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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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  • 10/15/12--09:21: Ad of the Day: Toyota
  • Cats hate being packed up in crates and dragged to the vet. But maybe they'll relent—hell, maybe they'll start to enjoy it—if you drive them there in a Toyota Corolla.

    That's the premise of this amusing new 90-second spot from Toyota New Zealand (via Saatchi & Saatchi in Auckland) starring an exceedingly furry feline who enjoys his time in the Corolla so much that he begins to orchestrate accidents that force ever more visits to the animal hospital. The first injury, a broken leg, may be unanticipated. But once exposed to the luxurious interior of the 2013 Corolla, the cat is hooked—purring ferociously and already planning his next trip. He subsequently negotiates run-ins with a lawnmower, a cement mixer, a neighbor's Great Dane and several other potentially lethal adversaries. Eventually, he appears to take things too far—allowing himself to be swallowed whole by a street sweeper. (Sooner or later, every junkie hits rock bottom.) But even this proves not to be the end of our hero, who evidently has been graced with more than the usual nine lives.

    Save for a few beauty shots, and a cursory pan of the interior, the spot says almost nothing about the product—insert any other car, and you've got an identical commercial. Even the tagline, "Feels good inside," is exceedingly vague. Still, with its purely viral backbone—cats and slapstick violence can't lose—this kind of storytelling will get plenty of exposure for the brand, while also lending it a playful air.

    But kitties—don't try this at home.

    Client: Toyota New Zealand
    General Manager of Marketing: Neeraj Lala
    Marketing Manager: Andrew Davis
    New Vehicles Marketing Team Leader: Michael Shepherd

    Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Auckland, New Zealand
    Executive Creative Director: Antonio Navas
    Creative Directors: Corey Chalmers, Guy Roberts
    Co-creatives: Sarah Litwin-Schmid, Emily Drake
    Head of Content: Jane Oak
    Head of Planning: Murray Streets
    Group Account Director: Mark Cochrane
    Art Director: Emma Guadagni
    Media Director: Sally Falconer

    Production Company: GoodOil
    Director: Hamish Rothwell
    Producer: Sam Long
    Director of Photography: Crichton Bone
    Editor: Peter Sciberras
    Online: Nigel Mortimer, Blockhead
    Audio Post: Liquid Studios
    Music Composition: Elliott Wheeler
    Music Production: Turning Studios
    Audio Postproduction: Liquid
    Sound Engineer: Craig Matuschka
    Animal Trainer: Caroline Girdlestone

    Media Agency: Starcom
    Public Relations Agency: Wright Communications
    Digital Agency: Aim Proximity

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    Brad Pitt can always get hearts a-racing and tongues a-wagging, which is gold for any marketer he aligns with. In the case of his $7 million endorsement of iconic French perfume Chanel No. 5, Pitt's deal was all the rage before he showed his face in a single print ad. Several recently released video teasers used his voice, but gave only a side-view of his world-renowned hunkiness. Now here's the full commercial, shot in black and white by filmmaker Joe Wright. The reaction is all over the board in the more than 600 comments (and counting) on YouTube. Critiques range from "hilarious," "pretentious" and "affected" to "completely beautiful" and "OMG can everybody just STFU and enjoy Brad Pitt! Ugh he's perfection." Many of us fall into the latter camp, even if the ad is an awkward head-scratcher. What in the world does it mean? (We can only assume the SNL parody is in the works). As for the brand's choice—Pitt is the first man to ever hawk Coco Chanel's signature fragrance—c'est parfait!

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  • 10/16/12--05:37: The Spot: Kayak's Crooner
  • IDEA: Who can resist the dulcet tones of a lecherous old crooner? Hotel staff can't. Or at least, they couldn't a generation ago, when the old windbag was in his prime. Charm, and baritone pipes, would get him a fancy suite, and the girl as well. But now, in a pair of Kayak.com ads from Barton F. Graf 9000, we find the crooner bemoaning his fate—in plaintive song. He used to seduce his way to a corner room with extra towels. These days, he needs Kayak just to get in the front door. While continuing to position the travel-search site as a simple, effective tool in a world of comically inefficient alternatives, the agency is shifting the focus from flights to hotels. So, the campaign is getting gussied up a bit. The crooner—the latest in a string of oddball characters—is the first to get two spots to himself, a :30 and a :60. And they've paired the ads in a fun way on cable in recent weeks. So, maybe things aren't so grim for the old dirtbag after all.

