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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    The Creative Circus, Atlanta's advertising school, has hired the most famous, perhaps infamous, stripper in town to pimp its do-goody-goody advertising contest known as A+, where all the winners receive a pimp cup. They're trying to make Atlanta a "more livable city" one stripper promotion at a time. Blondie is Atlanta legend. I heard about her before I even moved here. She strips at the Clermont Lounge, officially known as the place strippers go to die. Her great trick is crushing cans with her boobs. But she's not all flash and bling. She's a sensitive soul who is also well known for writing poems. (It is considered an honor to receive one.) Watching the promos, created with ad agency Iris, where Blondie is dressed like a ridiculous caricature of a southern belle, posed in front of a plantation and giving advice about how you have to dig deep down to your nasty self and bring it out like The Exorcist, one can only blink and repost. There simply are no words. More videos below.


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    Microsoft says a mouthful in this ad from Crispin Porter + Bogusky. And—surprise!—those words are spoken by Siri, Apple's voice assistant, from an iPad sitting next to a Windows 8 tablet. As the latter wordlessly flips through various features, Siri apologies for being unable to run those programs and perform the same functions. "I'm sorry, I don't update like that," she says. "I'm sorry, I can only do one thing at a time." I half expected a tax app to pop up on the tablet's screen and be greeted by an awkward silence from Siri. Maybe in the sequel. This is Microsoft's second spot in a week to deftly parody a rival's ad style (in this case, Apple's stylish minimalism), following its skewering of Google's Chrome browser. The tablet ad, which references the iPad mini's "Piano" spot from last October, is approaching 2 million views on YouTube in just a couple of days. There are some chatty personal assistants, like Indigo, available for Windows devices. But for my taste, the ultimate Microsoft PA voice would speak in measured, calm-yet-crazy cadences, providing sadly poignant commentary as the OS crashes into a sea of blue when its mind begins to go.

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  • 05/24/13--11:27: Ad of the Day: Dodge
  • It's the rare commercial that you wish went on longer. But such is the case with this 30-second Dodge Charger spot advertising the Chrysler brand's tie-in with the groundbreaking TV show/video game Defiance.

    The Syfy show is a futuristic drama set in 2046 in a city called Defiance, which sits atop the ruins of St. Louis, Mo. Seven unique alien races have arrived on Earth, a development that has thrown humans for a bit of a loop. But not Dodge. As you see in the ad, from Wieden + Kennedy, which begins in the present day and continues to 2046, the Dodge Charger is so tough and versatile that it manages to survive the apocalypse, the invasion and lots of frantic driving by alien-pecked humans. "Only the defiant survive," says the copy at the end.

    The show's hero, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), drives a couple of Dodge Chargers, which have been modified a bit to fit the futuristic story line. The cars were directly integrated into the story in this past Monday's episode, the sixth of the first season, becoming major characters. And while there's an element of goofiness in having modern-day vehicles drive through Armageddon and live to tell the tale, there's a gritty, cool factor here too—achieved largely by the nice juxtaposition of the dark, hectic visuals and the soulful, stylish song "Freedom" by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton (which you may recognize from Django Unchained). Ads for video games often pair violence and beauty in this way especially well—here, the fictional premise lets an automaker do the same.

    And no wonder it feels like a video-game spot. Defiance is also a massively multiplayer online video game. The show and the game feature interconnected worlds and story lines—the show impacts the game, and the game influences the show. And while the show features the Charger, the game incorporates the Dodge Challenger into the mix.

    Dodge and W+K have glimpsed the future before. Maybe we could use the Dart's time machine to go back and make this Charger spot a :60?

    Clients: Dodge, Syfy
    Project: Dodge Charger | Defiance

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Aaron Allen / Michael Tabtabai / Kevin Jones
    Copywriter: Smith Henderson
    Art Director: Susan Land
    Executive Producer: Corey Bartha
    Account Team: Thomas Harvey / Lani Reichenbach / Ramon Cruz
    Project Manager: Tamar Berk
    Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples / Susan Hoffman
    Agency Executive Producer: Ben Grylewicz
    Agency Producer: Jennie Lindstrom / Kirsten Acheson
    Business Affairs Director: Amber Lavender

    Production Company: MJZ
    Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
    Executive Producer: Emme Wilcockson
    Line Producer: James Blom
    Director of Photography: Robert Elswit

    Editorial Company: Rock, Paper Scissors
    Editor: Stewart Reeves
    Post Producer: Alexandra Zickerick
    Post Executive Producer: Carol Lynn Weaver

    VFX Company: Method
    VFX Supervisor: Ben Walsh
    Executive Producer: Stephanie Gilgar
    Head of 2D/Flame Artist: Patrick Ferguson
    Producer: Jason Cohon
    Coordinator: Nicole Saccardi
    Nuke Artists: Alex Gitler / Grady Campbell
    Matte Painting: Roger Kupelian / Rich Mahon / Zach Christian
    FX Artist: Travis Harkleroad
    Tracking: Apirak Kamjan / Rachan Chirattanakornkul
    Roto: Kenneth Liu / Scott Crafford

    Music+Sound Company: Stimmung
    Sound Designer: Gus Koven
    Producer: Ceinwyn Clark

    Mix Company: Lime Studios
    Mixer: Mark Meyuhas
    Producer: Jessica Locke

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    In recent years, Pepsi has basked in the glory of industry-lauded moves like sponsoring Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show and the social-media-and-goodwill-focused Pepsi Refresh Project. For all the splash, though, the efforts haven’t pushed the soda back into either the second- or first-place sales positions that have belonged to Diet Coke and Coke, respectively, for the last two years, per Beverage Digest data.

