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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    Thanks to Sunday's downer Super Bowl spot, we all learned that Nationwide isn't exactly on the side of the angels.

    Now, the divine comedy of this "extended cut" parody from Funny or Die and director Alan Richanbach (who co-wrote it with Travis Helwig) drives that message home. ("Funny or Die," by the way, nicely sums up Nationwide's approach to its two ads on Sunday.)

    The shaggy-maned kid from the big-game commercial—actually, a kid actor playing the kid actor—shows up at the pearly gates, and whines on and on about meeting his demise in a preventable household accident.



    If that punk keeps "harshing the vibe," he doesn't have a prayer of getting into paradise, which is, after all, "chill as hell." There's a cute bit at the end, when a new shaggy arrival reminds us of the enduring popularity of a certain tried-and-true Super Bowl ad trope.

    Funny or Die aren't the only ones poking fun at Nationwide this week. Check out Conan O'Brien's spoof of the commercial below.


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    We know how much you love Anna Kendrick, so here she is in yet another commercial where she gets to be funny and charming—this time at Amy Schumer's expense.

    Schumer is hosting the MTV Movie Awards in April, for which this serves as an early promo. Nothing too exciting happens, but it's entertaining nonetheless. If nothing else, Kendrick has shown time and again that she can make something out of nothing.



    "It was great to work with such a variety of comedians and actors in the campaign," said the director, Kim Nguyen of Backyard, in a statement. "It's fun leading them into different directions and providing an environment where they are willing to take chances and bring something different to each take. That collaboration really opened up so many funny possibilities that our entire crew was holding back laughter take after take."

    The MTV Movie Awards air on Sunday, April 12, at 8/7c.

    CREDITS
    Client: MTV  
    Creative Director: Noah Phillips
    Copywriters: Neil Casey, Kim Caramelle, Jessi Klein, Christine Nangle
    Art Director: Lance Russoff
    Production Companies: Backyard; Outer Borough
    Director: Kim Nguyen
    Executive Producer: Kris Walter
    Line Producer: Janie Brown Kelly
    Directors of Photography: Aaron Phillips, Joe Arcidiacono
    Editing: Cosmo Street; Great City Productions
    Editor: Tiffany Burchard


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    While you were loving and hating the Super Bowl TV commercials on Sunday, there was a whole other game going on—the radio ads on Westwood One. And now, AdFreak has an exclusive look (or rather, listen) at the winner of the second annual Westwood One Super Bowl Sound Awards, honoring the best radio spots of the game.

    The champion this year is Poo-Pourri, the before-you-go toilet spray that can eliminate odors that stink even worse than Pete Carroll's play calls. The spot itself won't be accused of being overly sophisticated (this brand's viral videos aren't, either), but it was a hit with the fans who voted. Have a listen here:

    THE WINNER:



    THE RUNNERS-UP:

    Last year's winner, Motel 6, placed two ads in the top five this year, with longtime spokesman Tom Bodett humorously trying to update his pitch for a new generation. The AutoTune one is quite funny. Listen to those spots here:





    Finally, Subway and Exergen rounded out the top five:



    More than 40 advertisers participated in the Super Bowl Sound Awards. The ads were available on demand for a week before the game aired Sunday on the more than 700 radio stations broadcasting Westwood One's Super Bowl XLIX coverage, as well as on SiriusXM Radio, NFL.com/Audiopass, NFL Mobile from Verizon and the American Forces Radio Network.


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    We're still technically more than a year away from the 2016 Super Bowl, but the first ad teaser is here. And of course, it's from Newcastle Brown Ale.

    The brewer and its agency, Droga5, evolved their Super Bowl ambush campaign this year from not being able to afford a spot to still not being able to afford one but crowdfunding one with 37 other brands. So far, the strategy for 2016 seems to be getting started really, really early on still still not being able to afford one.

    The next Super Bowl will take place on Feb. 7, 2016, which is pretty far in the future. And so Newcastle's teaser, also from Droga5, is heavy on the futuristic imagery.

    Check it out below, and visit NewcastleCountdown2016.com for more.



    So, how did the 2015 "Band of Brands" campaign do? Newcastle Brown Ale brand director Priscilla Donhert told Britain's Marketing magazine: "We've seen overwhelmingly positive press coverage, and the feedback from social media has been encouraging. Last year's campaign offered a big lift for Newcastle sales and trial intent—initial results look positive and we're counting on the same effect this year."

