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    Samsung serves up a giant helping of adorable in this ad with real-life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, who are seduced by the Galaxy Tab S into ditching their plans for actually experiencing the world in favor of endless screen time.

    Shepard and Bell—aka Crosby Braverman from Parenthood and Princess Anna from Frozen (OK, Veronica Mars, you snobs)—are certainly a cute couple. A little too cute at times?

    Let's just say if you're irritated by the opening bedroom scene, in which Shepard ruminates about Bell's apparently wondrous fingers ("How do you even hold things with these little guys?"), you might want to skip the rest of the spot.

    For those sticking it out, the McKinney spot is pretty entertaining, though, as the Galaxy Tab S provided endless opportunities for not going hiking—like watching animal videos, playing video games and singing along to 1970s R&B hits.

    While living mostly in a fantasy world, the 90-second spot does find humor in elements of real life—mostly by featuring a handful of jokes about Bell's pregnancy. (The one time Shepard does break out of the house, it's to find food his wife is craving.) The verisimilitude is compromised a bit, though, by the utter absence of the couple's existing infant (although it should come as no surprise that she's off limits).

    Real-life couples, of course, are fascinating in a way that actors playing them will never be. And indeed, this spot has already topped 5 million views since rolling out on Sunday.

    It doesn't hurt, either, that they left the Apple bashing at the door.

    Client: Samsung
    Agency: McKinney

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    If you always suspected that a pale ale would rate a shimmering, golden 604C on the Pantone color system, have a pint on me.

    Spanish agency Txaber matches brew types with their Pantone hues in this stylish package design exercise. It's reminiscent of last year's "Beertone" cards that provided the exact color values of various beers in RGB, CMYK and HTML code. Here, however, we get simple, gorgeous cans and bottles that really let the shades of the suds inside shine through.

    See the whole collection on the Txaber site.

    Beer packaging has been a powerful muse in the design world, inspiring some impressive work. The comeback of the can, particularly among craft brewers, "opened up a 360-degree canvas for label designers typically restricted to the few stickers on a beer bottle," according to my AdFreak colleague David Griner. That's true, though some creative types have made heroic efforts to sass-up humble glass containers and do that medium justice, too.

    I like Txaber's restrained, elegant approach. You get lots of color and, in tiny typeface (HipstelveticaFontFamily, which is free to download), the beer names and Pantone designations. That's all you need. The results are especially compelling when the cans and bottles are grouped together. Their hues play off one another like the bands of a rainbow, ranging from pale ale's carefree vibrance through the playful, almost purplish tones of the porter's 1817C to the dark grandeur of imperial stout at 426C.

    Though, as we've learned, nothing represents the vibrant soul of "black" quite like Guinness.

    Via Design Taxi.

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    When I give advice to CMOs about new social marketing strategies, I often hear the same initial response: But nobody wants to come to my website. While that’s probably true today, cultivating an audience is just like growing your audience on social media: it takes investment.

    Brands have spent a decade investing time, talent and billions of dollars in growing their audiences on social media, only to discover that suddenly they can no longer effectively reach them…unless they’re willing to pay for it.

    Initially, Facebook took much of the heat, after changes to its algorithm sent organic reach (the percentage of your audience who sees non-promoted content) plunging to less than two percent of the average brand’s audience. Critics speculated that Facebook was using its algorithm to bully brands into spending more money on ads. Facebook argued the changes were crucial to sustaining a positive user experience, noting that as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear in any of our News Feeds every time we log on. But marketers remained skeptical, and many talked of shifting their focus to Twitter, where organic reach doesn’t lie at the mercy of an enigmatic algorithm.

    Then Twitter announced organic Tweet analytics. The new insights were meant to help users maximize their organic Twitter impressions, but they also revealed something pretty damning: despite the fact that Twitter’s firehose model gives equal treatment to every organic Tweet that crosses the platform, organic reach on Twitter remains eerily similar to Facebook. So while the volume of brand-related content being created — across platforms, by both brands and consumers — has skyrocketed, the volume of content actually being seen has plummeted because of three irreversible trends. 

    Feed Frenzy: There are 7x as many users on social media than there were five years ago. Each of those brands and individuals is creating and sharing more content than ever before, and (thanks to content marketing) we’re also talking more about brands. But brands aren’t just competing with each other — they’re going up against everything from wedding photos to breaking news to (viral-optimized) cat videos.

