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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    Leave it to a couple of ad agencies to upend the holiday season with the year's most radical toy. Independent shops Barton F. Graf 9000 in New York and TDA_Boulder in Boulder, Colo., partnered on a new business that sells a single item—a big, plain, heavy-duty, 2-foot-cubed, 100-percent-recycled, made-in-the-U.S.A., empty cardboard box. It's described on the website as "the perfect holiday gift for the 2-6½-year-old who would rather play with the box than what's inside."

    It's a legitimate site, all proceeds from sales will go to two children's charities:  Blue Sky Bridge in Boulder (focused on child abuse) and the Charley Davidson Leukemia Fund in Boston. It is also, of course, a political statement of sorts. The idea for Bawx came out of a late-night conversation after an ad event between TDA_Boulder and Barton F. Graf 9000 principals Jonathan Schoenberg and Gerry Graf, who have some shared beliefs where consumerism is concerned.

    "Consumerism is a bit out of control these days," says the website. "Kids would much rather spend time with their friends and parents and a Bawx, than the latest technology. Ok, that is a complete lie, but maybe if they did have a Bawx they would spend more time with people, and a bit less time with pixels."

    The marketing copy on the site is intentionally goofy. It says the Bawx is available in four "models," though they are actually identical. (They do range in price, though, from $24.99 to $499.99—since you're really just donating to two charities at whatever level you're comfortable with.) Each model's listed features are "Horizontal," "Open end (closeable)," "Natural light" and "Spacious entrance."

    Graf has done similar anti-pixel things before, including the memorable 2011 video "The Log Off," in which children pleaded with their mothers—in song—to get off Facebook already and play with them.

    CREDITS
    AD: Barrett Brynestad
    CWs: Gerry Graf, Jonathan Schoenberg
    Production: Tim Kelly       
    Digital lead: Gene Paek
    Developer: Relentless Technology, Vancouver, Canada


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    Depending on your views (or ability to carry a tune), karaoke can be a fun way to let loose among friends or a guaranteed path to total embarrassment. This year, in the name of holiday cheer, Heineken helped realize the very worst fears of those in the latter group.

    Working with Wieden + Kennedy in New York, the brand invited a bunch of people—presumably plied with promises of unlimited Heineken—to participate in a delightful holiday evening of "Carol Karaoke." But unbeknownst to these poor schmucks, Heineken's henchmen have hidden a TV studio behind a curtain in preparation to broadcast the performances live in Times Square, on taxi screens around New York and on the Jumbotron at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

    After a few rounds of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells," Heineken reveals the ruse, and gives the karaoke-ers a choice: ditch the mic, or continue singing the carol … for 30,000 strangers.

    These people were already naive enough to have agreed to "Carol Karaoke" (seriously, who does that? You go to karaoke bars to sing "Baby Got Back," not "Little Drummer Boy"), so it's not much of a surprise that a good number of them are more than willing to share their vocal talents with thousands of people. Equally unsurprising is that none of them are very good singers. (Although mic drop guy is admittedly pretty awesome.) At least the Wizards fans appear to have gotten some mild amusement from the whole thing. 

    But you know what? It's not about talent. It's about the holiday spirit! (And also marketing stunts.) Because as a wise elf once said, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

    CREDITS
    Client: Heineken
    Project: Carol Karaoke

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, New York
    Executive Creative Directors: Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone
    Creative Directors: Erik Norin & Eric Steele

    Copywriter: Will Binder
    Art Director: Jared White
    Producer: Orlee Tatarka
    Executive Producer: Nick Setounski
    Head of Content Production: Lora Schulson

    Account Team: Patrick Cahill, Samantha Wagner, Kristen Herrington
    Business Affairs: Lisa Quintela

    Production Company: M ss ng P eces
    Director: Josh Nussbaum
    Executive Producer/COO: Ari Kushner
    Executive Producer: Dave Saltzman
    Line Producer: Tory Lenosky
    Director of Photography: Adam Jandrup

    Editorial Company: Joint Editorial
    Editor: Kelly Brickner
    Post Producer: Michelle Carman
    Post Executive Producer: Michelle Carman
    Editorial Assistants: Jess Baclesse / Stephen Nelson / Kadie Migliarese

    VFX Company: Joint
    VFX Lead Flame: Yui Uchida

    Telecine Company: Company 3
    Colorist: Tom Poole

    Mix Company: Plush NYC
    Mixer: Rob Fielack


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    Scott Hoy is mad, and he wants you to stop. Will you please stop? The whole thing with the accidents, and the video games, and the backseats? It's not fair. And do not say they deserved it. He does not want to console the parents, but he will. Until you stop. Will you please stop? Wait, what?!

    Scott Hoy is a personal injury trial lawyer in Sioux Falls, S.D., and your guess is as good as ours. Via Katie Levitt on AdFreak's Facebook page.


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    Marketing professionals, here's your Friday-morning pep talk—a video anthem honoring your astounding, preternatural, game-changing genius. You've made people follow, share, pin, tweet, re-tweet and like. You've put "vertising" on the end of almost everything. You've become friends with a cookie. There is literally nothing—big or, more likely, very, very small—that you can't accomplish. Go ahead and double-like yourself—you deserve it. And double-like Toronto-based creative shop Open for creating the "Real Men of Genius"-esque video for Strategy magazine's Marketer of the Year issue.


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    You have to hand it to Kmart and Draftfcb. They've shown this whole year that they know how to whip up a good viral commercial. We had "Ship My Pants" in April and then "Show Your Joe" (aka, "Jingle Balls") in November. Now, they head back to the well with this humorously Dickensian reimagining of "Ship My Pants" just in time for Christmas. You can hear all the other retailers grumbling "Bah, humbug." Well played. Via Disco Chicken.

    Credits below.

    CREDITS
    Client: Kmart
    Vice President, Creative: Mark Andeer
    Director of Kmart Marketing Strategy: Brandi Ply
    Director of Advertising: Beverly Mason
    Agency: Draftfcb, Chicago
    Chief Creative Officer: Todd Tilford
    Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director: Jon Flannery
    Senior Vice President, Creative Director: Howie Ronay
    Vice President, Creative Director: Sean Burns
    Creative Director, Copywriter: Tim Mason
    Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Myra Mazzei
    Executive Producer: Chris Bing
    Director: Zach Math
    Editorial: Casey Cobler


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    In a span of 60 seconds, Coke Argentina tells a true-to-life story of the highs and lows of early parenthood in this new spot by Santo Buenos Aires for Coke Life. We see a couple go through all the milestones after bringing home a baby—from sheer exhaustion to toddler mischief to the "Toys R Us has thrown up all over my house" stage. Not a new concept for advertising, but it's done in a beautiful way. No grating screaming kid noises or parents dismissing children as a nuisance—just a lovely, honest look at parenthood to the tune of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." It ends with a "Surprise! We're doing it all again!" pregnancy announcement—and the parents' reaction is priceless. Funny and heartwarming. Nice job, Coke. Via Co.Create.


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    Visual effects studio Cinesite produced this crazy-good mock commercial as a way to show off its creature animation skills. And one hell of a creature it is—a marauding beast who takes umbrage at being awoken from its cave by some astronauts, who take a serious beating for their transgressions. Except one guy gets away … or does he?

    The spot was written and directed by animator Alvise Avati. Read more about it here. Credits are below. Via Disco Chicken.

    CREDITS
    Client: Cinesite
    Written and Directed: Alvise Avati
    Producer: Eamonn Butler
    VFX Supervisor: Richard Clarke
    Art Direction: Jean-David Solon
    Concept Art: Andrea de Martis
    Modelling and Rigging: Grahame Curtis, Royston Willcocks, Richard Boyle
    Animation: Alvise Avati, Eamonn Butler, Peter Clayton, Tom O'Flaherty, Adam Bailey
    Texture Artists: Nicolette Newman, Gary Newman
    FX Animation: Andreas Vrhovsek, Luke Wilde
    Lighting and Compositing: Zave Jackson, Nikos Gatos, Jonathan Vuillemin, Dan Harrod, Joel Bodin
    Editorial: William Marshall-Wilkinson
    Christopher Learmonth


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    It's the allure of Airbnb, but also its biggest stumbling block—its rental listings are not impersonal hotel rooms but actual people's homes. Some travelers embrace this, knowing they'll experience a private space that's naturally more interesting and personalized. Others—well, they'd say that staying in a stranger's house is a little bit creepy, isn't it?

    In its first integrated national campaign, the self-described "community-driven hospitality company" naturally embraces the broader definition of "home"—i.e., anybody's home can be your home, too, if you have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world.

    Pereira & O'Dell in San Francisco communicates this creatively by using the metaphor of migratory birds, who call many places home. The agency had artists build birdhouse versions of 50 of the most intriguing Airbnb listings worldwide, and is displaying them from today through Sunday in New Orleans at Audubon Park's Tree of Life.

    This agency, which excels at long-form feel-good video—look no further than its Skype campaign—shows off the project in the clip below, which mixes footage of the birdhouse construction with voiceover mediations on the emotionally expansive nature of travel. "What makes a home feel like a home to you?" a man asks. "When someone's individuality and personality is reflected in the design of a house," a woman replies. Each Airbnb listing is presented not merely as a property but as a story—which it surely is. (Just don't ask about the horror stories.)

    Appealing to a sense of adventure and creativity is smart. And the birdhouse idea, if a little precious, meshes conceptually with the one-of-a-kind nature of the listings. Footage of all the sketching and building also provides a canvas on which Pereira & O'Dell can work up an emotional piece of film—bringing in songwriter Zach Shields to sing his song "Home to You" in a somewhat random but rousing finale.

    "We created these birdhouses inspired by real Airbnb homes and the accompanying film as a metaphor for the hospitality about which our company is built," says Amy Curtis-McIntyre, CMO of Airbnb. "Our hospitality is completely individual and designed by our hosts who know that making people (or birds!) feel at home anywhere in the world comes from warmth, intuition and an attention to detail. We love the world's real travelers, and this is an invitation to travel in a new way."

    The campaign will be running on TV, in cinemas and online.

    CREDITS
    Client: Airbnb

    Agency: Pereira & O’Dell
    Chief Creative Officer - PJ Pereira
    VP & Executive Creative Director - Jaime Robinson
    Associate Creative Director - Rafael Rizuto
    Associate Creative Director - Eduardo Marques
    Art Director - Rafael Rizuto
    Copywriter - Eduardo Marques
    VP, Client Services - Gary Theut
    Account Director - Marisa Quiter
    Senior Account Executive - Jen Wantuch
    VP, Strategy - Nick Chapman
    Director of Strategy - Molly Cabe
    Associate Strategist - Beth Windheuser
    Associate Strategist - Sara Lezama
    VP, Media Strategy - Joshua Brandau
    Associate Media Director - Jasmine Summerset
    Media Strategist - Liz Wood
    VP, Production - Jeff Ferro
    Senior Broadcast Producer - Susan Crimley
    Senior Broadcast Producer - Elisa Moore
    Senior Integrated Producer - Victoria Whitlow
    Senior Interactive Producer - Erin Davis
    Director of Business Affairs - Kallie Halbach

    Production Co: Tool of North America
    Director – Alma Har’el
    Director of Photography – Edu Grau
    Executive Producer – Danielle Peretz
    Executive Producer – Brian Latt
    Line Producer – Christopher Leggett

    Editorial Company: Therapy Studios
    Editor – Lenny Mesina
    Assistant Editor – Thomas Tedesco
    Editorial Producer – Allegra Bartlett

    VFX: The Mill
    Title Design/Motion Graphics – Erik Buckman
    Lead Artist – Tara Demarco
    2D smoke artists – Tim Robbins, Robin McGloin, Scott Johnson
    Producer – Jessica Ambrose

    Color: Company 3
    Colorist: Beau Leon
    Producer: Liza Kerlin

    Sound:
    Sound Designers: Dror Mohar, Branden Spencer
    Mix: Dror Mohar

    Independent Artists:
    Production Designer/Lead Artist - Joshua Stricklin
    Colorist – Grace Alie
    Miniature Prop Artist – Brooke Ashe
    Miniature Expert – Paul Wendling
    Birdhouse Specialist – Mike Bowen
    Ornithologist – Carolyn Atherton
    Singer and songwriter – Zach Shields


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    It's agency holiday-card season, and we're going to start posting some of the more interesting and amusing examples—beginning with this one from Victors & Spoils. It's a parody of Tim Piper's "Body Evolution" video showing a model being airbrushed within an inch of her life. (Piper also did Dove's earlier "Evolution" video.) The results of the parody are not as attractive—but are undeniably more festive. Via The Denver Egotist.

    The original "Body Evolution" video:


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    Forget about those famous Internet felines in Friskies' Christmas spot. The real holiday supergroup is in this campaign from Forsman & Bodenfors for UNICEF Sweden.