    CREDITS
    Client: Newcastle Brown Ale
    Agency: Droga5


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    For a company no one actually likes, people sure are interested in McDonald's food. This interest often takes shape as vulgar curiosity and conjecture about specific menu items. I still remember thinking its burgers were made from vat-grown mutant cows with no bones or central nervous system, for instance.

    I say this because McDonald's is finally capitalizing on the myths surrounding its Big Mac secret sauce by selling bottles of it for the first time. Creatively titled "Big Mac Special Sauce," which sounds more interesting than "1000 Island Dressing Variant," the legendary burger enhancer will be sold in a limited run of 200 bottles.

    As with all bewilderingly valuable things, the first bottle is being sold on eBay in Australia, with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Bidding started at 99 cents Australia but is now up to $23,000—or almost U.S. $18,000. (And no, you can't pay with lovin'. There is hope for the impecunious, though, as some McDonald's locations in Australia will reportedly be selling tiny tubs of the stuff for just 50 cents this month.)

    It's an interesting move. People have been replicating the sauce themselves for decades, so there's clearly a market for it. And the campaign will surely succeed when measured in not-entirely-genuine Facebook posts about it.

    It would be funnier and more interesting if it were Jack in the Box doing it, though.

    Via Design Taxi.


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    Anything can happen when you're out and about in the wilderness. And these new Old Spice ads prove it. 

    The latest kooky campaign from Old Spice, courtesy of Wieden + Kennedy, has everything you never could have imagined. It's got an angry bear with an extraordinarily long tongue, a big bird regurgitating strange food indeed for its young ones, and your typical woman clad in a hot pink bikini in the middle of the forest.

    Five 15-second spots debut online today and will air early next week on TV—two at a time in 30-second pods. The campaign launches three news scents for the brand's Fresher Collection—Timber, Amber and Citron—each designed with a specific male persona in mind, including lumberjacks, explorers and captains. Because what could be manlier than a man who smells like a lumberjack or some pinecones? Am I right, ladies?



    Each spot concludes with the tagline "Smell as great as nature is," to drive home the idea that men want to smell as fresh as the great outdoors.

    Old Spice even conducted a study to back up the campaign. The study found that nature scents have a calming effect on people, and wearing such earthy scents can make a man feel better than he would if he, say, actually took a jaunt outside and sniffed some trees.

    The five spots are each as quirky as the next. They're also, however, what you've come to expect from the brand, which is no stranger to over-the-top spots—from screaming Terry Crews to the absurd Mandroid campaign. The challenge is to keep things fresh within the larger construct. And the brand clearly thinks it's still working.

    Check out the rest of the spots below.



    And here's a video that introduces the products and talks about the scent technology:



    CREDITS
    Client: Old Spice
    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.


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    This year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue will make history by featuring a plus-size model—in its advertising, anyway.

    The gorgeous model, Ashley Graham, will not be posing in the editorial content next to the Chrissy Teigens and Kate Uptons of the world but in an ad by Swimsuits For All—an online retailer for women sizes 8 through 34.

    "I know my curves are sexy, and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too," Graham says in a statement. "There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt. The world is ready for more curves in bikinis. Swimsuits For All helps women feel confident and sexy in swimsuits, and I am so thrilled to be a part of the #CurvesinBikinis campaign!"

    For those who think she has no place being in Sports Illustrated ("With America's obesity issues, promoting this is dangerous," reads one comment on Facebook), the size-16 model has also launched a workout video series called The Curvy Fit Club with Net-a-porter.

    The Swimsuits For All ad was created by KraftWorks in New York, which is run by Neil Kraft, the former Calvin Klein creative director who made Marky Mark and his Calvins famous. The photograher is the famed Russell James.

    This is reportedly the first time that a plus-size model will be seen in Sports Illustrated—much less the Swimsuit Issue—and it took buying power to get her there.

    CREDITS
    Client: Swimsuits For All
    Agency: KraftWorks
    Creative Director: Neil Kraft
    Photographer: Russell James
    Art Director: Karen Lee
    Director of Account Strategy: Elisabeth Smith
    Videographer: Brian Quist


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    Common is a busy man these days, winning a Golden Globe (for the song "Glory" from Selma), getting nominated for two Grammys and an Oscar (also for "Glory"), and providing the voiceover for two stirring Microsoft ads on the Super Bowl.

    As if that weren't enough, he also found time to voice this new ad promoting the 2015 NBA All-Star Game in New York.

    Created by the New York office of DDB, the spot mixes live action and animation, with flashes of NYC landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The ad goes up online today and will appear soon on those TV screens in New York City cabs and on your living room screen as well.