    Monetization: As media channels, social networks are endemically flawed. The bulk of their revenue eventually needs to come from advertising, and the combination of increased demand for advertising, limited supply of inventory (especially on mobile) and shrinking reach guarantees that the price of getting your content in front of your audience will only go up from here.

    Fragmentation: New social networks are born (and die) every year, and they’re only a small fraction of the fragmentation problem. Chartbeat references"dark social" — things like messaging apps, IMs and email that marketing software can’t track — as the number one traffic driver for content. Buzzfeed sees more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter. Consumers have more ways to share and connect than ever before, and it’s virtually impossible to measure them all.

    In an ironic twist of fate, marketers have been very successful at getting their audiences talking, but their ability to amplify any of the resulting buzz has been eclipsed. The sheer volume of content flowing through social networks at any given moment has rendered brand messages all but invisible unless they’re promoted. Social networks are no longer an effective way for brands to reach their audiences — at least not in the same way.

    Many marketers have traditionally looked at social marketing as something that lives on social media, often driving campaign traffic to a Facebook page or app, for example. But as social networks increasingly position themselves as paid advertising channels, it’s  time for marketers to start treating them as such. This shift means using social networks to drive traffic to your own properties. You can continue to use social media for acquisition, awareness and viral marketing through advertising and/or encouraging fans to create and share content about your brand. That’s what those social networks want anyway.

    The difference is that instead of treating them like destinations in and of themselves, you think of them like a highly targeted media channel to drive traffic to your own properties. Unlike social media (where you’re basically renting the space and the audience), when you shift your audience onto your properties, you own the entire experience — the data and the audience. In fact, your social experiences can better reflect your brand with a content creation and distribution strategy that you construct.

    Give people content experiences they actually care about and want to engage with, and in turn you’ll create your own distribution channel for future content. Return visits increase organically as audiences begin to see you as the central hub for your brand, but great content also gives them an incentive to register. And from there, your content storm shifts to more personal, direct conversations with your fans. 

    Earned media may be headed for extinction, but a brand’s reach shouldn’t have to die along with it. By re-balancing content distribution, brands can turn distant followers into die-hard fans.

    Jordan Kretchmer is Founder and CEO of Livefyre

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  • 09/17/14--12:59: How to Win a Clio Award
  • I was recently asked to be jury member of the Clio Awards. The Clios? An advertising award that my mother has actually heard of! But wait, it gets better. The judging was going to take place in beautiful and exotic Malta. Whoo-hoo a boondoggle, for sure. Well, what I thought was going to be a fun in the sun par-tay with my fellow creative peers turned out to be a focused, disciplined educational experience. Education? Oh, yeah. Here are ten things I learned about what wins and what doesn’t:

    1. Don’t put a sumo wrestler in an ad. Not only were there three separate ads on one table alone that used a sumo wrestler, but it’s been done before. A lot. Original thinking wins. 

    2. Visual ads are still king. Let’s face it, it’s hard for a witty headline to play well in a room full of judges whose second language is English. Clever headline ads very seldomly placed highly when compared to their more visual counterparts.

    3. Bronze is really damn good. Before judging the Clios, I naively failed to realize was just how hard it is to get a Bronze in a major award show.  Out of thousands of entries, it means the piece rose to the top, which is insanely hard to do.

    4. Work that makes you #jealous. One of the best ways to approach the overwhelming judging process is to ask yourself a simple question, “Do I wish I did that?” If the answer is yes, you probably have a winner. The best pieces had the jurors muttering, “I wish I had that in my book.”

    5. Craft everything. Looking at the winning pieces: the typography is outstanding, not a letter is kerned too loosely or too tightly. The photography is spot-on. The mood, tone and color palette of the piece is unified and best represents the idea. The product placement isn’t an afterthought, it’s not slapped in the lower right corner without a lot of consideration. The tagline is well-accounted for. The cropping is stellar. Oh, and above all, the idea is a never-been-done-before kind of idea that stops you in your tracks.

    6. Gold is truly gold on every level. Winning gold means you scored perfect 10s in every area of an execution. Not one choice was made poorly. I saw the jury drop a piece from Silver to Bronze because the photograph was overly retouched by about 15%.

    7. Short case studies win jurors’ hearts.  We watched over 15 hours of case studies in the OOH category alone. That’s 300 case studies to consider. And most of them could be a lot shorter. The most refreshing ideas were those that were presented succinctly. Don’t make a 2-minute case study just because you can.

