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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    Here's what millions of Star Wars fans around the world want to know: What has General Leia Organa been up to since helping destroy the Starkiller Base and defeat the evil First Order (for now)?

    We won't know that until the next chapter of J.J. Abrams' series reboot hits theaters in 2017, but in the meantime, Carrie Fisher has been counseling some sadly obsolete robots.

    In an extended version of "Coping With Humans," one of a pair of ads IBM will air during Sunday's Academy Awards, Fisher helps a group of metallic relics deal with not, in fact, being the droids we're looking for. Why? Because these bots, unlike IBM's Watson, simply can't fathom the prospect of working directly with humans. They'd rather focus on their plans for world domination.

    The campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, also includes a conversation between Watson and another sci-fi icon: Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. In this extended version of the 30-second spot that will run during the Oscars telecast, Scott and Watson discuss the ethics of artificial intelligence and the value of visual communications.

    The two spots are only the beginning of IBM's attempts to reintroduce the cognitive business unit to a broader audience following its October 2015 launch. Viewers can visit the campaign landing page for all related videos as well as links to Watson apps and demonstrations of its specific capabilities.

    "Watson is doing lots of things in many different industries," Ann Rubin, vp of branded content and global creative at IBM, told Adweek. "This goes well beyond things you've seen before, from helping oncologists make good choices to assisting educators in the classroom—helping vets handle pet health, empowering financial planners to make better decisions, etc."

    The Fisher spot uses nerdy humor to illustrate a very real business challenge. "IDC estimates that by 2018, half of all consumers will interact with cognitive computing services on a regular basis," said Rubin. "We like to use the word 'outthink.' … Watson can outthink any problem. We also call it 'science fact, not science fiction.'"

    As part of the extended digital campaign, 10 individual bots have one-on-one sessions with Fisher in which they inadvertently reveal their own uselessness. Sinister Bot (voiced by Steve Buscemi) regrets its inability to communicate using sign language.

    Duster Bot doesn't realize how dated its manual smog "solution" really is.

    Gadget Bot seems stuck on pre-Google Maps geography.

    And Trendy Bot doesn't quite live up to its name.

    Four of the robots will have their own Twitter handles during the Academy Awards, providing commentary under the #Oscars and IBM's #CognitiveEra hashtags. Rubin said, "They will be tweeting live and reacting to events like the spots running and Chis Rock's monologues. … Carrie Fisher, various influencers and the IBM Watson handle will be interacting with them as well."

    Rubin noted that viewers don't have to visit the distant future or a galaxy far, far away to witness the real-world implications of artificial intelligence. "People have a fascination with sci-fi movies, but those are viewed through the creative lens of Hollywood; what's real is what Watson is doing," she said. "[The Academy Awards] are a good venue to help millions of people watching understand, clearly and simply, what Watson can do. The sci-fi lens demystifies the technology and shows how it's changing our lives."

    That said, we can confidently make two sci-fi predictions: cognitive computing is the future of many industries, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens won't win any Oscars outside the costume, makeup and special effects categories. (Sorry, nerds.)

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    The winner for best animated short at Sunday's Academy Awards? When it came to the commercials, it was no contest—as Droga5's adorable "Rock, Paper, Scissors" spot for Android walked away with viewers' hearts, if not an actual trophy. 

    The minute-long commercial, set to the throwback faux-epic theme from St. Elmo's Fire, feels like it could be an anti-bullying PSA. The ad follows the lives of animated rocks, paper and scissors at a school, and indeed, it couldn't be a more perfect metaphor for childhood bullying—it's a child's game, after all, and it's all about a hierarchy of destruction. 

    Except here, the rules aren't so clear.

    Paper is bullying paper, rocks are bullying rocks—and the breakthrough comes only when supposedly opposing forces come together in an alliance. The animation is simple, but the effect—partly because of that—is profound. 

    Droga5's best Android spots are like this—simple, pure crowd-pleasers (the most famous being 2015's "Friends Furever" spot). And while the "Be together. Not the same" positioning continues to feel a bit opaque—especially when wrapping up gorgeously simple ads—it is gaining some charm thanks to campaign highlights like this one. (The line is meant to suggest that Android gives users has a unified experience across devices.)

    The Google brand aired a second Droga5 spot during Sunday's telecast—an ad that actually rolled out on YouTube two weeks ago, featuring a piano whose 88 keys had all been tuned to the same note (middle C).

    That spot, "Monotune," while interesting and well made, isn't as strong as "Rock, Paper, Scissors." The monotune piano, while a cool idea, is underwhelming to listen to. That, of course, is the point of the ad, but that feels backwards somehow—if you build something new and curious for a commercial, it seems conceptually odd to then position it as the thing to be avoided.

    Check out the "Monotune" spot below.

    Client: Google Android
    Agency: Droga5, New York

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    McDonald's Sweden is launching a promotion that invites kids to turn Happy Meal boxes into virtual-reality viewers. Dubbed Happy Goggles, some 3,500 of them will be made available at 14 restaurants over the weekends of March 5 and March 12. The price is about $4.10. 

    The push is tied to the Swedish "Sportlov" recreational holiday, during which many families go skiing. With this in mind, McD's created a ski-themed VR game, "Slope Stars," for use with the oggles (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them. 

    To turn the iconic red boxes into Happy Goggles, just tear along some perforated lines and fold, inserting the VR lenses (included) and a smartphone (bring your own). The video below shows you how:

    It's kind of like Google Cardboard—with fries.

    DDB Stockholm developed the strategy, design and packaging, while North Kingdom Stockholm created the game; Prime is handling publicity. 

    The program recalls a recent effort by Pizza Hut to turn its pizza box into movie projectors. VR, though, is another step up. The fast-food chain believes VR provides "a really exciting opportunity to connect families in digital times," Jeff Jackett, marketing director at McDonald's Sweden, tells AdFreak. "Parents can learn more about their children's knowledge and experience of the digital world. And purposeful gaming can also be a great joint activity that helps families interact on equal terms." 

