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    Grey, BBH, Wieden + Kennedy and Crispin Porter + Bogusky will battle it out for Best Commercial at the Emmy Awards in September, it was announced Thursday—nominated for Canon, Google Chrome, Nike and Grey Poupon ads. Should Wieden + Kennedy win, it would be the agency's fifth straight Emmy, having previously triumphed with Procter & Gamble's "Best Job" (2012), Chrysler's "Born of Fire" (2011), Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" (2010) and Coca-Cola's "Heist" (2009). This year's four nominees are all solid. BBH and W+K might feel slightly aggrieved that Axe's "Susan Glenn" and Southern Comfort's "Beach" aren't on the list as well. See the 2013 nominees below.

    Video Gallery: 2013 Emmy Nominees for Best Commercial

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    Last week we wrote about Heineken's JFK airport stunt, in which the brand dared travelers to drop their existing plans and go somewhere new and exotic with the push of a button—without knowing where. Today, we have video of some of the gameplay from the campaign, by Wieden + Kennedy in New York. It's pretty amusing. It begins, fittingly enough, with people who won't play the game—i.e., the sane ones to whom we can most easily relate. Then we get to the nutjobs—those outliers who are willing to make that call to friends and family and say they won't be visiting after all, but will be boarding a flight to who-knows-where at the request of people who've clearly been drinking. Most of the folks who take the plunge seem pretty happy with their new destination, although the guy going to Laos—he looks more than a little ambivalent.

    Client: Heineken
    Project: Departure Roulette

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, New York
    Executive Creative Directors: Scott Vitrone, Ian Reichenthal, Mark Bernath, Eric Quennoy
    Creative Directors: Erik Norin, Eric Steele
    Copywriter: Will Binder
    Art Director: Jared White
    Interactive Producer: Victoria Krueger
    Executive Producer: Nick Setounski
    Assistant Producer: Kristen Johnson
    Account Team: Patrick Cahill, Jacqueline Ventura, Sydney Lopes
    Social Strategist: Jessica Abercrombie
    Project Manager: Rayna Lucier
    Sr. Community Manager: Mike Vitiello
    Director of Interactive Production: Brandon Kaplan
    Head of Integrated Production: Lora Schulson
    Business Affairs: Sara Jagielski, Lisa Quintela, Quentin Perry
    Global Travel Director: Colleen Baker
    Lead/Sr. Travel Consultant: Angela Wootan
    Sr. Travel Consultant: Joelle Wainwright

    Production Company: Legs Media
    Director: Dan Levin
    Post-Production Company: Legs Media In Collaboration with BrehmLabs

    Editors: Frederic T. Brehm, Ian Park, Gabriela Tessitore
    Sound Designer: Eric Hoffman
    Colorists: Frederic T. Brehm, M. Scott Vogel
    Information Display System Fabricator: Solari Corp.
    Design & Build Team: The Guild


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    General Mills always seemed quite embarrassed by the firestorm around its now-famous "Just Checking" ad for Cheerios—the one that was set upon by racist trolls on YouTube for featuring an interracial couple, leading the company to disable comments on the video.

    The controversy brought free publicity, yes, though for unsavory reasons involving, at its core, a negative reaction to the spot (no matter that the vast majority of consumers swiftly came to the cereal maker's defense and turned the whole episode into a brand celebration of sorts). And yet it wasn't so much the backdrop of racism that seemed to make General Mills uncomfortable. It was any special attention whatsoever. And therein lies one of the peculiar things about the Cheerios brand. It wants to be (and has been for decades) so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. Though it spends millions on advertising, it doesn't really want to stand out. It wants to blend in—to its customers' lives, not their Facebook feeds.

    This is exemplified time and again in the commercials from Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. They're small, quiet and dignified. They focus on simple, relatable family moments. They look inward, not outward. They don't want to make a scene. It must have been excruitiating, actually, to be at the center of such a big public controversy.

    The brand is surely relieved, then, to move on to a new spot, its first :30 since "Just Checking." "Nana," which hit YouTube and TV on Wednesday, is classic Cheerios. It features a quiet conversation at the breakfast table between a mom and her son. (Both are white, though that should hardly be seen as a capitulation—it just is what it is.) The son asks, "Did Nana ever give you Cheerios when you were a little kid?" This innocent yet charged question touches off a multilayered back-and-forth that leaves Mom on the verge of tears at the end (and many viewers, too, judging anecdotally).

    The ad, directed by Matt Smukler of Community Films, is skillfully done. The backstory isn't spelled out—there's plenty of evocative subtext. The emotion isn't laid on too thick. The acting is just right. And just look at the composition of the shots—the viewer is made to peek past door and window frames into this private moment. Everything is designed to be intimate and personal—and in that narrowing, the brand achieves the universal.

    Two lines are particularly notable—one from the spot, and one from the YouTube page. At one point in the ad, Mom says, "Cheerios has pretty much been the same forever." And over on YouTube, the company's description of the ad is just a single sentence: "Based on a real event." Taken together, those two lines practically sum up the Cheerios brand. We're going to be real. And we're not going to change. And they serve, perhaps, as a subtle but potent rebuke to the haters of the previous spot.

    "Love," says the on-screen copy at the end. "Just Checking" got plenty of it from consumers. But in some ways, "Nana" is probably how Cheerios prefers it.