    8. It only needs to happen once. If it’s an experiential or stunt kind of idea, don’t worry about franchising it all over the globe and doing it in different cities. You just need to do it once and document it well. The internet is the new “multi-city” rollout plan.

    9. It’s really, really hard to win in a film category. The film jury had to look at a lot more entries than we had to look at. Everyone seems to enter the TV category. But there’s a lot of metal to be won in less sexy categories. B-to-B print anyone? I think we saw only 3 entries there.

    10. The best ideas touch us. The best ideas are more than just sales tactics, they’re human ideas that everyone can relate to. They’re clever, touching, hysterical or just plain brainy. They make you feel something. And they stay with you long after the judging is over.

    Ultimately, the biggest takeaway I learned is not about the judged but about the judges themselves. Quite simply, serving on a jury makes you a better creative. Sure, advertising is not just about pursuing trophies, but it does come with the territory and (newsflash!) clients like to win too. So even if your first judging opportunities are local shows, with small reaches, it’s important to shift your perspective and see the work as a jury sees it. What does the winning work do that the losing work doesn’t? What magic ingredient does it have? What makes it special? How is it presented? What makes the jurors talk or debate something? In the end, the experience of being an advertising awards judge actually is a boondoggle, whether it’s in Malta or Missoula, the experience teaches you what it takes to win.

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    There are moments in cinema when a collective wetting of panties results in an advertising ripple heard through the decades, as marketers struggle to give the people what they want.

    One such moment was when Colin Firth exited a lake in a dripping-wet white shirt during the BBC's 1995 remake of Pride and Prejudice. The moment so captured the minds and eyes of the viewing public that just last year, a 12-foot-tall statue of Firth's wet torso was erected in a British lake and summarily moistened.

    Now, in a genius move, Benedict Cumberbatch, today's No. 1 British heartthrob, has been talked into recreating the Mr. Darcy scene and is about to win a bazillion pounds of awareness for his chosen charity, the anti-cancer initative Give Up Clothes for Good.

    The photographer was Jason Bell. He's a guy whose photos you've seen even if you've never heard of him. He was the official photographer for Prince George's christening, and you might also know him as the guy who took that picture of Kate Winslet that GQ Photoshopped into controversy back in 2003.

    Boy, did he do a most excellent job capturing a grumpy wet Cumberbatch. You almost get the impression that you've dumped him in the lake and when he gets out he's going to be very PUT OUT. You might also imagine that inspiration for the execution came from Cumberbatch's recent viral Ice Bucket Challenge video, in which he got soaked in not one, not two, but three various states of undress. Or the cut shower scene from Star Trek Into Darkness, which also went viral.

    It's like a Russian nesting doll of surly wet Cumberbatches—a batch of 'Batches, if you will. Also, we may have found something to rival cats in Internet ad stardom. Shirtless torsos of hot dudes. Also known as Cold.Hard.Abs.

    The Give Up Clothes for Good campaign of getting celebrities to take off some clothes, all PETA style, is going on its 10th anniversary, and there are a bunch of other celebrities lined up to remove their clothes to celebrate this year. But who cares?

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    If watching Drew Brees talk to a hyper-awkward robot for six minutes is your kind of thing, then Old Spice has an ad for you.

    The New Orleans Saints quarterback keeps his cool during "4th and Touchdown," a fictional sports news show hosted by Old Spice's new mascot, who in the recent past has been doing well with human women, despite his total lack of social skills.

    Absent that context, the moral now seems to be that viewers should act like Drew Brees, not like a hyper-awkward robot, which is pretty sound advice regardless. Even if the robot claims to have great hair thanks to Old Spice, he's not the most reliable narrator.

    The pair's antics range from fairly grating to pretty amusing, with some sharp writing and and a lot of waiting between the high points (see: roughly 4:15, Brees pretending to be a brass instrument). In a way, the finale rewards your patience, though may not be quite enough to compensate (perhaps a shorter edit would be in order?).

    Anyway, the whole thing deserves credit for trying to send up the tradition of senseless televised sports coverage, even if the pass doesn't quite connect. That robot does a solid impression of a smug anchor.

    And if you do like it, stay tuned for more. The brand is promising appearances from Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Seattle Seahawks defensive back Earl Thomas.