    COPYWRITING: The crooner, loosely based on guys like Steve Lawrence and Robert Goulet, came out of the existing creative strategy. Previous spots suggested there's no good reason not to use Kayak—only bad reasons. Likewise, there are no good reasons not to find hotels through Kayak—only old or dumb reasons. The crooner's song was written on the fly. "We were at lunch during the shoot," said chief creative officer Gerry Graf. "We all huddled together, quickly wrote out the whole song, had him rehearse it once going straight to camera, and after lunch we picked it up in a couple of takes."

    The script was straightforward. "We messed around a little bit, but found our way there pretty quickly," said executive creative director Eric Kallman. At the end, the crooner says in voiceover: "You could save 25 percent or more on the same hotel. Kayak. Search one and done." A digital version of an old split-flap departure-board display echoes the message.

    ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Director Harold Einstein looked for a hotel to shoot in, but couldn't find the right location. So, he built the entire set in the lobby of an apartment building in Pasadena, Calif. "Coming off the bar, seeing the crooner, seeing the lush bar he's in, and going into a hotel lobby—we were looking for a very specific shot, and we just weren't finding it," said Graf. "Then we found this place, and we could get that shot just by building around it." Earlier spots, focusing on flights, were shot on 16-millimeter film in nondescript offices and homes. This one had to look more impressive. It was shot digitally "to bring a crisp, clear quality to it," said Kallman. "The picture is much more lush, and the colors are more saturated," added Graf.

    TALENT: Einstein cast in four or five cities, eventually finding an actor named Andy Stahl in Nashville, Tenn. "We were casting for someone with a fantastic voice who could act, and we found him," said Graf. "Working with us, Harold built the look. He's wigged and mustached. He doesn't look anything like he does on camera." Added Kallman: "I went with Harold through all kinds of old pictures of crooners from the '50s, '60s and '70s. I think we took three or four hours at least just wardrobing the character—not just the suit but the rings, the watch, the chain under his scarf. We went to town with the details."

    SOUND: The sound is mostly ambient hotel-bar piano, delivered with a bit more conviction when the crooner sings the full song in the :60.

    MEDIA: The :30 broke in September, the :60 in October. The two spots have bookended commercials pods—beginning with :30, ending with the :60—on shows like TBS's Conan and Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

    Client: Kayak
    Agency: Barton F. Graf 9000, New York
Production Company: Station Film
    Director: Harold Einstein
    Exec Producer: Eric Liney
    Editorial: Mackenzie Cutler
    Editor: Gavin Cutler
    Asst. Editor: Ryan Steele
    Exec Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld
    Finishing: Schmigital
    Audio: Sound Lounge
    Audio Engineer: Tom Jucarone
    Color: CO3
    Colorist: Tim Massick

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    Real men build rocket ships with their bare hands. Real men wear Glenn Beck jeans. They're American jeans, partly because they were made in America but mostly because Glenn Beck says so. They're called 1791, like Beck's other fashion items, probably because that was one of the few years when real men like the Founding Fathers actually made anything in this country, or something. "These were the first American blue jeans," says the voiceover in the ad below, even though they were just announced on Monday, and we're pretty sure other jeans have been made in America before. These are "the jeans that built America," the voice adds, even though America has been around for a while, and jeans can't build anything, because they don't have thumbs. Beck was inspired to make his own jeans after Levi's released an ill-timed ad last year featuring riot imagery, prompting Beck to boycott the brand after realizing its jeans were made not-in-America and marketed to sissy communist revolutionaries in not-in-America. Now, you can buy Beck's jeans for only $129.99 a pair, because that's a much more patriotically reasonable price than the $400 price tag Beck made up for a pair of Levi's. That's a relief for real men who want to take that extra $270 and buy scrap metal for their DIY rocket ships. We'd say Alex Bogusky's made-in-America-centric ad agency, Made Movement, should pitch Beck's business, but we're pretty sure nothing could top this ad's ability to turn a patriotic political statement into a profit. Via Romenesko.

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  • 10/16/12--09:03: Ad of the Day: PayPal
  • Buying stuff on the Internet is easy and safe with PayPal, says Jeff Goldblum.

    The actor-comedian stars in four entertaining new online spots from ad agency Publicis & Hal Riney as part of the Web checkout service's first national campaign, touting Paypal's convenience and security. The ads are simple, featuring Goldblum speaking straight to the camera, emphasizing his points with a frenetic cadence and energetic hand gestures. That twitchy delivery plays up the tongue-in-cheek neurotic humor that aims to be the campaign's linchpin. "I'm paranoid, just kidding, but really, I'm kinda paranoid," it says, in so many words—as Goldblum communicated faux wonder at the fundamentally mundane fact that it's possible to make purchases online without intrinsically exposing oneself to dangerous financial predators.

    That may seem off the mark to younger people who take the safety of online transactions in general—and PayPal, a familiar brand, in particular—for granted. But the ads are clearly aimed at consumers of a certain age who are wary of the entire notion of parting with their info online—and more generally, of breaking familiar habits. The scripts, and Goldblum's performance, make a pretty big deal out of pretty small things, like getting flustered over needing to take a credit card out of a wallet—an act that's not really that annoying, especially when trying to use a credit card to buy something. In other words, Goldblum is speaking to the caricature of a mom who's the basis for all jokes about moms not having any idea what's going on with their computers.

    Overall, it's something of a reprise for Goldblum, who once upon a time did more or less exactly the same thing as a spokesman for Apple's iMac. A decade or so later, it seems like an appropriate strategy for PayPal—the company is re-articulating its core business to reach late adopters while it also expands to compete in the mobile-payments space (a fact Goldblum alludes to only in passing, but the brand can emphasize elsewhere).

    It's disappointing though, that they didn't raid more from Apple. "It's as easy as, uh, you know, licking a stamp" would have been a good line to steal, if anyone still used stamps. Maybe "It's as easy as, uh, you know, taking out a credit card" would have done the trick.

    Client: PayPal
    Agency: Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco
    Chief Creative Officer: Kevin Roddy
    Creative Directors: Mark Sweeney, Erin Alvo
    Copywriter: Mark Sweeney
    Art Director: Erin Alvo
    Producer: Debbie Chin

    Website Creative:
    Creative Director: Paige Grossman
    Copywriter: Alex Atkinson
    User Experience: James Herrera
    Producer: Dora Lee

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    While suitably impressive as a whole, the most stirring element of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's immensely detailed and immersive "Clouds Over Cuba" interactive presentation is the slice of "alternate history" that shows what might have happened if the Cuban Missile Crisis hadn't been peacefully resolved 50 years ago this month.
         The material created by The Martin Agency and Tool of North America goes into great depth about the construction of Russian missile bases in Cuba and the tense October 1962 standoff between Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that brought the superpowers perilously close to nuclear conflict. (The approach is similar to a the library's effort three years ago to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing, but this work is possibly more comprehensive, and given the subject matter, a lot more harrowing.) The centerpiece is a documentary narrated by Matthew Modine, which is supported by an array of audio, video, memoranda and assorted other data designed to provide an in-depth, panoramic understanding of global events that drove the conflict and the motivations and thought processes of the players involved.     The sheer volume of information to sift through provides an extra level of insight into the complexity of events that unfolded as both sides struggled to make decisions they knew might change the course of human history forever. Users can get a taste for that incredibly charged atmosphere—pressure mounting at the White House and Kremlin as nerves got increasingly frayed—in real time (more or less) by choosing to follow the 13 most important days of the crisis "live" on their 50th anniversary dates.

         At first, I viewed the "alternate history" piece—a 10-minute film detailing what might have happened had World War III not been averted—as a quirky gimmick. But ultimately it's the emotional core of the entire campaign and its inclusion is nothing short of inspired. The narrative is sober, solemn and understated, without overblown Hollywood special effects. (There are no fiery scenes of mass destruction or garish makeup for the small cast.) This exercise in restraint makes it all the more powerful and chilling. In the alternate timeline, civilization hasn't exactly been destroyed—the overall impact of the war is left to the viewer's imagination—though nuclear strikes by the U.S. and Russia have left portions of both nations in ruins. (For me, the highlight is the rotting hulk of a beached warship, its rusted guns pointing harmlessly at the sky.) The story is told in a series of documentary-style interviews with characters including a middle-aged guy who was a kid when nukes rained down on New Orleans—"Everybody we knew was gone," he says, surveying the rubble of his childhood home—and the Russian pilot who dropped the bombs and who relates, simply, "I felt very sorry about this," with haunting believability. Kennedy's decision to launch rockets is relived by an ICBM analyst who was forever scarred by the events he witnessed in the presidential bunker.
         The "What If?" scenario brings the gravity of the crisis into sharp focus and helps define the at-times overwhelming collection of facts and figures in starkly human terms. It reminds us to learn the lessons of history well, because sometimes the alternatives are almost too terrible to contemplate.