    Client: Cheerios
    Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, New York
    Chief Creative Officer: Conway Williamson
    Executive Creative Director: Peter Smith
    Associate Creative Director: Johnnie Ingram
    Executive Producer: Dani Stoller
    Management Director: Rodes Ponzer
    Account Manager: Matt Muriello
    Assistant Account Executive: Carly Wallace

    Director: Matt Smukler
    Production Company: Community Films
    Executive Producer: Carl Swan
    Line Producer: Carr Donald
    Editor: Jim Ulbrich
    Producer: Valerie Iorio
    Assistant Editor: Elmer McCarty
    DP: Andrij Parekh
    Graphics: Michael Ricca
    Music Company: Big Foote Music
    Music Producer: Eric Korte

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    Iconic motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson is taken down a notch in this fun, simple new spot for Indian Motorcycle, which takes a hard left three-quarters of the way through. Great use of Willie Nelson by Minneapolis agency Colle+McVoy, for whom it must have been fun taking some lighthearted shots at a brand famously advertised for three decades by crosstown shop Carmichael Lynch. (Colle+McVoy tells us it has "great respect for Harley and its loyal riders" despite the mischievous approach here.) A 30-second version of the ad will air on TV next week, setting the stage for the worldwide reveal of the 2014 Indian Chief at the 2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally the week of Aug. 5. Credits below.

    Client: Indian Motorcycle
    Agency: Colle+McVoy, Minneapolis
    Production Company: Blue Morpho Films
    Edit: Channel Z

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    Pereira & O'Dell tells stories from the point of view of trash in its new "I Want to Be Recycled" pro-bono campaign for the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful. (No Honey Boo Boo jokes, please.) In one spot, we follow a plastic bottle's long journey from an alleyway garbage can over highways, through forests and down urban thoroughfares until it winds up as part of a bench made from recycled materials that overlooks the sea. Another ad presents a discarded aluminum can that dreams of one day being part of a shiny sports stadium. The bottle and can narrate, and the ads close with the tagline, "Give your garbage another life," ultimately pointing viewers toward IWantToBeRecycled.org.

    These well-made PSAs are certainly affecting and will probably resonate with many viewers. Still, I wonder if powerful copy like, "They said I couldn't dream. Called me a piece of trash and swore that's all I'd ever be," isn't at least somewhat muted when only bottles and cans are shown on screen. This approach is quirky and memorable and does, in fact, work just fine in the context of the campaign. That said, I don't find it especially compelling, nor does it do much to convince me to recycle. (Can't say I care if your dreams come true, Mr. Can. Frankly, benches and ballparks will be built regardless of whether I recycle. That's not much of an inducement for me to change my behavior.)

    The campaign's stories seem human, yet they lack a personal touch. It's tough to empathize with plastic containers and soda cans, no matter how sharp the writing and evocative the visual storytelling. Close-ups of actors looking straight into the camera and reading the lines—"People think I'm trash, but they're wrong"—might have better captured my attention and perhaps taken the premise to the next level. Sure, that set-up would be a bit goofy, but no more so than having the trash itself provide the voiceovers. Shots of narrators intercut with the bottles-and-cans footage might also be more distinctive and riveting. (Check out "I Want to Be a Bench," a 90-second video in which Keep Iowa Beautiful executive director Gerry Schnepf explains the genesis of the campaign and discusses the importance of recycling. This guy's low-key, folksy, matter-of-fact style made me want to start recycling more than the actual commercials did.)

    Keep America Beautiful's iconic Iron Eyes Cody anti-pollution spots from the early 1970s were enduring because of their intense humanity and one-to-one connection with viewers. It was never a stretch to see ourselves reflected in those weeping eyes and understand that we all share responsibility for the planet's well-being. "I Want to Be Recycled" appeals to our desire for second chances and rebirth—redemption, if you will, given the items involved—but for me, the can imagery falls flat and the bottle's half empty.

    Client: The Ad Council
    Vice President, Campaign Director: Rowena Patrick
    Campaign Director: Amanda Bagwill
    Assistant Campaign Manager: Dana Vielmetti

    Client: Keep America Beautiful
    Senior Vice President: Lynn Markley

    Agency: Pereira & O'Dell
    Chief Creative Officer: P.J. Pereira
    Executive Creative Director: Jaime Robinson
    Associate Creative Director, Copywriter: Eduardo Marques
    Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Rafael Rizuto
    Copywriters: Ross Cavin, Earl Lee
    Art Directors: Chris Adams, Arnau Bosch
    Project Manager: Katie Shesgreen
    Account Director: Ashley Brown
    Account Executive: Jennifer Wantuch
    Vice President, Director of Strategy: Nick Chapman
    Strategy Director: Justin Cox
    Strategist: Alina Shabashevich
    Executive Producer: Jeff Ferro
    Broadcast Producers: Judy Kreiter, Elisa Moore
    Print Producer: James Sablan
    Senior Interactive Producer: Erin Davis
    Business Affairs Director: Xandra Ess

    Production Company: MJZ
    Director: Victor Garcia
    President: David Zander
    Executive Producer: Kate Leahy
    Producer: Greg Ferguson

    Editing: Arcade Edit
    Editor: Greg Scruton
    Assistant Editors: Laura Sanford, Hilary Ruggiano
    Managing Partner, Executive Producer: Damian Stevens
    Executive Producer: Nicole Visram
    Producer: Denice Hutton

    Visual Effects: MPC
    Telecine Producer: Claudia Guevara
    Lead Nuke Artist: Alex Harding
    Lead Smoke Artist: Marcus Wood
    Compositor: Jonathan McKee
    Computer Graphics Lead Artist: Liam Griffin
    Colorist: Adrian Seery
    Audio: POP Sound
    Mixers: Zac Fisher, Stephen Dickson
    Music: Stimmung

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    Loud. Sexy. Aggressive. Claustrophobic. These aren't characteristics you would normally associate with hotel advertising. But then, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has never done things by the book.