    In an Adweek exclusive, here's a first look:



    Oh, and if you think Common is perpetually holed up in some recording studio, think again: He'll also play in a celebrity basketball game in the runup to the All-Star Game, which takes place Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

    CREDITS
    Client: NBA
    Agency: DDB, New York
    Executive Creative Director: Joseph Cianciotto
    Creative Director: Rich Sharp
    Creative Director: Mike Sullivan
    Art Director: Mina Mikhael
    Copywriter: Turan Tuluy
    Producer: Tiffany Campbell
    Account Executive: Jackie Schultz
    Design and Animation: Transistor Studios


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    Trojan is jumping on the 50 Shades of Grey movie hype bandwagon. But the condom brand doesn't seem all that impressed by the franchise's BDSM-light theme.

    A new two-minute slapstick ad (directed by Laura Murphy, best known for her work on MTV's Girl Code) pokes fun at a man and woman in couples therapy, discussing their misadventures trying to use the popular romance novel as a sort of Bondage for Dummies—even though the dude hasn't bothered to read it.

    Unsurprisingly, he's the bigger doofus, though she also pulls her weight. And thankfully, she does kick him in the face, at one point. Eventually the therapist waves some magic word wand about feelings, and the couple rush off to bone in the car.



    The takeaway, apparently, is that Trojan saves the day by making bad try-hard sex into good comfortable sex. "Get out of the grey area, into 50 shades of real pleasure," reads the tagline.A 15-second teaser for the longer ad will also run in movie theaters—50 Shades of Grey, the film adaption, comes out Feb. 13, and the promotional push is in full swing, with rabid fans claiming they're watching the YouTube trailer on repeat and Deadline Hollywood predicting a $60 million opening.

    In other words, Trojan is making a play to charm people who are curious about the kink but ultimately deem it all too weird for their own enjoyment. (For what it's worth, BDSM experts seem to think the book is nonsense, too.)

    Regardless, everyone can agree that the guy in the Trojan ad should have picked another safe word.


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    We already picked our five favorite Super Bowl commercials, so for this week's list of best spots, we'll focus on everything that didn't run on the Big Game. Check out our picks below, and vote for your favorite. And if we missed some good ones, let us know in the comments.


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    Truth is out with a new anti-smoking ad, and it's a long way from stacking body bags outside the offices of tobacco companies.

    "Left Swipe Dat," created by 72andSunny, features a parade of young pop stars and YouTube personalities singing a novelty song about rejecting people on the dating app Tinder for featuring cigarettes in their profile pictures. Singer Becky G anchors the video, with X-Factor-born girl group Fifth Harmony handling backup. Comedians King Bach and Timothy DeLeGhetto act as hype men. Harley Mortenstein of Epic Meal Time, Grace Helbig of it'sGrace, and AlphaCat each spit a guest verse. There are also cameos from Anna Akana, Jimmy Tatro and Terrence J.

    In other words, if you were born before 1992 and don't spend all of your time on YouTube, it's exactly the right thing to make you feel old and confused and terrified.



    Back in the late '90s and early '00s, teenagers smoked even though they knew it was bad for them, because the cool thing to do was not caring that it was bad for them. In fact, this video is exactly the kind of thing that would have made a teenager want to smoke, because a distant slow and painful death would have seemed preferable to the shame of being in any way aligned with such an earnest train wreck of an attempt to make something seem cool or not cool. Teens used to be smart, and dumb, like that. So, putting piles of dead people on screen was, like the other melodramatic but statistically driven scare tactics of the classic Truth campaign, in those days a much better bet.

    Now, who knows?

    Over-the-top crazy antics, bubblegum pop and exploding rainbows are what the kids are into these days, right? Also smartphones and Tinder? Or is all that stuff passé? It goes almost without saying that any teen anti-smoking message is a good message (assuming it doesn't send them running in the opposite direction). It's good, even if it is a bald-faced play to make teens think smoking means they won't get laid, which is probably pretty scary for a lot of teens, too. Though ostensibly this is also aimed at millennials? Or are they just like overgrown teens? Questions abound.

    Some Becky G fans, and Fifth Harmony fans—Harmonizers, as they call themselves—seem to like the clip, when they're not busy hating it, and each other, for the perceived slight that their preferred stars didn't get enough screen time. Others seem baffled, too, but they watched, for their idols.

    So maybe the whole thing is pretty sensible. Or maybe it's better described as Satan-spawned earworm with a heart of gold.

    Either way, after watching it, you'll need a drink.

