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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    It's been a breakthrough year for ballet in advertising.

    It started off on the wrong foot with the notorious Free People ad, but it at least got people talking. Then the New York City Ballet did its remarkable 9/11 film via DDB New York. And of course, American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland did her amazing spot for Under Armour.

    Now, the New York City Ballet is back in another fun and inspired project: a BBH New York campaign for PlayStation that shows gamers how to do a proper victory dance after crushing a friend/foe in sports, war, space and heist games.

    Check out six spots below, in which NYCB dancers, in ballet-ified character dress, act out scenes from video games. Each ad begins with classical dance moves, but before long, after they vanquish their opponents, the dancers break out with moves that are way more down and dirty.

    "Send them to your friends to remind them of that lead you stole, the last goal you made, the grenade that ended the match or the dunk you landed on their face. Don't let them forget it," the brand says on its blog.

    There's a social element, too. Gamers who share their own victory dance on Instagram with the hashtag #PS4dancecontest could win a PS4 for themselves and one for a friend—which should ease the pain of any bruised egos.

    PlayStation: Client
    Guy Longworth: Senior Vice President Brand Marketing
    John Koller: VP Platform Marketing
    Franco de Cesare: Senior Director Home Consoles
    Tyler Vaught: Senior Brand Manager Home Consoles
    Cristian Cardona: Brand Manager Home Consoles
    Cody Morales: Associate Brand Manager
    Mia Putrino: Associate Brand Manager

    Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York: Agency
    John Patroulis: Chief Creative Officer
    Ari Weiss: Executive Creative Director
    Dave Brown: Creative
    Ian Hart: Creative
    Joyce Kuan: Art Director
    Jamie Rome: Copywriter
    Carey Head: Head of Integrated Production & Technology
    Kate Morrison: Head of Content Production
    John Riddle: Senior Content Producer
    Christina Carter: Content Producer
    Douglas Stivers: Senior Producer
    Kelly Bignell-Asedo: UX Director
    Anthony Terruso: Creative Technologist
    Rebecca O'Neill: Head of Art Production
    Armando Turco: Head of Account Management
    Melissa Hill: Account Director
    Mark Williams: Account Manager
    Mike Mueller: Account Executive
    Kendra Salvatore: Strategy Director
    Julian Cole: Head of Comms Planning
    Ben Zoll: Comms Planner
    Sean McGee: Head of Business Affairs

    New York City Ballet: Partner/Talent
    Troy Schumacher: Choreographer
    Olivia Boisson: Dancer
    Zachary Catazaro: Dancer
    Emilie Gerrity: Dancer
    Craig Hall: Dancer
    Brittany Pollack: Dancer
    Amar Ramasar: Dancer
    Karen Girty: Senior Director of Marketing
    Ellen Bar: Director of Media Projects
    Fredrick Wodin: Director, Corporate Relations
    Galina Khitrova: Manager, Corporate Relations

    Skunk: Production
    Jonathan Augustavo: Director
    Matt Factor: Managing Partner/EP
    Shelly Townsend: Executive Producer
    Jeanne Stawiarski: Head of Production
    Annalise Rowane: Producer
    Sing Howe Yam: Director of Photography
    Michael Bednark: Production Designer
    Arle Bordas: 1st Assistant Director
    John Scott Wilson: 2nd Assistant Director
    Rosanna Pandolfo: Production Supervisor
    Ruth Martinez: Assistant Production Supervisor

    Arcade Edit: Editorial/Post Production
    Nick Rondeau: Editor
    Dan Gutterman: Assistant Editor
    Tristian Wake: Flame Artist
    Sila Soyer: Executive Producer
    Lauren Cancelosi: Producer

    The Mill: Telecine
    Fergus McCall: Colorist
    Dee Allen: Executive Producer
    Heath Raymond: Producer

    Beacon Street Studios: Original Music
    Beacon Street Studios: Composers
    Adrea Lavezzoli: Executive Producer

    APM Music: Licensed Music
    Deborah Fisher: Key Account Director

    Sound Lounge: Audio Mixing
    Tom Jucarone: Partner/Mixer
    Vicky Ferraro: Executive Producer
    Toria Sheffield: Producer

    DOMANI Studios: Digital Design and Development
    Jon Lander: Creative Director
    Dan Ashley: Senior Designer
    Steve Matysik: Interactive Developer
    Steve Young: Interactive Developer
    Matt Wilcox: Director of Front End Technology
    Taylor Hills: QA Lead
    Nirmala Shome: Interactive Producer

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    When you think of Santa Claus dropping loads all over the world, you envision bags full of gifts. But it seems jolly St. Nick leaves less happy presents in people's homes too, at least according to this gleefully scatalogical Christmas ad from Poo-Pourri.

    The before-you-go toilet spray—makers of the 2013 viral hit "Girls Don't Poop," which has 30 million YouTube views—is back with quite the seasonal surprise. Yes, the three-minute video below confirms without a doubt that, as its title suggests, "Even Santa Poops."

    Here, he's seen pooping in some British family's house—posh British people being, as the original video proved, particularly amusing when talking about poop. But wouldn't you know it—the three girls of the home aren't asleep. They barge in on Santa while he's on the can, claiming to have been woken by the smell.

    And indeed, Claus does appear to have polluted the place with his Santa stink, having not used the Poo-Pourri that was sitting right there.

    The concept will surely be off-putting to some, but the scriptwriting is strong—one poop joke after another, many of them actually quite inspired, and some of them delivered by the squeaky-clean sisters.

    That it's this well done shouldn't be a surprise: The spot was written and directed by Pete Marquis and Jamie McCelland, with concept and copywriting by Joel Ackerman. The former worked on the hilarious Hello Flo videos, while the latter wrote and directed "Girls Don't Poop." It's like a dream team of bodily-functions humorists.

    We caught up with Poo-Pourri creator and CEO Suzy Bátiz to ask how the ad came to be, and what kind of reaction she's expecting from it.

    How did the idea to do a Christmas commercial come about?
    The holidays are a perfect time to promote Poo-Pourri as it is the perfect gift and a huge hit during the holidays as it creates laughs and, above all else, it really works. It's the gift that everyone can use. So we wanted to continue the success we've had with our other online videos with original, timely creative content that drives customer engagement.

    What was the scripting process like? Did you come up with various scenarios before settling on this one?
    Other people wonder how Santa gets to all the houses, fits down the chimney or is he even real? At Poo-Pourri, we think a little differently, a little unexpectedly. We think Santa is just like us. He has to poop too, especially after eating cookies and milk all night.

    That's when we decided to reach out to our dream team: Joel Ackerman, our original writer on "Girls Don't Poop," and Pete and Jamie, the directing team and comedic geniuses behind the Hello Flo viral videos, which we are big fans of in our offices.

    We definitely went through a number of concepts and scenarios with every brainstorm session and script review. With each session we continued to elevate the concept to get to the final. For example, the concept started with one girl and then progressed to three girls who were sisters. Then we gave Santa more of an attitude. And then we finally topped it off with Bethany, our "Poo Girl," making an entrance as a throwback to our other videos and something our loyal Poo-Pourri brand followers would appreciate.

    How did you find the right Santa for this? And who is the actor?
    What actor? We flew him in first class from the North Pole. Yes, Santa is a union actor.

    No, really, we auditioned several possible Santas, and none were feeling right. Then Pete and Jamie thought of a friend, who was a comedic actor, and just happened to look the part. We auditioned him, he began improvising, and we knew right away he would be a great fit. His name is Mike Faella, aka "Santa Mike."