    The luxury Vegas property, which opened in 2010, made a splash right out of the gate with a provocative campaign from Fallon with the theme, "Just the right amount of wrong." The decadent, buzzed-about launch spot hinted at all sorts of curious misbehavior happening inside the Cosmopolitan—slyly tempting an adventurous psychographic of people seeking experiences, not just amenities, to finish the stories with a visit. The marketer extended the campaign with a 2012 spot that told an absurd yet stylish poolside tale whose dialogue was all taken straight from the lyrics to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

    Now, the Cosmopolitan has a new spot out from Fallon—and it changes the game again. With a mix of driving music, kinetic on-screen type and striking, cryptic images, it again tempts rather than beseeches the viewer, but with a new language and tone that chief marketing officer Lisa Marchese says was necessary after rivals began imitating the Cosmopolitan's ad style.

    "There have been a lot of spots that have come out that look like they almost could have been from us," Marchese tells Adweek. "We wanted to create a spot that was radically different in form—the mix of typography to imagery, the way the imagery was shot. The tone is radically different. We wanted it to look like nothing else out there."

    The on-screen type features mini-mantras that celebrate iconoclasm and rebellion. The lines include: "Mutation is progress," "Wrong has more fun," "Correct is a mistake," "Make a hot mess," "Wild is laid" and "Misfit right in." The images—body parts, items breaking, odd tableaus—are largely unexplained, but that's the point. "We've proved out the assumption that the best thing we can do with our target guest is pique their curiosity, and they'll fill in the gaps," says Marchese. "They like the mystery in the approach."

    The music, too, is breakthrough—pugnacious and unpredictable. "I thought for sure this song would start to drive me nuts, but the more you listen to it, the more you see the texture and the layers," says Marchese. "It goes from this heavy beat to this almost old-fashioned horn section. We liked the mashup. It's reminiscent of other things we've done where we've taken very different styles and pushed them together."

    She adds: "Music is such a core part of our DNA, from how we opened with Coldplay and Jay-Z to every spot after that to the kind of entertainment you'll see on our property."

    The goal of the work is simple: to "restimulate the market to think and talk about us three years in," says Marchese—and, as seen in the ad's final image, to get people to take the plunge. "People might love it or hate it," she adds, "but they're going to notice it and talk about it."

    Client: The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
    Agency: Fallon, Minneapolis
    Production Company: Gentleman Scholar
    Directors: Will Johnson, Will Campbell

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    Coca-Cola's new "Smile Back" out-of-home stunt (scroll down to see it) is cute and nicely done, and everyone everywhere will love it. But let's overthink it for a moment.

    Coke is famously skilled at being able to "Open happiness," as its slogan goes, through innovative real-world stunts. These have ranged from overly generous vending machines to splittable cans and personalized bottles. The typical transaction is that Coke gives you something of obvious value—a free drink or a fun, surprising experience—and that thing makes you happy, sometimes infectiously so. That's an honest interaction. This new stunt, though—produced and crowdsourced with Victors & Spoils and MOFILM—is different. As the company explains in the YouTube description:

    "Coca-Cola sent our people all over the world, from Jamaica to the United Kingdom to Pakistan and more, to simply smile at strangers—to see who would smile back. As we passed others on the street, on the bus or in the park, we gave a smile, held up smiley face posters or did a silly dance with a grin on our faces, all to prompt a little friendliness in the mundane. When someone smiled back, they received a free Coke or some other fun prize: everything from sunglasses to hats to bicycles."

    So, instead of a product, first you get a smile—from someone who, regardless of how awesome they may seem, has been paid to smile at you. (This is sometimes called a Professional Smile, and is clearly of dubious value.) Then, you must respond positively to this pretend display of affection (bribe) to get the reward that you previously got for free. The transaction has changed—it's backwards. You agree to be made happy by something false in order to have the chance to be made happy by something true. (You might get punched in the nose, actually, if you tried this in New York City.)

    That distinction may sound like B.S., but you can sense the difference. It's why Coke's security-camera spot was so good—it captured moments that couldn't have been more genuine. And it's why the "Smile Back" video (and the earlier huggable vending machine from Singapore, which had similar problems involving misplaced affection) feels more manufactured. For all the happiness on display here—and yes, not all of it is bogus—the spot lacks the purity of concept that makes the best Coke work sing.

    Happiness is infectious, but this stunt might not leave everyone smiling.

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    Pulse-pounding thriller music and dramatic editing capture all the "excitement" of cable-access city-council broadcasts in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in this tongue-in-cheek (but 100 percent real) promo. The commercial is nearing 80,000 YouTube views in a week. That's more than three times the town's population. High-impact scenes from the Monday-night broadcasts on Community Cable 9 include: a finger tapping a microphone to make sure it works; people writing on sheets of paper; pitchers of ice water sitting on tabletops; middle-aged, graying counselors entering the chamber and, ultimately, sitting down. The spot is so faux-intense, I kept expecting Peter Stormare to burst in… and pour himself a glass of water (though if he ever finds himself on this particular show, he should fire his agent). The highlight is Mayor Dan Curtis announcing that an additional $15,000 was made available to the local museum. Holy cow, what's next, a non-binding referendum on curbside recycling? Tune in Monday to find out, same Whitehorse City Council time, same Whitehorse City Council channel!

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    Whether you're a stranger, peer or client, Marty Weiss wants to be your friend. With that spirit in mind, Weiss has shot some short videos on the streets of New York City that feel less like a plug for the new name of his design and ad agency—Marty Weiss and Friends, of course—and more like the stunt that New York Mets ace Matt Harvey just pulled off for Jimmy Fallon. Like Harvey, Weiss comes across as calm and likable, unlike, say, vintage Stuttering John. Still, many people in the first video either stare incredulously or just plain walk away when Weiss first asks if they'll be his friend. Like any good adman, however, he wins over several strangers, including a drummer performing in Washington Square Park. Upcoming videos will take us to Weiss's West Village apartment, where he bonds with another familiar ad face, and the offices of clients. Look for them all on the agency's Facebook page and on YouTube, where you'll also find this little gem of a credentials reel that Weiss helped create at former shop Weiss Whitten Carroll Stagliano. Not before or since have we seen parents in an agency reel. Weiss certainly has a knack for branding his agency in a disarming way.