    Hackett adds that "this is the first trial run globally" for the Goggles, so there's a chance the program will be expanded if it proves popular. 

    Although VR has gained traction in marketing campaigns, it seems especially on target for McDonald's. The chain has essentially been trying to fashion its own alternate "world" for decades. Characters like Ronald, Hamburglar and Grimace were analog-era nods in that direction, followed more recently by house-size Happy Meal boxes (Airbnb, take note), the much-derided anthropomorphic "Happy" mascot (which made us grimace), and even a Big Mac-inspired lifestyle and clothing line (also in Sweden).

    McDonald's is not the first company to take advantage of VR to market to kids. Late last year, Mattel decided to rejuvenate the View-Master brand for a new generation. But perhaps anticipating blowback, the fast-food giant says child psychologists Karl Eder and Fadi Lahdo "have evaluated Happy Goggles and also presented a recommendation on how they should be used," concluding that "the gaming can be a good joint activity that makes it easier to hang out."

    Such assertions likely won't make Happy Goggles palatable for the chain's critics. As with every kid-related McDonald's promotion, the tricked-out Happy Meal boxes will surely have some detractors seeing red. 

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    Iris Apfel is the unlikely but unquestionably perfect new face of not one but two brands right now: Australian fashion label Blue Illusion and the new DS 3 car in the U.K. and France.

    Why is a 94-year-old style icon suddenly such a hot property? Because Iris has more than style; she has a story. A story of standing out and standing up for whatever the heck she wants. She doesn't give a crap about your fashion rules. As one of the first women to wear jeans, and an interior designer at the White House for nine presidents, she went from New York style icon to worldwide fame after a 2005 exhibit of her accessories at The Met. Now, the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History is designing a whole building to house a dedicated gallery of her collection.

    See how she shines as the face of Blue Illusions' AW16 campaign, titled "Ageless." Apfel is wearing her own accessories in the photos, and regales us with sage advice in the online videos. "You can have the most beautiful clothes in the world, but if you have no style—it's just stuff!" she exclaims before regaling us in the next video with the story of how she started the trend of women wearing "splendiferous" jeans.

    Though it's obvious why a style icon would be the face of a fashion brand, Apfel's appeal is apparently enough to hop categories and make you believe a 94-year-old New Yorker is driving around town in a DS 3. The beautifully shot spot seeks to imbue the vehicle with the same kind of ballsy rule-breaking style that has ruled Apfel's long life.

    Of course, all the papers, including this one, are excited by any 94-year-old spokesperson. But someday, the headlines won't even have to mention her age. Thanks to campaigns like this, we'll be free to talk about her style and not have to be told that style and beauty have no expiration date. 

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    A few days ago, Anomaly debuted the first spot in its Kohl's Oscars campaign, which took a snippet of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s 1997 acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor ... and put it in the mouth of a dad who just won the pick of movie night. 

    On Sunday night, we got to see the other three ads that accompany that one, featuring other acceptance speeches in less sparkly contexts. 

    "Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted this," says a beaming little girl whose brother's just gifted her the front seat in the car. "You don't know. My brother's sittin' there, he says, 'Thank God we don't have to listen to any more. You can do it now.' "

    Recognize that voice? That's Whoopi Goldberg in 1990, accepting her Best Supporting Actress award for Ghost. 

    In another spot, an ecstatic boy channels Jeff Bridges (taking Best Actor for True Grit in 2010) to thank his mom and dad for letting his buddy Scott sleep over. "Whoo!" he cries exuberantly—an epic moment in this kid's lip-dub career. "I wanna, I wanna thank Scott for his knowledge of film and country music and for his ability to instill self-confidence in his actors. I thank you for that. Scott, where are you? Raise your hand, man."

    A less-than-thrilled Scott appears stage left, waving awkwardly to the parents from under his make-believe Darth Vader helmet. The woodenness of this kid's body deserves an award on its own, especially as the bow-out music starts to roll.

    Lastly, a girl in a fort made of bedsheets invites her mother in to play "the duchess" for tea, triggering Penelope Cruz's Best Supporting Actress speech for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2009. 

    "Has anybody ever fainted here? Because I might be the first one," Mom breathes. Her speech ends in a string of Spanish, resulting in perfectly timed looks of surprise from the rest of her (Asian) family.

    The work, engineered to focus on the "universal feeling of gratitude" in big moments as well as everyday ones, is nostalgic and cute enough to build a safe amount of goodwill to justify its investment. This is Kohl's first time as an Oscars sponsor.

    And while the campaign has precious little to do with the brand itself—unless you count wardrobe—this positioning was particularly timely because of the Oscars' decision to install a thank-you ticker under acceptance speeches, giving actors the chance to use their moments of glory to talk about other stuff. 

    It's the ticker's first year, and despite some light buzz, it didn't change speeches much; gratitude still feels better when it's actually said, versus scrolled along the bottom of your podium. But in one long-anticipated moment last night, Leonardo DiCaprio—who finally scored!—managed to cut his thank-yous short to plug climate change awareness.

    In future years, the ticker's inclusion might drive other actors to focus on socially important messages, which will give thank-yous to Mom and Dad an even stronger nostalgic time stamp. It'll be interesting to see how Kohl's addresses that if it sponsors the Oscars next year.

    Below, check out Kohl's first ad featuring the voice of Cuba Gooding Jr.

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    Geico and The Martin Agency had a huge hit with their "Unskippable" preroll campaign on YouTube last year, which Adweek named the best campaign of 2015. This year's follow-up campaign, though, needed a completely new hook—because the YouTube buy this time involves 15-second prerolls where no skip button appears at all.

    But don't worry. Geico still has you covered.