    I'm talking about Jesus, Gandhi and Mother Teresa—dubbed "The Good Guys"—who get together to discuss the sacrifices they made to benefit humanity. They're joined by a typical party dude, who gets to hang with the hallowed do-gooders simply because he clicked on a UNICEF banner to help save kids' lives.

    The three spots in the series strike just the right tone. They're mildly irreverent and amusingly low-key, with lots of cute exchanges and details. You've gotta love Gandhi's mod yoga mat; the slacker complaining that Jesus's story, while possibly the greatest ever told, drags on a bit; and Christ accidentally clicking through to an ab-blasting offer when He initially tries the Internet.

    It's a good thing Jesus is on board, since it usually takes a miracle to get folks to click on banner ads, even for a good cause.

    CREDITS
    Client: UNICEF
    Director of Communication: Petra Hallebrant
    Senior Marketing Officer: Jim Carlberg
    Marketing Officer: Åsa Lee

    Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
    Art Director: Johanna Hofman-Bang, Agnes Stenberg-Schentz
    Copywriter: Marcus Hägglöf
    Account Supervisor: Jacob Nelson
    Account Manager: Lena Birnik
    Agency Producer: Magnus Kennhed, Helena Wård
    PR: Desirée Maurd
    Designer: Nina Andersson
    Original: F&B Factory

    ACNE Production
    Director: Torbjörn Martin, Tomas Skoging
    Executive Producer: Petur Mogensen
    Producer: Fredrik Skoglund
    Account Manager: Jacob Englund
    Director of Photography: Christian Haag
    Costume: Patrik Hedin
    Make Up: Sanna Riley
    Set Designer: Cian Bournebusch

    Special Thanks during the film production
    Post Production: Chimney Pot
    Camera and Lights: Ljud & Bildmedia
    Casting London: Aston Hinkingson
    Casting Los Angeles: Stone
    Casting and Location Sweden: Röster (voices, places, faces)

    Stills
    Photographer: Pelle Bergström / Skarp Agent
    Stylist: Lotta Agaton / Link Deco
    Retouch: Bildinstitutet

    Radio
    Production Company and Casting: Flickorna Larsson


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    IDEA: It might be one of the toughest jobs they've ever had.

    Sure, James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell are legendary actors, known for titanic roles like Darth Vader and Alex DeLarge. But Sprint's new ads from Leo Burnett ask them to inhabit a host of motley characters they've surely never attempted—linguistically florid tween girls, avid and irritated significant others, stultifyingly indecisive bros. (Texting buds Chris and Craig from the latter spot rival Waiting for Godot's Vladimir and Estragon for existential ennui.)

    The initial idea was simple: Focus on people in a sector obsessed with tech. "The story of the category is data speeds. The customer is completely left out of the conversation," said Burnett creative director Nuno Ferreira.

    So, they had Jones and McDowell literally speak for the customer by reenacting mundane phone calls, emails and texts between friends and family in hilarious dramatic readings that have only gotten funnier with each new spot.

    COPYWRITING: The ads open with a yellow title card as a voice says Sprint is "honoring" a call, email or text chat between two people. Cut to a black stage with the actors, in tuxedos, having said conversations.

    Three recent spots, as mentioned above, feature great banter between two girls about a boy ("Ryan is a total Hottie McHotterson!" "Obvi. He's amazeballs!"), two guys about evening plans ("Think you'll go out tonight?" "Probably not. But … maybe?") and a boyfriend and girlfriend about each other ("I'm thinking about you." "I'm thinking about you, too." "What are you thinking about, about me?" "Just thinking about you." "Yes, but what about me exactly?" "Have to run to a meeting. Talk later." "Hey. I'm still thinking about you").

    The yellow screen returns, and the voice says, "In honor of the important things you do …" and then makes a product offer. The commercials end with the logo and hashtag #HonorThis.

    The scripts aren't meant to be mean-spirited. In fact, some are vaguely autobiographical. "I've had that conversation in 'Thinking About You' so many times, it's why I'm single now. If I'm making fun of anyone, it's myself," said Burnett associate creative director Ryan Wolin.

    FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Noam Murro shot about 16 spots in all on a Friday and a Sunday in London. (Jones was busy Saturday with matinee and evening performances of Much Ado About Nothing at The Old Vic—though that day off helped the creatives, who feverishly wrote new scripts knowing how the actors were playing off each other.)