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    I’ve always believed that happy people have the ability to achieve extraordinary things. And in the business world, happy employees equal happy clients, and that’s not just good for business, it’s good for personal well-being, too.

    Call it the Happiness Effect.

    When I became CEO of MEC in October 2011, I had the opportunity to influence change and drive a deeper connection to our people. My vision was to develop an agency culture that other organizations would want to emulate. The hottest talent would want to join and that would make existing talent feel engaged, committed and proud. Many companies begin with these good intentions, but as they grow, their focus narrows to the bottom line, often forgetting that it’s their people who drive success.

    Excellent leaders ultimately know they’ve got it right when people enjoy coming to work and feel part of a team that “gets it,” an organization where people lead, rather than manage, and everyone feels connected to a common vision and a shared goal of delivering innovative and inspired work.

    It doesn’t happen overnight.

    As a first step, we took a deeper look at employees’ personal and professional happiness, which led us to pilot Inspiring Happiness, a six-week training course led by life coach Helen Mumford Sole, to teach our talent skills and techniques to increase their happiness levels. Together with Helen, MEC developed a curriculum that explores various facets of happiness from positive psychology, medical research, quantum physics and Eastern mysticism to the self-help movement. The course has been well-received and has inspired employees to stretch beyond the call of duty and motivate others around them to do the same.

    Companies both large and small have an obligation to ensure that happiness is woven into the very fabric of their organizations.

    Managers must realize that work enables most people to obtain something that fulfills them personally, thus impacting morale, motivation and quality of life. For each employee this fulfillment means something different. To some, happiness may come from a promotion or the ability to participate in a senior-client meeting. For others, fulfillment may mean ending a productive day at 5 p.m. so there’s more time to spend with spouses and children.

    It is also crucial to remind employees they matter. Every single person plays a role in the company’s success, and therefore everyone deserves acknowledgment that what they do makes a difference. Recently, MEC launched an Inspire Awards program, allowing employees to nominate colleagues who inspire them professionally or personally—in turn, helping to establish a culture where anyone can thrive. Companies and teams should also celebrate personal and professional successes. A great campaign or presentation can be as important as finishing one’s first marathon. Remembering personal details about others is an important quality. It shows you listened to that individual, understand and appreciate what is going on in their lives, and look at them as much more than just their defined employee title.

    Actively listening pays big benefits, too. If you’re blindsided by a series of complaints or sudden lack of productivity, then you’re out of touch. I host breakfasts with our junior and midlevel talent, providing a forum for them to ask questions, share concerns or simply enjoy a nice morning discussion.

    Managers and executives also must acknowledge that work is often hard and not belittle struggles. In our business, delivering for clients is the No. 1 key to success. Long days, late nights and stressful deadlines are inevitable. Let your employees know you realize it’s not ideal, but that you are in it with them. Schedule a spontaneous social gathering (or Flash Party as we call them at MEC), arrange for an inspirational speaker or take the work off site. Make it about the collective.

    Happiness is not an intangible; it is an essential component to driving business success. With it as a core value, you can create a culture that puts talent first and fosters highly engaged and resilient people that clients and partners appreciate and enjoy working with. MEC has committed to forging an emotional connection that inspires our people and, in turn, our clients.

    How will you inspire yours?

    Illustration: Davor Pavelic

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    It hasn’t been that long since Apple’s ads were considered as innovative and trend-setting as its devices. Every plucky exchange between pitchmen Justin Long and John Hodgman was greeted with bouquets. Every new iPhone spot earned praise for deftly fusing product functionality with consumer desire.

    But lately, Apple’s marketing genius has fallen far from the tree, losing its lustre just as the company’s iconic image has dimmed in an aggressively competitive marketplace.

    Much has already been made of the brand’s perceived weaknesses in the wake of founder Steve Jobs’ death. But nearly two years later, the question remains: Can the company ever hope to regain its once-indomitable position and creative mojo? “Apple is in a period of transition, almost in a state of pause, trying to figure out where it’s going, and the advertising reflects that,” says Tracy Stokes, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.

    Apple’s campaigns once embodied the company’s confidence and sense of purpose under Jobs. Along the way, they helped build a hugely positive public perception of the brand and cement its status. The ads struck an emotional chord by showcasing Apple’s cool devices by way of witty banter, pointed humor and deceptively simple visual élan. Product wasn’t just the hero—product, for all practical purposes, was the brand. Long and Hodgman, remember, were human stand-ins in for machines, the former cast as the hip, efficient Mac, the latter as the lumbering, hapless PC. Meanwhile, ads for the iPhone had fingers dancing across a touchscreen, each function revealed like a movement in a high-tech symphony.

    The latest pitch, “Designed by Apple in California,” launched last month by longtime agency TBWAMedia Arts Lab, also shows off the company’s products. Yet the devices are no longer front and center, nor are they particularly new or novel. Apple watchers say the current work reflects and reinforces the image of a company that has lost its way, not quite sure what its next move should be.

    “Something has definitely changed,” says Judy Austin, associate professor of communications at Boston University and a former creative at agencies including Hill Holliday. “An infinite number of things, including ads, feed into Apple’s brand impression. Over time, it rose to mythic status. It’s like feet of clay.” Austin says from a consumer perspective, it’s disappointing to see the company lose traction, noting that over time, the slippage becomes cumulative, almost self-fulfilling.

    Experts point to a number of factors taking their toll on Apple, including:

    • Jobs’ death in October 2011 and subsequent questions about CEO Tim Cook’s leadership. Brian Colello, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar, says of replacing Jobs: “Obviously, it’s a difficult task. Cook is an operations master, but not necessarily a visionary.”