    How far did you want to take the humor with the girls and their potty mouths?
    As always, we looked for the balance of shock value versus clever, witty comedy that is the essence of the Poo-Pourri voice. Our brand is known for our witty, confident and playful spirit that we bring through in everything we do.

    We did have a lot of fun, however, seeing a lot of giggles from the girls, because we actually were asking them to say "poop" and "fart," words they hadn't ever been given permission to talk about before.

    Are you expecting an enthusiastic response, or do you think there might be a few Grinches out there?
    Absolutely, we are expecting a great response! Whenever you create something that pushes boundaries, you're going to have passionate lovers and passionate haters, but it's all passion. We hope to have touched on a funny take on a traditional story—an unexpected twist to a holiday classic tale.

    Our brand is built on the unexpected. Like in our first video, "Girls Don't Poop," you had a beautiful British girl saying things like "creamy behemoth." It's the same here. You have innocent little girls saying unexpected things. And you have Santa pooping in a house … certainly an unexpected scenario. Yes, he does exist. And, yes, his poop stinks too!

    Client: Poo-Pourri
    Production Company: World War Seven
    Executive Producer: Josh Ferrazzano
    Producer: Mike Begovich
    Directors: Pete Marquis & Jamie T. McCelland (Pete & Jamie)
    Concept: Joel Ackerman and Hector Batiz
    Writers: Pete Marquis & Jamie T. McCelland (Pete & Jamie)
    Copywriter: Joel Ackerman
    Director of Photography: Kevin Phillips
    Production Designer: Russell Jaeger
    Wardrobe Stylst: Karla Cavalli & Harmoni Everett
    Hair & Makeup Artist:  Colleen Hogan
    Editor: Karen Kourtessis (Beast)
    Sound Design: Chirs Stangroom (Hobo Audio)
    Colorist: Robert Crosby (Neptune Post)
    Santa: Mike Faella
    Sister #1: Isabella Blake Thomas
    Sister #2: Ava Devoe
    Sister #3: Haylie Di Fronzo
    Lady on Santa's Lap: Bethany Woodruff

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    She's just like the iconic Barbie, but normal.

    The Lammily doll has the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman's body, based on data from the CDC—unlike the Barbie doll, whose proportions will never be replicated by any actual human. But not only does the Lammily doll, created by 26-year-old Nickolay Lamm, have a normal waistline—she also comes with a sticker extension pack, in case you want to add moles or body scars or even cellulite.

    It started as an art project, but interest grew for a "normal Barbie," and now the Lammily doll is available for purchase.

    "I wanted to show that reality is cool," Lamm tells Time magazine."A lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don't they show real life is cool? It's not perfect, but it's really all we have. And that's awesome."

    To illustrate his point, he created a video transforming a Lammily doll into a Barbie doll via Photoshop—a clever play off videos we've seen dating all the way back to Dove's "Evolution."

    Critics will surely point out that while Lamm is about reality and inclusion, the doll is only available as a white brunette. But Lamm has raised half a million dollars via crowdfunding, so hopefully we'll see more dolls available, cellulite and all.

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    FCB South Africa is running an idea up the flagpole. A really big idea. In fact, the idea is ginormous. And its main component is a South African flag so large, it will be visible from space, 30 miles above the Earth.

    The Giant Flag project was put in motion last month by Guy Lieberman, the agency's head of green and social new business development. The initiative is ultimately designed to foster national pride, improve the lives of people in need and make a lasting impact on South Africa's economy and environment.

    "Yes, it is big. And it is wild," Lieberman tells AdFreak. "It's both an unreasonable project—in the good sense of the term—as well as a practical one."

    So, how big and wild are we talking?

    The proposed flag will measure 66 hectares—that's nearly 165 acres, about the size of 66 soccer fields. Its red, green, blue and gold sections will consist of millions of cacti and succulent plants that can thrive in the semi-arid Karoo region, offsetting some 90,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. Solar panels designed to power the equivalent of 4,000 homes will make up the flag's triangular black patch. (They will also "harvest" rainwater to feed the flag's living components.) The white areas will be access roads.

    The project will provide more than 700 jobs in Camdeboo Municipality, where the unemployment runs over 40 percent, and support tourism, hospitality and various enterprises over the long haul. Moreover, Lieberman says, it will serve as a symbol of hope, cooperation and sustainable growth for South Africa and beyond.

    But … where did the whole giant-flag idea come from?

    Lieberman drew his inspiration from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, noting "the nation's huge emotional response to our flag." After the World Cup, FCB launched the much-praised "Keep Flying" campaign to encourage the nation to maintain its momentum. "The CEO of FCB South Africa [John Dixon, since succeeded by Brett Morris] called me into his office," Lieberman recalls, "and said that while the ["Keep Flying"] campaign was amazing, it was fleeting and we needed to look for a legacy project on the flag, something that could live on. And so the Giant Flag idea was born."

    Of course, a 66-hectare flag can't be built on the cheap. What's the price tag, and who's footing the bill?

    Crowdfunding and corporate efforts are under way. All told, it will cost about $20 million, with $2 million being the threshold to begin the massive germination project, followed by clearing the land, fencing off the site, building roads and constructing the solar field. "There has been half a million dollars sunk to date," says Lieberman, "and a variety of commitments, soft to definitive, of around $6.5 million."

    Individuals can donate $10 to sponsor a plant, $100 for a section of road and $250 for a solar panel. What's more, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs is lending its support, and corporate sponsors such as Google and Toyota "have come on board because they see the value this will have on the nation, as well as on their brand," Lieberman says. "It also speaks to their commitment to game-changing initiatives, and in this sense the Giant Flag is not tied to any one nation—it is global." (Google is providing a monthly $10,000 AdWords grant to promote the project, as well as cloud services for the Giant Flag app.)

    In a way, the initiative represents the confluence and expansion of two industry trends—agencies launching intellectual property efforts and creating installations designed to have a broader social impact. Many such projects have succeeded (including FCB's own fascinatingbillboards in Peru), but they have been far less ambitious, and staged on a more manageable scale.

    So, how does Lieberman respond to critics who say the Giant Flag is a grand idea, and great PR for FCB, that will probably never fly, owing to its cost, complexity and all manner of potential pitfalls?

    "I understand why they would say that," he says. "It's unlike anything that has come before—there is no easy framework for them to grasp on to. How could they possibly see it happening? But that's OK. The Giant Flag will happen. … There are too many people who can already feel it in the landscape."

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    The official drink of the Washington Redskins… and Dave & Buster's?

    College Humor created this fake ad a little while back for Diet Racism—the drink that has all the sweet ignorance of regular racism but with none of the guilt or self-awareness. It's the drink of choice for people who don't realize that the phrase "I'm not racist, but …" doesn't magically make whatever comes after it less racist.

    It's actually been quite a year for discussions of racism involving brands. Maybe this fake commercial could be a good hiring tool for potential brand or social media managers. If they laugh, maybe they'll be a little less likely to go full-on racist in a tweet.

    If they tell you the Irish really were persecuted too, well, there's a red flag.

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    Despite all their turnover and relentless pursuit of revenue, ad agencies often end up feeling like big families. And announcing any sort of life change to your family, especially a family of 500 colleagues, can be daunting.

    So, imagine telling this family that you'll soon begin transitioning from female to male, and you'll have the first inkling of the road Chris Edwards began traveling nearly 20 years ago.

    Edwards, a longtime creative director for Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, announced his gender transition in 1995. Over the next 12 years, he underwent 28 medical procedures to complete the transformation. And throughout, he maintained his role as a writer and creative leader, working on major national and global accounts.