    Instead of showing you the whole ad in the first five seconds, and then rewarding you with quietly awkward comedy if you stick around, the new spots have a different structure—they show the very beginning and the very end of longer ads, but fast-forward through the middle. And if you're curious about what happened in the middle (and the ads suggest that some really odd stuff went down), you can click through to see the full spot.

    Check out the spots, directed by Nick Ball of Furlined, here: 




    "Going Up"

    It's not a radical departure from last year's ads. There's the same comedic vibe, and the same self-aware acknowledgment of preroll being, fundamentally, a burden. There's even another elevator spot. (Birds, fish and bears have taken the place of the dog, though.)

    The conceit isn't quite as pure as last year's, if only because the viewer has to click through to see a second video—which feels like a big ask, particularly given that the campaign inherently admits even 15 seconds is probably too intrusive. But the ads are amusing, and you can't fault Geico for extending a campaign this smart and innovative. 

    Client: Geico
    Vice President, Marketing: Ted Ward
    Senior Director, Marketing: Amy Furman
    Director, Marketing Media Advertising: Bill Brower
    Sr. Mgr., Broadcast, Outdoor, Print & Sports Marketing: Melissa Halicy
    Marketing Supervisor: Mike Grant
    Marketing Buyer: Tom Perlozzo
    Marketing Buyer: Brighid Griffin
    Marketing Coordinator: Julia Nass

    Agency: The Martin Agency
    Chief Creative Officer: Joe Alexander
    Group Creative Director: Steve Bassett
    Group Creative Director: Wade Alger
    Creative Director (copywriter): Neel Williams
    Associate Creative Director (art director): Mauricio Mazzariol
    Executive Producer: Brett Alexander
    Broadcast Producer: Liza Miller
    Junior Broadcast Producer: Coleman Sweeney
    Group Account Director: Brad Higdon
    Account Executive: Allison Hensley
    Account Coordinator: Allie Waller
    Business Affairs Supervisor: Suzanne Wieringo
    Financial Account Supervisor: Monica Cox
    Senior Production Business Manager: Amy Trenz
    Project Manager: Karen McEwen

    Production Company: Furlined
    Director: Nick Ball
    President: Diane McArter
    Senior Executive Producer: David Thorne
    Executive Producer: David Richards
    Producer: Jason Gilbert
    Editorial Company: Cut + Run
    Executive Producer: Carr Schilling
    Producer: Annabelle Dunbar-Whittaker
    Editor: Frank Effron
    Assistant Editor: Brian Meagher

    Telecine: MPC
    Colorist: Ricky Gausis

    Animation/VFX: MPC
    Executive Producer: Lexi Stern
    Senior Producer: Juliet Tierney
    Production Coordinator: Valentina Cokonis
    Line Producer: Deepanjali Singh
    VFX Supervisor: Gizmo Rivera
    VFX Supervisor/Nuke Lead: Jim Spratling
    Comp/Prep Lead:  Avinash Bhandary
    Roto Lead: Sivakumar R

    Music: Black Iris
    Executive Producer: Jon Spencer
    Senior Producer: Amanda Patterson
    Executive Creative Director: Justin Bailey
    Creative Director: Rich Stine
    Composer: Justin Bailey

    Audio Post Company: Rainmaker Studios
    Engineer/Mixer: Jeff McManus, Mike O'Connor

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    It may not have won Best Original Song, but Lady Gaga's show-stopping performance of "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground documentary was the top moment during a politically charged Oscars Sunday night.

    According to TV measurement firm TVision, Gaga's rendition of her song about sexual abuse, which ended with numerous survivors joining Gaga on stage, scored the highest positive attention of any moment on Sunday.

    The performance, which came near the end of the roughly three-and-a-half-hour telecast, scored a 2.00 rating on TVision's Positive Attention Index, which combines the total amount of time viewers are watching the TV set with the number of times a viewer smiles per minute. Vice President Joe Biden's introduction of his "good friend" Gaga had the fourth highest score on the index with 1.47.

    TVision measures actual "eyes-on-screen" to provide advertisers, agencies and television networks the second-by-second data required to understand the effectiveness of television advertising and programming. The company uses computer vision technology to passively collect viewer behavior, attention and emotional affect second by second, person by person from the natural viewing environment.

    Kate Winslet and Reese Witherspoon introducing a pair of Best Picture nominees scored second-highest on the Positive Attention Index with 1.65, perhaps in part due to Winslet rocking a sweet pair of thick-rimmed eyeglasses, which got a lot of chatter on social media.

    The other two moments to score the highest on TVision's Positive Attention Index were the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles, and Sasha Baron Coen bringing back his Ali G character.

    TVision also measured smiles and attention separately (smiles for moments during the show, attention for advertising). Not surprisingly, Leonardo DiCaprio winning his first Oscar after six nominations rated the highest on TVision's Smile Index with a 2.75, well above the next highest moment—Spotlight winning Best Picture (1.50). The other three were The Hateful Eight's Best Original Score win (1.47), the Minions' clip (1.26) and Sam Smith winning for Best Original Song (1.24).

    Cadillac's "Rewind Time" spot that aired during the 11 p.m. ET hour scored the highest on TVision's Attention Index with a 1.54. The following commercial from Kohl's (one of four the retailer aired last night) came in at No. 2:

    Lexus' spot for its RX and RX Hybrid and AT&T's DirecTV commercial both rated a 1.30 on the index. Samsung's Galaxy Phone ad came in at No. 5 with a 1.25 score.

    Elsewhere on social media, Engagement Labs ranked how both sponsors and the Best Picture nominees performed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

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    Last week, we wrote about that obnoxious and ludicrous (and OK, pretty entertaining) McDonald's billboard in France that displayed absurdly lengthy driving directions to the nearest Burger King drive-thru. The point, of course, was that McDonald's (just 5 kilometers away from that particular location) is always there when you need it, while BK (258 km away) just isn't.