    So outsiders might expect a change in formula when it comes to Pepsi’s marketing services. Not so. The brand and Protagonist, which has been Pepsi’s strategy consultancy during a decade of ups and downs, are announcing they’ll continue collaborating as they celebrate a 10-year anniversary.

    “It makes us work at a higher level because we have that history,” said Angelique Krembs, vp of marketing at PepsiCo. “I cannot imagine not having Mattie to help solve our big problems or bounce things off of.”

    Krembs was referring to Protagonist CEO Matti Leshem, who was a major force behind the creation of the hyped Pepsi Refresh Project and is helping lead the brand’s social vending aspirations.

    The high-tech soda machines, which recently tested at Vail Ski Resorts and a handful of other nationwide locations, feature motion-sensory software that reacts to hand gestures and lets consumers buy refreshments, play games and possibly win a Pepsi. While bigger rollout plans are being developed, Leshem said the machines will let people record videos and effectively text message the spots as soda gifts. “It’s connecting social media to a product in a way that hasn’t been done before,” he said.

    Pepsi is not only rebooting the vending machines but also ad campaigns, its bottle designs and seemingly everything in between—with the help of its large roster of marketing partners, led by agency of record TBWAChiatDay. Like all soda makers, Pepsi is vying for attention in an increasingly competitive market that’s crowded with energy drinks, flavored waters and iced teas.

    “The whole [carbonated drinks] category is declining,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. “Most of the big brands are not growing at this point and time.”

    Added Larry Woodard, president of Graham Stanley Advertising: “The cola segment is shrinking. In fact, Diet Coke didn’t overtake Pepsi—it shrank less. It might not be that Pepsi has to do anything other than use its current [celebrity] line-up, visible with a steady stream of commercials, while Coke stumbles with its new strategy of trying to directly address the obesity issue.”

    Yet Peter Madden, CEO of brand consulting firm AgileCat, put more of the blame on Pepsi.

    “Where Coke is consistent in their commitment to their own brand, Pepsi seems more like a kite,” Madden said.

    Regardless, Pepsi is standing by Protagonist, a 10-person shop based in Los Angeles. “It always helps us to have a new take, particularly on some of our different challenges,” Krembs said. “[Protagonist] can turn a nugget into a big idea.”

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    Hearst Magazines is the latest publisher to join the native ad gold rush, with new products that will let advertisers run their messages into editorial real estate and, if desired, incorporate edit-produced content.

    The five new units, now being rolled out to the market, are designed to let advertisers take advantage of the growth of mobile devices as well as social media and video.

    Grant Whitmore, vp of digital, said the company had been watching the success of digital-only publishers [read: BuzzFeed, Gawker] that have been made native advertising the cornerstone of their business.

    “A lot of those companies are doing really, really well right now,” he said. “So we wanted to understand what we needed to do to keep pace with our newest set of competitors.”

    Addressing a common knock that native advertising is unscalable, the units can run across Hearst brands, among them Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Esquire, and the content can run outside Hearst, if the client wishes.

    Robin Steinberg, evp of MediaVest, said the products are an example of how Hearst isn’t acting like a traditional media company. “I give them a lot of credit for diversifying their offerings,” she said. “Everyone has to iterate, re-imagine the type of products they create and how they use technology to distribute.”

    While a debate rages about how much editorial staff should be involved in the creation of native ads, with some publishers keeping editorial far away from the process, the Hearst units push the envelope in the way they involve the editorial side. Hearst execs said that the copy in its new units could come equally from editorial staff as Hearst marketing staff or the brand itself.

    There don’t seem to be hard and fast rules yet about when editorial will supply the copy or how such copy will be labeled when it appears in ads. Executives said Hearst was in the process of creating guidelines governing the use of editorial content in ads.

    But mockups of the units that Hearst is taking around to marketers provide a sense of the possibilities. One is a full page of Sephora beauty products that are “presented by” the beauty marketer. The products are labeled “editor’s picks.” Another ad unit aggregates short-form videos like Vines that are created by Hearst for the client or by the client itself. “When it makes sense and we can do it in an authentic manner, then we’ll [have editorial-created content],” Whitmore said.

    The practice will undoubtedly raise questions among editorial purists about the appropriateness of having edit staffers create copy for ads. There's also a practicality issue, with staffs already stretched thin.

    “In terms of who does the work, a lot of that has yet to be fully sorted out,” said Rosemary Ellis, editor in chief of Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, who, like other top editors, got a preview of the new ad strategy this past week. “I’m open to doing it in a smart and credible way…as long as it doesn’t undermine the integrity of the site. I think it’s a question not just of resources, but what an advertiser is asking for.”

    Other big magazine publishers have been active in adopting native in search of more engaging, lucrative online ad formats. Time Inc. has been marketing Amplify, its unit that combines the advertiser message with relevant Time Inc. editorial content. Condé Nast said its corporate sales arm is working on a new mobile native ad product that it expects to announce soon.

    But history has shown that coming up with new alternatives to the tired banner is hard. Two years ago, publishers, Hearst among them, were adopting big, glossy display ad formats in hopes of luring branding advertising that has eluded online publishers. That hasn’t happened in a big way, though.

    Kristine Welker, chief revenue officer for Hearst Digital Media, said Hearst did “very well” with those units and that she sees the company’s new native ad units as complementing rather than displacing the giant ads, or standard banners, for that matter, because not all advertisers’ needs will call for native.

    “We’re hearing marketers say, ‘I don’t want either-or,’” she said. “The user journey has never been about one thing.”


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    IDEA: Mattress ads usually promise you the best eight hours of sleep you've ever had. Tempur-Pedic's new campaign looks at the other 16 hours. "You've got sheep trying to put you to sleep. You've got people floating on mattresses in white pajamas," Carmichael Lynch chief creative officer Dave Damman said of the competition. "We're not only promising you the best sleep of your life, we're giving you the reasons why you need it—because of the time you're awake."