    In his upcoming memoir, titled Balls, Edwards shares an array of stories about his gender switch, along with the more traditional reminscences about a life in the already unpredictable world of advertising.

    This week is GLAAD's National Transgender Awareness Week, and we asked Edwards to tell us a bit more about his story. Check out our conversation below.

    AdFreak: So, what's the status of your book?
    Chris Edwards:My manuscript is currently in the hands of a bunch of editors at various New York publishing houses. I'm hoping one of them will make me an offer soon. This is still a subject that makes some people nervous, so if I haven't found the right editor by January, I will likely publish it myself. Either way, interested readers can sign up to get an alert when the book is available at chrisedwardsballs.com.

    Is it really going to be called Balls? Because that's amazing.
    Ha. Yes it is. When I announced at work that I was going to be transitioning, so many people came up to me and told me I had balls. I always laughed it off with, "Well, that's a few surgeries down the road." But I knew what they meant, and it's true.

    It takes a lot of courage to change your gender to begin with. But to stay at the same job and do it openly in front of 500 co-workers and clients, yeah, you've gotta have quite the set of cojones. I was telling this "balls" story to my former boss, Pete Favat, over a few too many vodka sodas, and he was like, "Dude, that should be the title!" And we both cracked up.

    The next day I thought, do I really have the balls to call my book Balls? Looks like the answer turned out to be yes. I've been told I'll probably need a subtitle, though. I'm thinking "It takes some to get some," but that might be pushing it.

    I'm guessing your target audience is a lot bigger than just those considering a gender switch. Who else do you think would enjoy this book, and what do you hope they'll get out of it?
    Well, all you ad peeps will enjoy the book because agency life is the backdrop, and I name names, so you may read about someone you know. You'll laugh a lot, too. My sense of humor helped get me through 28 surgeries and innumerable awkward moments, so it was critical that the tone of the book reflect that.

    Yes, this book will surely appeal to a transgender audience, but really it's for anyone who's ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin—for whatever reason. It's about having the courage to be true to yourself and realizing that, instead of fearing what other people will think, you can actually control it. I was able to use what I learned working in advertising to rebrand myself and market the "new me" to friends, family and co-workers with great success. I hope people read my story and come away empowered, inspired and more accepting of others who are transitioning.

    At risk of one big spoiler here, how would you describe the way your colleagues and clients at Arnold handled your transition?
    Ah, total spoiler! But without giving too much away … It was 1995. Transgender wasn't even really a word yet. The only frame of reference people had was Silence of the Lambs, The Crying Game and guests on Jerry Springer.

    I knew I had my work cut out for me when it came to changing perceptions, so I took it upon myself to be the educator. Arnold was very much like a family back then, so it felt like everyone was on this journey with me, and we all learned as we went. Some people had issues. And there were definitely some awkward moments, especially around me using the men's room. But overall the response was incredibly positive. I'd like to think it was solely because of the way I handled the situation, but it probably didn’t hurt that Ed Eskandarian, the agency’s owner and CEO at the time, was also my father.

    You were the creative director on McDonald's "Singing Fish" spot, one of my personal favorites. What other work are you most proud of?
    Ah, yes, "Frankie the Fish" will always have a special place in my heart. You know, we made a toy replica that plays the original jingle and club re-mix. I think there are still a few left on Amazon if you're interested. Anyway, another McDonald's spot I'm proud of is "McNuggets Guys." I saw this YouTube video of two guys rapping about how much they love McNuggets (one of the rappers is now the star of the HBO series Silicon Valley) and turned it into a 30-second TV spot that went viral. I believe it was one of the first if not the first TV spot to use YouTube footage.

    I'm also extremely proud of the early work I did for [the anti-tobacco campaign] Truth. Of all the spots I worked on, the most memorable one was probably "Project SCUM," which is the name of the actual marketing plan Big Tobacco used to target gays and homeless people. Insane, right? While the facts we dug up were disturbing, it was so satisfying to get to do creative work that actually made a difference. Since the inception of the Truth campaign, teen smoking has gone down from 23 percent to 9 percent. Feels great to know I had a little something to do with that.

    What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about publicly changing genders but is worried it could create a difficult situation among friends, family and co-workers?
    It's pretty much the same advice I'd give anyone about to undergo a major life change of any kind: Take the lead and develop a game plan in advance. Script out and rehearse what you're going to say. Make a list of who you want to tell personally and in what order. Educate and be patient—you may have been living with it in your head for a while, but it's still new news to everyone else. Be open and encourage questions. Use your sense of humor to put people at ease. Oh, and read my book. :)

    Chris Edwards is a veteran creative director and copywriter based in Boston. To sign up for updates about the status of his memoir, BALLS, visit his website.

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    Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" video, posted to YouTube in June, is nearing 300 million views. So, what did the singer do for an encore to her No. 1 hit? She got a brand, an ad agency and social influencers involved.

    HP and 180LA had been talking to labels, hoping to help craft a music video as a way to promote the Pavilion x360 tablet-laptop. And the 20-year-old Nantucket newcomer, signed to Epic Records, seemed perfect.

    "Not only does her music work well with a fun, high-energy campaign, but she's also a young, socially active creator herself who we knew would inspire our influencers and their fans," said 180 creative director Adam Groves.

    Young creators have been at the core of HP's "Next Gen" campaign, and they make up much of the cast and crew of the new three-minute "Lips Are Movin" video.

    "So many young people have the talent and skills to do amazing stuff," said Groves. "We're just using the brand and the technology to give them a bigger platform to push the limits of what they're already doing."


    TALENT: HP and 180 recruited a host of young influencers, many of whom have built-in online audiences, to work on the video as actors, choreographers, dancers, set designers, hair and makeup artists, stylists and photographers. They include American set designer Bri Emery, American actors Marcus Johns, Cody Johns and Robby Ayala, French dancers Les Twins, Spanish stylist Sara Escudero, American hair stylist Kristin Ess and Japanese nail artist Mei Kawajiri.

    "The energy around the set was crazy," said 180 creative director Zac Ryder. "All of the influencers were busy working with the production team while creating their own content for their fans. … It was really cool to see [Trainor] interact with guys like Marcus and Cody Johns. She was just as starstruck as they were."

    The x360 was the creative tool at the heart of the production—all of the influencers used it in some way. "A dancer from Houston was able to record herself choreographing her routine, then get suggestions from her fans and ultimately invite a few them to L.A. to star in the video with her," said Ryder. "As another example, our set designer used it to pull reference, create sketches and share them with the production team. Ultimately, her ideas came to life as the sets on the actual video."

    COPYWRITING: The script had to communicate the influencers' involvement. So, director Philip Andelman suggested showcasing the crazy behind-the-scenes world of a music-video shoot—which ended up being the video's framework.

    "Philip was really excited to work with all of these young creators," said Ryder. "Like all of us, I think he was inspired by their enthusiasm and fresh thinking. He understood how to pull all of the influencers' ideas together and craft the video in a way that showcased one of the hottest young stars in the world."

    ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Visually, it's a lot like the "All About That Bass" video, just with more colors than pink.

    "Her team asked us to evolve the look of 'All About That Bass' without straying too far from it," said Groves. "She's still a new artist, and they're trying hard to build a consistent look around her. Our set designer/influencer Bri Emery is known for using bold bright colors. So when Meghan's team asked us to stay within that world, it was a really good fit."

    HP is woven subtly into the video—the x360 opens the video with a digital clapperboard, and is seen briefly throughout.