    CREDITS
    Client: Legacy
    Chief Marketing Officer: Eric Asche
    Vice President, Marketing: Nicole Dorrler
    Marketing Director: Mary Dominguez
    Marketing Brand Manager: Jasmin Malone
    Agency: 72andSunny
    Chief Creative Officer, Partner: Glenn Cole
    Grough Creative Directors: Mick DiMaria, Justin Hooper
    Writer: Rebecca Ullman
    Designer: Sarah Herron
    Group Brand Director: Judson Whigham
    Brand Director: Kristine Soto
    Brand Manager: Everette Cooke
    Brand Coordinator: Chelsea Gilroy
    Chief Production Officer: Tom Dunlap
    Director of Film Production: Sam Baerwald
    Senior Film Producer: Marisa Wasser
    Film Producer: Esther Perls
    Director of Business Affairs: Michelle McKinney
    Group Business Affairs Director: Amy Jacobsen
    Business Affairs Manager: Amy Shah
    Group Strategy Director: Matt Johnson
    Strategy Director: Kasia Molenda
    Strategist: Josh Hughes
    Junior Strategist: Spencer Adrian
    Production Company: DNA
    Director: Director X
    Partner: David Naylor
    Executive Producer: Missy Galanida
    Producer: Clark Jackson
    Director of Photography: Omer Ganai
    Casting: David Kang
    Art Department: David Courtemarche
    Editing: Arcade Edit
    Executive Producer, Managing Partner: Damian Stevens
    Executive Producer: Nicole Visram
    Post Producer: Kirsten Thon-Webb
    Editors: Nick Rondeau, Dean Miyahira
    Assistant: Ryan Andrus
    Postproduction: Timber
    Creative Directors: Kevin Lau, Jonah Hall
    Executive Producer: Chris Webb
    Managing Partner: Damian Stevens
    Producer: Lauren Loftus
    Digital Effects Supervisor: Nick Hiegel
    Flame Artists: Miles Kinghorn, Lisa Tomei
    Nuke: Josh Bolin, Krystal Chinn, Nick Hiegel
    Roto, Tracking: Dylan Holden
    Telecine: The Mill
    Executive Producer: Thatcher Peterson
    Colorist: Gregory Reese
    Audio Mix: Lime Studios
    Executive Producer: Jessica Locke
    Mixer: Dave Wagg
    Assistant Mixer: Adam Primack
    Composer: Adam Schlesinger
    Music, Talent Supervision: Jash
    Executive Producers: Doug DeLuca, Daniel Kellison, Mickey Meyer, Ty Braswell
    Producers: Nick Veneroso, Celeste Hughey


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    Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!

    The latest ad for Google's Android is hysterical, and adorable, as it features various pairings of different animal species playing and frolicking with each other. Baby rhinos and goats, lion cubs and puppies, bears and tigers—oh my. 

    A big part of the charm is that it's set to Roger Miller's 1973 ditty, "Oo-De-Lally" from Disney's Robin Hood soundtrack. This was the animated Robin Hood that featured an entirely animal cast, so the song aligns the spot conceptually, too. It sets a whimsical, carefree tone that makes you wish you were a kid again playing with your animal buddies, and didn't have to go to work ever again.

    Actually, it makes you wish you were a baby animal.



    The spot, by Droga5, is the latest execution in Android's "Be together. Not the same" campaign. It is intensely cute, and apparently all the footage is 100 percent real—with no CGI whatsoever.

    Now that's one sweet, harmonious, hilarious ad.

    CREDITS
    Client: Android, Google
    Agency: Droga5
    Editor: Ben Suenaga, Friendshop!
    Visual Effects Company: The Mill


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    You probably remember McDonald's famous, Grand Clio-winning sundial billboard, created by Leo Burnett almost a decade ago, which used the sun's shadows to suggest what you should be eating and drinking at certain times.

    Now, here's a kind of sequel—a McDonald's billboard from Canada that's likewise in harmony with the movements of the sun. It's a digital billboard for the Egg McMuffin, which rises into view just like the sun in the morning.



    Cossette in Vancouver created the board, and tells us it started out as an entry in an out-of-home contest called Carte Blanche. (Creatives propose ideas for real clients; the winning team gets a trip to Cannes, and the winning client gets $50,000 worth of free media space in its city.) The Cossette/McDonald's team won the contest, and then executed the ad for real.

    "The digital board was synced to sunrise times over the course of the buy, with each frame lined up as best as we could get it," a Cossette rep tells us.

    A bright idea, indeed.