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    Gatorade hits it out of the park with this epic 90-second salute to New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter, breaking today.

    If the retiring Jeter is looking for a new career, he can get a job on Madison Avenue, since he wrote some of the copy here and even suggested the Frank Sinatra song that serves as soundtrack for the ad, by TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles.

    Molly Carter, Gatorade's senior director of consumer engagement, gave Adweek a preview of the commercial, which shows Jeter surprising fans outside Yankee Stadium to the tune of Sinatra's "My Way."

    After penning an open letter announcing his retirement this spring, the Yankees captain himself suggested a spot showing him thanking Yankee fans, said Carter. When Gatorade asked the 40-year-old (the brand's third-longest-serving endorser after Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm) which song best summed up his career, he picked "My Way."

    "It was a true collaboration between Derek and Gatorade," Carter said.

    Gatorade, the official sports drink of Major League Baseball since 1990, roped off a few blocks before a home game in the Bronx this July and "just kind of let Jeter go," said Carter. The shock and surprise on fans' faces when their idol walks into Stan's Sports Bar, or autographs baseballs, is genuine, she said.

    The 90-second "My Way" spot breaks online Thursday, and will air on TV for the first time Saturday on the YES Network and Fox.

    Gatorade will follow that with a full-page print ad (see below), which Carter said was written by Jeter himself, in the New York Daily News and Sports Illustrated on Sept. 28-29. Addressed to "New York," the ad shows Jeter tipping his cap to fans.

    "From my first at bat until my final out, you helped make me who I am," he writes. (Jeter's final game in pinstripes is Sept. 28 at Boston, unless the Yankees somehow make the playoffs—which is highly unlikely.)

    Besides the ad campaign, Gatorade will outfit the Yankees dugout with customized cups, coolers and towels featuring Jeter's No. 2 in place of the Gatorade "G" during a game on Sept. 22.

    Jeter was also honored by Nike's Jordan Brand in a 90-second spot from Wieden + Kennedy in July.

    Client: Gatorade
    Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles
    Executive Creative Director: Brent Anderson
    Creative Director: Renato Fernandez
    Senior Copywriter: Nick Ciffone
    Senior Art Director: Dave Estrada
    Executive Producer: Sarah Patterson
    Assistant Producer: Garrison Askew
    Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
    Production Company: Smuggler
    Executive Producers: Patrick Milling Smith, Brian Carmody, Lisa Rich, Lisa Tauscher
    Producer: Drew Santarsiero
    Editorial: Rock Paper Scissors
    Editor: Damion Clayton
    Executive Producers: Dave Sellars, Angela Dorian

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    Martin Stirling already directed one powerful PSA about Syria—Save the Children's incredible spot from last spring, which imagined if the crisis were taking place in London. But the Unit 9 director wasn't finished.

    With the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week, the world's leading NGOs—Oxfam, Save the Children, Care, Amnesty and a hundred more—have banded together for a new PSA, directed by Stirling, that attempts to capture the horrors being endured by ordinary Syrians on a daily basis.

    See the spot here:

    The stylistic choice of using reverse footage almost becomes a moral choice here—it's the hook that makes the piece haunting, and shareable, and thus capable of making a difference. The film is the centerpiece in the NGOs' #WithSyria campaign, which drives viewers to a petition asking the UN Security Council to take next steps to protect civilians.

    ISIS is dominating the headlines today, but the plight of ordinary Syrians remains critical. The death toll in Syria is now close to 200,000. Most of the civilian deaths are caused by "barrel bombs"—oil drums filled with explosives, chemical weapons and rusty nails, dropped from Syrian regime helicopters into populated areas. The same areas are often hit twice in quick succession in order to kill first responders.

    "I really had no choice about whether or not to make this film," Stirling says in a statement. "I was swamped by a couple of projects, and I tried my best to walk away but found it impossible. Whenever I thought about not making this film I was haunted by the images and stories I had come across in preparation for the 'Most Shocking Second A Day Video' earlier in the year.

    "This film felt like an appropriate follow-up to that first one—it was creatively and stylistically different in a way which would hopefully capture the attention of a wide audience and the hearts of influential policy makers."

    Credits below.