    The agency distilled this idea into a new tagline, "You are how you sleep," then explored metaphors for bringing that to life. The memorable first spot gets animalistic, à la Pixar's Brave, by showing a mother who's so grumpy from poor sleep that she's literally a bear—grumbling and growling at her twin daughters until she finally gets the rest she's been craving.

    COPYWRITING: The plot was inspired by research. "We asked kids, 'What are Mom and Dad like when they don't get enough sleep?' And we had them draw some images," Damman said. "One of the responses was, 'They're like a crazy animal. Like a zoo animal, growling and screaming.' You can get a lot of honesty from a kid." The bear wakes up yelling in the opening scene, then knocks down a shelf at the supermarket, invades a soccer field to growl at the ref, and generally makes everyone miserable.

    The girls narrate. Director Mike Mills got them to improvise the dialogue, based only loosely on the script. "We used to live with a bear," one says at the beginning. "It was so embarrassing that we just wanted say, 'Well, go away! Shoo, bear!' But you can't really tell bears what to do." At the end, mom becomes herself again as she rises, smiling, from a Tempur-Pedic mattress. "We never saw that bear again," one of the girls says.

    The tagline appears on screen, which fades to white, revealing the logo, Web address and the line, "The most highly recommended bed in America."

    FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Mills shot the ad in two days around Los Angeles. The bear is a guy in a bear suit, with two people remotely operating its facial expressions. (The suit is actually a real bear that's been taxidermied.) "There was no way those girls could have been as comfortable around a live bear," Damman said. "And there's only so much a live bear can do. It might have taken four or five hours to get a bear to look at the spinning laundry and follow it, whereas that shot took half an hour."

    Damman described the visual look of the piece as "honest and artful." It's darker early on and brightens noticeably at the end. "There's a bit of a washed-out feeling of unhappiness when the bear's there," Damman said. "In the end, things are a little more alive and colorful."

    TALENT: Mills spent a lot of time with the twins before shooting a single frame, to get them comfortable. (Damman himself soon learned about the world of twins when he snagged a stuffed bear out of a crane game on the supermarket set—then quickly realized he needed another, so both girls could have one.)

    The mom appears only briefly, but casting was important there, too. "Her reappearance is probably the most important part of the story," Damman said, "to [demonstrate] the product benefit that you can be yourself."

    SOUND: The music is a curious synthesizer track—an original piece that sounds almost droning. It adds to the dark vibe before becoming slightly more upbeat at the end. "It's unease and then resolution," Damman said. "It was the actor you didn't see."

    MEDIA: National broadcast and cable, and online. A second spot, in which a sleep-deprived man is depicted as a looming dark cloud, breaks soon.


    Client: Tempur-Pedic
    Advertising Agency: Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis
    Chief Creative Officer: Dave Damman
    Executive Creative Director: Marty Senn
    Art Directors: Brad Harrison, Doug Pedersen
    Director of Integrated Production: Joe Grundhoefer
    Producer: Jon Mielke
    Account Executives: Stacy Janicki, Jesse Simon, Sarah Brehm
    Senior Project Manager: Lisa Brody
    Production Company: The Directors Bureau
    Director: Mike Mills
    Director of Photography: Kasper Tuxen
    Executive producer: Lisa Margulis
    Line Producer: Youree Henley
    Editing House: Rock Paper
    Editor: Grant Surmi
    Producers: Joanna Hall, Marguerite Olivelle
    Composer: Roger Neill
    Sound Design: BWN Music and Sound
    Sound Designer/Mix: Carl White

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    Most marketers wouldn’t want to have their names dragged through the mud.

    But not some brands.

    After years of prodigious growth, “mudventure” obstacle racing has oozed into the mainstream, with top brands like Reebok, Miller Lite and Advil jumping in. The sport, which barely existed five years ago, fuses strenuous, often punishing and on occasion even death-defying physical activity with team dynamics, social interaction and the meeting of tough challenges head on. And along the way, participants get as filthy as if playing in a pickup football game in a driving rainstorm.

    Winning is not the objective here. In fact, many events don’t even track the times of the entrants. Rather, personal achievement and having a good time with friends and family are key. And while some serious athletes take part, the category’s success and its growing attraction for brands have more to do with the enthusiastic participation of the average person, testing his or her physical limits and sharing the experience with others.

    “While most people will never play NFL football, nearly anyone can participate in these action-adventure competitions, and participants in these events respect and support their sponsors,” says Darryl Ohrt, global creative director at content firm Mash+Studio and a prominent marketing blogger.

    There’s big money in mud. Last year, the big three mudventure series—Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, which together hosted some 2 million participants—generated an estimated $200 million. When smaller races are factored in, the overall market could well rake in twice that much, according to experts, and this year could reach $1 billion and draw as many as 4 million participants worldwide.

    Regardless of size, location or level of difficulty, the events (for which participants pay anywhere from $50 to $200) are known for activities like scaling walls, wading through pools of slime, crawling through pits of barbed wire and, in one case, dodging live electrical cables. As the name suggests, there’s always plenty of mud involved, and post-race parties.

    On-site brand activations, signage and co-branded merchandise are fast becoming a part of the mix, too. The benefit for marketers is clear, as mudventure events attract demos brands crave. Participants generally fall into the 18-40 sweet spot, with an average household income in the $70,000 range. Some event series, including Tough Mudder, are male-oriented (the split is about 70/30), but the events are attracting more women. (There’s a female-only series called Dirty Girl.)

    Meanwhile, for the participants who have made mudventure such a hot ticket, the events tap into our collective desire to escape, if only for a weekend, the shackles of buttoned-down, mechanized society.

    “We feel cooped-up in our cities where hand sanitizer is everywhere,” says marketing blogger and pop culture pundit Ask Dabitch. “We want to run barefoot with our feet in the mud like we did when we were kids. We want to push ourselves and see how far, how fast, how sweaty we can get. We want to laugh, scrape our knees and win.”

    It also feeds into our social media-centric lifestyles. “A Facebook photo of yourself competing in a mud run is the ultimate humble-brag. It clearly shows that you’re fit, fun and adventurous. And since you’re covered in mud, the pic has a tinge of self-deprecation too,” explains Jonathan Ages, founder and editor of Blood, Sweat and Cheers, a daily email that helps people discover activities to do with friends.

    Adds Alex Patterson, chief culture officer at Tough Mudder: “Experiences are what people want these days. They don’t just want goods … now that everyone is their own content-generating brand.”

    That content is all the more impressive when it involves activities so down and dirty and achievement-oriented as these. “It definitely showed me I can do things I didn’t think I could do—I didn’t think I could finish it,” says Chelsea Cutaran, 24, a nurse in a cardiac care unit. Entering for the first time with a group of co-workers, Cutaran completed a 10-mile Tough Mudder event last July at Big Bear Lake, Calif., in about five hours.

    As with any sport or activity, there are dangers. Tough Mudder makes its entrants sign “death waivers,” just in case. (“It definitely gave me second thoughts, but I got over that quickly,” says Cutaran.) But mudventure has its own unique risks. For one thing, mud can contain harmful microorganisms—E. coli outbreaks at events from entrants ingesting mud aren’t unheard of. Then there are the obstacles themselves. Tough Mudder’s course includes such activities as Electric Eel, which requires participants to crawl through mud while 10,000-volt live wires dangle above; Arctic Enema, a pool filled with ice water in which participants must submerge themselves and navigate beneath a plank; and Funky Monkey, which involves an incline smeared with mud and butter and a set of monkey bars above a pit of icy water.

    While the organizers stress that safety is their top concern, injuries are fairly common. Jennifer Anderson, 39—who, like Cutaran, is a nurse—broke her tailbone going down a Plexiglas slide at the Ruckus mud event in Marshfield, Mass., in June 2012.

    “I know it wasn’t the course that did it to me—it was a freak accident,” she says. Anderson went on to complete another run five months later, and she plans a return to the Marshfield Ruckus this year. “I didn’t want to go out injured,” she says. “It all goes back to the accomplishment thing. As a mom of three, I don’t get a lot of things about me.”

    “This definitely marks a shift from the identifying with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan on the [Wheaties] box to people wanting to be on the box,” says Tough Mudder’s Patterson. (As it happens, Tough Mudder will grace a Wheaties box of its own later this year, according to Patterson—clearly marking mudventure’s move into the mainstream.)

    Brands certainly are throwing big bucks at mudvertising opportunities. Backing several races at a major event series can cost a marketer anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, while long-term deals can run into seven figures. Spartan Race’s three-year pact with Reebok is the most comprehensive sponsorship in the space. In fact, the event series is now called the Reebok Spartan Race and encompasses on-site activations, apparel, a line of running shoes, a mini-Spartan course at the marketer’s Canton, Mass., HQ and more. “We were really looking at how our brand is positioned in fitness—we really connected well with them,” says Chad Wittman, Reebok’s director, sports fitness entertainment marketing. “They’re all about transformation, [and] we believe in the same things.”

    Reebok-Spartan athletic wear will hit retailers this summer, with a specialty footwear launch set for January 2014. Likely priced in the $150 range, the shoes will feature “new technologies,” says Wittman, based on the needs of mud runners to keep muck out of their sneakers—and keep the sneakers from coming off altogether.

    For a lifestyle brand like Reebok, mud-venture is a natural complement because the events themselves can become a lifestyle, transforming people from couch potatoes into enthusiastic amateur athletes who enter several events a year. (It is estimated that one in four participants are repeat racers.) With that in mind, brands like Reebok aim to connect long term with consumers who integrate mudventure sports—and a commitment to exercise and fitness—into their everyday lives.

    Other partners seem less obvious a fit. Take Dos Equis, a fixture at Tough Mudder, where each of those who completes the course gets a free brewski. MillerCoors made its foray into mud racing last year with Warrior Dash, returning as official beer sponsor this year. “Warrior Dash embodies Miller Lite’s positioning of fostering the bonds of friendship,” says the brewer’s spokesman Jonathan Stern. “Great friends come from far and near to participate in the Warrior Dash. Miller Lite is all about good times with good friends, so the two brands work well together.”

    Not everyone likes the idea of beer brands waiting at the finish line with a cold one.

    “Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, although a step in the right direction, are not promoting fitness and athleticism … they are promoting a party,” argues Joe De Sena, co-founder of Spartan Race, adding such sponsorships denigrate the sport’s healthy-lifestyle positioning. And yet, if a brewer approached Spartan Race, De Sena doesn’t rule out accepting those dollars. “Depends on the terms,” he says.

    Pfizer’s Advil, meanwhile, sees sponsoring Tough Mudder as a no-brainer. “Advil relieves tough pain. Event day puts stress on muscles, as does training, so it’s a really good fit for us and an organic partnership,” says Jody Cook, director of brand communications. This is the OTC remedy’s first year of sponsorship, which includes an eight-foot-high, branded obstacle wall and product sampling at a dozen events.

    Despite the obvious value for a brand, the extreme nature of these events and the very real risks involved could spell trouble for a sponsor in the case of grievous injury or death. Two incidents that generated significant media attention are slated for trial this summer, at the height of mud-racing season. In April 2012, at an Original Mud Run in Fort Worth, Texas, 30-year-old Tony Weathers—by all accounts an elite, accomplished athlete—disappeared during a 150-foot swim across the Trinity River. The medical examiner ruled his death an accidental drowning. Weathers’ aunt filed a lawsuit, naming the organizers as plaintiffs. The trial is set to begin June 27. Meanwhile, Robert Fecteau, a veteran marathoner, last year filed a $30 million suit against the Filthy K Mud Run, alleging he became partially paralyzed after landing in a mud pit during a 2010 event in Richmond, Va. That trial begins July 15. (More recently, a participant drowned in a Tough Mudder event this past April, in what was ruled an accident.)

    Marketers apparently accept the risks. “Brands need to stand for something and mean something for consumers,” says Advil’s Cook. Other brands Adweek spoke with concur, signaling that as long as organizers are seriously committed to safety, sponsors will be satisfied. What’s more, any negative publicity will impact the events themselves, they propose, not the sponsors—much like the NFL, not its advertisers, has come under fire for player injuries.

    Besides, as Reebok’s Wittman points out, “More people die from heart disease and obesity than from being active.”

    That said, would Reebok continue to support Spartan Race if a participant were to die and the story played out on CNN and Fox News—the brand’s logo appearing in every shot? “We stand behind our partners as long as it’s not foul play on their side or negligence,” Wittman says.

    Adds Spartan’s De Sena: “To enjoy life, you’ve got to suffer every day. There’s certainly some danger here. I think sponsors can deal with the injury issue.”

    That, and getting a little dirty.

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  • 05/28/13--06:49: Ad of the Day: Apple
  • Some observers are going all Abraham Zapruder over Apple's new commercial for the iPhone 5, painstakingly analyzing several frames around the 30-second mark in an effort to identify a bulky black watch worn by a kid drumming on a table. Is it the first glimpse of Apple's much-anticipated iWatch? Maybe it's a Newton by Nixon or some other esoteric, oddball timepiece. Some say it's a Nano mounted on a wristband, and 9to5Mac suggests it's "perhaps a subtle troll on Apple's part." Theories abound, page views soar … and predictably, Apple hasn't offered an explanation.

    The company may have lost some luster of late, but this mini media frenzy speaks volumes about its continued lofty standing in the popular culture and consumer fascination with its products. It's tough to imagine a similar level of overheated interest in a possible peek at a new iteration of Microsoft Office, or even some new Samsung device—or any ballyhooed product by any other company on earth, period.

    In fact, I think this effort from TBWA\Media Arts Lab qualifies as an especially successful example of content marketing, inadvertent or otherwise, based on the amount of commentary and conversation generated thus far. (The spot, released on Thursday, is approaching 1 million YouTube views. For Apple, that's not extraordinary, but iWatch watch is still building steam, and plenty of folks were probably distracted over the holiday weekend and are only now, for the most part, catching up on the story.)

    The commercial itself is about immersion, in music, and the iPhone's ability to deliver the soundtrack of our lives. (The 60-second spot, titled "Music Every Day," is a sequel of sorts to "Photos Every Day," last month's :60 about iPhone photography.) In the new spot, people of all kinds are seen in various places—at work, in school, at in the gym, on the bus—listening to their favorite tunes on the device. The piano soundtrack is especially effective—and thankfully, a world away from "Chopsticks." It's springy yet soothing, neither too up nor down, a perfect accompaniment for the evocative but commonplace imagery.

    That we never hear what each user is listening to, but feel their intense connection to the music as we observe their reactions, strengthens the universality of the message—casting the iPhone as a natural and ubiquitous part of daily life, just like our favorite songs.

    Sure, other brands could go this route, but would they be as credible? Apple's gravitas in the marketplace and the passion of its fans make the approach here seem entirely believable. The watch business is an added bonus (like advertising working overtime) and a credit to Steve Jobs's simple yet savvy, sleek-product-as-hero marketing style that continues, in large part, to make the brand tick.

    Client: Apple
    Spot: "Music Every Day"

    Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

    CCO: Duncan Milner
    ECD: Eric Grunbaum
    GCD: Chuck Monn
    CD: Simon Cassels ACD/AD: Antoine Choussat ACD/CW: David Young

    AD: Anthony Williams, Dimitri Kalagas
    CW: Elizabeth Marks
    Executive Producer: Eric Voegele
    Agency Producers: Perrin Rausch, RJ Pomeroy , Chris Shaw, Trang Huynh, Katie McCain

    Production Co: Reset/Iconoclast
    Director: So Me
    DPs: Arnaud Potier, Alexis Zabe, Mathieu Plainfosse

    Editorial Co: Nomad Editing Company, Inc. Editors: Jared Coller, Kevin Clark

    Post Co: The Mill LA
    Lead Flame Artist: Edward Black Colorist: Adam Scott

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    Seventh Generation tips a hat to its hippy heritage with this new streaking-themed spot for its chemical-free diapers. Lest you get uppity about naked babies, don't worry. The trick of the spot, by ad agency Made, is that this cute little streaking tot—who, despite the pink shoes, is impressively androgynous—is actually wearing a Seventh Generation diaper. They just pixelated the privates to vaguely shock you. (You see, wearing Seventh Generation diapers is, toxins-wise, apparently like wearing nothing at all.) Add in some booty-shaking to booty-shaking music, and you get an winning result. Of course, really dedicated hippy moms go with cloth diapers, ditching disposables altogether. But surely there's a market niche in between the two extremes, for when you want to do a little good for the Earth. Do a little more by tweeting your story with #toxinfreegen, and Seventh Generation will donate $1 in your name to Women's Voices for the Earth.

    Client: Seventh Generation

    Agency: Made Movement
    Chief Creative Officer/Partner: Dave Schiff
    Chief Design Officer/Partner: John Kieselhorst
    Chief Digital Officer/Partner: Scott Prindle
    Chief Strategy Officer: Graham Furlong
    Art Director: Stephanie Sullivan
    Writers: Dan Ligon, David Satterfield
    Consulting Head of Integrated Production: Chris Kyriakos
    Junior Integrated Producer: Isaac Karsen
    Business Affairs: Jennifer DeCastro
    Senior Account Producer: Rachael Donaldson

    Production Company: The Academy
    Director: Austin Wilson
    Executive Producers: Harry Calbom, Nate Barr
    Line Producer: Craig Stevens
    Director of Photography: Christian Hansen
    Editorial Company: NO6, Santa Monica, Calif.
    Editor: Kyle Whitmore
    Executive Producer (Editorial Co): Crissy DeSimone
    Producer: Leslie Tabor

    Visual Effects Company: NO6, Santa Monica, Calif.
    Lead Flame: Verdi Sevenhuysen
    Executive Producer: Crissy DeSimone
    Visual Effects Producer: Leslie Tabor
    Telecine: Verdi Sevenhuysen
    Music Company & City: Beacon Street Studios, Venice, CA
    Composer/Lyricist: Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau
    Audio Finishing: Lime Studios
    Audio Engineer: Sam Casas

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    Poor JCPenney. The retailer, which lost gobs of money last year and could very well die this year, simply cannot catch a break. This time it put up a seemingly harmless billboard in California. But wouldn't you know it—people are already saying the tea kettle on the billboard looks like Hitler. That's a stretch (this is what a proper Hitler tea kettle looks like) but somehow not surprising, given how star-crossed this company seems to be these days. Perhaps Michael Graves, the designer of the kettle, should apologize—although JCPenney would probably beat him to it. Via Reddit and Gawker.

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    Better call Saul? Actually, try Harry Kassabian first. The proprietor of People's Bail Bonds in Van Nuys, Calif., co-stars with some real-life criminals in this great commercial produced by local-ad heroes Rhett & Link. The cue-ball-headed Kassabian makes liberal use of air quotes in describing his clients' supposed innocence—but really, it's all the same to him. "The customer is always right, even if the customer is you and you've done something illegal," he says in one of the ad's better lines. Kassabian's personal tagline? He's "the guy that gets you out." "We decided there was a group out there that really needed their own commercial: criminals," Rhett & Link tell AdFreak. True enough. Rhett & Link also made their traditional cameo—look for them in the final seconds of the spot. Credits below.

    Written and Directed by: Rhett & Link
    Produced by: Stevie Wynne Levine
    Editor: Benjamin Eck
    Production Assistant/Behind the Scenes: Jason Inman
    Production Coordinator: Kendall Hawley

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    Visiting the video arcade at my neighborhood mall in the '80s was both exhilarating and a bit scary. On the one hand, I feared that bigger kids would try to take all my change. (And I mean a physical shakedown, so quarters would spill from my pockets onto the pizza-smeared floor.) The adrenaline rush came from the games themselves. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Radar Scope ... I loved them all. As I played, I rarely paid attention to my score. I just grooved on the sights and sounds, thrilled to each synthesized pop! bleep! and ping!, riding waves of pixelated excitement for hours on end. I wanted to meld with those machines and live in that world. Magic machines everywhere! That's what I wanted the future to be like. That was a scary thought, too, but no less wonderful for that.

    Fast forward to Google's latest Chrome Experiments—two games designed to show off the advanced capabilities of the company's browser. They took me back to those arcades of my youth in ways both good and bad. This is partly because the games, "Roll It" and "Racer," are self-consciously retro. (The latter's soundtrack is by Giorgio Moroder, still taking his passion and making it happen after all this time!) Despite the nods to yesteryear, both games are cutting edge and let users play across multiple screens—phones, tablets and computers. "Racer" lets you drive a car across as many as five mobile devices. Watch it speed from the phone you're holding to the tablet in your buddy's hand! With "Roll It," you control the trajectory of a virtual skeeball on a desktop or laptop screen by moving a smartphone handset this way and that.

    "Racer" and "Roll It" are both fun and absorbing—impressive slices of techno-magic that fulfill the promise of those crude arcade screens from the mall. They're like yesterday's dreams come true, brimming with possibilities for our digital tomorrows when synced systems running Chrome will conquer space and time. Still, I can't help feeling ambivalent, even dispirited about the proposition. For one thing, the joviality feels forced and works a tad too hard to sell happiness on a microchip. "Grab your phone, some friends and get ready to roll," says the "Roll It" promo clip. "No apps. No downloads. All you need is Chrome."

    Booyah, Google's got the fun! It's daffy doodles, rad robots, animated animal rock groups and games all day long. Just follow the bouncing Chrome ball across screens of every shape and size … because the company now demands our attention on multiple platforms, as if retargeting humanity one screen at a time wasn't enough fun.

    Ah well, there's no point in bemoaning "Big Bad Google," because I can't imagine a world without its products and services. Sure, Google's scary—but it gives us wonderful stuff, and its output has become an indispensable part of our daily existence. Maybe that's my problem. We've melded with the machines more thoroughly than I'd ever imagined, and now there's no escape. Our cursor-driven workplace tasks are essentially problem-solving games, complete with somewhat more sophisticated pops! bleeps! and pings! There aren't any shakedowns per se—just data-driven commerce. We can all groove to that, right?

    I got the future I dreamed of all those years ago. So, why can't I shake the feeling that I'm the one being played?