    "We knew the only way this would be successful is if it wasn't an ad. It had to be a legit music video," said Groves. "The couple of times you do see the computer, it's being used in a natural way. Plus, so many young people can see through marketing BS in a video like that, and are happy to call it out. To make sure the product story came through, we had our influencers post content that they created on set which featured the HP x360."

    MEDIA: A companion TV spot is offers "a fun, highly stylized look at the music video set in the moments leading up to the first shot," said Ryder. "Viewers move through the set and see a few of our influencers using the x360 like they did throughout the production process. We constructed the story so that the spot ends where the music video begins."

    TV SPOT:


    Client: HP
    Rob Le Bras-Brown, SVP, PPS WW Marketing
    Vikrant Batra, VP, PPS WW Marketing, Consumer PC
    Katie Nauman, PPS Product Manager
    Melissa Barroso, Integrated Marketing Comm. Manager
    Stef Brower, Social COE

    Agency: 180LA
    Global CEO: Michael Allen
    Executive Creative Director: William Gelner
    Creative Directors: Adam Groves, Zac Ryder
    Copywriter: Trey Tyler
    Art Director: Chelsea Cumings
    Head of Production: Natasha Wellesley
    Senior Producer: David Emery
    Producer: Nili Zadok
    Account Director: Mike Slatkin
    Account Manager: Jamie Friedman
    Account Manager: Allison Landrum
    Social Strategist: Jessie Jo Blalock
    Strategist: Andrew Zakim
    Head of Business Affairs: Loretta Zolliecoffer

    Production Co.: Identity
    Director: Philip Andelman
    DP: Frederik Jacobi
    Executive Producer – Alana Hearn
    Producer: Josh Goldstein
    Shoot Location: Sony Pictures Studio, Culver City, CA
    Shoot Date: November 12, 2014

    Production/Music Video
    Production Co.: Partizan Entertainment
    Director: Philip Andelman
    DP: Frederik Jacobi
    Executive Producer – Jeff Pantaleo
    Producer: Josh Goldstein
    Shoot Location: Sony Pictures Studio, Culver City, CA
    Shoot Date: November 11, 2014

    Editorial Company: Cut & Run
    Editor: Lucas Eskin
    Producer: Remy Foxx

    Editorial/Music Video
    Editorial Company: Sunset Edit
    Editor: Kenneth Mowe
    Executive Producer: Nazeli Kodjoian

    Company: Carbon FX

    Finishing/Music Video
    Company: Baked FX

    Recording Mix/TVC
    Recording Studio: ELEVEN SOUND
    Mixer: Jeff Payne
    Executive Producer: Suzanne Hollingshead

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    Lexus's "December to Remember" ads, with the luxury vehicles done up in those famous giant red bows, have become as much a part of the holiday firmament as Santa Claus himself. And this year, Team One aims to capture the full spirit of the season by suggesting a new Lexus is the only thing that can give grown-ups that magical feeling of being a kid on Christmas morning.

    Three spots feature parents telling their children fantastical stories of how they received a Lexus for Christmas. And no, one spouse didn't just surprise the other by festooning it in an oversize ribbon and parking it in the driveway.

    "Christmas Train," which evokes The Polar Express, shows a Lexus IS F Sport sedan being delivered via rail from the North Pole. "Magic Box" shows how large objects, like a Lexus ES sedan, can come in extremely small packages. And "Teleporter" tells of a special ice-covered elf machine that transports a Lexus RX luxury crossover from a winter wonderland into a family driveway.

    All three spots end with the voiceover: "The magic of the season is here, at the Lexus December to Remember Sales Event."

    "I still remember getting bikes, Evel Knievel toys, Six Million Dollar Man dolls and so many more toys. What else, besides an awesome new car, could come close to that feeling now?" Jason Stinsmuehlen, group creative director at Team One, tells Adweek. "We're illustrating that with Lexus, you're never too old for toys."

    Team One presented a dozen campaigns to the client, but this one stood out.

    "We simply asked the question, 'If we were going to say Santa brought our new Lexus, and our kids wondered how that was possible, how would we say Santa was able to pull that off?' " Stinsmuehlen says. "Clearly the typical 'Santa's sleigh' narrative wouldn't explain how a new car could show up, so we embraced the innate creativity that exists in all parents. The overlapping storytelling voiceover that transitions to on-camera dialogue was the executional insight that made it work."

    Motion Theory director Grady Hall and postproduction company Mirada wanted the spots to have the feel of timeless holiday magic.

    "Our goal was to live up to the production values of any theatrical holiday film. It had to be epic, magical and yet totally realistic," Stinsmuehlen says. "We decided to shoot as much as we could in camera, including a giant train pulled on a flatbed truck down a Vancouver neighborhood street and building a huge LED arch for our teleporter to project believable light in our sets."

    After changing creative direction on this ad franchise regularly over the years, Team One thinks this one might have more staying power.

    "Visualizing a parent's imagination is about as free an exploration as you can ask for," says Stinsmuehlen. "My hope is that if this campaign gets traction, it'll be something we'll keep trying to top for years to come."

    And don't expect the big red bows, which have been around since 1999, to be thrown out anytime soon.

    "The bow is a Lexus holiday icon that people know without even seeing a Lexus logo. We'd never walk away from something that powerful," Stinsmuehlen says. "It is, admittedly, one of those ad images that some have lampooned. But like the [Coca-Cola] polar bears and [Budweiser] Clydesdales, we hope it's an icon that's as welcome as any marketing during the holidays can be."

    Client: Lexus
    Project: 2014 December Sales Event TV, Holiday Stories: "Teleporter," "Christmas Train," "Magic Box"

    Agency: Team One
    Chief Creative Officer: Chris Graves
    Group Creative Director: Jason Stinsmuehlen
    Copywriter: Daniel Streadbeck, Dave Carlson, Aroon Muhkey
    Art Director: McKay Hathaway, Bernie O'Dowd, Amy Servidea, Bryan Carroll, Patrick Dougherty
    Executive Producer: Sam Walsh
    Producer: Amy Gershwin
    Associate Producer: Tiffany Otoya
    Account Director: Joel Dons
    Account Supervisor: Trina Sethi
    Director of Strategic Planning: Noel Sullivan
    Senior Strategic Planner: Ashleigh Edwards
    Senior Project Manager: Amanda Rackley
    Senior Business Affairs Manager: Janet Anderson
    Director of Product Information: Robert Jordan
    Media Planner: Jarod Knight

    Production Company: Motion Theory
    Director: Grady Hall
    Founder, Executive Producer: Javier Jimenez
    Head of Production: Ben Leiser
    Producer: Oualid Mouaness
    Director of Photography: Trent Opoloch

    Vancouver Production Company: Capitol Media
    Executive Producer: Christian Allen
    Head of Production: Keely Stothers
    Line Producer: Abigail Flint
    Postproduction Company: Mirada
    President: John Fragomeni
    Executive Producer, General Manager: Patrick Nugent
    Visual Effects Supervisor: Zach Tucker
    Creative Director: Jonathan Wu
    Computer Graphics Supervisor: Michael Shelton
    Senior Producer: Diana De Vries
    Production Coordinator: Jami Schakel
    Editor: Hal Honigsberg

    Editing Company: Nomad
    Executive Producer: Susye Melega
    Editor: Tom Muldoon
    Assistant Editor: Steve Miller
    Postproducer: Tommy Murov

    Postproduction Company: The Mill
    Telecine: Adam Scott
    Music Company: Robot Repair
    Executive Producer: Doug Darnell
    Composers: Aaron Alden, Josh Hawkins, Mike Schanzlin
    Sound Designer: Doug Darnell
    Voiceover: Maurice LaMarche
    Recording Studio: Juice Studios
    Sound Mixer: Bob Gremore

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    Distraught mothers became psychotic stalkers in Old Spice's epic "Momsong" musical, following their sons around and weeping about how they've grown into men too soon, thanks to the brand's female-luring body sprays.