    • The controversy surrounding working conditions at Chinese facilities of Foxconn, a major supplier of components to Apple and other tech companies.

    • Apple’s slumping share price, recently hovering in the low $400s after hitting an all-time high of $705 last September.

    • A lack of innovative new products, even as Samsung’s Galaxy S4, Google Glass and Android-driven devices gain traction.

    • Downbeat forecasts from analysts that generally match Apple’s guidance of third-quarter revenue between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion, which would be flat compared to the year-ago period and represent a slip in growth from Q2. (The company is set to release Q3 earnings tomorrow, July 23.)


    At a perilous time in its evolution, some well-received advertising could help Apple regain much-needed momentum and put it into position to capitalize on product intros set for this fall. Alas, “Designed by Apple” has been judged inconsistent at best, while some assessments have been downright hostile. (Reps for Apple and TBWAMedia Arts Lab declined requests to be interviewed for this story.)

    A 60-second spot dubbed “Our Signature” employs an ambient soundtrack and sentimental images of adults and kids using Apple products on the train, in school, at a concert and elsewhere. “This is it,” a voiceover begins. “This is what matters: the experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist?”

    Another, “Intention,” keeps the music cues and overall tone but ditches the narration, letting flowing, monochrome animations of points, lines and ultimately words tell the story: “How can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice. Designing something requires focus. The first thing we ask is, ‘What do we want people to feel?’ Delight … surprise … love … connection. Then we begin to craft around our intention.”

    Criticism of the campaign has been loud and steady. West Coast ad veteran Bob Hoffman, author of the blog The Ad Contrarian, summed up the prevailing sentiment thus: “It is worse than just inconsistent and unfocused—it is ineffective.”

    The ads “are more about the corporation than the consumer,” adds Forrester’s Stokes. “They’re about why Apple matters instead of why the consumer should care.”

    Tim Nudd, Adweek’s creative editor and editor of the blog AdFreak, wondered in a review: “Has the company simply lost its voice?” Nudd declared the copy awkward and the message convoluted. “They aim for poetry in the classic Apple style,” he writes. “But maybe it really isn’t the same company after all.”

    Other recent executions have fared better, notably the evocative, 10-minute film Making a Difference One App at a Time, which takes a muted, documentary-style approach to illustrate how Apple products improve lives around the world. While the video has largely been praised, it’s a one-off, not a broad pitch like “Designed by Apple,” which presumably was created with the intention of sustaining and building the brand for the long haul.


    Judging an ad “good” or “bad” is, of course, highly subjective, and it is always a challenge to quantify creative and qualify brand image. Still, data from a pair of research firms confirm Apple is headed in the wrong direction.

    “Our Signature” earned the lowest score among 26 Apple spots that broke over the last year, per Ace Metrix, which analyzes the effectiveness of commercials based on consumer surveys. The ad scored 489, far below the industry average of 542.

    In fact, consumer perception of Apple’s TV spots has slipped for the past two years. The average Ace score for iPhone ads is currently 554, down from a 2011 average of 614. Apple’s average score for ads for hardware like the iPad and MacBook is 522, a 45-point slip from a 2011 average of 567.

    By way of comparison, Samsung, one of Apple’s fiercest competitors, has produced 10 ads since May with an average Ace score of better than 600. (To be fair, Samsung airs many more ads than Apple, and some of its spots have scored below 500.) Samsung also outpaced Apple in YouGov’s midyear survey tracking brand buzz.

    “Samsung is the strongest international performer for the second year running,” declares YouGov, and is a top 10 brand among consumers in 11 of the 14 countries monitored. Samsung ranked first among domestic telecom and technology providers, with a YouGov BrandIndex score of 21.7, topping second-place Apple at 17.3. Samsung’s Galaxy was rated No. 6 among products gaining buzz in the U.S., while no Apple product made that closely watched list. (YouGov defines buzz as a net score based on whether consumers hear something positive versus something negative about a brand through ads, media coverage or word of mouth.)

    “The last two years of activity in smartphones has proven the danger of resting on one’s laurels,” says Matt Jarvis, a partner at Samsung Mobile’s lead creative agency 72andSunny. “The pace of culture and society is very punishing to brands that can’t consistently deliver innovation. Regardless of past experience, people move on when you don’t deliver the goods.”


    In a sense, Apple is a victim of its own success. It represents an ironic inversion of the state of the world portrayed in the brand’s legendary “1984” Super Bowl spot in which the company convincingly cast itself as the rebel, seeking to free us all from the tyranny of Microsoft.

    Now, Apple is so dominant that its voice-activated assistant Siri gets tweaked in biting Microsoft spots comparing Dell’s XPS 10 tablet to the iPad, while Samsung ads feature disgruntled fanboys waiting in line presumably for the latest Apple product while admiring cool Samsung devices being used by others.

    And though Apple once rocked the music scene with the iPod and iTunes, Samsung has stolen its thunder. On July 4, the first 1 million Galaxy users to download a special app got Jay-Z’s new album for free, three days ahead of iPhone users. Meanwhile, Samsung’s three-minute promo spot featuring Jay-Z and other artists in a casual studio gathering discussing music, creativity and life surpassed 25 million YouTube views in just a month.

    “Now they [Apple] are the Goliath—now they are the one being challenged,” says Lance Jensen, CCO at Hill Holliday, who has experience with the ebb and flow of iconic brands from his tenure on Arnold Worldwide’s “Drivers Wanted” campaign for Volkswagen.

    So what can Apple do to juice up the brand?

