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.

Advertisements




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.





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.





Chicks Rule

15 01 2015

There was a brilliant article making the rounds in the creative community last week, on the new advertising industry website called CampaignLive.com, the US version of a UK publication whose corporate parent owns, among other things, PR Week.

YearAheadWomen-20150106050542869The author starts the article with a statement that ripped through social media like a spike heel: “The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.” Writer Kat Gordon makes a case for 2015 being the year women in advertising use social media as the accelerant to create a better ad world than the one where agencies still refer to “women’s accounts” as “mops and makeup.”

While a lot of what she says is a bit of “inside baseball” to those not specifically in the ad industry, anyone in marketing/communications – whether public relations, advertising, corporate communications, social media, outside agency, in-house marketing, or some combination thereof – should understand that pinkwashing isn’t going to cut it anymore. “Female Empowerment Advertising” is yesterday’s Chromebook. Women now make up 52% of the population, so we are remarkably helpful and creative when it comes to understanding how to approach an overwhelmingly female marketplace. Let’s just say we know whereof we speak. As Gordon says, “I’m talking about calling out everything, ranging from all-male creative departments to wage disparity to things we do mindlessly like STILL have Miss America-types handing out the hardware at award shows.”

So, regardless of your gender, if you are looking to engage the female consumer, you better be thinking like a woman.





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.





The Intersection of Marketing and Art

14 04 2014

It’s no bad thing to have a client who is an art patron. And it’s an even better thing when that client, a real estate developer, is a huge supporter of Art in Public Places (#AIPP) and willing to budget for the creation of art as a way to improve the community in which construction takes place.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

That said, you’d like to have the artwork depict some subtle tie-in to the project, even though Art in Public Places is pretty strict about there being no commercial aspect to the projects it approves. The client, Ram Realty Services, decided that we would conduct a Call to Artists with the prompt that the 7,000 square foot mural would honor Alexander Graham Bell and communication, since the historic structure was once the regional headquarters for Southern Bell, and the converted residential units will be known as Alexander Lofts.

To provide a sense of scale, these next images were taken from the painting platforms.

Looking down...

Looking down…

Looking up...

Looking up…

After a lengthy vetting process that included representatives of Ram Realty Services, Alchemy, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, it was decided we would work with Los Angeles-based Tristan Eaton, an internationally known street artist and designer whose work can be seen in galleries around the world and in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Eaton is renowned for creating large-scale murals in urban landscapes (NYC, Detroit, LA, Cleveland), and is an art consultant to major brands such as Fisher Price, Nike, and Disney.

It took him and his two assistants over 600 cans of spray paint and a total of 12 days to conquer the wall.

While there is no commercial aspect to the final artwork that in any way promotes Alexander Lofts, the prominence of the huge mural makes the building a landmark in Downtown West Palm Beach, and generated a tremendous amount of media coverage.

And it doesn’t hurt that the enormous mural and the name of the building both pay homage to Alexander Graham Bell – subtle, but present.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The investment in this tremendous artwork is a fantastic branding tool, as we are able to generate interest in the project on social media, on the project website, and in future marketing efforts as a way to identify the location of the property.





Birth of a Brand Identity

29 01 2014

No, it’s not exactly high art.

It is, however, art with a somewhat higher exposure than the fine paintings ensconced in a museum or gallery. A bad logo won’t stop your business from growing – but a good one can catapult you into the cortex of your consumer.

Creating logo ideas, pitching them to the client, gathering feedback, refining ideas and possibly combining elements from multiple options, pitching them again, gathering more feedback…it would be nice to brag that we hit it out of the park every time, but sometimes the process takes some time.

Alchemy recently created a brand identity for a historic building that a developer is turning into luxury loft apartments. We developed a name and tagline for the property, then needed to create a visual identity. Long story short, the building has a major tie to Alexander Graham Bell.

While they considered dozens of name ideas (all of which have to be reasearched to be sure there is not a competing property in the same market with a similar name, or in any of the markets the developer builds from South Florida to updstate New York), the one the client ultimately chose is Alexander Lofts.

What follows are the logo concepts we showed at the first brand presentation:

From that, the consensus was that we should take two of the logos they liked best, and apply a color palette the interior designer was working with. These are the refinements:

Then, it was decided that since the color scheme was still up in the air while we needed to start producing building graphics, outdoor marketing, and a landing site, we should find colors that were IN BETWEEN the two possible shade palettes.AL logo fence

We can’t make this stuff up.

Et voila, to the right you see the final logo applied to fence wraps. You can see the landing site we designed here: www.alexanderloftswpb.com. Up next is a full website, leasing collateral, coordination of a public art project (mural on one side of the building), and other elements.








%d bloggers like this: