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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    You've probably never wondered whether Ken Block is better at playing soccer in a car than Neymar is at playing soccer not in a car.

    Yet, in the run-up to the World Cup in June, Castrol presents Footkhana—a mashup of football (aka, soccer) and gymkhana (aka, course-based stunt driving). In other words, you get to watch the racing star spin donuts around the soccer player while the soccer player juggles the ball. Then you get to see how the two compete against each other in a shootout.

    It does feel a bit like it's just riding the coattails of DC Shoes' wild success with the first five Ken Block Gymkhana videos (three of which are among the 20 most-shared ads ever posted online) and a sixth one promoting video game franchise Need for Speed). The soccer tie-in adds enough of a twist, though, to keep it from getting stale. And beyond the obvious excess of motor-revving noises, a couple of unexpected moments make up for the length.

    Now all we need is Curlkhana. Ken Block vs. the Canadian curling team.


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    Apple, the company that remade the music business, is often at its best in its TV commercials when it grabs a good soundtrack and just rocks out. The prime example, of course, was the iPod campaign, in which Apple celebrated its game-changing device from the very beginning with glorious ads that made instant successes of songs—and all but acted as a playlist for the culture.

    The new 90-second iPhone 5S ad, which broke Tuesday night on (not coincidentally) NBC's singing competition The Voice, has a bit of that same spirit. It uses a reworked version of "Gigantic" by the Pixies—the band's first single from way back in 1988—to show how the iPhone and its apps can integrate into musical performances and the recording process (and do some other neat things, too).

    The first 45 seconds are devoted entirely to music, beginning with a guy plugging in his electric guitar on a subway platform—with an iPhone strapped to it, handling some audio effects. Soon after, another guy begins the famous bass line of "Gigantic" on an upright bass, and the ad's (mostly female) cast of characters—from student drummers to performance artists—embark on an infectious rendition of the song. (Note the sly reference to the iPod silhouettes at the 0:34 mark.)

    Later, we see the iPhone in non-musical capacities, too—it is pitched as everything from a simple video recorder to an image translator, a heartrate monitor and even a rocket launcher. The opportunities are gigantic, the spot seems to say, and will certainly make you feel big, big love for the device.

    And not just for the device—for yourself. The end line here is, "You're more powerful than you think," which is an interesting choice. I didn't really get a message of empowerment from the ad, but that's clearly what Apple wants you to take from it—and is even willing to mimic Dove to do so. (The famous end line on "Real Beauty Sketches" was, "You are more beautiful than you think.")

    The ending fits into Apple's recent trend of borrowing from others. But at least it's borrowing from itself here, too. And whatever the provenance of the lyrics, if it's empowerment they're after, they could do a lot worse than this particular Kim Deal song.


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    Humans generally consider themselves to be better than pigeons in all ways, significant or not. But are we, really?

    JetBlue's "Air on the Side of Humanity" campaign from Mullen, which launched last fall in Boston and is now rolling out to New York and Florida markets, suggests we're actually quite pigeon-like ourselves—at least, those of us who don't fly JetBlue are.

    Indeed, much like the humble pigeon, who flies in crowded spaces, gets crumbs for snacks and is generally ignored and/or despised, we tend to be unappreciated when we take to the skies aboard other airlines.

    Along with the TV work, JetBlue has been running a new Web series from Funny or Die that extends this notion of pigeon-on-human empathy. Called "Shoo's Bird's Eye View," the series stars a pigeon named Shoo who watches humans go about their business—and wryly remarks on how odd people can be.

    The idea is that, through his comical observations, we might come to see the errors of our ways—like flying those airlines that don't have JetBlue in their name.



    "The idea of bringing these two brands together, JetBlue and Funny or Die, was really appealing from the start," says Tim Vaccarino, executive creative director at Mullen. "Both have great sensibilities and a unique perspective on things. A way of getting right at the truth in a smart humorous way."

    He added: "The use of the pigeon POV was a conscious one. It allowed us a unique perspective on humans and all their quirks. It let us show things we humans do every day but may overlook or ignore. Through Shoo's simple yet comical observations, the hope is people will wake up and change bad behavior. Such as the behavior of accepting a substandard level of customer service when we travel, for example. Just a thought."

    The "Air on the Side of Human Campaign" has also included custom homepage takeovers, branded Spotify playlists, an interactive mobile rich media game and lifelike Pigeon Props riding atop taxi cabs.