    Ad experts urge a return to Apple’s core values, and renewed focus on products and their functionality while eschewing overly aspirational appeals. “You cannot talk about innovation in the past,” says P.J. Pereira, CCO at Pereira & O’Dell. “Rule No. 1 about innovation is don’t talk about innovation—show it.”

    Pereira is both an Apple fan and a competitor, as his agency fashioned the “Beauty Inside” episodic social film for Intel/Toshiba, a Grand Prix winner this year in the Cyber category at Cannes. He’s bullish on Apple’s marketing prospects. “I’m very confident [because] part of the [creative] process is taking risks, taking time to explore different territories,” he says. “Apple is trying to explore what is next for the brand, to try something different for themselves.”


    The dearth of new Apple products is perceived as one of its biggest problems. That will change this fall, with releases that include the iOS 7 mobile operating system (possibly running on the new iPhone 5S and/or iPhone 6, though Apple, in typical fashion, has been mum); a Pandora-like music service called iTunes Radio; OS X Mavericks, an enhanced op-sys for desktop units; and a new MacBook Air boasting all-day battery life. (There’s also the long-rumored iWatch. A possible glimpse of the device in a May TV spot touting the iPhone 5’s music functions briefly set the social sphere ablaze. No word on when we might be wearing Apple on our wrists, though.)

    “It’s been a while since I’ve felt that big New Apple Thing Thrill,” says Angela Natividad, blogger at AdVerve and digital strategist at agencies including Darewin and E2C2. “But I will say the new iOS gets me curious.” Natividad notes that it is the first major design statement—and departure from Steve Jobs’ aesthetic—since his death. “For me, this is the cue to watch for what comes after. There may be surprises there,” she says.

    While neither Apple nor TBWA offer a clue about what we might see in terms of advertising, the agency did provide a statement from the legendary Lee Clow, chairman of Media Arts Lab and director of media arts for TBWAWorldwide. Says Clow, whose association with Apple dates back to the epic “1984” spot: “Apple is one of the great, pure brands in the world. It was built on world-changing genius and a passion for perfection. Apple created products that changed all of our lives. The fact that competitors now make similar products, many would argue not quite as good as the originals, only means Apple now has competition. OK. Competition is what makes products better, and great brands stronger. So Apple will continue to invent. And our job continues to be reminding the world why only Apple is Apple.”

    And the brand’s future may well depend on it.

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    These days, all Web publishers want to be social publishers. And nearly all Web publishers want more video since consumers (and advertisers) increasingly crave it. But can the social publishing model of zippy headlines and shareable listicles perfected by BuzzFeed be translated to video?

    Of course, videos do go viral (see Style, Gangnam). But unlike a list of images and text, video doesn’t let users consume the content at their own pace.

    That presents a challenge when it comes to social distribution, according to Paul Greenberg, the recently departed CEO of CollegeHumor. “You have to press play and spend three minutes watching it,” he said. “It’s got to be really compelling and really has to come from a trusted source. Whether that’s a social network or a friend, the bar is a little bit higher.”

    Ze Frank, who’s heading BuzzFeed’s video team, echoed that point. “If you have 20 or 30 things in a list, it’s very easy to skip over the things that aren’t relevant to you,” he said. Video, however, has to be great right from the start, he added.

    That’s why many publishers are keeping their clips short, BuzzFeed included. Frank is focusing on videos in the range of 45 seconds to 2:45. “That length of time is probably optimal for sharing, for getting [a] big network effect,” said Frank, an early leader in Web video. “You can construct a viewing experience where you can be fairly guaranteed that people will be there at the end and provide them with the tools to share at that point.” BuzzFeed already generates 50 million views a month, half of which are mobile. And since September when Frank came on board, viewers have streamed 800 years of BuzzFeed video, according to the company.

    To continue that momentum BuzzFeed is playing with different formats, including quizzes, mock academic studies and, of course, lists. For that content to be shared, the videos need to exist on a platform that is naturally social, Frank said, which explains why BuzzFeed’s videos are hosted on YouTube (where it has a million subscribers), not an internal player. “If you have videos that can’t be shared … you’re basically chopping your legs off right there,” he said.

    To Sarah Baehr, svp, digital director at Carat, YouTube is an obvious home for the site’s videos. “Why wouldn’t you use YouTube? It’s ubiquitous,” she said. “It makes sense from a pure distribution perspective.”

    To lure viewers, BuzzFeed’s videos are given the sort of catchy titles the site is known for, like “8 Supposed Facts That Just Ain’t True” and “The Time You Have (In JellyBeans).”

    The hope is that video helps BuzzFeed broaden its audience; in fact, the company views it as a completely distinct offering from its hard news and lighter content, according to president Jon Steinberg. “We want to create a range of media products people can choose from,” he said.

    Bernard Gershon, a digital media veteran, said that lists are a natural for video, as the form has endured in the media world way before BuzzFeed. “Moses had the 10 Commandments. He didn’t have, ‘Here’s a bunch of rules,’” he said. 

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    William and Kate's baby is just a day old, and he's already out carousing with other overprivileged infants. Grey London whipped up the "Future Rulers" ad above for The Sun, showing the royal baby alongside "some other pretty high-profile ankle biters" (the agency's words)—Harper Beckham, North West, Elijah Furnish-John and Blue Ivy Carter. They will all be trouble in 18 years, if not sooner.

    Showing its flexibility, the agency produced the classier image below for The Times and The Sunday Times of London—replacing the traditional stork with the most royal of birds, the swan, in an ad featuring an image from award-winning still-life photographer Jenny Van Sommers. Credits for both below.