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    Cruzan Rum welcomes you to "The Don't Hurry," an island paradise where no one is busy, people enjoy zero-kilometer runs and sleep yoga, and every minute lasts 64 seconds. (The brand hails from the U.S. Virgin Islands and is now owned by Beam Inc.) Even the animals are slow, from a rum toting turtle to the national bird—a parrot that talks like Barry White. Well written, interestingly edited and expertly cast, the nearly two-minute anthem below is a lovely little gem. And Cruzan has clearly been watching other alcohol ads closely. The spokesman with the exotic, sometimes Spanish-sounding accent is a cross between Dos Equis's Most Interesting Man in the World and a drunken bum. You can also look to the left of the screen, where a man who looks suspiciously like Southern Comfort's comfortable guy saunters in his shoes and undies. It's backed up by some lovely print and digital work. (Sample headline: "Your only handheld device should be the one with ice cubes in it.") And it's clearly inspired by consumer insights. Well done, Cruzan. Hold my massage monkey, I'll be right there. See some shorter companion spots below.

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    Graphic designer/illustrator Jaime Calderón's "Super Likes" series dresses up the Facebook "Like" button in a variety of superhero costumes, including Spider-Man, Batman, The Thing, Wolverine and The Flash. The Flash icon is pretty clever—it's captured in motion and almost out of frame—but the rest of these could do with some accessorizing to make them look less generic. Only two or three of them are immediately recognizable as superheroes without the captions explaining who they are. That said, I'd like to see a Villains "Like" series if he wants to keep this going, if only because the Two-Facebook icon should also be flipping a coin. More after the jump, and many more at Calderón's Behance site, linked above. Via Design Taxi.

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    Taco Bell's Dollar Cravings Menu is a low-budget option, so naturally it needs low-budget advertising. Enter Deutsch/LA, which claims to have produced radio ads for a dollar promoting the menu. The agency decided not to hire a voiceover actor, choosing instead to have a low-quality text-to-speech voice—i.e., a bad robot voice—read the scripts. The result is pretty amusing. The robot pronounces radio as "rah-dio," but more shameful is that he can't say "tortilla" properly either. He makes up for it with some humorous musings on his personal life, and the refreshing sign-off "Live Más. Bell sound."

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  • 05/29/13--11:36: Ad of the Day: Subaru
  • Subaru, the Happiest Automaker, continues apace with its blitzkrieg of cheerfulness in this spot about a very game couple who, in the spirit of Subaru owners everywhere, are up for pretty much anything.

    Because I am a broken person, filled with misery and fear, it pleases me to report that the spot—from Carmichael Lynch and director Lance Acord—ends on a down note, with the couple's anything-for-fun spirit getting them into a frightening hot-springs encounter with a really creepy hippie dude and his girlfriend that ends in…

    Well, it ends in a cutaway, and the excellent actors agreeing with each other that "we shouldn't have done that."

    The folks in this spot are cast to a T. The writing is also very good—see how the guy is actually the more conservative (or maybe just skittish) one, even though he's the one who recommends most of the adventures. (Favorite bit: Him: "You know you're eating a bug." Her: "Right, because of the legs." Him, dropping to a crouch: "Uh-oh.")

    A second new spot, "Nature Painting," also directed by Acord, shows a not-particularly-gifted painter passionately driving his car through the rain to get exactly the right light. The "Let's Do It" ad is better, though—very cute, right down to the banjo music and the not-too-expensive outerwear.

    The little regret over … whatever happened in the hot tub is surely a small price to pay. Ha. Also the dialogue.

    "Nice little massage?"

    "Yeah, I'm not sure I need one!"

    And scene.

    Client: Subaru
    Agency: Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis

    —Spot: "Let's Do That"

    Chief Creative Officer: Dave Damman
    Exec Creative Director: Randy Hughes
    Senior Writer: William Bloomfeld
    Art Director, Associate Creative Director: Brad Harrison 
    Director of Integrated Production: Joe Grundhoefer
    Exec Senior Producer: Brynn Hausmann
    Business Manager: Vicki Oachs
    Account Service Team: David Eiben, Krista Kelly

    Production Company: Park Pictures
    Director: Lance Acord
    Executive Producer: MaryAnn Marino
    Line. Producer: Aristides McGarry
    Director of Photography: Lance Acord

    Edit House: Whitehouse Post, LA
    Editor: Rick Lawley
    Assistant Editor: Brandon Porter
    VFX House / Online Artist(s): Volt, Minneapolis / Steve Medin
    Telecine: Sean Coleman, Company 3
    Audio Mix: Brahmstedt White Noise
    Sound Design: Brahmstedt White Noise

    Music: "Happy Go Lucky" (Aubrey Hainie)
    Music Supervisor: Jonathan Hecht

    On-camera talent: Kevin Christy, Lauren Burns
    Voiceover talent: Kevin Christy (man), Justin Beere (announcer)

    —Spot: "Nature Painting"

    Chief Creative Officer: Dave Damman
    Exec Creative Director: Randy Hughes
    Senior Writer: William Bloomfeld
    Art Director, Associate Creative Director: Brad Harrison 
    Director of Integrated Production: Joe Grundhoefer
    Exec Senior Producer: Brynn Hausmann
    Business Manager: Vicki Oachs
    Account Service Team: David Eiben, Krista Kelly

    Production Company: Park Pictures
    Director: Lance Acord
    Executive Producer: MaryAnn Marino
    Line. Producer: Aristides McGarry
    Director of Photography: Lance Acord

    Edit House: Whitehouse Post, LA
    Editor: Steve Jess
    Assistant Editor: Tim Quackenbush
    VFX House / Online Artist(s): Volt, Minneapolis / Steve Medin
    Telecine: Sean Coleman, Company 3
    Audio Mix: Brahmstedt White Noise
    Sound Design: Brahmstedt White Noise

    Music: "The Grandeur of Silver Sky" (Rebecca Gibson)
    Music Supervisor: Jonathan Hecht