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    In 1983, Unilever took the wraps off of Snuggle, a new brand of fabric softener designed to take on Procter & Gamble's Downy, the unchallenged, 800-pound gorilla of the segment.

    Since 1960, Downy had taught homemakers to pour a little capful of the blue liquid into the rinse cycle to bring “April freshness” to their wash. Downy ads glowed with photos of happy husbands, smiling children and lots of cute babies. Here, Unilever found a chink in Downy’s armor.

    Snuggle was already strong on quality and price, but its secret weapon was softer than the towels and cuter than the babies. It was, in the words of a subsequent marketing analysis of the brand, “a magical spokesbear”—Snuggle Bear, as we have known him ever since.

    “He was in every ad, and he was cuddly,” recalled Alexis Krisay, owner of Serendipit Consulting, which specializes in mascot marketing for brands. “He cuddled the sheets, the towels and even the logo. The brand has established him, and now there’s no one who doesn’t recognize the Snuggle Bear.”

    This seems like a reasonable explanation for why these two ads—the first from 1986, the other from today—look so much alike. But lurking behind these ads is a cautionary tale. Using cute creatures to market a brand might sound simple. “But you have to be careful,” Krisay said. “If you try to make it cool, the public won’t respond.”

    Snuggle Bear was born under an auspicious star. Unilever hired Kermit Love (who later worked for Jim Henson on Sesame Street) to create him. Voiced in TV spots by Corinne Orr (who’d done all the female voices in Speed Racer), Snuggle Bear snuggled his way into the hearts of millions.

    Then, in 2003, Unilever decided an update was in order. Plucked out of the laundry basket where he’d nuzzled towels for 20 years, Snuggle Bear suddenly appeared poolside in Rio, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and offering a towel to a lady in a wet bathing suit. The cute mascot went from being like a Care Bear to “becoming a devil-may-care bear,” said The New York Times’ Stuart Elliott. Even more to the point, what did Snuggle’s poolside concupiscence have to do with fabric softener? “When a mascot resonates,” Krisay said, “you need to stay in the realm”—and Unilever hadn’t.

    As this 2014 ad shows, Snuggle Bear (today owned by Sun Products) is back in that realm: cute, cuddly and happily pitching the brand’s new Scent Booster Pacs. He’s the same old bear many of us grew up with. And while Sun has updated him, the tweaks are subtle (his fur and snout are a little different) and, significantly, digital. These days, Snuggle Bear has over 700,000 fans on Facebook. He tweets every day, too.

    Happy 31st birthday, Snuggle Bear. See you in the spin cycle.


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    Gloria Gaynor's disco classic "I Will Survive" gets remade as an anti-bullying anthem in this VH1 spot by Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi in Argentina, showing tormented boys and girls singing out their plans for sweet revenge in adulthood.

    Expertly staged by music-video veteran Agustin Alberdi and boasting a great cast, the ad feels kind of like a musical number from Glee in its heyday. It opens with a kid enduring the indignity of a dual swirly/pantsing: "First I was afraid, I was petrified/They flushed my head several times, exposing my behind." Other tortured middle-schoolers soon pick up the thread. One looks ahead to the day when, "Oh my power, I will abuse/I'll be the CEO, you'll be the one who shines my shoes." Another promises, "I'm gonna call you night and day/And on weekends I'll send texts/Ask you for all kinds of things, making sure you never rest."

    On one level, the video is a marvel of wish-fulfillment that anyone who's ever been picked on or put down during lunch period or study hall can instantly relate to. Believing you can turn the tables feels great, and the spot hits all the right notes in that regard.



    Still, the tone and message ultimately fall flat. The revenge motif, though lighthearted, seems to perpetuate the cycle of bullying, with today's victims becoming tomorrow's oppressors. Yes, it's handled with a deft touch and good humor—and the jerks in the boy's bathroom using that kid's head as a toilet scrubber certainly have it coming.

    Even so, breaking the cycle and discouraging the behavior should be the goal, shouldn't it? There's really none of that here. (Contrast VH1's approach with Everynone's short film on bullying from a few years back, which really captured the complexity of the issue.)

    Also, ultimately, these bullies are free to go about their brutish business. Vague threats of corporate comeuppance 20 years hence seem pretty lame when victims ripe for pantsing are available in the here and now. Meanwhile, the terrorized kids tunefully suffer and bide their time, fated to wait decades for "revenge" which, let's face it, may never come.

