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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    This week, a tablet computer came to life, a douchey date on a boat got soaked, and a pup with a taste for car keys learned a lesson. 

    Many of the hundreds of TV commercials aired each day are just blips on the radar, having little impact on the psyche of the American consumer, who is constantly bombarded by advertising messages.

    These aren't those commercials.

    Adweek and AdFreak have brought together the most innovative and well-executed spots of the week, commercials that will make you laugh, smile, cry, think—and maybe buy.

    Video Gallery: Top 10 Commercials, Aug. 31-Sept. 7

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    Now boarding at Gate 11: geeks and nerds! Adland's recent trend of using Silicon Valley stars instead of Hollywood heavyweights and pro athletes—think Best Buy and J. Crew—continues in an interactive push from Virgin America designed to set its in-flight experience apart from the competition. The "Originals" multimedia campaign from ad agency Eleven and production firm Tool includes "frequent fliers" like Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber, Hairpin's Jane Marie, Pandora's Tim Westergren, BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin, independent artist/Facebook strategist Ji Lee, and and Gilt Groupe's Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. Some of those folks designed cabin features for Virgin. Schreiber, for example, curated in-flight music. The techies appear along with other forward-thinking "cultural influencers" (like indie filmmaker Kevin Smith and rock band Shiny Toy Guns) on an elaborate website that serves as the campaign's centerpiece. The site touts airline amenities as users take a fantastical, multi-dimensional trip that includes visits to a baseball game, a performance by the aforementioned Guns and a woodsy Hunger Games-inspired movie shoot. Despite some impressive visuals, I found the tour both overwhelming (a few ideas too many) and vaguely tedious (ultimately, it's an airplane, not a Tardis or holodeck). Lacking film stars, it's telling that Virgin employs Hollywood blockbuster-style overkill to get our attention, essentially reducing its cast of business-world achievers to bit players. It's almost as if the carrier didn't quite trust things to take off with these low-wattage luminaries (in the eyes of the public, anyway) at the controls. See all the ad stars, and a few videos, below.

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    It sounded great. A trip for two to Miami to soak up the sun on South Beach, cruise on a private boat, dine at the finest restaurants, and dance with some of the most limber Brazilians. Yes, Mike's Hard Lemonade's "Labor Day with a Bear in a Bikini" sweepstakes seemed like something worth winning. There was just one problem: the bear in the bikini. Check out the just-released video below of the big sweepstakes winner and footage from his weekend. Tom, 31, was told he could bring any guest he liked, so he brought his mom, as neither of them had been to Miami. They appear to have spent much of Labor Day weekend being filmed for little sketches involving the bear being suggestive, obnoxious, and otherwise inappropriate, with that unchanging roar-face making things all the more uncomfortable. This is where the rules about allowing your likeness to be used for advertising come in. If an oversexed bear is involved, it might be good to pass. Oh sure, Tom and his mom probably had a good time. It only looks like a complete nightmare. And you thought being cooped up in an office all summer was bad.
         UPDATE: A rep for Mike's says, "Though the bear and Tom did spend some time together, Tom was in Miami for 3 days, only one of which was captured on camera. They were more than happy to participate, agreed to the filming beforehand and really had a great time with the bear in a bikini!"

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    AMC zombie show The Walking Dead just topped 10 million Facebook fans, and is celebrating the only way it knows how—by confirming that it would attack, kill, and consume every last one of them if it could. Nice play off the poster for The Social Network. The series returns Oct. 14.

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  • 09/07/12--10:21: Ad of the Day: Ally Bank
  • This week's honors for least likely endorser in a commercial go to Thomas Sargent, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economics, who, for whatever reason, agreed to shoot one of the new Ally Bank spots from Grey in New York.

    Not that the 69-year-old New York University professor and acknowledged mastermind of macroeconomics has to work very hard—or denigrate himself professionally, for that matter. The sum total of his contribution in the "Predictions" spot is to deny, in a single word, any ability to predict the future, at least when it comes to knowing what CD rates will be two years from now. "If he can't, no one can," says the spokeswoman. "That's why Ally has a raise-your-rate CD. Ally Bank. Your money needs an Ally."

    Sargent's is a kind of anti-endorsement, or at least a non-endorsement—a long way from what Robert Jarvik used to do for Lipitor.

    The structure of the new Ally spots is pleasantly theatrical—literally so, as both ads take place at the theater, with the spokeswoman, in a spotlight, introducing the short scenes. A giant Ally logo is suspended from wires, dominating the stage, then is lifted so the action can begin. The lighting, in particular, is lovely in these ads—and the writing is snappy and brought to life spiritedly by the actors.

    A second ad promotes the bank's 24/7 customer service, and commitment to having real people on the line, through a skit with a woman who has fallen in love with a robot. "Don't you love me?" she says to the robot. "I am a robot," he replies. "No, I know you're a robot!" she says. "But there's more in you than just circuits and wires!" But in fact, there isn't—as he swiftly demonstrates. "A machine can't give you what a person can," the spokeswoman says. "That's why Ally has knowledgable people there for you night and day."

    Knowledgable people—always good to have around. Even if, like Sargent, they often don't know anything at all.

    Client: Ally Bank
    Agency: Grey, New York

    Spot: "Predictions"
    Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
    Executive Creative Director: Jonathan Koffler
    Creative Director: Andy Currie
    Creative Director: Lu Romero
    Associate Creative Director: Duc Nguyen
    Associate Creative Director: Liem Nguyen
    Agency Executive Producer: Kimberly Kietz
    Agency Producer: John Hilmer
    Production Company (location): Biscuit Filmworks (LA)
    Director: Tim Godsall
    Editor (person & company): Dave Koza / Mackenzie Cutler
    Music/Sound Design (person & company): Sound Lounge
    Principal Talent: Jill Paice (Host)
    Principal Talent: Wren Brown (Moderator)
    Principal Talent: Thomas Sargent (Economist)

    Spot: "Robot"
    Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
    Executive Creative Director: Jonathan Koffler
    Creative Director: Andy Currie
    Creative Director: Lu Romero
    Associate Creative Director: Duc Nguyen
    Associate Creative Director: Liem Nguyen
    Agency Executive Producer: Kimberly Kietz
    Agency Producer: John Hilmer
    Production Company (location): Biscuit Filmworks (LA)
    Director: Tim Godsall
    Editor (person & company): Dave Koza / Mackenzie Cutler
    Music/Sound Design (person & company): Butter / Sound Lounge
    Principal Talent: Jill Paice (Host)
    Principal Talent: Elizabeth Loyacano (Woman)

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    For anyone still stinging over Denis Leary's violent and untimely death at the hands of a giant half-lizard guy in the latest Spider-Man flick (oh sorry, were you waiting for the DVD?), you can catch the motor-mouthed actor in a new series of Ford F-150 ads. The combo live-action/motion-graphics spots aim to sell the fuel efficiency, not just the torque, of the big truck. (The F-150, by the way, has again topped Autodata's list of hottest-selling vehicles in the country, according to USA Today). The quick-cut, propaganda-poster-style images are a nice accompaniment to Leary's rapid-fire voiceover, coming from Ford's Team Detroit and Gravity, a design, visual effects and branding shop. The message of all previous Leary spots for the F-150 since 2008 remains: Buy one already, or he will think you're a total douche.

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    Witness this ludicrous commercial for Texas lawyer Adam Reposa titled "Lawyer, Patriot, Champion," wherein he rams his giant Chevy into a Chrysler Cirrus, kicks in the window and repeatedly yells, "I AM A LAWYER!!!" According to Reposa, who is indeed a lawyer: "What happened was: I had a concept for an ad that was going to be pretty simple. I've shot and edited it. It was supposed to be very simple: 'I'm Adam Reposa. I am a lawyer. Don't get in the way of my truck.' " The state bar of Texas ruled earlier this year that the ad couldn't air because it showed "behavior unfitting of a lawyer." But it went viral online, and as Reposa explained on the Texas Lawyer Blog, "Now, everyone loves it." Of course, there are always two sides to a story. Bob Ray, the filmmaker hired to direct the commercial, says his friendship with Reposa has soured since the video went viral and a network contacted Reposa to make a reality show, sans Ray. Ray also admits to having been drunk during the editing. No clue if a reality show is coming anytime soon, but you can see more of Reposa in Ray's movie Total Badass (link is NSFW) about Reposa's assistant, Chad Holt—a big-dicked cokehead who raises guinea pigs for show. Via Jalopnik.