    Now, it's time for fathers to weigh in. And naturally, they couldn't be happier that their boys are turning into men.

    The 60-second sequel, "Dadsong," from Wieden + Kennedy, tries to pack in a lot more than the original, which won a slew of awards, including gold at the Clios and in Cannes. It opens with one of the moms from the first spot, still bereaved as she watches her son slow-dance with a girl at a high school dance.

    "Where's my little boy, I miss him so/Who's this man living in our home?/My special guy has turned into a man," she sings. Then, back at home, Dad comes roaring in on a sit-down lawnmower, and sings: "At least he won't be living in a driveway in a van!"

    The rest of the spot is a showdown between mothers and fathers, with amusing lyrics—music company Walker worked on the spot, with music and words by Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords—and increasingly outlandish visuals, echoing the first ad. (The mom under the ice is the best bit here.)

    Of course, the moms and dads are actually both right. As the lyrics cleverly hint at, about halfway through, he's not a man or a child—he's a manchild. And he'll certainly get a kick out of the commercial.

    Client: OId Spice
    Spot: "Dadsong"

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Jason Bagley | Craig Allen
    Copywriters: Jason Kreher | Nathaniel Lawlor
    Art Directors: Matt Sorrell | Ruth Bellotti
    Senior Producer: Lindsay Reed
    Account Team: Georgina Gooley | Nick Pirtle | Michael Dalton | Jessica Monsey
    Executive Creative Directors: Susan Hoffman | Joe Staples
    Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz

    Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
    Director: Andreas Nilsson
    Managing Director: Shawn Lacy
    Executive Producer: Colleen O’Donnell
    Line Producer: Jay Veal
    Director of Photography: Fredrik Backar

    Editorial Company: Mackenzie Cutler
    Editor: Gavin Cutler
    Assistant Editor: Pamela Petruski
    Post Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld

    Visual Effects Company: The Mill
    Executive Producer: Sue Troyan
    Producer: Adam Reeb
    Coordinator: Kris Drenzek
    Creative Director: Tim Davies
    Senior Visual Effects Artist: Becky Porter
    Visual Effects Artists: Alex Candlish | Patrick Munoz | John Price | Timothy Crabtree | Adam Lambert | Anthony Petitti | Yukiko Ishiwata | Phil Mayer
    Computer Graphics Visual Effects Artist: Jason Jansky

    Production Company: Walker
    Producer: Sara Matarazzo
    Assistant Producer: Abbey Hickman

    Composer: Bret McKenzie
    Arranger: Mickey Petralia

    Music Record and Final Mix
    Studio: HEARby
    Engineer: John Buroker
    Executive Producer: Nannette Buroker

    Color Transfer Company: The Mill
    Artist: Adam Scott
    Executive Producer: Thatcher Peterson
    Producer: Natalie Westerfield

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    In this holiday spot from Dick's Sporting Goods, part of the chain's "Gifts That Matter" campaign, a father buys his young daughter a basketball hoop, presumably for Christmas. Through the years, it becomes part of the family's daily life and a focus of neighborhood activity during pickup games, parties and even bittersweet goodbyes.

    There's a basic truth at the core of the minute-long clip—from Anomaly—that makes it especially appealing and, for most, I assume, instantly relatable. We all have certain possessions, which often enter our lives as gifts during childhood, that play important though at times almost invisible roles in our development. At best, these things help us mature and can shape our outlook about the world and ourselves. Sometimes they simply provide a few minutes of happy diversion when we're feeling down.

    Such connections are especially strong when the items in question are sports related, owing to the physical nature of games and the shared experience they provide.

    Given this dynamic, the commercial, well directed in montage style by Jake Scott through RSA Films, can't avoid some sentimentality. Even so, when it comes to illustrating the transcendent, transformative power of gifts that really matter, this spot's all net.

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    Ever wonder what Harry Potter would do with an ad campaign? Have a look at this.

    The Quebec City Magic Festival wanted to make sure people noticed its billboard, so ad agency lg2 sprinkled a little magic into the board itself in a playful feat of meta-vertising.

    Take a look below at "Magic Mop," a delightful little document of this whimsical stunt. And unlike regular magicians, they even reveal their secrets at the end.

    Quebec City Magic Festival
    Advertising Agency: Lg2, Quebec City
    Creative Director / Copywriter: Luc Du Sault
    Art Director: Vincent Bernard
    Illustrators: David Boivin, Vincent Bernard, Marc Rivest
    Accountant: Eve Boucher
    Agency Producer: Julie Pichette
    Director: David Poulin
    Production House: Nova Film
    Producer: Dominik Beaulieu
    Engineer: Sébastien Bolduc

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    While shy-bladder sufferers debate the offensiveness of Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe, DirecTV is plowing ahead with all sorts of other less-than-ideal Rob Lowes—you know, the ones with cable and not DirecTV.

    The latest disturbing specimen is Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe. And thanks to some CGI, he certainly looks like a pathetic weakling. Hopefully Grey New York at some point will have time to do a digital composite of all the subpar Rob Lowes, and we'll get to have a look at CreepyLess AttractivePainfully AwkwardCrazy Hairy Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe.

    Client: DirecTV
    Spot: "Scrawny Arms"
    Agency: Grey, New York
    Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
    Executive Creative Director: Dan Kelleher
    Group Creative Director: Doug Fallon
    Group Creative Director: Steven Fogel
    Agency Executive Producer: Andrew Chinich
    Agency Producer: Lindsay Myers
    Agency Music Producer: Zachary Pollakoff, Amy Rosen
    Account: Chris Ross, Beth Culley, Anna Pogosova, Aaron Schwartz, Meredith Savatsky, Eddie Mele
    Strategy: Michelle Leo
    Production Company: MJZ
    Director: Tom Kuntz
    Producer: Emily Skinner
    Production Supervisor: Daniel Gonzalez
    Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
    Editorial Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld, Mackenzie Cutler
    Editor: Gavin Cutler, Mackenzie Cutler
    Assistant Editor: Ryan Steele & Mike Rizzo, Mackenzie Cutler
    Mixer + Sound Designer: Sam Shaffer, Mackenzie Cutler
    VFX: Method Studios, NY
    VFX Supervisor: Jay Hawkins, Method Studios
    VFX Producer: Carlos Herrera & Christa Cox, Method Studios
    Casting (OCP): Francine Selkirk, Shooting From the Hip
    Casting (VO): Nina Pratt and Jerry Saviola, Avenue 3 Casting

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    Wieden + Kennedy recently created a pretty incredible out-of-home tourism installation for Travel Portland: the tallest freestanding cuckoo clock in the U.S.

    Chainsaw sculptor J. Chester Armstrong carved the clock, made from a single Oregon maple, in the national forest just outside Portland. It took three months to make—with help from metal sculptor Nicolas Gros, clock designer/gear consultant Laurent Worme, electronics consultant Mark Keppinger and local illustrator Patrick Long (who did the illustrations for the clock face). The clock features references to a number of Portland icons—Mt. Hood, Portlandia, beer, wine, bikers, farmers markets, roses, rivers, bridges and even Sasquatch.

    W+K recently took the clock—which thematically ties into the "Portland Is Happening Now" campaign—to Seattle and Vancouver for tourism events in those cities. Every hour on the hour, hand-painted, wood-carved miniatures appear when the clock chimes. The events also featured "Portland-themed surprises, like coffee and donuts, a poet reading, a comedian performance, a tax-free tea party and naked bike riders," the agency says.