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    Samuel Beckett meets Salvador Dali in this crazy new Drambuie ad from London ad agency Sell! Sell! and HSI director Chino Moya. We've seen some wacky liquor commercials in the past few weeks—notably the ones for Baileys and Smirnoff—but this new ad takes the cake, featuring all sorts of odd characters in a surreal and foreboding landscape. The message seems to be that Drambuie is the favored booze of those trapped in an existential hell from which there is no escape. (That may encompass a decent segment of the drinking population, actually.) The cinema spot is premiering in Canada first before heading to Scotland and then England.

    The spot builds on some lovely print work, themed "A Taste of the Extraordinary," from late last year. Check out two of those ads below. "The idea behind 'A Taste of the Extraordinary' is to bring to life the thing that makes Drambuie unique—its taste," the agency said in a blog post. "It's still made to a secret recipe, taking a selection of malt whiskies from Speyside and the Highlands and blending them with spices, heather honey and herbs. But obviously with this being the world of premium alcoholic drinks, it's about much more than pure tangible product points—imbuing it with a sense of mystery and desirability is vital to get people to even consider it. … There are so many pragmatic and logical campaigns out there these days, so we wanted to make 'A Taste of the Extraordinary' a little more esoteric, explain a little less and intrigue a little more. Inspired by the vast history of surreal art, photography and film, we set out to create images that reflect Drambuie's taste."

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    What is the Microsoft Surface? It is everything, Internet. It is old people kissing and crazy guys backflipping in slow motion and schoolgirls krumping and some guy wearing body armor—or that's what it looks like when you hold a bunch of iPads in front of him. Wait, those aren't iPads. What are those things?

    In all seriousness, director Jon Chu—who claimed credit for the spot on Twitter, even though Microsoft is trying to keep its collaborators on this secret (though it did say Crispin Porter + Bogusky wasn't involved)—actually does a pretty good job of distinguishing his client from the looming competition. The iPad, after all, is on the verge of becoming one of those brands, like Rollerblade or Coke, that casual users invoke whenever referring to a whole set of products. (When was the last time you heard someone talk about "in-line skates"? Actually, it was probably the late 1990s, when Rollerblades were popular, so never mind.) Microsoft's tablet is due out at the end of the month at exactly the same price points as the newest iPad; much has been made of the new machine's display quality and its operating system, but it still looks, more or less, like its competitor.

    All the dancing and flipping and krumping manages to communicate pretty effectively that this, consumer, is not an iPad. It does more things, physically, than an iPad, many of which click alluringly. Does your iPad click, consumer? It does not? Then why do you have it? You deserve a tablet computer that causes your picnic table full of ethnically ideal, well-toned young people to walk their fingers across its screen in synchronized ecstasy while a benchful of stolid businessmen join their screens to their keyboards in perfect sonic union. Do you see those people lying in front of the robot, consumer? They are prostrate before him in worship. You could be, too, if only your tablet PC could literally be used as a percussion instrument. Hold your iPad to your chest and spin on your head, consumer. Can you do it, like the kid in the ad?

    No. You cannot. it is not a Microsoft Surface. But it could be.

    Client: Microsoft
    Director: Jon Chu

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    Harry and Charlie, the kids from 2007's superviral "Charlie Bit Me" YouTube video—which is closing in on half a billion views—make a humorous return in this new Ragú spot, where they recall the pain and degradation of the incident and its aftermath. It fits perfectly into Barton F. Graf 9000's ongoing "A Long Day of Childhood" campaign for the brand. The lyrics of the jingle for this new spot are particularly inspired: "Charlie bit my finger like a rabid opossum, but Dad kept on filming because he thought it was awesome." Good to see the parents still making a killing off these kids!

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    For all the wonders that 21st century technology has brought to the world of packaged foods—for people and pets alike—there’s one nut that’s proven perennially tough to crack: Appraising the taste of cat food. Just like any good brand, cat-food manufacturers sink no shortage of time and effort into R&D. (Hill’s palatability-testing facility boasts some 170 nutritionists and technicians, plus 450 cats in residence.) But for all the white-coated laboratory protocols, how is anyone really supposed to know if that glop in the bowl tastes any good? Cats are finicky eaters with highly individual preferences—and it’s not like any of them can fill out a survey sheet.

    As it turns out, the unnerving question that arises at feeding time (“Does my cat really dig the taste of this stuff?”) also appears to be the driving force behind a marketing tack that’s barely changed since commercial cat foods made their debut shortly after World War II. The reasoning goes something like this: Since you’ll never know if your cat’s taste buds are tickled over that kibble or not, you’ll just have to take the brand’s word on it.

    Historically, cat-food companies have suffered few reservations asserting their authority in this regard. A 1963 ad for Friskies proclaims its chicken flavor “delicious,” and guaranteed consumers that if they served the stuff to kitty, “she’ll love you for it.” A 1975 ad for Purina’s Tender Vittles proclaimed that the “new tastier tasting” flavors would actually make your cat “go cuckoo” with culinary bliss. And in the 1968 ad on this page, buyers were assured that, whether they chose the Dairy Dinner or the Gravy Dinner, all it took was a little water to create “the sauciness cats crave.” As David Lummis, senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts observed, the ad’s entire selling proposition “is a fairly obvious attempt on the part of the advertiser to apply the human consumer’s sensibilities to pet food on the basis of what a human would enjoy.” Then again, what choice was there—asking the cat to voice its own views?

    Well, actually, yeah. And this is why the 2012 ad for Iams cat food, opposite, represents such a radical break from the feline marketing norm: Finally, we’ve got a cat telling us what it wants to eat. Well, at least in a figurative sense.

    “The cat is asserting itself,” Lummis noted. “He’s roaring like a tiger: ‘You’d better give me what I want. I’m no fool.’ ” The Iams ad falls in line with what Lummis terms the “pet humanization trend”—the belief that pets are no longer living possessions, but full-fledged members of the family. And indeed, the autonomy of this orange tabby goes well beyond reminding we idiot humans that all cats are meat eaters. “There’s the outdoor setting,” Lummis said, “which suggests a certain level of freedom” for the cat—who’s not just showing off a fine set of fangs, but raising his right paw just for effect.

    Of course, the reality of it is that our furry little friend emerging from the weeds in the 2012 ad is no more capable of telling us he prefers Iams than his forebear crouching on a kitchen floor in the 1960s was able to “crave” Purina. But the shift in endorsement, however feigned, demonstrates a colorful break with decades of tired marketing.

    Too bad we still don’t know if that glop in the bowl tastes any good.

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  • 10/18/12--03:31: Portrait: The Hive

  • Specs
    Who Anne Smith Rainey (l.), director of client services, and DeeAnn Budney, founder, CEO, creative director
    What Marketing and communications agency
    Where San Francisco offices

    Looking to avoid bumping up against the glass ceiling at larger ad agencies, DeeAnn Budney started The Hive nine years ago. She was joined last year by Anne Smith Rainey, who had been director of client services at Euro RSCG in San Francisco. Befitting the agency’s Bay Area roots, The Hive has handled a lot of “feel-good” accounts in categories like natural foods, environmental concerns, the Internet and apparel. That portfolio of marketers ranges from Whole Foods Market, UCSF Medical Center and reduced-calorie Skinny Vine wine to a landfill reduction effort, Zero Waste Marin. 

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  • 10/18/12--09:52: Ad of the Day: Spike TV
  • Ah, conjoined-twins humor. Does it ever get old?

    You be the judge, as Spike TV gives you a full two-and-a-half minutes of it in the mockumentary below, produced by Hungry Man and directed by Dave Laden for the cable network.

    If we've learned anything from the Skittles campaign, it's that young men are obsessed with ravaged anatomies—any poorly functioning body part will do. Targeting the same demo, Spike surely saw lots of promise in the idea of twin brothers joined at the chest. Locked forever in an absurd bro hug, Dan and Ethan Duffy, described by the network as a modern-day Goofus and Gallant, couldn't be more different. Dan's a carpe diem kind of guy, meatheady but full of life. Ethan's an angry, morose, chain-smoking loser. The superstar and the slacker. Guess which one watches more Spike TV.