    But given Burger King France's own irreverent marketing through ad agency Buzzman, we fully expected some kind of response to the McDonald's stunt. And here it is—a new video that shows the McDonald's billboard, and how one couple driving past it apparently reacted.

    Check out the video here:

    Yes, BK has smartly and comically turned the issue from one of simple availability into one of exclusivity. While freely acknowledging that it has fewer locations, BK is flattering its customers by suggesting they have better taste and are willing to go farther, quite literally, for BK's food.

    It seems the burger wars are fully on in France. Your move, McDonald's.

    See the original McDonald's board below: 


    Client: Burger King France
    Marketing Project Managers: Bérénice Charles, Carole Rousseau
    Agency: Buzzman
    President and Creative Director: Georges Mohammed-Chérif
    Vice-President: Thomas Granger
    Associate Director: Julien Levilain
    Copywriter: Benjamin Dessagne
    Copywriter Assistants: TBWA\Paris, McDonald's France
    Artistic Director Assistant: Pierre-Olivier Dezeque
    Account Managers: Pierre Guengant, Loïc Coelho, Clémence Gateau
    Social Media Managers: Julien Scaglione, Loris Bernardini, Marie Le Scao
    Communication and PR Managers: Amélie Juillet, Clara Bascoul-Gauthier
    TV Production: Vanessa Barbel, Margaux Despointes, Benoit Crouet

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    M&M's turn 75 years old this Thursday, and the Mars brand is beginning a year-long birthday celebration with a musical collaboration between Zedd and Aloe Blacc, who have reinterpreted Sammy Davis Jr.'s 1972 classic "The Candy Man" for a modern audience.

    Zedd and Blacc's full "Candyman" music video is already online, but M&M's is unveiling its own 60-second spot (created by BBDO New York) Monday night on NBC's The Voice, featuring snippets from the video.

    AdFreak has the spot here exclusively:

    The new song has melodic echoes of the original, but departs pretty significantly from it, too. "I'm super excited to team up with Aloe to finally share our reimagined version of 'Candyman.' We were totally inspired to put a completely fresh spin on the song, which is already such a classic," Zedd said in a statement.

    Blacc added: "I'm inspired by greats like Sammy Davis Jr., so I was really excited to revisit 'The Candy Man" with Zedd and make it our own."

    Zedd and Blacc are both signed to Interscope Records, which has also struck brand deals for many of its other stars, including X Ambassadors, Imagine Dragons and Gwen Stefani.

    The original version of "The Candy Man" was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Davis reportedly didn't actually care much for the song, though it did become his only No. 1 hit.

    See Zedd and Blacc's full "Candyman" music video below. 

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    In partnership with Ubisoft—and for the launch of role-playing game The Division, based on a Tom Clancy novel—Paris agency BETC created "Collapse." This choose-your-own-adventure style online experience, darkly dubbed an "end of society simulator," plays on our secret desire to learn the answer to the question, "Will I survive the crisis that extinguishes 99 percent of humanity?"

    Pop culture is filled with apocalyptic foreboding, from The Walking Dead to The Leftovers. (Building on the former, the CDC once released a zombie preparedness guide online. We have our evacuation plan locked and loaded. Do you?) But it isn't all dystopic imaginings. A survey of scientists from 2006, cited by science writer Sonia Shah, estimated that a global pandemic "that would sicken a billion people, kill 165 million people and cost the global economy about $3 trillion" will hit us in the next two generations. 

    "Collapse" plunges you directly into the action. It kicks off with a creepy message: "You have been infected with an unknown breed of smallpox. You are patient zero. Because of you, a worldwide pandemic is about to start. Based on real data, discover how long it takes for our world to collapse."

    Yes—because of you, all those people are going to die. Your next series of choices determines how much time we have before the lights go out on humanity. 

    Location data is used to pin where you are, and iterate from there. In-game options are limited; the point is to engage as long as possible before hyping the actual game, so you can't just crawl into a bunker and wait. 

    To wit: You have to go to a hospital. Survivalists will wince at the obvious rookie mistake—but hey, suck it up and pick one that isn't too far or too crowded. It's nonetheless stunning to watch the game pan across a city you know as the rates of infected—and the deaths—tick upward. In less than two weeks, riots will break out. 

    (Remember: This is your fault.)

    It took about 25 days to shut the planet down from where I live in Paris. We logged 5.7 million deaths per hour on average.

    Once you've succeeded in killing everyone, share your stats on Facebook or Twitter, then check out the trailer for The Division (below), in which a squad of last resort—kind of like The Avengers, but militarized—is deployed to prevent what you inevitably couldn't. 

    In addition to scaring the shit out of us and being delightfully lag-free, "Collapse" wins at immersiveness and feeds on bruised pride. We want The Division, just to prove to somebody—anybody—that we'd obviously be the hero at world's end.

    That's what's compelling: Everybody wants to be the hero, but cultural collapse is by nature zero-sum. It also reminds us of how dependent we are on one another, and how fragile that network is. Hospitals, communications, power, transport and banking are all affected in the small amount of time it takes to drive us toward whiplash-rapid doom. 

    Give it a go. No two versions will be quite alike. If you happen to live somewhere remote, you're likely to hold out longer than somebody in a globally centralized hub. Just know that what you're fighting for is a few days' equity, or even hours. All roads lead to the same end.

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    Sneaker brands are fond of running challenges, and they can make for some cool ad stunts.

    Asics has done this for years, running outdoor ads that challenged people to race against a digital image of U.S. marathoner Ryan Hall, and also getting runners to try a treadmill from hell set to a marathoner's pace.

    Now, Reebok is getting into the fun, too.