    The clock is 24.1 feet tall by 9.5 feet wide and weighs more than three tons. W+K is now looking for an indoor location in Portland to house the clock through the winter months. Check out more images below, all courtesy of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association/Travel Portland.

    Client: Travel Portland
    Project: "Portland Is Happening Now"

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Hal Curtis / Antony Goldstein / Jeff Gillete
    Copywriters: Becca Wadlinger / Jared Elms / Ian Fairbrother
    Art Director: Nate Nowinowski
    Designers: Patrick Nistler / Cassandra Swan
    Media Team: Wieden + Kennedy
    Interactive Strategy: Jocelin Shalom
    Media, Communications Planning: Stephanie Ehui
    Strategic Planning: Lisa Prince
    Account Team: Ken Smith / Kristin Postill
    Production: Byron Oshiro / Kristin Holder / Heather Hanrahan
    Project Managers: Danna Dolich / Shannon Hutchinson
    Studio Manager: Abby Marten
    Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples / Mark Fitzloff

    Event Partners
    Social Agency: Edelman Digital
    Public Relations Agency: Lane PR
    Digital Agency: Rally Group
    Event Producer: Sue Cool

    Design, Construction Team
    Project Leader, Metal Sculptor: Nicolas Gros
    Chainsaw Carving: J. Chester Armstrong
    Clock and Gears Design Development, Consultant: Laurent Worme
    Microprocessor and Pneumatic Consultant: David Butts
    Electronic Consultant: Mark Keppinger
    Welder: Cameron Visconty
    Lead Carpenter: Matt Sykes
    Fabricator: James Harrison
    Lighting, Carpentry Assistant: Julia Zell
    Carpenter: Dave Laubenthal
    Sign Painting: Ardis Defreece
    Miniatures and Clock Face Painting: José Solis

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    What's more shocking than adorable girls in princess dresses swearing? How about adorable girls in princess dresses swearing with black eyes and bruised lips?

    The Potty-Mouth Princess Posse is back with another spot for activist T-shirt company FCKH8. But this time, the girls—some of them as young as 6 years old—are dropping F-bombs in the name of fighting domestic violence.

    The first ad had an oddly humorous edge to it, but there's not much to laugh about in "Potty-Mouth Princesses Part 2: Girls F-Bomb Domestic Violence." It starts out just like the original—you know, little girls saying "fuck" a lot—but things take a quick turn when the girls explain that one in four women are victims of domestic violence. When girl No. 4 pops on the screen, her face is covered in fake bruises and cuts.

    "Got a problem looking at my fake, fucked-up face?" one girl says. "Isn't one out of four women beaten the real disgrace?" two more chime in.

    If people had a problem with young girls yelling "fuck," there's bound to be some more blowback when they're sporting fake bruises and busted lips. Many were also shocked that young girls were talking rape and abuse. But FCKH8 and its princesses clearly aren't backing down.

    "Quit bitching about us saying 'fuck,' " one says. "And do something about it."

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    We've become accustomed to animal rights videos that are so brutal and depressing, you feel like you've been hit by a bus. But this spot from Australia shows a little positivity goes a long way.

    The video, titled "People Being Awesome," has been watched a staggering 88 million times since being posted to Facebook on Nov. 16 by Animals Australia. And yes, the people in it are behaving in pretty stellar fashion—the ad compiles home-video footage of people helping ducks who've gotten themselves into difficult situations (many of them are trying to cross busy roads with their ducklings in tow).

    The pitch is revealed in the closing frames, and it turns out we've been watching a political campaign ad—but surely the most uplifting one of the year.

    Read more about the ad, and the cause it promotes, here.

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    Old Spice this week unveiled "Dadsong," its second lunatic 60-second musical via Wieden + Kennedy—the sequel to the award-winning "Momsong" from a year ago. Clearly, the music on a commercial like this isn't just an important component—it's the main component, around which everything revolves.

    AdFreak caught up with Sara Matarazzo, owner of music company Walker, which coordinated the scoring and recording of the music, to ask how it all came together.

    AdFreak: What was the brief for "Dadsong"?
    Sara Matarazzo: We worked on the "Momsong" campaign, so the idea for this one was to create the second single off the "album." The challenge was to create a track as good as the first while keeping the campaign consistent and cohesive.

    Sara Matarazzo

    How is "Dadsong" different from "Momsong," creatively?
    The key difference with "Dadsong" is that we introduced a new perspective to the story. We needed to juxtapose the moms' feelings with the dads' through the music. The main melody of "Momsong" was written in an unusually low female vocal range, which contributed to our purposefully homely performances. However, "Dadsong" utilizes a more traditional female range in order to allow the full male register to shine through. The new arrangement of voices helped accentuate that back and forth and allowed us to build the song up to a bigger climactic moment with voices hitting notes all over the pitch spectrum.

    Walk us through the creative process.
    We worked with Bret McKenzie and Mickey Petralia from Flight of the Conchords on board to compose the music. We have worked with Bret and Mickey on several ads over the years, so this was a nice reunion. We actually wanted to work with him on the first Old Spice spot but he was busy writing music for Muppets Most Wanted [following his Oscar-winning work on 2011's The Muppets]. I told him, "We have the perfect campaign for you," and he was available. Of course, he nailed it.

    The process started with Bret and I going back and forth with the creatives at the agency to refine the music, melody, chords and arc. When we got to a place where the team was happy, Old Spice gave us the green light and production on the spot began in Prague with director Andreas Nilsson. Once we had rough picture, our music producer Abbey Hickman worked on [voice] casting with the agency to match our actors. Walker engineer Graeme Gibson oversaw working with our casting and creating demos to show all the possibilities and different directions our vocals could be, which helped to choose our favorite takes and piece together the elements. After the singers and musicians were selected, we went to Vancouver to direct and final record with them.

    Musically, the spot feels a bit like the end of a big musical, when the entire cast does the last song. Is that something that was mentioned?
    Yes, that was a reference. Mainstream musical theater nowadays is largely based off the past century of popular music (except for Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown musicals). Take Spring Awakening or Mama Mia, for instance. Both infuse contemporary rock and pop styles with dramatic content to be more relevant to the modern musical watcher … and sell more tickets. Furthermore, the most passionate songs in a musical are the numbers that bookend the acts and those songs usually utilize the entire cast. "Dadsong" is like the end of one of these musical numbers because it's passionate, dramatic, musically modern and features a large ensemble.

    Which particular musical styles or genres is the spot based on?
    Classic rock ballads and operatic recitative.

    How is working on a project like this different from other ads you do?
    These spots are special because we are involved not just in post but from the beginning of the job and throughout the process. You collaborate on ideas that end up in the campaign. Music can be subjective and go through many mutations, but with this campaign, the song and the spot are one and the same.

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    You remember "Camp Gyno," the 2013 viral video for tampon subscription service Hello Flo in which the first girl to get her period at summer camp becomes a tyrant, dispensing products and advice like she's dealing drugs.

    The star of the ad, Macy McGrail, was a big part of its success. (It has almost 10 million YouTube views to date.) She had just the right mix of adorableness and menace, and made the character hilarious and memorable.

    Well, now McGrail is back in another interesting ad—an almost three-minute-long, impressively cinematic trailer for a book called Surviving Middle School, which her father, Dave McGrail, has published as a kind of entertaining guide book for 4th to 7th grade girls.