    CREDITS
    Client: McDonald's
    Agency: Cossette, Vancouver, Canada
    Creative Director: Michael Milardo
    Art Director: Cameron McNab
    Copywriter: Kate Roland
    Director of Brand Services: Anne Buch
    Brand Supervisors: Melissa Guillergan, Karen Babiak
    Director of Production: April Haffenden
    Production Supervisor: Sue Barteluk


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    In this attractive new Miss Dior spot, Natalie Portman outdoes Julia Roberts' runaway bride by nabbing a helicopter after she ditches her groom at the altar. Portman's escape, soundtracked by Janis Joplin's epic "Piece of My Heart," has the actress running barefoot and shedding her handmade gown. 

    Director Anton Corbijn, known for A Most Wanted Man, tells People magazine that his vision of Miss Dior was a feminist one.

    "It's interesting to see that these women are kind of worshiped by men, projecting what men want to see, and yet they say they are feminists," he said. "For me it's still coming from a man's perspective. The great thing about Janis Joplin, for instance, is that the female perspective prevails."



    He notes that the team behind the spot was careful with the song choice. "It took a long time to find the music, and this choice seemed to fit perfectly from all angles, including the song's meaning," he says. 

    Now, back to the gown: It took 600 hours to make and consists of hundreds of hand-cut fabric flowers which were dyed into shades of pink and white to create an ombré effect. 


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    For most people, spending a night in cable car 9,000 feet above sea level probably doesn't sound that relaxing. But if you're a ski buff or a sucker for a view, you might enjoy the prize in Airbnb's latest sweepstakes—a stay in a tricked-out lift above a resort in the French Alps.

    The hospitality company is turning a gondola at Courchevel into a bedroom for four (assuming they're willing to pair off to share the two beds). The winners will arrive by snowmobile, enjoy a regional dinner in the cable car, and ride to the top of Saulire mountain, where they'll have access to the bathroom in the station, because—surprise, surprise—there isn't one in the car.

    The next morning, after breakfast, they also get first dibs on the slopes.

    If that seems like your kind of thing, enter before Feb. 25 by making your case in 100 words over at the Airbnb listing. "Vertigo sufferers need not apply," it helpfully notes.

    If you're selected, you'll still have to get yourself there. But judging by some of Airbnb's other willfully quirky promo digs, it may well be worth it. While it's not as spacious as a commercial jet converted into an apartment, it almost definitely beats sleeping in an Ikea.


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    You know you've designed a good Oculus Rift virtual reality experience when people emerge from it squealing in delight and with their knees trembling.

    Hiking boot brand Merrell did one such activation at Sundance last month, partnering with Rolling Stone magazine to create the Merrell TrailScape—an immersive journey that had people feeling like they were walking around crumbling ledge and over a treacherous wooden bridge high in the mountains.

    The experience—which Merrell says was the first commercial use of "walk around" virtual reality—was created by Merrell agency Hill Holliday and designed by Framestore. The latter is the Oscar-winning effects house that worked on Gravity and also famously did the Oculus activation for HBO's Game of Thrones at South by Southwest last March. (It later opened up a whole VR and immersive content studio.)

    Check out the experience below, which was timed to the introduction of Merrell's most technical hiking boot to date, the Capra.

    Adweek responsive video player used on /video.

     


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    Last August, during final presentations for Anheuser-Busch InBev's $575 million domestic planning and buying assignment, Sasha Savic took his vow to raise the creative bar at MediaCom to a whole new level. Fittingly, he did so in a pub.

    A couple of days before the pitch, Savic and members of his team checked out the site where they would be presenting. "It was one of those corporate board rooms on Third Avenue" in New York, he recalls—a space that was staid, functional and devoid of personality. It represented the antithesis of the dynamic Savic has tried to instill in MediaCom since his arrival as U.S. CEO nearly three years ago.

    "We said to ourselves, 'We really cannot tell our story in this environment the way that story needs to come through.' We made a risky decision not to present in that room."

    Unbeknownst to A-B InBev, the agency rented the second floor of The Harp Raw Bar & Grill, an upscale Irish pub located across the street from the site of the pitch. The Harp's open-floor plan and decorative appointments give the place a bright, welcoming vibe. That's where MediaCom, one of three remaining contenders in the high-stakes competition that had stretched across three months, chose to make its stand.

    On the day of the presentations, Savic surprised the 20 executives representing the client by arriving alone. Since the brief focused on Bud Light, he invoked the brand's slogan. "I told them, 'You claim you're "Up for Whatever," so you need to follow me, and I'll take you to a place where it's more appropriate to do this presentation.'" The war for customers, he explained, wasn't taking place in board rooms but in bars—like the one across the street. "They could have told us, 'No, everybody is doing it here—you're doing it here,'" he says. "And then we'd be in trouble. We didn't have a plan B."