    Production Company: Unit 9 Films
    Director/Writer: Martin Stirling
    Producer/Exec Producer: Michelle Craig
    DOP: Carl Burke
    Focus Puller: Jonny Franklin
    Researcher: Harry Starkey Midha
    Production Partner: Atlantik Films
    Editor: Alex Burt
    Grade: Un1t Post
    Colorist: Simon Astbury
    Sound Design: Jon Clarke
    Post-Sound Producer: Rebecca Bell
    VFX + Post: Cherry Cherry
    VFX Supervisors: Nico Cotta, Tony Landais
    Compositors: Ergin Ishakoglu, James Cornwell, Doruk Saglam, Utku Ertin, Mertcan Ag, Nico Cotta, Otis Guinness-Walker
    CG Artists: Bogi Gulacsi, Ceyhan Kapusuz, Zeynep Onder, Tony Landais
    Digital Matte Painters: Stuart Tozer, Richard Tilbury
    Executive Producer: Chris Allen
    Line Producer: Sezen Akpolat
    Music: 'Youth' Daughter
    With Thanks to Matt Brown and Steph Hamill

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    OK, you world-wise travel people. Ever been to Wotifia? Never heard of it? It's right next to Freedonia, that fake country invented by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup.

    Wotifia is actually the brainchild of ad agency M&C Saatchi in Sydney, which borrowed a page from the Marx Brothers—and early Terry Gilliam's work for Monty Python—to help rejuvenate the image of Australia's largest online travel site, Wotif.com.

    The agency created a short buddy movie that features two clueless looking dudes literally falling into surreal travel adventures in an animated world called—what else?—Wotifia.

    The adventures are set to a ridiculous music track with ridiculous lyrics that sound like a mashup of Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie after you've taken a whopping dose of hallucinogens.

    The boys encounter dancing llamas in South America, a soil-your-swimshorts experience with sharks, a bone-breaking ski trip to the Alps, a run-in with a 100-foot bikini clad beauty who emerges from the sea like Godzilla, and a lazy Susan full of Chinese food like it's a merry-go-round.

    Michael Betteridge, Wotif's general manager of marketing, says the campaign, which launched last month, "is designed to reach the 'next generation' of travelers and introduce them to our brand, our range of travel products and experiences, and to our irreverent and fun approach to travel."

    Irreverence is certainly the theme. Credits below.

    Client: Wotif.com
    Agency: M&C Saatchi, Sydney
    Executive Creative Director: Ben Welsh
    Creative Directors/Art Directors/Writers: Gary Dawson, Shane Gibson, Andy Flemming
    Digital Art Director: Glenn Christensen
    Account Management: Karlee Weatherstone, Emmanuel Spiropoulos, Kristy Schwind, Charlotte Rijkenberg, Marcella Nigro
    Planning Director: Mark Vadgama
    Agency Producers: Jules Jackson, Sue Hind
    Production Company: World Wide Mind
    Director: Rocky Morton
    Executive Producers: Will Alexander, Ben Nott

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    Should today's vote lead to an independent Scotland, the country will need a fearless leader to represent it on the world stage. Obviously, Groundskeeper Willie of The Simpsons is that man. It's the latest bit of genius from the Fox show, and expect a lot more of it very soon.

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    Three celebrity ads anchor this week's collection of best spots, with Samsung, TBS and Gatorade all calling on famous talent to get views. And Gatorade, in particular, really scored—with its Derek Jeter tribute becoming the week's big talker.

    Elsewhere, Pampers Japan crafted a heartfelt spot that surprised moms, and GoDaddy unveiled its first (quite strange) work from a new agency.

    See all the spots below, and yell at us if we're left off anything great.

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    By celebrating its Irish roots, Guinness subtly sails into the mystic with "In Pursuit of More," a campaign that bows with this 90-second spot from Philadelphia agency Quaker City Mercantile.

    St. James's Gate, the brand's 255-year-old Dublin brewery, is the inspiration for a meditation on its heritage. We learn something of its history, meet current employees and get a feel for the brewing process. "We're only 255 years into a 9,000-year lease," Irish actor Cillian Murphy says in a lilting, raspy voiceover. "We have a lot more beer to make."

    In fact, the lease is no longer valid, as Guinness purchased its Dublin site long ago. Even so, that historical detail fits the overall thrust of this broadcast and online initiative. Developed mainly for the U.K. and Ireland, with more short films to follow, the work creates a timeless, almost mythical aura around the brand.