    The agency considered having images pop up behind the actors to help tell the stories. "We realized very quickly that anything you added behind them or around them detracted from their performance. It was an exercise in restraint," said Ferreira.

    Having fewer visual cues created a "theater of the mind," he added, where viewers can imagine themselves as the characters. The minimalism also makes the campaign easier to parody, which the agency is already seeing on Vine and Instagram.

    TALENT: Jones, 82, and McDowell, 70, each signed on knowing the other was committing. (These are McDowell's first ads ever.) "You could feel it on set, this absolute admiration for each other," Ferreira said.

    The acting is often brilliant. "With 'Thinking About You,'" said Wolin, "you can see and feel what they're thinking. It wasn't just reciting the lines. You can feel the disdain from Malcolm, and the enthrallment from James, how in love he is with Malcolm's character."

    SOUND: The campaign uses a few different holiday soundtracks, including music from The Nutcracker. "It sets the tone and the mood as inviting and fun and playful," said Wolin.

    Added Ferreira: "We're honoring these moments, so we wanted them to feel important, and the music gives it that importance."

    MEDIA: National broadcast and cable, and online.

    THE SPOTS:

    CREDITS
    Client: Sprint
    Campaign: "Everything's Important"
    Spots: "Thinking About You," "Totes McGotes," "Probably Not, But Maybe"
    Agency: Team Sprint - Leo Burnett
    Chief Creative Officer: Susan Credle
    Executive Creative Director: Michael Boychuk
    Creative Director: Nuno Ferreira
    Associate Creative Director: Ryan Wolin
    Executive Producer: Nicky Furno, Juan Woodbury
    Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
    Director: Noam Murro


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    They say Christmas is a time for miracles. And not to overstate it, but Apple picked a good time to deliver one of its own—a lovely holiday ad to finish out what's generally been a tough year for its marketing team.

    We won't spoil the plot—just watch below.

    In contrast to some Apple ads this year, this one is quietly soulful, doesn't say too much, and has a very strong idea at its core and a payoff that's delightful. (You may or may not actually weep, though several of the characters in the spot have that covered, just in case.)

    The title of the ad is "Misunderstood." And Apple can surely relate to that. Though its stock price hit a 52-week high this month, the company has seemed uncertain in its marketing at times this year, and critics wonder when it will introduce another hit product—four years after the iPad's launch.

    But like its protagonist, Apple seems to be saying, the company means well—and will come through for you in the end. We'll see if that's true in 2014.


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    Anyone who has lived next door to a motorcycle owner knows that "Harley-Davidson" and "sleep in heavenly peace" rarely go together. But this special holiday video for the brand creates a clever exception.

    In a clip called "The Sound of the Festive Season," U.K. agency Big Communications uses a Harley to play the notes of "Silent Night." The agency tells AdFreak that the entire idea was created, sold and executed in just 72 hours.

    Credits below. Via Best Ads on TV.

    CREDITS
    Agency: Big Communications, London
    Creative team: Katie Bradshaw, Ryan Griffiths, Stuart Perry
    Director: Paul Griffin
    Producer: Blue Gecko Studios


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    What better way to cap off the year in which agencies were obsessed with prankvertising than with an agency pranking its own staff?

    Baltimore shop Planit created the amusing video below after luring unsuspecting employees to sing holiday songs on camera. When a Leatherface-masked elf jumps out of the large present next to them, their reactions range from sprinting panic to cool-headed indifference.

    There's not much more to it than that, but the wide array of staff responses make it worth a watch. Planit also deserves points for giving the clip a strategic message, ending with the kicker, "We believe the best ideas should scare you."


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    Jerry Seinfeld has written eight new Acura commercials in collaboration with Boston ad agency Mullen as part of the brand's title sponsorship of his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The faux-vintage spots—all eight are posted below—will bookend new episodes of the show, coming Jan. 2. They were directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and inspired by actual old car commercials from the '60s.

    But while those old spots sound a bit ridiculous these days (Seinfeld ran actual vintage Acura ads as pre-roll on Comedians in Cars last season), these new ads are intentionally silly—playing off the old style but taking it in absurd directions.



    Seinfeld spoke with AdFreak on Tuesday about the creative process behind the ads, his experience with Super Bowl spots and what he thought of Will Ferrell's Dodge work.