    As it turned out, MediaCom didn't need one. After Savic and a handful of staffers completed a two-hour presentation upstairs at The Harp, everyone adjourned to the ground floor, where 50 MediaCom employees who worked on the pitch assembled for an informal meet and greet.

    "It was a bold, confident move that worked because it reflected our own corporate culture," says Lucas Herscovici, vp, consumer connections at A-B InBev. "More importantly, it was well executed and perfectly aligned with our company and our brand strategy. That was the moment when we really began to suspect that we'd found a special agency team." 

    MediaCom's North American CEO Phil Cowdell (l.) and U.S. CEO Sasha Savic. | Photo: Kevin Scanlon

    The brewer awarded its business to MediaCom in October, one of a number of milestones in a year that saw the WPP shop grow U.S. revenue 25 percent to an estimated $162 million. Nearly half of that growth was organic, with expanded mandates from clients including AARP, Audi, Canon, Citizens, Revlon, Shell, Siemens, Strayer University and Volkswagen. Beyond A-B InBev, other wins included Bayer's Merck, Clarius Entertainment, DSW, eBay and Indeed.com. A key score came near the close of 2014, when Mars tapped MediaCom to handle planning on its estimated $1.7 billion global business. (ConAgra Foods, Discover and Legacy departed, but the impact of those losses was negligible.) 

    That impressive performance—along with a series of innovative campaigns for clients large and small—typify the agency's dramatic volte-face since Savic took the reins in early 2012. "MediaCom was broken then," says consultant Avi Dan, who oversaw a late-2013 review in which the shop won ADT. "He turned it around, and has done it so quickly."

    Savic is more modest: "I will never say that I fixed it. In this industry, things are fairly cyclical, and companies go on hot streaks and then go to dark moments of their history."

    MediaCom stumbled through a shadowland for a couple of years before Savic's arrival. By all accounts, he joined a dispirited organization that was reeling from the departures of GlaxoSmithKline and Warner Bros. "It looked to me like a real challenge—and a big challenge," says the exec, who at the outset focused on rebuilding the culture based on "how to make a company that will play to win, versus a company that is trying not to lose."

    Luckily, Savic was comfortable with change. When he was 22, the Bosnia native helped start the first uncensored radio program in the former Yugoslavia. During a weekend out of the country in 1992, war broke out. He never returned. Rather, he reinvented himself as a planning professional at Universal McCann in Europe and the U.S., and later as a senior manager at Starcom MediaVest Group, where he helped lead the global Procter & Gamble business. In another shift, before joining Havas Media North America as COO in 2010, he studied at the New York Film Academy, making several acclaimed documentaries—among them, A Passion Called Salmon, about a personal passion: fishing.

    Every time one strives for reinvention—or even just something different—"it opens up new landscapes for you and the team around you," Savic says. That philosophy dovetails with the changes that have taken place over the past decade in the media-agency business. Today, more information is available than ever to help clients understand and influence consumer behavior. Naturally, MediaCom rigorously mines data, but creating media plans and executing buys are entry points. "Our job goes well beyond numbers," Savic says. Applying insights in ways that entertain and even benefit audiences is paramount, he stresses—and creativity drives both the work and the channels for delivering the message. 

    For Pennzoil, MediaCom developed the Breaking Barriers documentary on the National Geographic Channel.

    From the start, putting the right team in place was essential, and Savic has assembled a core group of leaders boasting a range of skills that encompass marketing, media and entertainment. Each individual, he says, played a key role in MediaCom's triumphs last year. Khartoon Ohan helped guide the new-business surge. Tapped in mid-2013 from Clear Channel, she embodies the high-energy, risk-taking spirit Savic has tried to cultivate. Ohan recalls that during her first meeting with Savic, he said, "I want to go big, or fail famously." Her response: "Yes! Sign me on board!"

    Innovation chief Mark Fortner, who joined the team around the same time, has an impressive pedigree in television, having worked at Viacom and Fox. "I never had any intention of ever joining a media agency—boring!" he says. "That changed the moment I met Sasha." As MediaCom's head of innovation and branded content, he leads a 15-person creative unit, an especially important group given the agency's creative focus. Other key players include strategy chief Archana Kumar (formerly of BBDO), CMO Stephanie Fierman (a former client-side marketer), digital and analytics head Steve Carbone (whose experience includes running Grey's G2 agency) and chief client officer Adam Komack (a MediaCom fixture since 2009).