    Watch the trailer for below. It's quite well done—decent trailers for books are still pretty rare, after all—and features McGrail playing future versions of herself after she's gone down the wrong path, apparently beginning with poor decisions in middle school.

    Dave McGrail tells AdFreak the idea for the trailer came from Tommy Henvey, an executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York and a relative of his wife's, at a Christmas party last year. Henvey enlisted other talent, including Tim Wilson at Friendshop!, who served as director and editor. "I was drawn to the idea not just to sell the book but also as something fun that Macy and I could do together," McGrail says of the trailer.

    A cast and crew of about 30 filmed in five locations in Brooklyn in September. All of the actors, including Macy, are SAG-AFTRA, with one exception—Dave himself makes a cameo as the father in one of the final scenes.

    The book itself "evolved from a journal I was keeping for Macy, some writing just for fun, and the fact that I wanted to convey the important message that choices matter," McGrail says. "It is about the empowerment that comes with making tough decisions."

    The book is "interactive," much like the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, with choices that lead in different directions (e.g., "Turn to page 43" or "Turn to page 45"). The book addresses real-world issues, including a number of technology-based issues—like Instagram, phones/privacy and online plagiarism.

    "Though some of the issues—bullying, dieting, cheating—are serious, the narrative is light, with a good dose of humor," says McGrail. "I hope the unique tone and format of the book captivates young readers and spark discussion on how to navigate tricky middle school issues."

    Credits for the trailer are below.

    Director/Editor: Tim Wilson, Friendshop!
    Writer: Tommy Henvey
    Producer: Patti McConnell
    Director of Photography: Joe Victorine, Graham Willoughby
    Executive Producer: Melissa Mapes, Friendshop!
    Producer: Garrett Crabb, Friendshop!
    Executive Producer: Eli Heitin, SuiteSpot
    Producer: Gaye Lirot, SuiteSpot
    Telecine: Mikey Rossiter, The Mill
    Producer: Clairellen Wallin
    Music: Able Baker
    Mixer: Elizabeth McClanahan, Heard City

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    Here's $30,000. Now, go out and do something great for your community. And we do mean now. You've got 24 hours to bring your dream to life.

    That's the challenge TD Bank issued to 24 people in the U.S. and Canada as part of its #MakeTodayMatter campaign, developed with Leo Burnett and Diamond Integrated Marketing, both in Toronto..

    "The passion our customers have for giving back is just amazing," Dominic Mercuri, TD's chief marketing officer, tells Adweek. "We didn't know if this idea would work. Would people drop everything to bring to life their idea? Turns out—yes, they would."

    Most of the recipients were nominated by local TD employees, while "some were chosen based on random live interviews in branches and stores with random customers," Mercuri says. The dollar amounts varied according to the specific projects, but $30,000 was the average figure each participant had to work with. "It's a significant amount that can make a real meaningful difference," he adds.

    The four-minute campaign video below—a four-hanky affair, at the very least—focuses on the good deeds of three #MakeTodayMatter recipients. We meet Michael from Ontario, who provides a ramp to make an elderly neighbor's house more accessible (she hadn't left home in four years); Valerie from Pennsylvania, who shows foster children they're loved by organizing a gala event to boost their self-esteem; and Edwin, a Florida elementary school gym coach, who buys gear for an under-equipped youth football program.

    All 24 stories are featured in clips at the campaign website, and there's the requisite social outreach on Twitter and Facebook.

    "We did not have a situation where money was left over, as our customers found other or additional opportunities to give or contribute," Mercuri says.

    On one level, of course, this is simple a bold, well-executed marketing stunt, designed to generate holiday cheer for the bank through a viral video and publicity. (Indeed, the centerpiece clip has millions of views after just a few days on YouTube. TD has scored in this realm before, notably with "Automated Thanking Machines," which has amassed almost 18 millions views since July.)

    That said, I give the bank extra props on this one. Lots of brands create powerful holiday ads, but TD went the extra mile by putting its money to work helping local communities.

    Some commenters have questioned the 24-hour stipulation, suggesting the recipients could have much done more with additional time for planning and logistics. That's a valid point, to which Mercuri responds: "Part of what we think is the beauty of #MakeTodayMatter is that it all took place in such a short period of time. It made the achievement of each act more concentrated and meaningful to everyone who participated."

    What's more, the campaign could inspire viewers to seriously consider what they might do today, within their means, to help their communities. Along with the 24 good deeds, that's a huge return on the bank's investment.

    Client: TD Bank
    Agencies: Leo Burnett, Toronto, and Diamond Integrated Marketing

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    Technically speaking, the best ad of 2014 didn’t exist. Just ask Anna Kendrick.

    Last January, millions of viewers watched the Academy Award nominee deliver a two-minute, profanity-laden rant that took Newcastle Brown Ale to task for offering her a role in a Super Bowl commercial—and then flaking out and not making it.

    The brewer never actually intended to create one. With a media budget for the whole year equal to about half the $4 million price tag for 30 seconds of airtime on the broadcast, it wasn't even an option.

    Instead, Newcastle made something better.

    Kendrick’s buzzy, self-deprecating monologue was just a single piece of the brand's sweeping "If We Made It" campaign—Adweek's pick for the No. 1 ad campaign of 2014—which crashed the biggest advertising showcase of the year with refreshingly honest and hilarious online content.

    Ambitious and clever, "If We Made It" imagined just that—if the brewer had made a Super Bowl ad, how incredibly epic and stupidly awesome it would have been. The campaign featured more than a dozen video clips—melodramatic teasers, insane storyboards, baffled focus groups, cheeky takedowns of real Super Bowl ads from other brands—as well as bonus bits like an advertorial-skewering, fall-on-its-sword sponsored post on Gawker.

    And it all tied together by openly playing on the fact that the brand couldn't actually afford a Super Bowl ad.

    • See Adweek's full list of the 10 best ads of 2014 here.

    The brewer punched well above its weight with the campaign, upstaging the far richer, more legitimate sponsors at the annual football-marketing bonanza. And it did so simply by, to borrow a Britishism, taking the piss out of the industry—with an undeniable swagger that earned a place in some 600 media stories around America’s breathless collective dash toward Super Bowl Sunday. 

    “The whole concept and the meta wormhole that it went down was just too beautiful not to do,” says Quinn Kilbury, who, as Newcastle’s brand director at the time, oversaw the effort.“It just felt very clear—‘How could people not talk about this?’ As long as the creative was somewhat reasonable—because the idea is so different and unique and completely contrary to everything else that happens in the Super Bowl.”

    By “everything else,” Kilbury—who joined Newcastle parent Heineken USA in August 2013 from key Super Bowl sponsor Pepsi—means the kinds of over-the-top productions necessary to justify the broadcast’s seven-figure media ante. “Advertisers treat the Super Bowl as a summer blockbuster that’s a $150 million movie, yet these are brands on a 30-second commercial,” he says.

    Newcastle’s direct “No Bollocks” message has been delightfully mocking the marketing industry and media-saturated culture since 2012. But “If We Made It,” the campaign’s heightened form, was born last November after Kilbury tasked agency Droga5 with making Newcastle the most talked about brand in the Super Bowl—without actually being in the Super Bowl.

    “It was kind of like the perfect brief in a way, because it was really simple and clear, and also completely terrifying,” recalls Scott Bell, the group creative director overseeing the campaign. The agency came back with three concepts, but the rich potential of hyping a phantom ad like it was real made obvious the winner. 

    “There was already a framework in place, you could immediately see how the whole campaign was going to play out,” says Bell. “By talking about the spot we weren’t going to make, we used all the same channels that anybody would who was making a spot. As soon as you said the idea, it sparked 20 other ideas that would fit right into this world.”