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    Between now and Nov. 6, there will be nowhere to hide from the onslaught of political advertising set to hit more than $3.3 billion on TV. Behind the scenes at TV stations, traffic managers are juggling buys from presidential, House, Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, not to mention those put forth by various Super PACs. With so much demand on inventory, not every spot placed will make it on-air; other campaigns may find their ads running when no one is watching. How can campaigns keep tabs? That’s where Thom Carroll comes in. He and partner Joe Stoltz, the former head of the Federal Election Commission’s audit division, founded Campaign Media Accountability in April to give candidates the same kind of accountability services mainstream advertisers have relied on for years. Carroll took a break from the Senate campaigns he’s tracking to talk about why it’s critical for political campaigns to ensure they get what they paid for.

    Adweek: Where did the idea to start a verification service for political ads come from?
    Joe Stoltz and I met several years ago when I was working on a presidential campaign, and the FEC audited it. We were astonished that there was no independent accountability in the election business. There is no third party to verify and reconcile that everything in a political ad campaign happened the way it should happen. Now the political ad dollars have grown, and it’s a major advertising category.

    Why do campaigns need such a service?
    Very often campaigns end with debt, so they need the money. But the better answer is that they owe it to their constituents to account for the money that has been donated. It’s not all that different than a public corporation that has shareholders and is obligated to do certified audits every year to account for what they’ve spent and done. We’re the first company to do this, but I don’t think we’ll be the last.

    How much political advertising gets bumped?
    Somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of political ads don’t run as they were supposed to. This year it could be even more dramatic, particularly in the battleground states. There is so much volume going on that stations can’t keep up with it. It’s a frantic situation.

    Why do TV stations bump political ads? Don’t they make a lot of money from them?
    Stations have different classes of commercial time. Some is pre-emptible with notice; some is pre-emptible without notice. Campaigns and political parties come in and they lay down their buys, but then PACs come in and because they aren’t subject to lowest-unit rates, they will spend astronomical rates to get on the air. If stations have tremendous demand, I think they will try to limit the number of candidate ads they can take because they’ll want the money from the PACs.

    What does that do to ad rates?
    In battleground markets, we could see rates jump seven times what is normally charged a commercial advertiser, even more for programming that is in demand. The net result is a lot of campaigns, including PACs, will face a lot of pre-emptions. And they won’t know about it until after the election is over.

    What are your predictions for the political ad market this election?
    Political has become a major advertising category. For stations, this will be their key category of business, surpassing auto.

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    If only the Emmy winners this Sunday night would take a cue from Parker Posey, who plays a ridiculously affected and over-the-top acting coach in this parody video about how to accept an award. Man, that would be three hours worth watching. Otherwise … meh. But at least television's biggest night isn't as stick-up-the-arse as the Oscars, where it seems like every contender has been practicing The Speech for decades. The Emmys? Less so, which can make for a few memorable moments. Nothing like Posey dreams up, though, in this promotion for the ABC broadcast. Among her suggestions: Thank people in a language you don't normally speak! Ugly cry! Take your clothes off! Fake a heart attack! There's plenty more in the master class from JA,N, Posey's awkwardly punctuated thespian. (Her name is an acronym for Just Act, Naturally). Are you listening, Bryan Cranston? The piece was produced by PMK*BNC and Paulilu Productions for Audi, which is sponsoring the Emmys—and subtly integrates the all-new Audi S7.

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    A hooker sex scandal involving the Secret Service? Delicious! An ad for pistachios poking fun at the situation? Fairly amusing, especially when you let your mind wander to all the potential bad puns about nuts getting cracked, which obviously is the point. The new spot for Paramount Farms' Wonderful Pistachios is strictly G-rated, and not likely to blow up the interwebs like the earlier Honey Badger ad, but it keeps the brand's off-kilter party going. It's one of four new commercials that debuted Monday during the just-launched fall TV season. Others in the $30 million effort star the Village People, fur-covered Brobee from that trippy kids' show Yo Gabba Gabba!, and Victor and Sparky the dog from Tim Burton's new movie Frankenweenie, opening Oct. 5. The latter ad, shot in 3-D, will run on theater screens for the next several weeks in a cross-promotion with Disney. There's more to come later this fall from the pistachios campaign, which already has racked up some 12 million online views with ads featuring Kardashians, Kermit and keyboard cat, among other pop-culture figures. It's a malleable setup, with the bright-green color scheme and the "Get crackin' " tagline still somewhat fresh after four cycles. Taking bets on the next go-round. Crack your snacks "Gangnam Style," anyone?

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    Benefit Cosmetics, a California beauty brand, is trying to market makeup through humor. In its new spot by Portal A, Sarah Colonna, a comedian from Chelsea Lately, bops about on a Segway in a police uniform doing beauty busts in the most insulting way she can—often leaving her victims gasping in shock. While the whole fashion-police concept is rather old, what's new is that a cosmetic company is ditching the glossy aspirational ads and outright insulting potential customers—almost never a good idea. But somehow, it works. Why? 1) Because as much as women want to look glamorous, there's an even more immediate desire not to look like a fashion disaster, and a lot of overdone runway makeup looks exactly like that. 2) Because the brand has chosen "Laughter is the best cosmetic" as its motto. 2) And because Colonna, whom we see applying the cosmetics at the end, is clearly not a model herself. Quite frankly, it's refreshing to see any humor around the serious business of touting artificial images of cosmetic perfection.

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    Sometimes, something comes along that’s so brilliant and creative, you don’t even feel guilty letting it suck away an hour (or more) of your workday. Today, that prize goes to the popular webcomic xkcd, which has posted a staggeringly massive black-and-white drawing called "Click and Drag" that you’ll want to explore from every possible angle. By dragging your way through the image in its relatively limited frame, you can explore artist Randall Munroe’s mountainous landscape from side to side, delve into the subterranean depths or sweep the skies looking for airplanes, levitating jellyfish and other oddities. It’s an amazing accomplishment, packed with Easter eggs, such as a Super Mario Bros.-esque series of pipes, which extend down, down, down into vertical caves with “walls worn smooth by billions of tumbling Mario corpses.” According to Kottke.org, the total image is 46 feet wide when printed at 300 dpi. Once you've explored it to your heart's content—and not a moment before!—you can browse a mashup of the full image here. This isn’t xkcd’s first ambitious art project. If you missed it, be sure to revisit Munroe’s awe-inspiring look at “Lakes and Oceans” around the world.

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    This is better from Smartwater. The Glacéau water brand has used Jennifer Aniston for some time—finally they've produced a piece of content together that feels somewhat fresh. Once again, the premise isn't revolutionary—the video, from ad agency AR New York, purports to show "jennifer aniston security tapes" from cameras around her house. But it gives the actress room to be funny—and she can be very funny—without having to wedge herself into an overcrowded scene like the previous spot, in which Keenan Cahill, Paul "Bear" Vasquez, dancing babies and other Internet stars tried to help her make the video go viral. (Her print ads have been pretty blah as well, although anything with Aniston topless will do well in spite of itself.) In the new clip, the faux-pregnant Aniston—she's expecting triplets!—is upstaged only by the dark-curly-haired Aniston at the end. It all just feels less manufactured overall, and much more entertaining as a result.
          Director Alek Keshishian shot the spot during a single-day shoot in Malibu. "Addressing all the tabloid rumors felt like a compelling and humorous idea," he says. "Because Aniston was brave enough to go for it, I was especially careful to make sure she always felt part of the creative process. After all, this was her life we were poking fun at. … We focused on the most prominent rumors out there, and took them to their most logically absurd conclusion. Sensational celebrity gossip is so ubiquitous, and addressing it in a humorous way felt like a perfect vehicle to get multiple views for Smartwater while creating a sense of empathy for both Aniston and the brand."
         Credits below the spot.

    Advertising Agency: AR New York
    Chief Creative Officer: Raul Martinez
    Executive Creative Director: David Israel
    Executive Producer: Helaina Buzzeo
    Director of Client Services: Jason Garcia
    Account Director: Kristen Opalach

    Production Company: Station Film
    Director: Alek Keshishian
    Executive Producer: Michael Di Girolamo
    Executive Producer, Producer: Caroline Gibney
    Unit Production Manager: Leanne Amos
    First Assistant Director: Anthony Dimino
    Director of Photography: James Whitaker
    Art Director: Gary Matteson

    Editing Company: Cosmo Street
    Editor: Tessa Davis
    Executive Producer: Yvette Cobarrubias
    Producer: Patty Paz
    Assistant Editor: John Bradley

    Post Effects Company: Arsenal FX
    Visual Effects Supervisor: Lauren Mayer-Beug
    Visual Effects Executive Producer: Ashley Hydrick
    Visual Effects Producer: Pravina Sippy
    Flame Artists: Mark Leiss, Terry Silberman
    Computer Graphics Artist: David Hyatt
    Design Artist: Nathan Boldman
    Roto Artist: Crystal Strait

    Sound Company: Beacon Street Studios
    Sound Designer, Mixer: Paul Hurtubise
    Producer: Caitlin Rocklen

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  • 09/19/12--10:48: Ad of the Day: Honda
  • Good-deed advertising is frequently a hard sell, but this is an adorable spot from RPA for Honda, showing the automaker secretly booking very, very indie band Monsters Calling Home on Jimmy Kimmel Live as a thank-you for filming their cool-o music videos entirely inside Hondas.

    It's getting harder and harder to do Publishers Clearing House-style "Surprise! You're successful!" videos, although it is a rich tradition dating back to Allen Funt and Candid Camera, and there's a reason it's so effective. It doesn't hurt that the band's neat folk-rock sound is a perfect underscore for the video, or that they seem like nice kids.

    Is it me, though, or does this kind of stuff always seem a little mean? Not to jump on Honda—good on them for rigging up such a great deal for these kids, who seem like they probably deserve a break. But does it strike anybody else as awful that the one guy tells them there will be no concert after all for 600 Honda employees—the original ruse—but can they get up on stage and sing one song for the three or four people in the room? Kind of hurts your heart, although I guess for shooting purposes they have to have everyone together on stage to look surprised and happy when they learn the truth.

    The most effective part of the nearly five-minute spot, for me, anyway, is the opening, where the band talks about how they ask people at their concerts if maybe somebody could spot them a couch or two for the evening since they're touring for a living and can't afford a hotel. That little section, more so even than the big finale on Kimmel, feels like young people living the contemporary American dream—which is to say, doing the thing you love despite barely making ends meet.

    Look at me, I'm getting maudlin. Must be the music.

    Client: Honda
    Agency: RPA, Santa Monica, Calif.
    Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer: Joe Baratelli
    Senior Vice President, Group Creative Director: Jason Sperling
    Senior Vice President, Executive Producer: Gary Paticoff
    Vice President, Creative Social Media Director: J. Barbush
    Art Directors: Brian Farkas, Sarah Hass
    Copywriter: Tylynne McCauley
    Agency Director, Senior Content Producer: Mark Tripp

    Production Company: RPA
    Director of Photography: Stephen Carmona
    Producer: Andrew Scrivner
    Assistant Director: Tracy Chaplin

    Editing: Butcher Editorial
    Editor: Teddy Gersten
    Executive Producer: Rob Van
    Smoke Artist: Zac Dych

    Color: Adolfo Martinelli, Incendio
    Audio Mixer: Paul Hurtubise, Beacon Street Studios

    Music: Monsters Calling Home

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  • 09/19/12--21:08: Laying It on Thick
  • Most dairy brands engaged in the day-to-day battle for survival in the refrigerated section only wish they had the problems that Philadelphia Cream Cheese has. After all, the soft white brick of cheese named after the City of Brotherly Love has prospered for nearly 90 years now. Making cream cheese is extremely difficult (the careful introduction of acid-secreting bacteria is what turns milk into a solid), and Kraft is said to keep its formulas sealed in a Chicago safe. But the brand has its routine down cold. So instinctively do shoppers reach for that gray-foil wrapper with the blue lettering that Kraft now enjoys a 70 percent market share—especially sweet, considering that Americans buy $800 million worth of cream cheese every year. Sure, people may feel guilty about eating cream cheese (33 percent of it is pure fat), but since when did guilt stop people from buying something?

    As it turns out, however, things are not as easy as they may look for Philly Cream Cheese—at least not when it comes to the marketing. Think about it. When your core product is an emulsified cake of breakfast food that’s hung out on the end of a butter knife for decades, keeping the brand image fresh and interesting is no mean feat. But judging from the ads shown here, Kraft’s done a pretty good job of it, at least according to Rick Barrack, chief creative officer of New York branding firm CBX. While it’s easy to look at the contemporary image and spot all of the requisite cultural updates (butcher-block table, T-shirted father and son bonding, etc.), the real device that’s kept the brand current is more thematic than physical. “In the ‘50s ad, they were talking only about what the product has to offer,” Barrack said. “But they’ve moved from product attributes to product experience.” In other words, if all that used to matter was the brand’s quality, what matters now is the quality time that the brand makes possible.

    When the ad at right appeared in the pages of McCall’s in 1958, food marketing was little more than an argument over quality. In this case, high-quality cream cheese as part of a proper, middle-class American breakfast. Those female hands? They belong to mother, who is, of course, making your breakfast for you. See it there, laid out nicely on the table? She’s even put a hard-boiled egg down beside the coffee. The language sells the Philly even better, assuring us that it’s “wholesome” (whatever that means) and will satisfy “sleepy morning appetites.” “The ad is just a reflection of the conventions of the times,” Barrack said. “Mom is responsible for setting the table and whatever helps her do it better will make her take notice. Philly Cream Cheese is playing right to that.”

    But now look at what the same-old cheese is doing 54 years later. Gone is the goofy talk of wholesomeness, of satisfying hungry tummies. Safely able to presume that the cream cheese’s taste and quality are already a given for most consumers, Kraft has shifted the entire selling strategy from the food to the occasion surrounding it. Cream cheese isn’t what you smear on bread; it’s a conduit for connecting with your family. “Today the homemaker is time-starved, and that’s mirrored in this ad,” Barrack said. “Carving out time to spend with your loved ones is a challenge. Multitasking is the new norm—as evidenced by the father holding the paper while eating with his son.” And, of course, “it’s interesting that they’ve chosen a man to start with,” Barrack said.

    But what’s most interesting in these two ads isn’t that they show how the rigid domestic norms of the 1950s have developed into the fast-paced, nontraditional free-for-all that is today’s home; it’s that they show how Philadelphia Cream Cheese has come along for the ride and still fits in.

    You just might want to go lighter on that schmear. After all, the stuff is 33 percent fat.

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    Samsung's ads are suddenly cooler than Apple's. There, with tears in my eyes and fingers trembling on my Mac keyboard, I wrote the words I never thought I'd write. Seriously, I've warmed to 72andSunny's "The Next Big Thing Is Already Here" campaign for Samsung's Galaxy smartphones, especially the new 90-second spot below (directed by Michael Downing and produced by Epoch Films), which arrives just in time to tweak Apple addicts squeezed into lawn chairs and shivering in sleeping bags ahead of tomorrow's iPhone 5 launch. As with past ads in the series, there's no overt mention of Apple, but we all know who's being zinged. Admittedly, I was lukewarm on Samsung's Super Bowl teaser, and disliked the over-the-top rockin' climax of the spot that aired during the game. Now, however, the elements are jelling. With a tone that's sharp and snarky, but not nasty, this latest effort for the Galaxy S III not so subtly points out that the handset already boasts some specs, like a bigger screen, that Apple touts as innovations in its own device. There's also nice continuity, as the cap-and-glasses guy who switched to Samsung once again stands amid the throng awaiting the iPhone release, though now he's just "saving a spot in line for someone." In one of the most memorable commercial bitch-slaps of the year, "someone" is revealed to be … his middle-aged parents. That's, well, uncool. This is not happening! This is not happening!