    Perhaps the most intriguing new addition is Savic's boss, Phil Cowdell, who joined in mid-2014 as North American CEO from GroupM, the umbrella organization that houses WPP's media holdings. A Brit who has lived in 11 cities on three continents in his career, Cowdell brings broad experience after holding senior posts at Mindshare, MediaVest and Team Detroit. Those who know him say he is a genius at managing back-office operations to match client needs. He is also described as a passionate agency advocate with a personable, straight-ahead style that plays well both inside the shop and with clients. 

    Also for Pennzoil, MediaCom created the Mario Kart event at SXSW. 

    Cowdell defines his role as "making sure that MediaCom is properly, deeply connected into WPP assets." When the shop pitched A-B InBev, for example, Cowdell served as Savic's "support and counsel," giving his U.S. CEO timely access to research and personnel from GroupM units like Kantar Shopcom, Millward Brown, KBM and Wunderman. Those shops provided a deep analysis of the "who, what, when, where and why" of the buying cycle. The resulting insights were essential in helping MediaCom set its strategy. "MediaCom's people and approach, backed by GroupM's expertise, was the right fit for us," says A-B InBev's Herscovici.

    After playing a supporting role in that win, Cowdell personally led the agency's bid for Mars. (He was familiar with Wrigley and other category brands from his days at Mindshare.) Cowdell even employed some Savic-style panache during presentations, with the agency recruiting its staffers to prepare snacks for the pitch using Mars ingredients. When client reps showed up at MediaCom's London offices, they were greeted with a spread that included cakes, pies and assorted other treats made with Mars and Bounty bars and M&M's. "We asked the client to judge them for us," relates Cowdell—and the Mars execs readily complied.

    "It helped show us what role our products play in some of their associates' lives," notes Bruce McColl, global CMO at Mars. "Since these were all personal recipes featuring their favorite Mars products, it was a very heartfelt gesture." 

    MediaCom's creative highlights also include VW's digital games, which tied in to Discovery's Shark Week.

    At the end of the day, MediaCom has positioned itself as a creative entity, capable of delivering data-driven strategies and contributing to campaigns that drive results.

    "Media is in a renaissance," says Cowdell. "I don't believe you can separate content and distribution strategy. Content these days is absolutely vital."

    Its work last year for petroleum giant Shell is a case in point. To launch the client's Pennzoil-branded synthetic motor oil made from natural gas, MediaCom hired country singer Tim McGraw to narrate Breaking Barriers, an hour-long documentary about hot rod drivers chasing land speed records. The film was telecast in May on the National Geographic Channel. "It's a good example of turning media from a dry spots-and-dots assignment into strategic, creative, consumer-facing work that gets people excited, breaks through and ultimately drives sales," says Chris Hayek, global brand director at Shell. The film generated 30 million YouTube views.

    At SXSW, MediaCom strapped attendees into motorized go-karts that raced around a quarter-mile track simulating the Mario Kart video game. Footage, naturally, was broadcast live via social media. That gambit resulted in 1 billion earned media impressions, with 90 percent of the articles about the program appearing in publications that had never written about Pennzoil before, according to Hayek. The Daily Dot ranked the experience as one of the 10 best SXSW events of all time, and the effort earned Adweek's Media Plan of the Year Award for Best Use of Alternative Media in the $1 million-$10 million range.

    The bottom line, as Hayek sees it: "Our sales grew roughly 30 percent in a category that grew about half that rate. So not only did we grow our business but we grew the overall category as well, which was one of our key objectives."

    And for Savic, the bottom line is to build the clients' business and to establish MediaCom as an "iconic" industry brand à la Wieden + Kennedy—which would be a first for a media shop.

    "I refuse to admit that a creative agency is more creative than a media agency," he says. "We shouldn't be limiting ourselves to any form or any playground that is defined traditionally. Taking that approach opens up new conversations with our clients about content, new conversations about data ... even new conversations about brand meaning."

    Putting it another way, Savic adds: "If you don't have creativity and if you don't have curiosity about how to do things differently, you may as well go work in a bank."


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    Its agency is one of the more sophisticated out there. And ads about female empowerment are on the rise. So why does Carl's Jr. remain stubbornly Neanderthal, continuing its now decade-long obsession with half-naked women sex-eating its product?

    Well, let's look at the numbers.

    The fast-food chain shares some impressive data today about its regional Super Bowl commercial starring the relatively unknown (until now) 21-year-old Floridian model Charlotte McKinney. It turns out the chain's most naked-est ad ever (at least, that's the faux premise through most of the spot) is also its most successful in quickly generating views and shares.