    Last weekend in Stockholm, the brand put up an outdoor ad equipped with a built-in speed cam and tracking technology to measure pedestrians' pace. Anyone who ran past the ad faster than 17 kilometers per hour (about 10.5 miles per hour) unlocked a brand new pair of ZPump 2.0 shoes.

    Check out footage from the stunt here:

    We have no idea how fast 17 kph really is, but this kind of thing is clearly perfect for riling up a crowd of people. "We really like the idea of taking a classic billboard and turning it into something disruptive and unique," says Markus Schramm, creative at ad agency Animal, which devised the stunt. "This gives customers an instant experience, and as a brand, we're able to provide something of real value."

    "For us at Reebok, it's important to do things for real and to actually activate the target group," adds Filip Lagerbäck, PR and social manager at Reebok Nordic. "We want to inspire people to run and push their limits, even when they're not at the gym. That's what our tagline 'Be More Human' is all about."

    More pics below. 

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    Travelocity may have parted ways with the agency that created its famous Roaming Gnome character, but the pint-sized spokesman is still a fixture in the online travel agency's advertising—and now he's doling out advice on how to get the most out of a trip. 

    Campbell Ewald launched its first ad for the brand on Friday after winning the account in September. "Do not mistake this for a vacation," opens the voiceover as a surfer in a wetsuit strolls down a boardwalk toward the ocean. 

    "This is a journey—a journey where maps give way to meandering," it continues as a couple amble through a rolling valley.

    Elsewhere in the 60-second commercial, a woman lounges, unhampered by her busy schedule back home. Mostly, though, themes of exploration and discovery are developed—another woman jumps off a cliff into a natural pool. There's the obligatory gorgeous safari shot, then the camera cuts back to the surfer as the copy waxes on about the importance of new adventures.

    "Wander. You won't get lost. You might even find yourself," it says.

    The frame zooms out to a hillside, where the gnome perches like some kind of benevolent travel god, overlooking the wave-seeking protagonist running down the beach, finally in gear. "Or at least, someone who looks really, really familiar, but tells much more interesting stories," the gnome concludes. 

    It's well written and charming enough, playing to millennials and their widely perceived love of experiences (Travelocity also hired a new media agency to reach a younger audience). Regardless of age group, it's hard to argue with the basic—if not particularly groundbreaking—logic that travel is personally enriching, and probably more exciting than the average workday (unless you're the real-life equivalent of George Clooney's character in Up in the Air—if so, give yourself a staycation instead).

    The tagline, "Wander wisely," does a fine job of summing up the ad's spirit, include its slightly pedantic and patronizing air.

    In the end, though, it isn't surprising that the globetrotting lawn ornament—created by McKinney during its first crack at the business in the mid-'00s—is still part of the brand strategy: Travelocity's execs literally brought the prop with them when they flew over to tell Campbell Ewald that it won the account last fall. 

    Client: Travelocity

    Agency: Campbell Ewald
    President: Kevin Wertz
    Chief Creative Officer: Mark Simon
    Executive Creative Director: Jo Shoesmith
    Director of Production: John Haggerty
    Art Director: Kelly Warkentien
    Copywriter(s): Mike Rushing, Joe Godard, Kelsey Webster
    Account Director: Brian Phelps
    Account Executive(s): Brianna Loveland and Kelly Maise
    Planning Director: Kari Shimmel
    Strategic Planner(s): Chris Marchegiani and Ken Walker

    Production Company: Aero Film
    Lance O'Connor - Executive Producer
    Skip Short - Executive Producer
    Klaus Obermeyer - Director
    Johan Palm - Director of Photography
    Anton Maillie - Line Producer
    Cori Cooperider -  Executive Producer
    Marla Whittaker - Head of Production
    Patrick Knight - Post Producer

    Post-Production: Parachute
    Sara Eolin - Parachute Executive Producer
    Sam O'Hare - VFX Lead
    Nicole Melius - VFX Producer
    Andy Gilbert - 3D Lead
    Erik Rassmussen - 2D Lead

    Editing House: Union Editorial
    Editor:  Marco Perez 
    Producer Joe Ross

    Music House: Mophonics 
    Audio Mix: Lime Studios
    Mixer: Joel Waters 

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    Acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti makes his on-screen commercial acting debut—and jousts with a family of know-it-all movie and TV buffs—in CenturyLink's amusing "Hollywood Insider" campaign from Arnold Worldwide.

    Known for his roles in American Splendor and Sideways, Giamatti channels his earnest, harried screen persona in a series of commercials—directed by Speck and Gordon of Furlined—touting the client's Internet service and interactive Prism TV offering.

    Giamatti is seen pitching the service in a family home, in the kind of setup you've seen a hundred times before. But in a cool and fresh conceit, the family—schooled by CenturyLink content—ends up turning the tables on him, and critiquing his acting. 

    In the 60-second spot below, "Movie Titles," the family engages in Film Theory 101, likening Giamatti's CenturyLink pitch to Italian neorealism and film-noir:

    "CenturyLink asked us to amplify their message of simplicity and honesty, while being humorous and personable," Arnold executive creative director David Register told Adweek. "This idea did both, especially with Paul in the role of the lovable, put-upon celebrity, who is really put to the test by this family of experts."

    In the next clip, Giamatti gets some unsolicited hair and makeup advice:

    Frankly, he's rocking the "crazy-uncle look," even in that natty suit.

    "The family rehearsed a lot," said Register. "Paul pretty much just nailed his delivery." Well, in the ad below, the family disagrees with that assessment:

    Finally, we get an improv scene—scripted, of course, since this is, after all, a commercial:

    The actors are all veteran improvers, and during the shoot, "sometimes the banter or critique would just keep on going," Register said, "heading totally off script. And although it wasn't all usable, it was extremely funny to watch, given how game Paul was to playing off any critique thrown his way."

    Indeed, Giamatti acquits himself well throughout, providing a likable foil for the family's verbal assaults. 