    "We felt it was time to open the gates and let the world see the people who make our beer special," says Guinness marketing director Stephen O'Kelly. Fair enough. But Philip Montgomery's smooth direction, with visuals that are muted, gauzy, and at times slightly over-bright, give the piece an ethereal, quasi-spiritual vibe.

    This vibe resonates even during some of the clip's most commonplace scenes. For example, the spot opens with a guy cycling to work at the brewery. As a moody piano piece by Alain Francois Bernard plays in the background, he turns down a narrow cobblestone street—it resembles a tunnel—and rides up to St. James's Gate. The huge doors are dark and imposing, like freshly pulled pints of Guinness stout. As he slips inside, it's no stretch to imagine he's entered a holy place where past, present and future blend into a heady brew.

    What could be more on brand for a company emphasizing its ties to Ireland, the land of legends and strong beliefs, and particularly for Guinness, which has a devout cult following worldwide?

    Photo via.

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    Oh man, grumpy dad who's working weird hours in this new Cheerios ad from Saatchi & Saatchi. Don't get mad at your kid. Take a lesson from Peanut Butter Cheerios dad, and be cool. Hang out for a minute and laugh with Junior. It'll be nice before you head off for however many grueling hours of whatever it is you do.

    Judging by your rugged appearance and attire, and that clocking in at midnight is even an option, it's presumably something blue-collar. Dock worker? Warehouse worker? Auto worker? You are in the Cheerios demo. You should be eating lots of Cheerios at 11 p.m.

    Sure, Cheerios might be mimicking your frustrating but also beautiful existence right back at you just to sell more breakfast cereal, because times aren't just tough for salt-of-the-earth people with families to support, they're tough for cereal brands, too. Nobody wants to eat cereal with their kids at any time of day these days.

    So, also don't get mad at Cheerios, because making ads that use children to pander to your heartstrings is what they do. Indeed, sometimes manipulating your love for sentimental family moments really does work well… so Cheerios is probably going to keep trying.

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    MiniAbe Lincoln has been screaming and whoa-ing his way around Illinois for over a year in ads for the state's tourism office. But he settles down in the latest spot from JWT Chicago—thanks to the love of his life, Mary Todd.

    Todd was notoriously melancholy for most of her adult life. And no wonder. It turns out she worked in a bleak cubicle in a nondescript office, pecking away on a keyboard that was way too big for her.

    But along comes MiniAbe to whisk MiniMary offer her feet, quite literally, in this amusing spoof of the over-the-top final scene from An Officer and a Gentleman.

    The spot is meant to get boomers, Gen X-ers and others to "whisk someone away" this fall and enjoy romantic attractions in Illinois.

    Client: Illinois Office of Tourism
    Agency: JWT Chicago

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    Who (from left) Izzy the dog, employee relations; Michael Dub, partner; Sandy Rubinstein, CEO; Benjamin Hordell, partner
    What Agency
    Where Edgewater, N.J.

    Indie shop DXagency happily reports that 90 percent of its business comes from referrals. How is this possible? Well, the digitally focused, full-service agency, which works to drive brand engagement through various channels (especially contests and sweepstakes), says its top priority is keeping clients happy. “Because I was a client, I teach our staff that if a client has already asked you for something, then we’ve missed,” said CEO Sandy Rubinstein, who’s also held senior marketing positions at TVLand and Lifetime. “The idea of hiring an agency is so that a client doesn’t have to think of these details.” The 40-person staff services clients such as Madison Square Garden, DirecTV, HBO and Kmart. Founded a decade ago this month, Edgewater, N.J.-based DXagency swiftly and successfully evolved from music marketing to the general market and was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list.

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    User-generated content has already been embraced by social and mobile marketers as a go-to means for producing creative that’s fast and free. Now, exclusive data from Applebee’s latest Instagram campaign reveals that this strategy also is beginning to pay off.

    #Fantographer fans

    In July, the restaurant chain rolled out its Fantographer campaign, which encourages diners to snap pics of their meals or of themselves chowing down on sizzling sirloins. Applebee’s is culling these food porn photos and placing the best ones on its Instagram feed. Since the campaign’s launch, Applebee’s has gained 4,500 new followers, up 32 percent to 19,750; engagement rose 25 percent.

    “People continue to prove that they’re more into the stuff they create versus the stuff we create,” said Shannon Scott, executive director of marketing communications at Applebee’s.

    Roughly 770 images have been collected, 70 of which have already been used. If all goes as planned, Applebee’s won’t need to create any Instagram photos of its own until next summer.