    So, these are fun spots. This must have been an exciting project for you.
    You know, I have done a bit of advertising over the years. But I have never been given the creative freedom that I was given on these by Acura. They're gutsier than any other company I've ever worked with. Not that I've worked with that many, but I've worked with a few. Because this work, as you can see, is not like any other work that they've done. And usually—as you well know, being in the ad game—the clients tend to get nervous, especially when they're spending a lot of money. But [Acura marketing chief] Mike Accavitti, I've never seen a guy like this guy. Nerves of steel. It's pretty rare. But I think that's why they came out so good. I would give him all the credit.



    Tell me about the creative process—how you worked with Mullen on these.
    Mullen and I sat in a room together. Now, we ran vintage Honda and Acura stuff from the '60s and '70s last season on Comedians in Cars. And everybody kind of enjoyed that. And I said, Yeah, I've looked at everything that exists of the old advertising, and I picked out all the good ones. And I don't have any more. And I thought, Why don't we make new old advertising … that's bad. Because that's what's fun. A lot of the lines are stuff we actually found. We would put our little spin on it.

    Alot of the advertising in the old days focused on the size of the car. People felt that you were really getting your money's worth if the car had a big trunk. Which of course is something that no one cares about now. No one buys an SUV and goes, "Well, how big is the trunk?" Because they're all big.

    So, it's about taking the old tropes and pushing them a little bit.
    Yes. And you know, to me, a lot of things have gotten worse that you could point to in our culture. A lot of advertising has gotten worse. I think it's kind of lost its nerve, to be honest with you. I feel like the advertising of the '60s, they were nervier. You know why? Because there was less at stake. It always worked. There were three networks. Everyone's going to see this. They're going to buy the car. And now, everyone's more nervous. Eyeballs are harder to get. And everyone's less inclined to take a risk.





    You've seen those high stakes firsthand, having done Super Bowl ads for American Express and, of course, Acura.
    Yeah. I've done a number of Super Bowl ads. And that is the best advertising of the year. That is when people realize they're going to be compared directly against other ads.

    What did you think of Will Ferrell's ads for Dodge?
    I like anything Will Ferrell does, so I was a fan of those. But it didn't seem to be a different type of car advertising. It seemed to be a different type of movie advertising. But different is always good.





    So, you wrote a lot of the jokes for these Acura ads?
    I did. We just wanted to get that feeling of "Hot, handsome and a honey to handle." Nobody says things like that anymore. Or "The perfect car for the big-car man." And the "Yesterday, today and tomorrow" thing. I like the little tension between the spokesman and the spokeswoman, that we can see that they aren't quite getting along.

    My favorite thing is: "MDX. Three letters that stand for 'Earth, style and you.' " That's just like, nobody read that over and went, "What do you mean? Why does it stand for that? The letters don't even match up to that. Why are we saying that?" So, it's also part of the drunken, lazy ad culture of the '60s.




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    Process this: The "Intel Inside" logo has made its way inside the jerseys of Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona in a reported five-year, $25 million deal.

    The emblem is visible only when players pull their shirts up over their heads, which they've been known to do when celebrating a goooaaal! Intel vp of sponsorship David Haroldsen says the placement "authentically tells the story of who we are rather than just being another brand that is visible with all the other logos that exist. We believed we would have more value with the symbolic placement with occasional pop-up moments within the game."

    Fair enough. Cool concept. Still, I wonder … doesn't this send a tacit message that big corporate bucks are all that's "inside" these players, driving them like robots of commerce? Aren't champions supposed to be motivated by something more, like their fierce love of the game and burning desire to win? Doesn't that competitive heart, beating deep inside, truly make a great team tick?

    And when Santa Claus comes to my house next week, will he bring the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy along for the ride?


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    You may not have known that shipping containers can dance.

    To promote GE Transportation, agency The Barbarian Group teamed up with Reuben Wu of British electronic band Ladytron to create a song and video featuring the company's intermodal products—which help choreograph millions of containers of freight being carried by railroads, trucks and boats—at work at the CSX Intermodal Terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio. Wu recorded some of the sounds in the song at the terminal itself, a trick we've already seen applied to athletes by brands like Gillette and Coca-Cola. The GE video, part of its "Brilliant Machines" campaign, though, is basically industrial-grade technophilia, struggling to make freight logistics anything but incredibly boring. At its heart, the idea is a little silly, but the result itself actually ends up being pretty hypnotizing.