    Bullies grow up to be bosses sometimes, and nerds aren't always management material, no matter how earnestly kids in PSAs sing to the contrary.

    Credits below.

    CREDITS
    Client: VH1
    Spot: "I Will Survive"
    Agency: Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi
    Executive Creative Directors: Maxi Itzkoff, Mariano Serkin
    Creative Directors: Juan Pablo Lufrano, Ariel Serkin /Dani Minaker, Sebastian Tarazaga
    Agency Producers: Andy Gulliman, Felipe Calviño, Adrian Aspani
    Account Director: Ana Bogni
    Production Company: Landia, Stink
    Director: Agustin Alberdi
    Executive Producers: Daniel Bergmann, Andy Fogwill, / Diego Robino
    Producer: Nell Jordan
    Director of Photography: Carlos Ritter
    Post house: Electric Theatre Collective
    Sound: Pure Sound


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    If you have an intense fear of drowning, this ad is not for you.

    Paris agency CLM BBDO created "Sortie En Mar," or "A Trip Out to Sea," a vivid, first-person simulation of a man being accidentally thrown off his sailboat in deep water—all as a life-jacket PSA for Guy Cotten, a marine clothing brand based in France.

    As the viewer, you'll be drawn in, tasked with continually scrolling your mouse or trackpad to keep the man's head above water. You will not make it very long. And if you do, it will not matter—this story ends only one way.

    It's very dark but incredibly compelling, and one of the more clever instances of marketers making users perform repetitive actions online—vaguely reminiscent of endurance-based advertising like Peugeot's digital knockoff of Hands on a Hard Body a few years back (only it's infinitely less dumb).

    As scare tactics go, it doesn't get much better than this. Perhaps it will even sell some high-end life jackets—or even some regular ones, too.

    The teaser video is below, but visit the interactive site for the real experience.



    CREDITS
    Client: Guy Cotten
    Agency: CLM BBDO


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    Fifteen seconds is short for an ad, never mind a film. But Heineken and Wieden + Kennedy New York premiered just such a movie at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night—based on a fan's tweet about an evil Abraham Lincoln clone.

    "They clone Abe Lincoln's DNA and name the clone president for life...except there's one problem: the clone is evil," Dennis Lazar, aka @awsommovieideas, wrote as his winning submission to the brewer's #15secondpremiere contest, which asked for fans' their wildest movie ideas. Those 115 characters (he had to leave room for the hashtag) were then crafted by a Hollywood film crew into 15 seconds of film—called Linclone.

    You can check out the mini-movie below. The credits take way longer than the film itself—luckily there are some outtakes to keep things interesting.



    Lazar was flown to New York and given the green carpet treatment by the Tribeca sponsor at the festival. Guests included Robert De Niro himself, who really should have played Lincoln if we're being honest.

    Credits and more below.

     
    The movie poster:

     
    Lazar and DeNiro:

     
    A deleted scene from the movie:

     
    An interview with the director:

     
    CREDITS

    Client: Heineken
    Project: #15SecondPremiere

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, New York
    Executive Creative Director: Susan Hoffman
    Creative Directors: Eric Steele, Erik Norin
    Copywriter: Mike Vitiello
    Art Director: Cory Everett
    Social Strategist: Jessica Abercrombie
    Brand Strategist: Kelly Lynn Wright
    Senior Interactive Strategist: Tom Gibby
    Community Manager: Rocio Urena
    Head of Content Production: Nick Setounski
    Producer: Owen Katz
    Print Producer: Kristen Althoff
    Broadcast Traffic Supervisor: Sonia Bisono
    Studio Designer: Chris Kelsch
    Account Team: Patrick Cahill, Samantha Wagner, Kristen Herrington
    Business Affairs: Lisa Quintela
    Project Manager: Rayna Lucier

    Production Company: Jefferson Projects
    Executive Producer: Chris Totushek
    Director: Eric Appel
    Director of Photography: Mathew Rudenberg

    Production Company: Whitehouse Post
    Editor: Alaster Jordan
    Assistant Editor: Matt Schaff
    Executive Producer: Lauren Hertzberg
    Producer: Alejandra Alarcon
    Original Music: The Ski Team

    Postproduction Company: Carbon VFX
    Lead Compositor: Matt Reilly
    Smoke Artist: Joe Scaglione
    AE Artist: Maxime Benjamin
    Executive Producer: Frank Devlin
    Colorist: Yohance Brown
    Surround Mix: Sound Lounge
    Engineer: Justin Kooy
    Executive Producer: Harrison Nalevansky

    Cast and Crew
    Abraham Linclone: Robert Broski
    Dr. Satterberg: Eric Satterberg
    Chief Justice: Paul Gregory
    1st Assistant Director: Scott Metcalfe
    2nd Assistant Director: Steve Bagnara
    Production Supervisor: Megan Sullivan
    DIT: Scott Resnick
    Gaffer: Cody Jacobs
    Key Grip: Kyle Honnig
    Best Boy Electric: Brandon Wilson
    Best Boy Grip: Ceaser Martinez
    Set Decorator: Mark Wolcott
    Prop Master: Eric Berg
    Sound: Bo Sundberg
    Boom Operator: Danny Carpenter
    VTR: Carlos Patzi
    Wardrobe Assistant: Beckee Craighead
    Make-up Stylist: Kat Bardot
    Make-up Assistant: Becca Weber
    Production Assistants: Atif Ekulona, Eric Browning, Ewa Pazera, Julio Cordero, Desire Brumfield
    Craft Services: Christina Gonzalez


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    The trend toward branded out-of-home machines that actively hate humans might have reached its apex with this stunt by PlayStation, which shocked commuters in Antwerp's Central Station by, uh, literally shocking them.

    To promote the PS4 game Infamous: Second Son, a mysterious booth was set up in the lobby. People were goaded to stick their fingers in two holes in the front. Those who did got an electric shock. If they could endure it for five seconds (like that one guy at the end, who is eerily nonchalant about it), they were rewarded with a free copy of the game—whose hero apparently has some kind of electricity superpower.

    I wonder if the creatives behind this ad were Mr. Show fans, because the execution here isn't unlike a G-rated version of The Joke: The Musical.


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    Ever wonder what your fart strategy should be when trying to hit on someone? Or the best way to fight if you've never been in one? Or how to drink in a bar without annoying the crap out of everyone there? Or perhaps you'd like to know how to survive if you ended up in jail. Or fly the friendly skies without looking and acting like a total asshole?

    If any of these situations have been giving you trouble (or even if you think they haven't), Gavin McInnes, creative director at Rooster, baby fighter and the dude who pretty much says whatever he's thinking, has your back—whether you like it or not.

    This series of short how-to-video-meets-PSA clips, presented by Vans, aim to equip you for anything life may throw at you. Sprinkled with some sincerely entertaining didactic mansplaining, a healthy bong hit of absurdity and a life coach who might blow a gasket any second, these insane nuggets of wisdom might actually help someone out there. 

    Not since Clarissa has anyone attempted to truly explain it all. 


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    It's been a good day for at least one clown on this Earth—Ronald McDonald, who received a fashionable makeover. But it's worth remembering that things aren't so great for all the nonfamous clowns out there.

    For example: The clown in the ad below could be doing better. It's actually not client work—it's a short film by Cargo Collective director Crobin for the nonexistent British jobs website Jobbuilder.co.uk. (The URL links through to the director's website.) It's a rich minute of gorgeous despair, though not recommended for coulrophobes.

    Via Reddit.


    CREDITS
    Director: Crobin
    Producers: Grayson Ross, Joe Labbadia, Pudding Boy Productions
    Writer, Editor, Production, Visual Effects: Crobin
    Director of Photography: Ed David
    Gaffer: Adam Uhl
    Makeup: Miriam Robstad
    Audio: David Perlick Molinari, YouTooCanWoo
    Actor: Thomas Grube
    Casting: Tom O'Hare


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    If you've been paying attention to Subaru's ads lately, you know that dogs love driving the brand's cars. But you probably don't know how far they'll go to do so.

    This new dash-cam spot from Russia (where dash-cams are reportedly very much worth having) offers a window into canine depravity. The video is hilarious, in the same charmingly dumb way as other recent Subaru spots, but gets bonus points for offering a somewhat less wholesome portrayal than the brand's average American dog family, the Barkleys (though they did have an unhealthy affinity for chugging gas-station toilet water).

    And while it won't get your heartrate up quite like Japanese tire brand Autoway's nighttime dash-cam spot from last year, it's got the distinct advantage of being way more adorable.

    Via Co.Create.