    The ad, by 72andSunny—titled "Au Naturel" and pushing the All-Natural Burger—has been watched 9.4 million times on YouTube, and the campaign has generated a staggering 2.5 billion media impressions in less than two weeks, the company tells Adweek exclusively. Both metrics far outpace anything Carl's Jr. has done in the past—including famous ads with Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton and Nina Agdal.



    Despite airing in only the western half of the U.S. during the game, the ad also ranks as the third most shared Super Bowl spot across all social media networks, according to Shift Communications. Also, McKinney took over the Carl's Jr. Twitter handle during the Super Bowl and helped to generate more than 4,500 Carl's Jr.-related tweets totaling more than 41 million impressions.

    In other words, the target audience of young males isn't tiring of the approach. And judging by the goofy Austin Powers-esque creative of the McKinney ad, it's quite the opposite: The more (comically) risqué, the better.

    "Carl's Jr. has long been famous for not only developing innovative burgers and other menu items that are new to fast food, but for advertising them in a way that our target audience of 'Young Hungry Guys' can't seem to get enough of," Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Carl's Jr., said in a statement.

    "However, the success of our Super Bowl ad starring the lovely Charlotte McKinney is unprecedented. … Congratulations and thanks to Charlotte for using her sense of humor, acting talent and stunning good looks to create a bit of fast-food advertising history with us. We wish her well on what I'm sure will be a very successful career."

    Of all the hubbub, McKinney herself said in a statement: "It's been so surreal starring in the recent Carl's Jr. Super Bowl ad. They're such an iconic brand featuring so many different women over the years, and I feel fortunate to be a part of this campaign."

    Most important, Carl's Jr. says the product itself is moving swiftly. Since its launch in Dec. 17, sales of the All-Natural Burger have exceeded forecasts every week, per the company, and were strongest to date during the week of the Super Bowl.

    "It's clear that there is not only interest in more natural menu options, but also in the kind of breakthrough advertising Carl's Jr. and sister chain Hardee's create to promote our new menu items," Haley said.

    No one else would call it breakthrough advertising, but don't expect Carl's Jr. to change tactics anytime soon.


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    Ahead of Mad Men's final episodes on AMC this spring, the series has launched The Fan Cut, a contest that lets would-be auteurs remake scenes from the show's pilot episode in (almost) any way they see fit.

    That first episode has been cut up into some 154 clips ranging from 8 to about 40 seconds long. Up to five fans can "claim" each scene, and they have 30 days to create and upload their own versions. Ultimately, the entire pilot will be re-assembled and screened online based on select submissions.

    The rules warn us: "Any depiction of consuming alcohol or smoking tobacco should be simulated." (The crew behind the camera, presumably, can get as sloshed as they like.) And just in case any wisenheimers get ideas about crashing this bash and bragging about it to the ad blogs, the inclusion of third-party brands is strictly prohibited. (But if you do manage to sneak in a plug for a real client, be sure to tell AdFreak about it first!)



    On the one hand, The Fan Cut is a creative way to connect with the landmark show and puts a sort of reverse spin on breaking through the fourth wall, letting the audience do it instead of the cast. On the other, it's a huge waste of time, just like the ad business itself!

    Kidding, of course. The competition promises to be a ton of fun and should yield some intriguing, and possibly insane entries. Look for anime Don, emoji Pete and sock-puppet Peggy. I'm also expecting scenes featuring helium-voiced stand-ins for the regular cast, along with adorable babies (swathed in Brooks Brothers) and cuddly puppies (battling existential angst).


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    Cartier rocks Valentine's Day with "The Proposal," a six-minute meditation on modern romance directed by Sean Ellis, whose 2006 short film Cashback was nominated for an Oscar.

    Here, we meet three couples in Paris, and their stories, to some extent, intertwine—but not too much. One tale is set in the Rodin Museum (the Thinker looks thoroughly stumped by the wacky ways of love), and another at the airport (a husband and wife for some vague reason must part for six months). The third—and, in my view, best—story finds a twentysomething Romeo huffing and puffing as he dashes up an office building's stairs in pursuit of his beloved, who wisely took the elevator.



    Man, these attractive, young, white and apparently affluent heterosexuals are so mixed up! Can ice from Cartier sooth their troubled hearts?

    The film works best in its full six-minute, three-story format, but you can also watch each two-minute tale separately, and visit Cartier's site to check out the products shown on screen. Ain't love grand?

    Snark aside, "The Proposal" is a cut above, with appealing performances and deft storytelling. Of course, this is ultimately branded content, and as such it shines. The film, like the baubles it promotes, is a consumer fantasy designed to bewitch and beguile. Which, for the most part, it does. So I'm willing to forgive its flaws.


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