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    Online eyewear shop Warby Parker has built a loyal online audience in recent years through its stylish vibe, low prices and clean, minimalist site design—and surely won some new fans with its 2011 annual report, which it packaged as a lighthearted, interactive and addictive infographic. Now, like Zappos before it, the shopping site is making the leap beyond word of mouth and hitting the airwaves with its first-ever TV ad. The surreal spot by New York agency Partners & Spade is packed with bright visuals but still manages to be crisp and informative. The images were culled by artist and designer Alia Penner from "1950s magazines, collections of Victorian wallpaper, Japanese architecture textbooks and more," according to the backstory posted on Warby Parker's site. Full credits after the jump.

    Client: Warby Parker
    Spot: "Eyeballs Looking for Glasses"

    Agency: Partners & Spade, New York
    Creative Directors: Anthony Sperduti, Andy Spade, Griffin Creech
    Producer: Jamie Arendt
    Artistic Director: Alia Penner

    Production Company: Blacklist
    Director: Saiman Chow
    Executive Producer: Adina Sales
    Producer: Hana Shimizu
    Art Director: Alex Mapar
    Animators: Kristen Basile, Alex Mapar
    Animation Assistant: Emilie Liu

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  • 09/20/12--13:10: Ad of the Day: Volkswagen
  • You know what's really freaking cute? Laughing babies. You know what's also cute? Laughing old people. You know what's not quite as cute, but still pretty heartwarming? Laughing anyone. And that's exactly what Volkswagen and Deutsch LA are giving us in this first TV spot in the "Why VW" campaign, appropriately titled "Smiles."

    The 30-second commercial shows snippets of "real people"—in order of age, from babies to kids to adults to seniors—laughing uncontrollably, with nary a car in sight. The spot's end line, "It's not the miles, it's how you live them," pushes a consumer-over-product message. The idea that a car company can elicit such an emotional response can seem forced, but coming from VW, it doesn't feel inauthentic—the brand has already produced plenty of smiles with a lineup of endearing vehicles (the Beetle, the Bus) and campaigns (from the classic "Think small" series to 2011's "The Force").

    In addition to airing the spot during the fall sitcom premieres, VW is hoping to lighten the mood of the current election cycle by making a "significant media buy" on political programming, from the presidential debates (which could really benefit from a few smiling faces) to Comedy Central's Indecision 2012 lineup.

    The spot points to a new website, whyvw.com, which presents a new way of organizing content—it groups VW content side by side with select consumer content about the brand. It's divided in two sections: Values and Stories. The Values section contains information about VW products, including five short films starring real VW owners that address the company's core values, like quality, safety, value, environment and performance. The Stories section, housed on VW.com and Facebook, features user-generated content and select personal stories shared by consumers.

    With luck, some of the stories will make your smile, too.

    Client: Volkswagen
    Executive Vice President, Chief Product and Marfketing Officer: Tim Mahoney
    Vice President, Marketing: Kevin Mayer
    General Manager, Brand and Marketing Communications: Justin Osborne
    Advertising Manager: Jeff Sayen

    Agency: Deutsch, Los Angeles
    Chief Creative Officer: Mark Hunter
    Group Creative Directors: Michael Kadin, Matt Ian
    Associate Creative Director: Brian Friedrich
    Senior Art Director: Ryan McLaughlin
    Art Director: Mike Palese
    Copywriter: Amir Farhang
    Executive Integrated Producer: Jim Haight
    Director of Integrated Production: Vic Palumbo
    Director of Broadcast Production: Victoria Guenier
    Associate Director of Business Affairs: Gabriela Farias

    Production Company: Epoch Films
    Director: Everynone
    Executive Producer: Lisa Margulis
    Head of Production: Megan Murphree
    Line Producer: Pat Harris

    Editorial Company: Spot Welders
    Editor: Haines Hall
    Assistant Editor: Glenn Teel
    Executive Producer: David Glean
    Producer: Shada Shariatzadeh

    Telecine, Postproduction Facility: Co3
    Color: Dave Hussey

    Online, Visual Effects Company: Method Studios
    Producer: Stephanie Allis
    Visual Effects Supervisor: Thomas Downs