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    The ad campaign for the 2014 Cannes Lions festival amusingly celebrates creativity by spoofing the utter lack of it.

    In five ads produced by McCann London, well-known ad execs—from Amir Kassaei and Cindy Gallop to Benjamin Palmer and Ted Royer—pose for comically clichéd stock photos. "You'll come back as pumped as a stock photo model," says the headline on each execution.

    The ads are even styled like stock photos, with faux watermarks and keyword and credit info. The five executions were "shot in generic office spaces in New York and London with models dressed in bland office attire befitting the stock image style," says McCann.

    Max Oppenheim shot the images. "It was a challenge to find just the right visual language to pull off this series," he said. "I was very careful to select neutral locations, styling and wardrobe to capture the generic world of stock. And it helped massively that all the 'models' understood how great the idea was and threw themselves into their performances. They were pumped!"

    See all five ads below.


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    Nike's launch spot for its "Risk Everything" campaign around this summer's World Cup was somber and serious—with the darkness of Jonathan Glazer's direction in some ways running counter to Nike's traditionally lighter treatments of the world's great soccer players.

    Now, though, with part two released today, Nike gets its sense of humor back.

    The new four-minute film, titled "Winner Stays," from Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., and Rattling Stick director Ringan Ledwidge (in his first major ad job since making the Guardian's "Three Little Pigs"), is just vintage Nike.

    Created in the same spirit and style as "Write the Future" from 2010, "Winner Stays" follows much the same formula as that celebrated spot—i.e., stunning action shots expertly offset by comic relief, all woven into a mini-narrative whose momentum builds to a quietly explosive set piece (in both advertising and soccer parlance) at the finale.

    It features quite the cast of characters, too.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney get the top billing, but they're joined by Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gonzalo Higuaín, Eden Hazard, Andrea Pirlo, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Mario Götze, Thiago Silva, Thibaut Courtois and David Luiz (times two). And in a treat for American fans, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard gets a major cameo, as well.



    But the celebs extend well beyond the soccer world, with Kobe Bryant, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Irina Shayk and even the Incredible Hulk making memorable appearances. It all adds up to a freewheeling, joyful spot that manages the rare trick of making some of the world's most elite athletes seem both completely rarefied and yet eminently approachable.

    The differences between "Write the Future" and "Winner Stays" are notable, too. Whereas "Write the Future" was all glitz, glamour and high comedy, the new spot is more down to earth, right down to the central conceit introduced in the first few seconds—that these are actually just regular pickup-game players pretending to be their idols.

    In many ways, that fits Nike's ethos even better.

    "We connect to players' passion for the game, whether it is the world's best in Brazil or players in the park or street," said Davide Grasso, Nike's CMO. " 'Winner Stays' taps into an experience that every young player around the world will recognize—competition with friends and the idea of playing with your heroes, or pretending to be them."

    That kind of earthier World Cup, celebrating the everyman, is what Brazil 2014 promises. And this Nike spot sets the table just about perfectly.



    CREDITS
    Client: Nike
    Spot: "Winner Stays"

    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
    Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O'Rourke
    Interactive Director: Dan Viens
    Copywriter: Jeff Salomonsson
    Art Director: Sezay Altinok
    Agency Producer: Endy Hedman
    Production Assistant: Julie Gursha
    Agency Executive Producer: Matt Hunnicutt
    Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz
    Account Team: Karrelle Dixon, Alyssa Ramsey, Ricardo Hieber
    Business Affairs: Laura Caldwell
    Executive Creative Directors: Mark Fitzloff, Susan Hoffman, Joe Staples

    Production Company: Rattling Stick
    Director: Ringan Ledwidge
    Executive Producer: Jen Barrons
    Head of production: Joe Biggins
    Line Producer: Sally Humphries
    Director of Photography: Ben Seresin

    Editorial Company: Work
    Editor: Rich Orrick
    Post Producer: Sari Resnick
    Assistant Editor: Eleanor McNaughtan