    The campaign also scores by cannily tapping into certain cultural truths. "We're becoming these ravenous devourers of all things entertainment," said Arnold global chief creative officer Jim Elliott. "Thanks to franchises like TMZ, IMDb, Entourage, Us Weekly, Vanity Fair, Inside the Actors Studio and all sorts of 'making of' and 'behind-the-scenes' programming, we're also becoming students of the industry itself. We're becoming armchair film critics. We're becoming 'Hollywood Insiders.' "

    With that concept in place, "the thinking became, maybe CenturyLink's high-speed Internet and interactive Prism TV services are accelerating that phenomenon even faster," Elliott said.

    The campaign got an unexpected boost during Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast when Chris Rock name-checked Giamatti shortly before the ads aired in target markets. "It's a beautiful thing when marketing and culture collide like that," Elliott said.

    There are also some bonus videos, without Giamatti, that will post to social. See those here:


    Client: CenturyLink
    Pat Glavin, VP of Marketing
    Spencer Lange, Director, Marcom Strategy for Consumer Products
    Rachel Zucker, Manager, Marketing - Planning & Analysis
    Heather Verzwyvelt, Manager, Marketing - Planning & Analysis

    Agency: Arnold Worldwide
    Global Chief Creative Officer: Jim Elliott
    Executive Creative Directors: Wade Devers, David Register
    Creative Director: James Clunie
    Associate Creative Director: Matt McGowan
    Copywriter: Arthur J. Warren
    Account Managers: Sasha Hartman, Simran Sudan
    Planning: Vaughn Allen
    Project Manager: Cyan Dana
    Producers: Bill Goodell, Tia DeMelis
    Assistant Producer: Alissa Feldbau
    Business Affairs: Lisa Mercier

    Talent: Paul Giamatti, David Barnes, Ann Carr, John D'Leo, Lily Silverstein

    Production Company: Furlined
    Directors: Speck and Gordon
    President: Diane McArter
    Senior Executive Producer: David Thorne
    Executive Producer: Jay Wakefield
    Director of Photography: Jeff Cutter
    Line Producer: Greg Schultz

    Editorial: Bug Editorial
    Editor: Andre Betz

    VFX: Brickyard

    Sound: Soundtrack Group, Boston
    Sound Engineer: Michael Secher

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    New ads for House of Cards reference a now-infamous scene early in Season 2 where—spoiler alert—Frank Underwood pushes a certain aquaintance in front of a D.C. Metro train. Meant to look like political ads, they depict Kevin Spacey as the fictional Underwood and the tagline, "A push in the right direction." 

    Get it? (We don't know why they didn't just toss in a companion flipbook in which Underwood winks and nudges at the viewer.) 

    The ads are appearing in actual D.C. Metro stations, which is darkly funny, if charmingly tasteless. As a creative decision, it feels almost negligent, given the litigious nature and open bloodthirst of many D.C. commuters. 

    But hey, it's also a pretty clever instance of risk management. The next person who pushes someone—or gets pushed—in front of a train could point to those posters as a malignant influence and tie the Netflix show's producers up in court for a while.

    But D.C. Metro's numerous maintenance and personnel issues make that scenario more or less impossible. That Mr. Underwood really is clever, huh? 

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    Iris Singapore and the World Wildlife Fund put together some weapons-grade wishful thinking with this new spot for the WWF's Earth Hour event. 

    With help from a little girl's narration, the ad reverse-engineers a series of fortunate events in which people decide to take things like climate change and conservation seriously. The narrator starts the ad as an old woman and gets progressively younger as she lists each step humanity took (or will take?) to protect Earth, finishing as a child when she declares 2016 to be the year when we all decided to get our act together.

    The visuals and overall production are industry standard, but the idea and execution are what make it great. We've never seen an environmental ad do this before, and the fresh perspective really sold us on the backtracking structure.

    The tone is unique, too. These predictions are made with admirable confidence, far from the alarmism or hectoring that's often typical of this genre.

    Earth Hour takes place March 19 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in your local time zone.

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    Happy Super Tuesday! This year's election got strange long ago, so surely you won't mind this latest oddity—a mock debate between various Trojan condom products spouting endless sexual innuendo.

    Even the pitch from the brand was racy: "With debates coming to a climax, candidates going head to head, insiders and outsiders getting in on the action and pundits coming … to conclusions … we wanted to share the latest video from the makers of Trojan brand condoms: Can't Hide That Election!"

    Check out the spot below, created by Tongal in collaboration with Trojan. 

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    Does your idea of the perfect vacation involve doing absolutely nothing, with your feet in the sand and your paws on a piña colada? Please move along. There's nothing to see here.

    If you are, instead, a restless creative type who wants to learn a new skill while on holiday, Geetika Agrawal has a great solution. Check out the R/GA New York creative director's new business, Vacation With An Artist (VAWAA), which she dreamed up while on her own 12-month sabbatical/journey away from the agency.

    Agrawal, whose background is in experience design, was one of 75 people chosen last summer to travel with a program called "Remote Year" and experiment with a lifestyle of traveling and working remotely. She is spending a month in each of 12 different countries, and using the time, in part, to find artists with whom travelers can learn a skill through the VAWAA program.

    Among the artists in the program so far: a bespoke shoemaker in Prague; a wet plate collodion photographer in Slovenia; a leather shadow puppet maker in Malaysia; a creative writer in Vietnam; and a bamboo bicycle maker in Bangalore. As she travels, Agrawal has been personally curating the artists, with whom travelers can book studio sessions through the site.

    "This is an idea I noodled on for a while, as I always used to struggle finding such creative experiences for my vacations," she tells AdFreak. "However, the busy routine life of an agency and client deadlines never gave me the mind space to make it real. So when the opportunity came to travel and work, I knew this was the time to get it off the ground."