    Largely by design, and partly by luck, Kendrick’s contribution proved the campaign’s centerpiece—the most broadly resonant, and arguably the funniest, racking up some 5 million of the campaign’s 10 million video views across 15 pieces of content.

    Initially, Kendrick was just one name among a whole list of candidates that included guys’ guys and beer-commercial-hot women—which Kendrick amusingly admits in her video she is not.

    But after digging into Kendrick’s online credentials, including a Twitter feed packed with wry one-liners, Kilbury and the team realized she was the perfect fit for the campaign’s most expensive component.

    Because Heineken USA was at the time operating sans chief marketing officer, Kilbury had to get the green light for the irreverent endorsement deal directly from the division’s CEO, Dolf van den Brink. Naturally, Kendrick’s performance took an even saltier turn once the cameras were actually rolling.

    “She let a few f-bombs out, she was swearing a bit, and she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that, I just got caught up.’ We were like, ‘No, go for it.’ It was almost like it opened her up more to be able to talk that way,” says Kilbury.

    Van den Brink didn’t see her colorful additions—funny, but not Branding 101—until he reviewed the final cut. “It took a really big leap of faith on his part, to be like, ‘All right, you’re telling my brand to suck it, and we’re paying for this,’” says Kilbury. “You could tell he had this puzzled look on his face. But to his credit, he said yes to everything.”

    That kind of spontaneity was key to the bootstrapped campaign’s success. Newcastle lucked into a second celebrity behind-the-scenes interview with Super Bowl champion Keyshawn Johnson, thanks to a previous relationship with Heineken.

    While his appearance, like Kendrick’s, was scripted, he didn’t actually see the storyboard sketch of himself holding wads of cash in a voiceover booth—a scene from the hypothetical ad—until he tried to explain it to viewers during filming, according to Droga5’s Bell. “His reactions are pretty honest there. He genuinely is confused and doesn’t really understand what we’re doing,” says Bell.

    Likewise, the videos of wide-eyed consumer focus groups trying to parse storyboards packed with over-the-top advertising tropes were also real. The creatives, observing unseen, had a hard time containing themselves. “We were behind the mirror, and there were a couple times we were laughing so hard the focus groups could hear us,” says Bell. “We were afraid we were giving away the joke a little bit.”

    The campaign’s humor wasn’t just inside jokes for ad people, though—consumers are savvier than ever about marketing, especially around the Super Bowl.

    “The ‘No Bollocks’ campaign is a perfect insight into the modern millennial dude, right?” says Kilbury, whom Heineken promoted this October to senior brand director on the company’s flagship brand. “That’s ‘Don’t bullshit me. I can see through you, I’m smarter than you, so don’t you try to trick me.’

    “That plays out big time in the digital world—it’s where it should be. The millennial space is the digital world, and Gen X space is like the TV, broadcast, old-school advertising world,” says Kilbury.

    In a break with years past, Newcastle didn’t buy any television time in 2014 (The Johnson spot did run on ESPN the day before the Super Bowl, a bonus to a digital deal the brand cut with the sports network).

    Newcastle rolled out the campaign in the weeks running up to Super Bowl—timing that media agency MediaVest helped identify as the brand’s best chance to ambush the general frenzy around the game. Public relations agency Fast Horse helped execute the earned media strategy.

    When Super Bowl marketers began releasing their own Big Game ads, Newcastle and Droga5 took the gag even further by creating storyboard parodies offering advice on how to amplify already absurd premises—like Chobani’s yogurt-crazy, grocery-ransacking bear and GoDaddy’s spray-tan-crazy mob of bodybuilders.

    “The filter was basically don’t make fun of the brand, make fun of the process, make fun of ourselves” says Kilbury. “It was more of a comment at that point on all of the real-time marketing.”

    In the end, the clutter around the Super Bowl itself made it impossible to break through during the event itself, says Kilbury. But more importantly, the overall effort generated some 1 billion media impressions, a milestone he says puts Newcastle on par with the kind of advertisers who pony up for Big Game airtime. “That’s what the big Super Bowl advertisers do,” says Kilbury. “If you hit a billion you’re happy—like at Pepsi, it means you did your job.”

    And the campaign’s success is all the more impressive given the relatively low stakes.

    “Part of the discussion internally that made it easier for everybody was ‘The worst case scenario here is nobody sees it,’” says Kilbury. “That’s not a huge risk. It’s a much bigger risk if you bought a $4 million spot and everybody hates it.”

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    The rise in popularity of mobile advertising, content marketing, native advertising and the continued focus on digital leads me to one question: Does anyone really know what they are?

    I’ve never woken up halfway through a medical operation, but if I did, I’m pretty sure the surgeons would not be asking their assistant for a “metal wedgy thing” to allow them to see the “red blobby bit.” Professions create specific language to allow precise and rapid communication. There is no place for vagueness. It’s not creative to call something different, it’s not more exciting to coin a new word, it’s not useful to be hyperbolic and generate buzz. Whether you’re an architect or a medic, the question is what we do with these tools, not how we label them.

    All the more proof that marketing— an entire field of work with no proven qualifications or metrics for comparisons of talent—is not a profession, but rather a sort of art form with more reliable income. But as technology becomes our tool, we need to move toward precision.

    Marketing has changed a bit since the undisrupted 1980s. Everything has become amorphous and volatile and the meaning of a wide array of terms has become blended and blurred. The pace and scale of change afford us an excuse for our slackness, but they also create the need for more precise language. Here are three centers of vagueness and how to introduce focus.

    Digital advertising: Probably the most widely used expression of the industry for the last 10 years and yet few people would agree on what it means. Technically, it would be material that is constructed only of data and has no physical elements and that uses paid-for media for distribution.

    But in reality it’s become a catch-all; it seems to be more of a stylistic description for something new, something that spreads “online” and something that takes little physical form. Technically, a TV spot is digital advertising, as is a video pre-roll, interactive bus stop poster and print ad in the Wired iPad app, but a YouTube channel, tweet, Facebook page, website, viral film or an app are all not digital advertising.

    Now to draw the line between these outputs is absurd. Digital agencies don’t respect this line, so how about this: Let’s banish the word digital forever. It means nothing meaningful.

    Mobile advertising: We’ve never sat down to define mobile advertising. It seemed we didn’t have to—for years it was more simple. It was a form of communication that was paid for and appeared on a mobile screen, which in a world of SMS marketing and WAP Internet was pretty easy to define.

    But as laptops became smaller, tablets developed and operating systems for mobile grew more complex and similar to desktop, things got messy. As mobile became the intersection of content creation, social media, maps, phone calls, NFC, email, iBeacons, search, coupons, and soon health data and payment, it’s become everything and nothing. This is a huge problem. In a world where smartwatches will soon emerge, wherever more possibilities arise, calling this mobile advertising will create a mind-set that will stifle innovation. We should think of mobile as 10 channels in one and design for each separately.

    Content marketing: This term technically means using platforms to promote or sell things or change behavior, which, few people have noticed, seems to include every form of marketing ever known. Like so many marketing terms, the notion of content marketing, rather like pornography in the Supreme Court in the 1960s, seems to have been defined by knowing it when you see it.

    Content marketing seemingly includes some apps, video content online, long-form copy ads and branded professionally made TV shows. It’s become synonymous with advertising that’s trying to provide a bit more information, entertainment and ultimately more value.

    Why don’t we forget the words branded content and just refer to each as techniques, like we used to?

    Tom Goodwin (@tomfgoodwin) is the CEO and founder of the Tomorrow Group.


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