    VFX Company: The Mill
    Senior Executive Producer: Sue Troyan
    Executive Producer: Gemma Humprhies
    Executive Color Producer: LaRue Anderson
    Producer: Christina Thompson 
    Color Producer: Natalie Westerfield
    Project Lead/Creative Director: Tom Bussell
    Production Coordinator: Benjamin Sposato and Clare Melia
    Shoot Supervisor: Tom Bussell, Austen Humphries and Andrew Wood
    Lead Senior 2D Artist: John Shirley
    Colonel Muster/CD: Andrew Wood
    Colorist: Adam Scott
    Design: Kyle Moore and Greg Park
    2D Artists: Grant Connor, Peter Hodsman, Siro Valente, Jonathan Westley, Zoe Cassey, Frank Hanna, Gary Driver, Joseph Tang, Tim Davies, Adam Labert, Brad Scott, Olivia O'Neil, Patrick Heinen, Patrick Munoz, Eleanor Risdon, Ben Smith, Daniel Thursesson, Jake Maymudes, Martin Karlsson, Cameron Smither, Gianluca Di Marco, Andy Godwin, Zoe Cassey-Hayes, Paul Downes, Georgina Ford, Scott Wilson  
    3D Artists: Tom Raynor, Adam Droy, Adam Darrah, Phillip Maddock, Edward Hicks, Paul Donnellan, Charlotte Akehurst, Arthur Larsen, Sergio Xisto, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Graham, Mathew Fuller, Anthony Northman, Jake Flint, Hartwell Durfor, Danny Yoon, Michael O'Donoghue, Marta Carbonell, Fabrice Le Nezet, Margaux Huneau, Vasilis Pazionis, Lucy Luong, Jake Flint, Anthony Northman, Andy Wheater

    Hulk VFX Company: Luma Pictures
    Executive Supervisor: Payam Shohadai
    VFX Supervisor: Vince Cirelli
    Senior VFX Producer: Steven Swanson
    Commercial Executive Producer: Vicki Mayer
    VFX Producer: Michael Perdew
    Animation Supervisor: Raphael Pimentel
    CG Supervisor: Richard Sutherland
    CG Supervisor: Pavel Pranevsky
    Digital FX Supervisor: Justin Johnson
    Design Supervisor: Loic Zimmerman
    Look Development Lead: Jared Simeth
    Character TD Supervisor: Thana Siripopungul
    Senior FX TD: John Cassella
    Lead Digital Coordinator: Catherine Hughes
    Technical Coordinator: Daniel Kepler
    Model, Texture: Dulshan Keragala / Cosmin Hrincu/ Safari Sosebee, Oded Raz
    Animator: Alon Helman, Marcos Romero
    Lighter, Compositor: Satoshi Harada, James Waterson, Alex Cancado, Joey Sila, Joe Censoplano
    Roto, Paint Supervisor: Glenn Morris
    Lead Roto, Paint: Jessica Bakke
    Roto, Paint: Cameron Sorgi, Marcel Caue Martins, Prin Nimmannitya, Garrett Wycoff

    Sound Company: Formosa Group
    Sound Designer: Julian Slater
    Sound Producer: Branwen Prestwood Smith
    Song (if applicable): "Miss Alissa" Eagles of Death Metal

    Mix Company: Lime Studios
    Mixer: Rohan Young, Loren Silber
    Producer: Susie Boyajan


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    By raising tax domicile issues related to its megamerger with Publicis Groupe, Omnicom Group has drawn a line in the sand. And in doing so, the American company has only fanned speculation of mounting marriage troubles, with CEO John Wren stressing to investors that there is no “Plan B” should the combined company fail to establish U.K. tax residency and incorporation in the Netherlands.

    Wren’s statements to industry analysts last week represented the latest volley between him and Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy, who have been caught up in a game of verbal ping-pong. The remarks put pressure on Lévy in stalled management structure negotiations, sources said, even as Omnicom’s chief sets up investor expectations for a possible dissolution of the deal, which could carry a $500 million termination fee.

    “Omnicom looks like it is trying to create a condition to get out of the merger. It’s almost like they’re looking for ideas to create plausible doubt,” said Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

    If Wren views the tax domicile designation as a deal breaker, Lévy as recently as April 17—in a conference call with industry analysts—focused only on French tax authorities, calling the situation a “normal process.” (In a press release last week, Publicis rushed out a statement acknowledging the more complicated tax issues.)

    The backdrop to the tax issue, however, may be more telling. Sources said that Wren and Lévy have been butting heads since late last year over merger decisions. Also, integration meetings have been less frequent recently while holding company execs focus on the tax and Chinese regulatory hurdles.

    One indication of the management stalemate is the companies’ inability, after nine months, to file a required S-4 SEC document, identifying company officers and corporate organization. Typically those filings are made within a few months of a merger announcement.