    Client: The Sun
    Agency: Grey, London
    Executive Creative Director: Nils Leonard
    Creative Director: Dave Monk
    Creative Team: Dominic Butler, Jasper Cho
    Retouching: Act2|UM

    Client: The Times and The Sunday Times
    Executive Creative Director: Nils Leonard
    Creative Director: Dave Monk
    Creative Team: Jonathan Rands, Alex Tizard
    Photography: Jenny Van Sommers

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    IDEA: Sony's 4K Ultra HD television, with four times the resolution of regular HD, literally stops people in their tracks. Filmmaker Garth Davis saw one at the Sundance Film Festival and ended a conversation in midsentence to go look at it. That eureka moment led to 180LA's new 60-second spot for the TV, directed by Davis, who also stars in it and does the voiceover. Filmed with Sony Cine-Alta F65 and F55 4K cameras, the ad features Davis ruminating on how the beauty and clarity of 4K help close the gap between what he can imagine in his mind's eye as a filmmaker—illustrated by the ad's grand and surreal visions—and what he can actually show on a screen. "My brief was very simple," said Davis. "To bring to life my imagination with no boundaries as long as it celebrated
    the colors aqua and red, and there were scenes epic enough to show off the 4K resolution."

    COPYWRITING: The agency wanted to explore what such amazing visual resolution would mean to a director. "We literally asked Garth to imagine what kind of world that kind of detail might inspire him to dream up," said 180 copywriter Zac Ryder. "He came back to us with a bunch of ideas, and we worked together to shape them from there." Watching TV at home, Davis looks down to see a small bluebird in his hands. Looking up, he finds himself sitting on a chair in a vast ocean. He sees a woman in a red dress; a giant spaceship; a floating house; dozens of people in period costume climbing huge ladders; cannon warfare among a throng of ships.

    "The sea connects to our inner world and can be deeply emotional and surreal," said Davis. "I also love how the imagination can be so random, and the connection in the scenes are somewhat there but not understood. … I looked back for inspiration at Salvador Dali, J.M.W. Turner, Fellini and Andrew Wyeth, all of which reminded me to be bold, mad, elegant and precise." Davis' voiceover ends with the line: "Now there are no more barriers between the world that I see and ones I can show you. Only on a Sony 4K Ultra HDTV." The spot ends with the Sony logo and tagline, "make.believe."

    ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Davis—who also directed Coke's "Sleepwalker" and Schweppes's "Burst" ads—filmed for four days outside Auckland, New Zealand, in a few feet of water in a giant bay. The cinematographer was Claudio Miranda, who won an Oscar for Life of Pi and had worked with 4K cameras before. Davis wanted real water—no CGI. "That meant putting all of the camera equipment, lighting rigs and generators on rafts while we shot, and then moving all of the equipment in and out with the tides," said Ryder. "It was pretty time consuming. But the end result looks incredible."

    The 4K version of the spaceship, built by MPC in real-world scale at nearly 300 meters in diameter, is the largest digital asset ever created for a commercial, the agency says. It's no coincidence that the spot has strong splashes of color. "One of the things that is unique to Sony, obviously, is color," said Davis. "So, not only are we telling a story that's surreal, we're also trying to capture moments of intense color."

    SOUND: An original score by music house Human is a mix of piano and orchestral sounds, changing from scene to scene. "We wanted to create a track that would replicate what's happening in Garth's imagination," said Ryder. "So as Garth is imagining new worlds, the melody begins to evolve and find itself."

    MEDIA: The ad is running on national broadcast TV, in cinemas and in rich-media banners online.


    Client: Sony
    Vice President, Brand Experience Marketing & Direct Visual Merchandising: Patrick Bewley
    Director, Brand Experience Marketing: Christine Gately-Evans
    Senior Manager, Brand Experience Marketing: Ken Byers

    Spot: "Imagine"

    Agency: 180, Los Angeles
    Executive Creative Director: William Gelner
    Creative Directors: Dave Horton, Matthew Woodhams-Roberts
    Copywriter: Zac Ryder
    Art Director: Adam Groves
    Head of Production: Natasha Wellesley
    Producer: Emma Starzacher
    Account Director: Nancy Bernacchi
    Account Manager: Mike Slatkin
    Account Coordinator: Sarah Lynch
    Planner: Mitch Polatin

    Production Co.: Reset
    Director: Garth Davis
    DP: Claudio Miranda
    Managing Director: David Morrison
    Executive Producer: Jeff McDougall
    Head of Production: Jen Beitler
    Producer: Karen Sproul
    Production Designer: Kim Jarrett
    Costume Designer: Barbara Darragh
    Casting Company: Catch Casting
    Casting Director: Linda McFetridge

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

    Effects Company: MPC LA
    Creative Director: Paul O'Shea
    VFX Supervisor: Andy Boyd
    2D Artists: Miles Essmiller, Paul O'Shea, Martin Hall
    Concept Artist: Robert Brown
    Matte Painter: Kristin Johnson
    3D Artists: Andy Boyd, Scott Metzger, Ross Denner, Aaron Hamman, Atsushi Imamura, Steward Burris, Jean-Dominique Fievet, Jonathan Vaughn, Rick Walia, Hayley O'Neill, Mike Wynd, Dustin Colson, Ian Wilson
    Telecine Artist: Mark Gethin
    Telecine Asst: Derek Hansen
    Executive Producer: Asher Edwards
    Producers: Nick Fraser, Diana De Vries

    Recording Studio: Eleven Sound
    Mixer: Jeff Payne
    Asst Mixer: Ben Freer
    Executive Producer: Caroline O'Sullivan

    Original Music: human
    Sound Design: human

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    The congratulatory ads continue to roll in following the birth of William and Kate's royal baby on Monday. Here's Carling's entry from ad agency Creature—an amusing tale of a palace nursery decorator who's working off faulty information.

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    Most of the tactical marketing around the royal baby's birth has been a bit undercooked, but this headline from British bakery Warburtons is pretty decent. By WCRS in London.