    To help the program scale, Applebee’s cross-promotes the images with posts and ads on Facebook and Twitter. So far, tweets tagged with #Fantographer have appeared in 78 million users' timelines. It’s also asking users to submit pics of particular appetizers and meals for upcoming promotions.

    As appealing as this strategy seems, user-generated content also has its drawbacks. Some marketers worry it dilutes a brand’s reputation since the photos are low quality and sometimes draw negative comments. Applebee’s doesn’t have any data on brand sentiment collected from Instagram, but Scott refuted that there’s any negative backlash based on anecdotal feedback.

    Applebee’s is hardly the first to employ consumer content. James Kirkham, Leo Burnett’s global head of social and mobile marketing, singled out McDonald’s Arabia: Instead of sharing photos of burgers and fries, its current campaign has consumers uploading artistic shots of the chain’s iconic golden arches. "They have this strange, Western culture devotion and love for the brand, which might differ from what you get in other territories," Kirkham said.

    One key for these efforts to succeed is to already have a solid group of fans churning out continuous content that they trust, according to Greg Moss, executive director of strategic services at Resource/Ammirati.

    And, with more consumers relying on smartphones to look up and rate restaurants, Lee Maicon, chief strategy officer at 360i, likened Applebee’s campaign to a picture version of Yelp—the Instagram pictures become a type of visual restaurant review. But he questioned if the initiative can gain traction with a big chain. "People are passionate about their neighborhood restaurants,” he said. “Are they as passionate about Applebee’s as they are about the restaurants that they post pictures of on Yelp?"

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    This ad from Major League Baseball honoring Derek Jeter is perhaps the simplest, least epic tribute we've seen to the Yankees captain, who, barring an unlikely postseason appearance by the team, will play his final game this Sunday against the Red Sox in Boston.

    But for my money, the spot, from BBDO New York, is also the most poignant and moving Jeter tribute of the season, because it eschews grandeur and hype to focus on the future Hall of Famer's most important legacy: the generations who grew up idolizing No. 2.

    They're embodied here by California Angeles outfielder Mike Trout, the most complete player in baseball today, along with college and high-school stars, right down to Little League phenoms Mo'ne Davis and Marquis Jackson.

    In the low-key 30-second ad, we see youngsters copy Jeet's mannerisms in the batter's box and at shortstop, intercut with footage of the man himself, followed by the words, "A model of greatness. Thanks, Derek."

    During his storied 20-year career, Jeter has always given 100 percent on the field—and in an era when so many professional athletes capsize in controversy, agents of their own destruction, the Captain has sailed above the fray, celebrated for his dignified demeanor and respect for the game.

    Sure, it's an image. But that's the whole point. It's an image worth emulating, a model for success that transcends Jeter's many roles—team leader, five-time World Series champ, media celebrity—and gives kids hope that if they follow his example, they can overcome their struggles and achieve something great, whatever that may be.

    The Jeter paeans from Gatorade (made with his input) and Nike's Jordan Brand are each 90 seconds long and stand as suitably heartfelt, dazzling farewells to a player who's meant so much to so many for so long.

    The MLB spot goes deeper. It reminds us why heroes are important in an increasingly complex, confounding and cynical world, and gives Trout and his superstar peers a lofty standard—beyond wins, stats and multi-year contracts—to swing for.

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    Publicis Groupe’s reorganization last week included the promotion of non-Parisian executives to help “lead the way for a new generation at the helm.” Most important of those roles, of course, is a successor to 72-year-old CEO Maurice Lévy, who now expects to retire in the spring of 2017.

    But the more things change, the more they stay the same: Lévy’s successor is expected to be French, as has long been anticipated, sources said. Arthur Sadoun is the leading candidate, having been groomed as heir apparent for the past five years, and he ascended quickly to his current global CEO post a year ago. He and Lévy get along well. Sadoun also has the same sort of charisma and social standing as part of a high-profile couple with glamorous broadcaster wife Anne-Sophie Lapix that befits an iconic French company. Still, with no operating experience outside of Europe, he needs to carve out a similar global and visionary stature as his mentor.