    On-camera talent: Aimee Shynn, Sean Dwyer
    Voiceover talent: Aimee Shynn (woman), Justin Beere (announcer)

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    Who (l. to r.) Lucy Farey-Jones, partner, executive strategy director; Bob Molineaux, founder, president; Paul Venables, founder, executive creative director; Paul Birks-Hay, managing director; Kate Jeffers, head of client services; and Will McGinness, executive creative director
    What Advertising agency
    Where San Francisco offices

    Even as a college student, Paul Venables knew he wanted to open his own agency. His humble start in the industry didn’t augur well, though: He failed typing tests at big agencies until landing his first advertising job—answering the phones. Ultimately, he was recruited by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, where he rose to become co-creative director. He took the leap in 2001, after a former client offered him the chance to start up with Microsoft’s Ultimate TV. Now his agency VBP is one of the Bay Area’s most successful independents, with revenue growing 27 percent last year on organic growth from Google, ConAgra, Audi and Intel.

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    When longtime Richards Group copywriter Matt Bull finished his first highly visible solo gig in Dallas this week, it felt like a pretty big deal to him. And apparently Redditors agreed, giving his billboard for the local Chicken Scratch restaurant a massive boost in publicity by voting it to the site's front page on Wednesday. Part of the appeal was the creepy, counterintuitive tone of the board, which highlights Chicken Scratch's location "between some trailers and a condemned motel." But another key to Bull's success was his clear excitement at creating something on his own after a lengthy stint in agency life. "After 16 years, I quit my ad agency job to work for myself and spend more time with my family," he wrote in his Reddit post."Thought I'd share my first solo ad with you guys—for a great local restaurant. I've worked with much bigger budgets in every media imaginable, but I've never been more proud of the outcome than this." Created with illustrator Elliott Park, the R. Crumb-esque billboard has quickly launched Bull and his one-man shop, The Department of Persuasion, into the public eye. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A about the story behind this odd bit of outdoor.

    How did you get connected with this gig?
    Chicken Scratch is in Oak Cliff, which is a pretty tight-knit neighborhood in Dallas. The owners traded a party for an outdoor placement with CBS and needed something to put up. They wanted to work with someone locally, and another neighbor I'd done some work for recommended me. That was all there was to it.

    How much direction did they give you?
    The initial direction was only, "We're thinking we want something kind of Church of the SubGenius." Which I can honestly say I've never ever heard from a client. In retrospect that was probably them vetting me, to see if I was on the same wavelength. Then later the co-owner, Christopher, was talking about the challenging sell the restaurant has and said, "I mean, we're between a trailer park and a condemned motel!" And I thought, "That would make a pretty great ad, actually."

    Were they (or you) concerned about the general creepiness of it?
    Not in the slightest. In fact, the only feedback they made when looking at pencils was, "Can we make the guy creepier?"

    How about the fact that you don't show the address?
    Nah, no concerns. They didn't even ask for it. I've done a lot of outdoor and had given them the basic ad agency party line on what to expect from outdoor. This one was already on the crowded side, and everyone has a smartphone anyway.

    What's your take on the Reddit response? Did you ever expect it would blow up the way it has?
    I'm genuinely shocked. I only did it on a whim. I expected, like most of my posts there, that it would get swiftly downvoted into oblivion. How much time have you spent there? They hate ads more than they hate organized religion. I imagine there are entire nu-marketing shops packed with interns leading deeply frustrated lives chasing the front page of Reddit for global brands. That we did it for a fried chicken biscuit sandwich place is gratifying.

    The best part of the comments is all the ad-strategy criticism. I think because everyone's grown up assaulted by ads from day one on the planet, they end up a) feeling like they're experts by virtue of passive experience and b) carrying a lot of low level resentment around over having no say in being forced into becoming an audience for thousands of pitches a day. Which they then work out on a billboard for a one-off chicken place. But overall, they really seemed to love it.

    For more on Matt Bull and to see his previous work, visit DepartmentOfPersuasion.com.

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    A print ad that uses solar power to charge cell phones? At long last, mankind's prayers have been answered! Giovanni + Draftfcb in São Paulo, Brazil, developed the ad, which includes a wafer-think solar panel and phone plug, to promote the Nivea Sun line of skincare products. It ran in Brazilian magazine Veja Rio, and there's a sun-soaked beach video that shows the device in action. Of course, the ad is mainly a gimmick to generate publicity through media coverage, which we're pleased to provide, though the work also suggests that adding novel functionality to traditional campaigns could be a smart way to stir things up. What will they think of next—a billboard that generates drinking water out of thin air?

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    That hunky Bradley Cooper can do anything he wants, you understand, including strolling into an elegant cocktail party eating ice cream straight out of the container. Lapses in etiquette be damned—just look at those baby blues! And he even brought his own spoon. It helps that he's visiting The House of Häagen-Dazs, which isn't a real place but more of a sugar-fueled fever dream, in this new spot from Team One in El Segundo, Calif. There's a raven-haired supermodel (Jana Perez) who latches onto the smokin' hot Oscar nominee and onetime Sexiest Man Alive for canoodling purposes. Oh but wait, she just wants his dessert. Sure, she does. The General Mills brand, which shot this all-slow-mo, no-dialogue commercial in an 18th-century Baroque chateau in Prague, has never used a celebrity before. (European brand Magnum used a car-hopping Rachel Bilson in a campaign directed by Karl Lagerfeld for its decadent ice-cream bars a few years ago. Could this be a trend?). The Häagen-Dazs ad, meant to luxe up the brand, comes from director Allen Hughes of the famous filmmaking Hughes brothers. It fairly sizzles, and it's hot outside. Eat up!


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