stay aboveboard and remain very professional for our clients in social media activity. We should set an example by creating our posts with integrity. If we are sharing the photo or work of another author then we should make time and effort to give credit where credit is due. Photos courtesy of…, or original painting by…, etc. Vintage ads and old movie stills are grandfathered for acceptable use as long as you are not selling them. But be very careful in the use of trademarks and brand collateral. I even went as far as to get corporate-level permission to create an original floral pattern reminiscent of Lilly Pulitzer for social media promotions of an event it sponsored for charity. Lawsuits can happen and they can be very costly to settle when they do. It’s better to be respectful and safe than sorry.

Above you see the original pieces of artwork created for our Facebook promotional campaign, and one of the altered and unapproved versions. What do you think about the modification and reuse of collateral materials without permission?

-Lori Herrala, Communications Director at Alchemy





Taking Proactive to the Next Level

19 03 2015

Last fall, I wrote a blog post for Alchemy that featured a long-form advert that mashed up the Internet’s obsession with cat-based cuteness and the super-cut, sweaty aggro look of sports apparel and fitness beverage spots. It spoke of my admiration for this fully blown viral campaign for Mars Petcare’s Temptations Treats for Cats. The centerpiece was a truly inspired YouTube video (link to come later, because this post really isn’t about it yet).

Almost five months later, I received an email from a very friendly person at the brand’s PR firm pitching me a new campaign constructed in the same fashion: hook, hashtag, user engagement, full media campaign, digital content, social media — and a new video:

While I appreciate the video a whole bunch and contributed to its views and shares (that is a seriously catchy vibe, Los Saicos), what I’m writing about is that this gigantic corporate enterprise and its agency found my blog post. And responded to it.

I find that level of digital search-and-conquer impressive. It reminds me that our efforts leave a pixelated trail of breadcrumbs that can circle back to our clients when we handle this whole integrated media thing properly.

If you’re the least bit curious about the post that provoked the response, just scroll down…that first video is there, too.





Sports and Cats – No, Really…

5 09 2014

What do you get when you cross the Internet’s obsession with cat-based cuteness and the super-cut, sweaty aggro of sports apparel/fitness beverage advertising?

This:

 

The genius of this spot (designed as much for web-based enjoyment and virality as a broadcast buy) is that it appeals to a truly massive audience. Temptations Treats for Cats has hit on a pitch-perfect pitch that turns the traditional cutesy, meow-y, snuggly, or playful cat kibble spot into an ad that has been viewed since in the last four days over 216,000 times. It could run as successfully during an NFL game as it could during “Ellen.”

The purpose of this brilliant mash-up? Mars Petcare brand just “rolled out” new Temptations Tumblers. What’s the USP? Cat treats that are rounder than previous iterations – not that the average cat cares overmuch. According to the brand’s hype, “Now you can roll, toss or bounce delicious treats for your cats.” Based on years of feline observation, most cats prefer not to participate so actively in the apprehension of said treats.

So what.

With the corresponding hashtag #TimeToPlayBall!, a YouTube channel, and a dedicated Facebook page that began teasing the spot on Tuesday, this is really all about a product marketed to the buyer, not the end-user – which in no way diminishes the creative brilliance of the clip. By this time next week, it will have millions of views and shares, and sales of Tempations Tumblers are guaranteed to see a bump.

It’s a perfect example of how ad agencies can combine creativity and execution; concept and casting; cross-platform marketing; cuteness and edginess; music, muscles, and cats.





Are January’s ‘Top 5 Web Design Trends for 2014’ Still Holding Up in August?

27 08 2014

In a word, yes.

But unless web design is part of your, you know, day-to-day career, these trends may only now be edging onto your radar. They’ve become talking points with the mainstream media. Or maybe your competitors are already incorporating them into their website redesigns, and you’ve noticed. If you aren’t doing at least three of these five things, your need to get serious about your website. Stat.