    In public, Publicis is quick to refer to the deal as a “merger of equals.” And while the structure of Publicis Omnicom Group is 50/50, ultimately Wren becomes CEO. Nevertheless, Lévy, bristling at perceived lame-duck status, is already suggesting he may stay on for an additional two years, according to sources. New York-based Omnicom CFO Randy Weisenburger, meanwhile, has been widely favored to be named CFO. To some, it feels like déjà vu. When Publicis’ joint venture with what was then True North’s FCB in the 1990s collapsed, blame was laid on a power struggle for control between Lévy and his American counterparts.

    Not withstanding the tax and regulatory hurdles, the companies may have another opening for walking away. Publicis, in its 2013 annual report, which came out two weeks ago, said that among the reasons either company could terminate the deal is if it isn’t possible to complete it before July 27, 2014. Publicis, in the same report, indicated that the deadline can be extended to Jan. 27, 2015, although it didn’t specify if that had happened. Publicis didn’t respond to inquiries, and Omnicom declined to comment.

    For now, the merger delay has put on hold Omnicom’s stock buyback program, which the company is eager to resume, and reportedly is slowing the highly acquisitive Publicis’ deal making.

    The current chilly public posturing between the two companies contrasts starkly with the chummy unveiling last summer of their plan to create the world’s largest marketing communications company, at $23 billion in revenue. Observers also noted how unusual it was for Omnicom general counsel Mike O’Brien to be on the call where Wren raised the tax hurdle. One source echoed a growing sentiment around tax residency: “It’s feeling a little bit like a beard.” The source added, “I think they’re just laying pipe in case they have to blow it up.”


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    Leica brings its obsessive German craftsmanship into focus with this tongue-in-cheek video that shows one of its technicians hand-polishing a block of aluminum used as the base of its new T System camera—for 45 minutes.

    Polish. Polish. Polish. Look at those gloved hands go. A voiceover tells us that it takes "4,700 individual strokes to finish each body." Sounds kinky. It isn't.

    Obviously, the video—which is actually somewhat compelling visually in its repetitive way, and certainly provides a stultifyingly tedious glimpse into the brand's commitment to quality—isn't really meant to be watched in its entirety. After a couple of minutes, we're mercifully invited to skip ahead to the end, which, of course, I did.

    So, for all I know, the Subservient Chicken shows up at the half-hour mark and plucks himself to death. Really, I have no idea.

    A voiceover asks, "Is this the most boring film ever made?"

    Well, it's more exciting than Leica's short-form T System testimonials starring the company's supervisory board chairman, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann. He juggles the camera, speaks to his shoes, and at one point shuffles some papers as he reads a quote by Steve Jobs. Nothing engaging develops.

    Via Co.Create.


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    The only thing Subservient Chicken got on his 5th birthday in 2009 was a blog post about how the agencies involved in his creation bickered over who really deserved credit. For his 10th birthday, though, the chicken flies again.

    Except, actually, he's been grounded. The initial idea behind the new campaign—which promotes the Chicken Big King sandwich—is that the chicken has gone missing. BK placed half-page ads in a handful of Sunday newspapers asking if people had seen him. The photo above was posted to Twitter.

    The subservientchicken.com website is live again, too, but brings up a 2004-style error message, which you can see below, and also includes some crudely Photoshopped surveillance images showing the chicken's most recent whereabouts. A short movie about the fleeting fame of Internet celebrities is expected to hit the site on Wednesday morning, followed by more creative executions.

    It's not too surprising that BK is going back to the well on this one—many fast-food joints tend to revisit their big successes at some point or other. And Subservient Chicken was the go-to example of innovate digital advertising for years. Also, it's been so long since his heyday that lots of younger people simply have never heard of the chicken. As one fan wrote on Twitter of the missing-person teaser: "You guys buy Chick-fil-a?"


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    As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, BBDO New York has unveiled an interesting, ambitious project in which it got three clients—Band-Aid, Campbell's Soup and AT&T—to produce 15-second product ads that subtly combine into one PSA about the importance of early diagnosis.

    The series, which aired Monday morning during CNN's New Day, opens with a 15-second spot for Autism Speaks—showing a family with their son at the doctor and then at home. "Learn the early signs of autism today. Because an early diagnosis can make a lifetime of difference," says a voiceover.