    It's especially nice given the subject matter. Creating any kind of emotional connection to complex, dull-at-first-blush technology is a perennial problem for GE. This, at least, creates some interest. But its got some pretty stiff competition in machines you didn't know were powered by GE—especially Marty McFly's DeLorean.


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    Nelson Mandela was Google's No. 1 global search in 2013, followed by the late film actor Paul Walker, Apple's iPhone 5S (suck it, Samsung, how does it feel to be No. 8?), the late TV actor Cory Monteith and the Harlem Shake.

    Google's latest effort to chart, catalog and curate our collective zeitgeist is impressively immersive, to say the least. There's a video collage that lets you explore the top 100 searches in no particular order; a global 3-D map of top trends in cities around the world; and the 90-second video below, done in the familiar G-style with soothing white space, clack-clack typing in search boxes and image/music edits designed for maximum emotional impact. Batkid gets the final frame.

    I clicked 10 collage images at random, just zipping around with the cursor and not looking at the pictures, and came up with an intriguing mix: Jodi Arias No. 25 … Typhoon No. 14 … Oblivion No. 66 … Kim Kardashian baby No. 44 … Cube World No. 53 … Pacific Rim No. 27 … Jennifer Lawrence No. 23 … Gareth Bale No. 62 … Man of Steel No. 15 … North Korea No. 10. I like how people, places, things and events are weighted on a single scale, mirroring the marvelously creative, chaotic way we tend to index data in our brains.

    Earlier this month, Yahoo said Miley Cyrus led its searches for 2013, while Beyoncé topped Bing's ranking of the year's most-searched celebrities—with the British royal birth leading its list of most-searched news stories.

    Some commentators try to find deeper meaning, make connections and draw philosophical conclusions about society from such findings. I think it's pretty simple. We're always searching, in every sense of the word. Searching for something, nothing, anything, everything. For information, distraction, inspiration, novelty, friends, family, facts, figures, kicks, titillation. Searching for something more. Something new. Something to add meaning, if only for a few seconds, to the sum total of who and what we are.

    Even when we don't type in our own names, we're still basically searching for ourselves. That or the Harlem Shake.


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    Looking for a good way to spend the next few minutes? May I recommend … (looks at camera and grins cultishly) … this amazing recruitment video for Monash College?

    In a coup of ironic low-budget filmmaking, a group of students, faculty and alumni from the Melbourne, Australia, university have created "A Dave in the Life of Monash," possibly the most oddly endearing recruitment video since their fellow countrymen at Central Institute of Technology attracted students with gruesome teleportation deaths.

    In the Monash video, a student named Sam wanders across campus, searching for his friend Dave. Each student he meets is glowing with over-the-top praise for the school's amenities. "He could be at one of our … (looks at camera) … many social sport competitions!" "He was heading off campus to give back to the community and get invaluable life experience in one of our … (looks at camera) … many volunteering opportunities!"

    I was sold a minute in, when the student manning the cookout grill says, "I hope you like your sausages delicious and your peer groups supportive!" (One current student has taken issue with some of the claims, noting that opportunities for volunteering and joining student groups can be more limited than the school lets on. But I suppose such criticisms are the price you pay when you go so cheekily hyperbolic in your sales pitch.)

    Somehow balancing superlative sarcasm with actual campus pride, the video goes to show that colleges don't have to take themselves too seriously to earn serious consideration from potential students.


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    Speaking of Christmas miracles, The VIA Agency would like to make one of its own happen. The Portland, Maine, agency's house band recorded a six-track album of holiday music, and has launched a campaign to get David Bowie to cover one of the songs. Hey, it could happen.

    The "Get It to Bowie" site is full of cheerful strategizing, including ways to tweet at Bowie's famous friends and get them to put the pressure on. There's also an amusing "Are you David Bowie? Click here" link, which populates a tweet field with the message, "@TheVIAAgency Yes! I'm in. #gotittobowie." (The project also has a charity element, as VIA is also asking for donations to support Maine veterans living with PTSD—and one of the songs is about a homeless veteran at Christmastime.) You can also, of course, listen to the songs, which are solid—a good mix of funny and heartfelt.

    For now, the hashtag is the present-tense #getittobowie. It's a long shot, no doubt, especially now that Bowie is on the comeback trail with his well-received 2013 album, which got him three Grammy nominations. But who knows. Throw in an Angela Adams sea bag—actually, make that Louis Vuitton—and he might just go for it.


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