  1. Flat Design. Last year, the chatter was maybe flat design was just another fad, but this one is going to stick, folks. Why? Flat design is like minimalism jacked up on a doppio espresso. The flat design mantra is “keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it modern.” The aesthetic is less clutter, more use of white space, achieving more by using less, and getting rid of 3D graphics and gradients. Good examples are Mailchimp.com, fitbit.com, your Windows 8 start screen, and Apples iOS7 home screen.
  2. Parallax: The cool effect every designer has wanted to shove into every website since it was first developed, even if the website sold plumbing supplies. Now that we’ve all calmed down and the cost isn’t ridiculously prohibitive, we can use parallax to make a serious statement and a major impact with all that scrolling mischief. How does it work? It is created by using multiple backgrounds that move at different speeds, implying visual depth where there actually is none. Expect this to trickle down from the big retail brands to your neighborhood.
  3. Responsive Design: It’s totally the standard now, even if you didn’t know that. Responsive design uses percentages instead of fixed pixel dimensions, then adds media query break points to the website’s code. You don’t have to necessarily understand that – what it means is that the website will serve up the same content to devices of varying sizes and optimize itself for viewing on said device. A responsive design website is device agnostic and – here’s everyone’s hope – future-proof.
  4. Infographics for data; concise for content: Infographics are just cool: they present a lot of often very linear information in a small space using pictures, boxes, and other graphic representations; they’re eye-catching; the brain processes them initially like pictures instead of words; they have personality, they’re kind of quirky; and they combine typography, bold colors, and shapes in a way that intrigues the viewer. When you have a website that, by its very nature (like, say, The New York Times) is content-heavy, it’s time to strip away bells and whistles and create a clean, concise interface that allows content to shine (instead of the design stealing the spotlight).
  5. Typography: Web designers, especially those who started their design careers pre-Internet, have always longed for font freedom. This year, typography gets serious. We used to be constrained by using fonts that were widely available on the end-user’s computer or device. And if we did use a non-web-safe font, it had to be uploaded to the server and then downloaded by the viewer’s browser (if the browser even supported the font), slowing down page load times and was just generally an all-around bummer. Now, the availability of high-quality fonts through Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit offer up hundreds of fonts for web design with small snippets of JavaScript added to a site’s header along with a small bit of CSS and BANG! We’re in Custom Font Nirvana, supported by all the major browsers.




Bringing a Cult Film Festval to Your Town

8 06 2014

We have the great luck of a retail shopping destination client with a 500-seat cultural venue. On the not-so-great side, it’s a challenge to attract patrons and shoppers during South Florida’s off season – the incredibly hot and humid summers (with added bonus of hurricane season). Mainstreet at Midtown is known for its year-round outdoor festivals and events like a 16-week Music on the Plaza concert series (held during the drier and cooler months of the peak social season), its Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival, Children’s Festival, Cool Yule Tree Decorating Contest, and others.

swede fest palm beach 3So, we needed a summer event, and it REALLY needed to be indoors.

And then NPR did this great piece a couple of years ago about an underground film event that sounded like the perfect idea we could get behind and make our client’s own. Indie film festivals have a rich history of showcasing amazing undiscovered talent, where Hollywood insiders troll for the next big thing, where A-list stars promote the small labor-of-love projects they do between blockbusters. swede fest™ palm beach is an indie film festival with NONE of that going for it. In fact, our tagline is “Bad Movies by Good People.”

The key to understanding why is in the “swede.” A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – “swedes” because it sounded really sophisticated. Not exactly a classic in its genre, but neither is it comedy kryptonite.

swede fest palm beach 3Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them, like they do at Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Slamdance, Tribeca, and so on – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars. Hence the coverage on NPR.

We’re the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, the Palm Beaches. This is the third year, and we sell out every time, create super fun/cheesy marketing, a great microsite, go crazy on social media: www.facebook.com/swedefestpalmbeach and www.twitter.com/swedefestpb , give out silly awards (Best Use of a Backyard Location, Best Use of Man’s Best Friend, Best Use of Tinfoil), and everyone generally has a great time and gets dressed up in total Hollywood drag.

Local schools get involved and sometimes do them as class projects, and the community and local media really get behind it because we deliberately created an all-ages event – you can swede any film, but your 3-minute clip must be PG-13, even if your source material is not. We’ve had swedes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Thing, and already we have someone who has submitted The Wolf of Wall Street for this year’s festival on August 2. We’re anxious to see exactly how they’ll sanitize that one.








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