    That's followed by what appear to be 15-second product spots for Band-Aid, Campbell's and AT&T. We see the same family from the Autism Speaks spot engaged in different domestic scenarios as the years go by. (The parents are played by the same people, while the boy is portrayed by different actors.) The ads, and the family, seem to be completely normal—and that's the whole point. Early diagnosis can lead to a normal family life, much like the kind seen in ordinary commercials for big brands.

    "You just saw how early diagnosis can make a lifetime of difference," says the onscreen copy after the four spots air.

    Further reinforcing the point is the casting. The boy in the AT&T spot is Reece Bowen, a first-time actor who has autism. And the father in all four spots is Reece's real dad. (There's a short interview with both of them at the end of the YouTube version of the series.)

    The campaign points to autismspeaks.org/signs.

    It's a high-concept idea, and there's also a high degree of difficulty in the execution. You have four different scenes in four different time periods for four different brands—yet all of them are meant to effortlessly function as one in embodying (rather than relating) a noncommercial message the viewer isn't expecting.

    That's a lot of moving parts, and a lot to ask of the viewer, which may be why the finished piece in some ways feels more conceptual than natural.

    Still, kudos to BBDO and its clients for the innovative creative and media play.

    "With April being Autism Awareness month, we were looking for a way to dramatically tell this story," says Greg Hahn, chief creative officer at BBDO New York. "We found it through a partnership with our brilliant clients who eagerly embraced the convention-breaking, innovative spirit of the idea. The result is an ad that's like the Super Friends of public education messages."

    Superheroic or not, it is always nice to see brands—and now, even their product spots—coming together for a higher purpose.


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    It's a bit surprising that no one's done this until now, but here it is—a parody of the megaviral "Dumb Ways to Die" train-safey video showing various ways in which creative ideas die ignoble deaths in the ad business.

    Some of the joke writing feels a little off, or perhaps just lost in translation—the video was made by Young & Rubicam Brazil for Miami Ad School/ESPM in São Paulo.

    Still, it's decently produced and comically relatable—every ad creative has a story about a dumb way in which his/her flash of brilliance was ruthlessly extinguished.


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    Rats and mice are not endangered species in New York City. (There are thought to be at least as many rats as people in the Big Apple, and there could be five times as many.) But d-CON, the rodent control company, is taking its small victories against our furry friends and publicly celebrating them in an amusing new campaign from Havas Worldwide.

    As one part of the integrated campaign, the agency put missing posters for rodents all over the city, at mice level (though presumably not in the subway, where they'd be more likely to be proven wrong in an instant). Havas also created the darkly comic videos below, in which mice families deal with the horror of having ingested d-CON products.

    Because if there's one advertising category where depictions of painful death are acceptable, even enjoyed, it's pest control.

    CREDITS
    Client: d-CON
    Agency: Havas Worldwide, New York
    Darren Moran: Chief Creative Officer               
    Dustin Duke: Group Creative Director                               
    Jon Wagner: Group Creative Director                               
    Eric Rojas: Creative Director               
    Eric Bertuccio: Writer
    Vin Farrell: Global Chief Content Officer
    Sylvain Tron: Co-Head of Production, North America
    Deepa Joshi: Executive Producer
    Erin Jackson: Producer
    Tim Maleeny: Chief Strategy Officer
    Kerin Morrison: Group Planning Director                       
    Chris Lake: Senior Strategist
    Betsy Simons: Global Brand Director
    Joe Maglio: Group Account Director
    Darah Rifkin: Account Supervisor
    Production Company: Bar 1
    Joe Barone: Director                               
    Tim Leitner: Mixer                               
    Dawn Mjoen: Casting Director                       
    Radek Hanak, Unit+Sofa: Production Designer                               
    David Bartin, Studio 6: Editor


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    A woman's love for her boyfriend is compared to her love for resort amenities while vacationing without him in Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam's latest ad for Booking.com.

    The man doesn't fare so well in the comparison, though to be fair, neither does the woman. She is "Brianless" because Brian apparently doesn't enjoy seafood, the ocean or horseback riding. (How could someone be such a curmudgeon?) And she sure takes advantage of his absence, letting loose with cartoony antics that echo other spots from the high-energy campaign. (Is it just a coincidence that "Brianless" is an anagram of "brainless?")

    While the spot is mostly harmless, the kernel of the idea—that a woman could possibly (gasp) enjoy a vacation without her boyfriend—falls solidly in the patronizing camp.


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