    In the background is Lévy’s top finance man, Jean-Michel Etienne, who has worked closely with him on every big acquisition the company has made, going back to Saatchi & Saatchi in 2000. Knowing that lay of the land, Etienne could be named a co-CEO or chief operating officer to initially counsel Sadoun, sources speculated. Another exec who might be considered a partner to Sadoun is Stephan Beringer, just named chief of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi digital operations. While he’s German born, he’s fluent in French and is said to have Lévy’s ear in all things digital. But three years is a long time with a CEO who first said he would retire at the end of 2011—and other contenders may emerge. One thing is certain though: Lévy is expected to remain involved at the company beyond 2017.

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    Brand publishers are more aware that they’re really just renting social media space on Facebook and are moving resources away from the social network.

    One agency said its clients are pulling away from Facebook in “dramatic numbers”—reallocating their resources to microsites and alternate social channels like LinkedIn—after the agency’s social media managers saw a “dramatic dip” in reach for their messaging over the last 16 months. They attributed this decline to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which curates the content users see in their News Feeds.

    “Brands don’t own what happens on Facebook, and as organic reach has been absolutely eviscerated, they remain aware of that,” said Forrester analyst Nate Elliott, adding that marketers have been telling him that they no longer see Facebook as a viable marketing channel.

    Facebook’s complete control of content on the platform can also wreak havoc on brand campaigns developed specifically for the social network. In March 2012, Elliott said the mandatory Timeline layout change wrecked some custom brand page experiences. “Just changing one pixel can ruin the entire thing,” he pointed out.

    When it comes to rented social media space, there are also concerns about "platform popularity and general unpredictability," said Brooks Thomas, AT&T’s director of digital and social media. But Thomas isn't anti-Facebook—AT&T is on Facebook, but Thomas said he uses it as a way to maintain the brand’s reputation and for transactional and operational messages. 

    “Brands will always have more control over owned spaces than rented ones,” Thomas said. “By and large, I view owned spaces as the farm and rented spaces as the market where you sell the crops—you can personalize your stall, but you can’t design the market.”

    As a result, marketers are now using social efforts to lure people to their own sites. Jun Group reported that clicks that led people to brand-owned-and-operated sites doubled between 2012 and 2013 from 28 percent to 57 percent—while the segment of clicks that ended at Facebook dwindled from 31 percent to 10 percent.

    Some brands are already seeing success with owned efforts. In order to get millennial fans excited about Madden NFL 15, EA Sports skipped a big Facebook push in favor of launching microsite The Giferator, which allows people to customize trash-talking, shareable GIFs. It used Facebook only to drive traffic to its microsite. “It’s not about what platform I’m on anymore,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports’ vp of global marketing and brand. “It’s can I cultivate shareworthy content?”

    Maintaining ownership of all the data is another big plus, Stevenson said, and has allowed EA Sports to tap into user insights and determine preferences that can inform targeting of ads. While The Giferator only got 200,000 unique visitors on the NFL season’s Sept. 4 opening day—a fraction of Facebook’s massive audience—each consumer stayed on the site for six minutes and looked at an average of eight pages. “Any brand that focuses myopically on one platform, they’re missing [a marketing opportunity],” Stevenson said.

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    Outside Shibuya Station in Tokyo, there is a statue of a dog named Hachiko. In the 1920s, the dog would greet his owner at the station at the end of every day. One day, the owner died suddenly and never made it home. But Hachiko spent the next nine years, until his own death, returning to the site every day, hoping to see his owner.

    A similar story of a dog's unceasing loyalty is the subject of Budweiser's latest responsible drinking ad, which rolled out Friday for Global Be(er) Responsible Day, which Bud conceived to talk about drinking and driving.

    The spot, which has more than 6 million views as of Monday morning, shows man's best friend pining for his master's return after he leaves one night to go drinking with friends.

    Dog lovers will get a tear in their eye, as they do with all of Bud's excellent dog-based tear-jerker marketing. (In some ways, it's kind of a sequel to "Puppy Love," the brand's world-beating 2014 Super Bowl commercial.)

    There's been some griping about why the protagonist here wants to stay alive for his dog—and not his kid or wife or something. Well, people who whine into a comment box before really thinking about it, who do you think overdrinks the majority of the Budweiser in this country? A bunch of young dudes who don't have wives or kids yet. Thus, the smart hashtag: #friendsarewaiting.

    It's also, wisely, not overly realistic. We don't need the scene where the dog destroys a shoe and pees everywhere in retaliation.

    Client: Budweiser
    Agency: Momentum Worldwide
    Director: Gus Black
    DP: David Morrison


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