    Music, Composer: Lullatone, Japan
    Scored, Original Music: Shawn James Seymour

    Audio Post Company: Lime Studios
    Mixer: Mark Meyuhas
    Assistant: Matt Miller
    Producer: Jessica Locke

    Additional Deutsch Credits:
    Account Management Credits:
    Chief Executive Officer: Mike Sheldon
    Group Account Director: Tom Else
    Account Directors: Chris Carter, Monica Jungbeck
    Account Supervisor: Alex Gross

    Account Planners:
    Chief Strategic Officer: Jeffrey Blish
    Group Planning Director: Doug Van Praet

    Legal, Broadcast:
    Director of Integrated Business Affairs: Abilino Guillermo
    Broadcast Traffic Manager: Sarah Brennan

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    Oh, look—a voice-activated machine that pinpoints the exact location of your mouth, and then automatically lobs a piece of popcorn right into your gaping pie hole. It was invented so you can enjoy a popcorn snack while leaning back in your office chair without having to lift a single lazy finger. It uses audio technology that mimics the human ear to determine where to aim its tasty projectiles, which makes it even more like the popcorn lackey you always secretly dreamed of having, but also more tasteful, because it's a robot and not a person. It was invented, with help from the viral stuntmasters at agency Thinkmodo (who once made girls with iPad heads), to help Popcorn Indiana sell more popcorn. It will probably do that, too, simply because it is ridiculously awesome.

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  • 09/21/12--07:42: Ad of the Day: Smithsonian
  • The Smithsonian Institution is known primarily for housing historic artifacts—everything from George Washington's sword to Dorothy's ruby slippers. But that's a musty legacy—nothing feels new or dynamic about the Smithsonian. So, for its first-ever national branding and awareness campaign, developed by Wolff Olins, the institution is going young, bright and vibrant with a question-based strategy and a clever new tagline, "Seriously amazing," that helps get the old dog moving again.

    Wolff Olins's brief was to craft a brand strategy that would make the Smithsonian—which is comprised of 19 museums, plus nine research centers and the National Zoo—more modern, more relevant and more impactful to more people more often. The agency's primary insight was to put the client's strength, its accumulation of knowledge, in motion—by emphasizing the idea of putting that knowledge to work for new audiences through learning. Thus, the ad campaign is built around questions whose answers can be found in the Smithsonian collection—and on its attractive new website.

    "Was Dr. Seuss a wartime propagandist?" "What exactly is 'snarge'?" "How much courage is required to have lunch?" How far did John Wilkes Booth get on his broken leg after assassinating President Lincoln?" These questions, and dozens more—many of them quite intriguing, some mischievously phrased—are posed on the new website, SeriouslyAmazing.com. And select ones are featured on print, digital and outdoor ads that will appear in magazines, on websites and in cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago throughout the month of October.

    In addition to the questions, the ads feature seven characters who correspond to seven areas of Smithsonian expertise: The Discoverer explores the world and the universe; the Storyteller is about America, its people and the tales they can tell; the New is where technology and creativity collide; the Wild represents the diversity of the animal kingdom; the Green reflects the wonder of the natural landscape; the Masterpiece embodies artistic expression; and the Mash-up stands for the ways people share culture. The questions and characters together are meant to pique curiosity and drive people to SeriouslyAmazing.com. All the characters appear in the campaign's signature ad, in which they are arranged to form a question mark.

    The photography and the art direction are infused with a pop-art vitality that firmly yanks the institution right into the 21st century. The visual language couldn't be more appealing to young people. The brilliant website is its own best advertisement, one that literally pays off the headline "Questions come alive at the Smithsonian" by making the question boxes clickable, to reveal the answers. Plus, the "Seriously amazing" tagline cleverly does double duty—evoking both the Smithsonian's important scholarship work and the more fun-loving "wow" vibe it hopes to impart to a new generation. For a client that desperately needs new blood and a fresh reputation, this campaign feels mighty promising.

    "Which animal can have a brain so large it overflows into its legs?" If you can't answer that—or a host of other delightful questions—at least now you'll know who can.

    Client: Smithsonian Institution
    Agency: Wolff Olins


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