    She adds: "My routine looks quite different now. I travel every month to a new country, meet artists in the morning, work from a cafe/co-working space, go scuba diving in the afternoon, work on the website in the evening, hang out with locals at night. The creative rush during this sabbatical has been unexpected and exciting."

    AdFreak asked Agrawal more about the origins of the program and how it works.

    AdFreak: What was your original inspiration for this?
    Geetika Agrawal: I discovered my love for learning and travel during early college days, when I spent summers working with local artisans in small towns of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu in India. As I traveled to countries around the world, I sought similar experiences where I could immerse myself into the local culture, make things with my hands and get inspired by learning something new. I noted that there were others like me expecting the same from their travels, but there was no easy way to find local artists and designers.

    Those who know me well, know my obsession for experiential travel, so I thought it would be fun to start a company that curates these artistic experiences and helps people find and book them easily.

    What did you want to get out of your sabbatical from R/GA?
    I wasn't looking for a vacation. I was looking to get in touch with my own creativity, find a new challenge and do something about VAWAA. In March 2015, I heard about a new program called Remote Year that would select 75 people from around the world and help facilitate their travel to 12 countries as each participant worked remotely on their own projects/jobs. Woo-hoo! I got my sabbatical idea! I was going to do what I love most—i.e., travel and build my new business idea.

    On June 1, 2015, I put my things in storage in New York and took a one-year sabbatical to travel to 12 countries in 12 months with Remote Year. I was going to get VAWAA off the ground, build another passion idea, Food for Thought, and give design talks at schools and conferences in countries I visited.

    Explain what a VAWAA "studio session" is.
    Although some may compare this to a workshop or a course, I call it a 'studio session' because of the depth and richness of the experience. It is a period of time you spend together with an artist in their studio learning not just the techniques, but also getting to know the artist and understanding their creative process—including going to the market to buy materials or taking short trips.

    Depending on the artist and their art, this can vary from 10 hours to 100 hours spread over a couple of days to a few weeks with daily or periodic interaction. Most of the time is spent in the artist's workspace, which can be their atelier, home or outdoors.

    Each studio session is open to a maximum of one to three guests to make the experience authentic and of the highest possible quality. It is meant to be an intimate experience and not touristic.

    I work with the artists to create an outline for each studio session that defines the duration, price and experience of the studio session. However, depending on your level and interest, I can work with the artist to customize it for you. I like reminding my guests to enjoy the creative journey and experience the unexpected rather than seeing it as a destination.

    How do you curate the artists?
    I spend one month in each country. For each country, I start by researching various art forms and artists that are unique to that country. I look online, go to local crafts and design stores, visit artisans, meet locals and then contact the artists I like. (This is the fun travel part, as I get to go deeper into a city's culture.) Once I meet a couple of artists, they help me connect with other artists.

    My goal is to curate artists who have deep knowledge of their art, have something interesting to share and are nice to hang out with. I meet each artist individually. We drink coffee, discuss each other's life and work. They take me around their studio, show me their design process, and then we sit down together to discuss what their VAWAA studio session experience could look like. It's a first for the artist and me, so we decide on what feels right and excites us—with the idea of growing and improving the experience as we go.

    I plan to have 50 artists by June 1 in 12 countries across Europe, Asia and South America. Since launch in November, several artists have reached out from countries outside of my travel itinerary who want to be part of VAWAA, and it's nice to see that besides travelers looking for creative vacation ideas, artists are recognizing this as a great platform too for international exposure and extra revenue source.

    In fact, one of my unexpected and favorite side effects has been to see VAWAA artists interested in going to other VAWAA artists' studio sessions.

    How enriching are these experiences?
    I've seen a lot of things happen after such experiences. Some people get inspired to turn this passion into a full-time career. My ex-colleagues and friends from R/GA, Thomas and Melissa, went to Indonesia during their travels and learned the art of batik. Now they run their own textile design studio in Mallorca, Spain, creating beautiful handmade pillow covers, bed covers, lamps, etc. Some go back and start side businesses/passion projects, and others go back rejuvenated with new perspectives and influences in their work.

    How big would you like VAWAA to get?
    I am in the early startup stage right now and focusing this travel year on building a solid foundation, experimenting with some ideas and creating a good user experience. It was exciting to have my first guest, Katja from Austria, travel to Slovenia for a soap-making studio session with artist Anja Tomazic and call it "unforgettably wonderful." I am encouraged by the positive response from both travelers and artists around the world—some of whom have added it to their list of things to do.

    It will be an exciting next few months to see how big it gets, but for now I'm taking it slow and going niche. 

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    Today Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced an end to its six-year partnership with Wieden + Kennedy. FCA, which owns brands including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Maserati, said in a statement that now seemed like the right time for the two companies to split amicably.

    Over the years, the duo teamed up to create a range of work that was not only powerful, but also humorous thanks to a partnership with Anchorman 2 and a handful of ads featuring the movie's star, Will Ferrell. The two also reached some big milestones together including a few well-received Super Bowl ads and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial for the Chrysler "Born of Fire" ad.

    Here are the 10 most memorable campaigns for Chrysler and Dodge:

    10. Dodge ''Don't Touch My Dart''

    To advertise the Dodge Dart in 2014, the automaker created the "Don't Touch My Dart" campaign. The humorous spots star the perfect comedy duo, Craig Robinson and Jake Johnson. Robinson plays an overprotective Dart owner and Johnson plays the envious best friend who really wants to touch the new car, but is not allowed to. Hilarity ensues.

    Adweek responsive video player used on /video.

    9. Chrysler 
    ''Premium to the People''

    For their last campaign together, W+K and Chrysler cleverly tapped two actors who have played presidents on TV shows, Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman, for a presidential-themed campaign touting the Chrysler 200.