    Client: Warburtons
    Agency: WCRS, London
    Copywriter: Steve Hawthorne
    Art Director: Katy Hopkins
    Creative Director: Billy Faithfull
    Photographer: George Logan
    Client Services: Anna Covell
    Media Buying: Mindshare

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    When copywriter Matt Bull was given free use of a Dallas billboard for a month, he did what many of us would do: He devoted it to sloth-related violence. Since the billboard was a reward from Clear Channel for Bull's quirky creativity, he chose to advertise SlothPunchClub.com, a URL he offered to hand over to whomever could come up with the best proposal for how it should be used. This week, Bull announced the winner: artist Timmy Hamm, aka "Sloth," who plans to create a series of sloth-related custom shoes and give them away to lucky monthly winners.

    "Timmy plans to keep the community-driven/freeware/contest spirit of this enterprise alive, which is cool," Bull writes on his startup agency's website, DepartmentOfPersuasion.com."His idea for Sloth Punch Club is to create one pair of shoes every month featuring a sloth punching something, and give them away. Each winner gets to be a member of the very exclusive Sloth Punch Club, and also gets to choose what exactly the target of the sloth's fists will be on the next pair of shoes Timmy gives away. It's simple and stupid and I love it."

    As for Bull, who rapidly rose to Internet prominence when his first solo client work went viral, he reports his major source of life stress has shifted from finding paying work to simply getting all his new work done. So congrats to Matt, and to Timmy, and to the future members of the highly exclusive and well-shod Sloth Punch Club.

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    Apparently unable to think up a new idea vapid enough for its liking, Abercrombie & Fitch—the self-proclaimed brand for the cool kids!—revisits its "Stars on the Rise" campaign from the early 2000s, now with new faces. Jacob Artist of Glee, Alexander Ludwig of The Hunger Games and Lily Rabe of American Horror Story are among those featured. Ludwig is shirtless. It looks like he works out. "For many of our consumers today, they might not know what we did in 2005, so it seemed relevant to discuss this concept we've done in the past," Abercrombie director of marketing Michael Scheiner tells BuzzFeed. Strange, he used the word "relevant." Without irony. I think. The monochrome print campaign, shot by Bruce Weber, also features famous dogs, like the Jack Russell terrier from The Artist, for no particular reason. Now, you might say it's just too easy to criticize soulless fashion and fragrance advertising, that there's no sport to it, and that doing so shows a certain intellectual laziness on my part. Well d'uh! The original version of the campaign thrust Taylor Swift and Ashton Kutcher into the limelight. Haven't we suffered enough already?

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    Bucharest is many things. But one thing it is certainly not is Budapest. That's because Bucharest is the capital of Romania, and Budapest is the capital of neighboring Hungary. You could easily confuse them, of course, which is why Romanian candy bar ROM is out to end the confusion once and for all—with a new ad campaign from McCann Bucharest and MRM Romania.

    As illustrated in the video below, it was all Michael Jackson's fault. In 1990, he started the trend by shouting "Hello, Budapest!" at his concert in Bucharest. In 1995, Iron Maiden did the same thing. They were followed by Morcheeba, Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake and others. The problem reached comic proportions in 2012, when when 400 Athletic Bilbao fans missed the Europa League final after mistakenly flying to Budapest instead of Bucharest.

    Bucharest didn't get mad, but now it wants to get even. Billboards have gone up in both cities, reminding everyone of which is which. A browser add-on adds the words "Not Budapest" next to every instance of "Bucharest." And fans on the ROM website are encouraged to share their Bucharest/Budapest stories and tag them #BucharestNotBudapest.

    "It's a confusion that upsets us all, and if there is a brand that can take legitimate action towards this error, that brand is definitely ROM, because it's Romanian, authentic, daring and because it has BUCHAREST written on it," says client marketing manager Gabriela Munteanu. (You may remember ROM from the 2011 Cannes Lions festival, when it won two Grand Prix for a campaign that pretended to Americanize the candy bar, much to the horror of its fans.)

    We will have an early indication of whether the Bucharest/Budapest campaign is working, as Iron Maiden returns to Bucharest on Wednesday as part of their current world tour.

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    It's a more-than-familiar narrative: At the end of the world, you'll do horrible things to survive. But this new spot from 180 Amsterdam, for the post-apocalyptic PlayStation 3 game The Last of Us, breathes a little new life into the premise.

    While the voiceover dips heartily into the clichés of the genre, the visual conceit is powerful. Thanks to some neat effects, a clean-cut—boring-looking, even—live actor transforms into the game's weathered, tortured, machete-wielding CGI protagonist.

    That captures the implicit promise of the game: Pick up the controller, and become somebody else—someone stronger and more exciting—for a little while.

    In fact, you'll become a hero, as the girl you're traveling with in the game may be the key to curing the human race—an element of the narrative that's oddly not clear in the ad, even though it would bolster the ego play.

    Of course, when it's all over, you'll go back to your life of wondering whether that plaid shirt really goes with your khakis, and staring at your computer like a zombie.

    Credits: Sony
    Agency: 180 Amsterdam
    Production Company: Minivegas, @radical
    Direction, Postproduction: Minivegas
    Grading: Finish
    Music: Wave

    Executive Creative Director: Al Moseley
    Creative Directors: Martin Terhart, Graeme Hall
    Art Director: Stephane Lecoq
    Copywriter: Martin Beswick
    Account Director: Gemma Knox
    Account Manager: Simone Raspagni
    Project Manager: Meredith Bergonzi

    Executive Producer: Brian Bourke
    Line Producer: Ralph de Haan
    Post Producer: Lauren Becker
    3-D Lead: Sergio Pinto Buerba
    3-D Artists: Klaas-Harm de Boer, William Torres
    Lead Compositor: Sven de Jong
    Compositor: Dave Zaretti
    Offline Editor: Sander van der Aa


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