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    8. Dodge '

    "Predator" has everything you could want or need from a car ad: A suspenseful narrator, a Dodge doing donuts in an abandoned parking lot and a Phil Collins song. The 2015 spot imagines the Dodge vehicles as predators, sneaking around in the night, and it's pretty captivating.

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    7. Dodge 
    ''100 Easy Steps''

    Making a Dodge is easy. It only takes 100 steps, which are nicely squeezed into one 30-second spot. Well, sort of. The ad for the Dodge Dart from 2013 is quick, clever and highly amusing.

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    6. Chrysler 
    ''Drive Proud''

    Another anthem of sorts, this Chrysler spot from 2015 is all about taking pride in being a Chrysler owner, calling these men and women the "kings and queens of America." The work from W+K is empowering and the shots of the car make you almost envious if you don't have a Chrysler to drive.

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    5. Dodge 

    Imagine if George Washington rolled up to fight the British in a Dodge. Pretty crazy, right? Dodge's 2010 "Freedom" ad takes that wacky idea and brings it to life saying, "There are a couple things America got right. Cars and freedom." Yes, indeed.

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    4. Dodge '

    In 2013, Dodge showed off the Dodge Charger by placing the car in a video game setting and running it as a 30-second ad. The ad was created in partnership with the Syfy show Defiance, which is set in 2046.

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    3. Dodge '
    'Ron Burgundy and the 2014 Dodge Durango''

    Jumping on the Anchorman buzz, Dodge rolled out a series of hilarious spots for the Dodge Durango starring a very on-brand Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell. For the campaign W+K worked with Funny or Die to come up with the perfect copy for each spot, which manage to show off some of the car's best features while also delivering some terrific one-liners.

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    2. Chrysler ''It's Halftime in America

    One year after making a big statement with its "Born of Fire" spot during the Super Bowl, W+K and Chrysler teamed up to create an equally compelling spot. In 2012, the brand tapped American hero Clint Eastwood to deliver a raspy, poetic speech that aimed to unite the country following some tough times faced by the auto industry.

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    1. Chrysler '
    'Born of Fire''

    This 2011 Super Bowl spot starring Eminem, and set to the rapper's hit song "Lose Yourself," not only drew high praise after it aired during the Big Game, but also scored an Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial that same year. The spot, which promoted the Chrysler 200, also served as a powerful anthem for the motor city, Detroit.

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    Financial ads are normally so buttoned up. But Swedish e-commerce payment brand Klarna loosens things up in its new campaign from DDB Stockholm, with three weirdly entrancing ads that dramatize how "smoooth" it is to use Klarna's services.

    All three spots, directed by MJZ's Perlorian Brothers—known for their idiosyncratic work—feel almost more like art pieces than ads. To communicate this idea of "smoooth," the ads show, respectively, a fish taking a thrilling ride down a plastic slide and across a floor; a cheese slicer carving gorgeously through a long block of cheese; and a very hairy creature swimming carefree through a pool.

    The ads are all backed by the same simple, looping electronic music—an original track by DeadMono—which adds to the mesmerizing feel.

    The ads broke in Sweden on Tuesday, backed by outdoor advertising and social media. "We fell for the concept 'Smoooth' because it describes the overall feeling of how a really good experience should be when you shop online," Klarna founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said in a statement.

    "The creative approach was to keep them minimal, to keep them graphic, to keep them intriguing, and to keep them smooth," the Perlorian Brothers tell Adweek. "We wanted them to feel a little strange and arty. So we searched all over the world for the best locations, the best props, the slipperiest fish, the smoothest cheese, the silkiest fur-covered sea creature."

    Glassworks Post in London also worked on the spots.

    Client: Klarna
    Agency: DDB Stockholm
    Production Company: MJZ
    Directors: The Perlorian Brothers
    Postproduction: Glassworks Post, London
    Music: DeadMono

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    A quartet of ads for Charter Communications' Spectrum package promise fast and convenient Internet service, and HD television for everyone ... no matter how bedridden, ambitious, desperate or determined to watch football you may be. 

    The first spot, "She Shed"—where men are forced out of their man caves and relegated to watching football in what looks like a huge dollhouse—highlights Spectrum's TV App.

    "Pony Party" claims Spectrum's Internet is fast enough to order a llama from a petting zoo and dress it like a last-minute pony for your daughter's birthday. 

    "Serious Business" shows how Spectrum Business benefits a company that makes diminutive dog hats. 

    Finally, "Body Cast" notes that Spectrum's selection of HD channels is perfect for that everyday, totally relatable situation where you break every bone in your body in an attempt to go viral with skateboard stunts. 

    Created by Saatchi & Saatchi New York, all four ads are quick and clever, and each premise connects solidly with both the Charter brand and the specific product being sold. (Also, it turns out that "she shed" is actually a thing people say. We weep for this planet.)

    Client: Charter Communications
    Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, New York
    Chief Creative Officer: Jay Benjamin
    Executive Creative Directors: Chris Moreira, Mark Scholler
    Associate Creative Director / Art Director: Mark Potoka
    Senior Copywriter: Ross Wolinsky
    Copywriter: Viktor Angwald
    Executive Producer: Diane Burton
    Management Director: L Parker Barnum
    Management Supervisor: Paige Gruman O'Rielley
    Account Executive: Ted Walker
    Production Company: Interrogate
    Director: Bart Timmer
    Managing Directors: Jeff Miller, George Meeker
    Producer: Jason Gilbert
    Director of Photography: Simon Duggan
    Editing House: Cosmo Street
    Editor: Tom Scherma
    Assistant Editor: Dave Otte
    Executive Producer: Maura Woodward
    Producer: Anne Lai
    Visual Effects: Switch
    Flame Artists: John Magel
    Producers: Cara Flynn, Diana Dayrit
    Music Company: Beacon
    Composers: Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau
    Executive Producer: Leslie DiLullo


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