    All the sight gags are in here, as nothing is easy for these two—whether they're exercising, brushing their teeth, making out with a girl (that would be Dan, with Ethan trying to cop a feel), or cruising down a Slip 'n Slide. It's pretty basic stuff—really quite spectacularly stupid at times—but hard not to chuckle here and there.

    "The idea came from us wanting to show the contrast between someone that was exposed to Spike TV and someone that wasn't—so conjoined twins that were facing separate directions made perfect sense," says Hungry Man writer Justin Warias. "I prepped for the job by watching some documentaries on actual conjoined twins and seeing how they interact and move with each other. There's an unlimited amount of comedy that can come from being stuck to someone, so once we applied that idea to the new lineup of Spike TV shows, the scenarios came pretty easily."

    The spot gets a bit too complicated for its own good toward the end, when Dan for some reason starts a tattooing/tax-preparation business. And the writing could be better—the visual comedy carries things well enough, but the guys should have a few more good one-liners. But still, you know, conjoined twins! The kids are going to love this.

    A :30 and a :60, also posted below, will air in rotation. 

    Client: Spike TV
    Producer, Writer: Lukas Kaiser
    Producer: Ira Rosensweig
    Vice President, Creative Director: Terry Minogue
    Production Manager: Bill Trojanowski

    Production Company: Hungry Man
    Director: Dave Laden
    Managing Partner: Kevin Byrne, New York
    Line Producer: Jason Gilbert
    Director of Photography: Matthew Woolf
    Writers: Justin Warias, Frances Galvon

    Editing: Neal Usatin (mockumentary)
    Editing: The Cutting Room (:30 and :60)

    Audio: SuperExploder
    Sound Design/Mix: Jody Nazzaro

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    Bolthouse Farms once made its Baby Carrots seem sexy, extreme and futuristic. Now, it's shaking things up—with a new spot for Baby Carrot ShakeDowns that gets even more suggestive, as it recommends shaking your veggies in public for all to see. Baby Carrot ShakeDowns, a new product, are just a bag of carrots with seasonings you have to shake into the bag. The ad agency, goodness Mfg., makes the most of this by showing a horrified peeping neighbor who can't believe all the shaking going on at the pool party next door. It's like they have veggie Shake Weights. "Shaking is natural," the tagline adds at the end for good measure. "When people interacted with the product, they all had the most fun shaking the seasoning right onto their Baby Carrots," says agency executive creative director Bob Cianfrone. "It's tactile and interactive, and even leaves a residue on your fingers like less healthy snacks. Part of our mission with this new campaign is to show consumers that healthy snacking can taste great and be fun."

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    Old Milwaukee's Will Ferrell campaign keeps getting weirder, and that's not a bad thing. After airing low-budget ads in Davenport, Iowa, Terre Haute, Ind., and Milwaukee itself last year, and then doing that great Super Bowl spot that ran only in North Platte, Neb., the comedian has gone international—appearing in at least four ads now airing in Sweden, of all places. Homemade footage of the spots was uploaded to YouTube three weeks ago; Funny or Die pointed them out today. ("Sweden's Twitter account just posted this Will Ferrell spot that's only airing on Swedish television. It's the best," said the Facebook update.) In one spot, Ferrell can't stop laughing about a sign that says "Infart." In another, he's out boating with a Swedish beauty—and is actually speaking Swedish. "This is my boat. This is my woman. And this is my beer. Old Milwaukee. It's all right," he says, according to Slate, which also points out that Ferrell is married to a Swedish actress, Viveca Paulin. Ferrell's official explanation for why he's involved in the quirky campaign? "I just love a good, crappy beer." Check out the four new spots below. Next stop for this campaign: the moon.

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    This week, a cute kitty with a love for its owner's Toyota Corolla trades all nine of his lives for car rides, the kids from 2007's superviral "Charlie Bit Me" YouTube video make their return in a Ragú spot, and if the tablet war is a dance-off, the iPad just got served by Microsoft.

    Many of the hundreds of TV commercials that air 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, Oct. 12-19

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    "If you don't vote, you can't complain," the old saying goes. But that's not a great foundation for an ad campaign about voting—it's the wrong way around. How about: "If you do vote, you can complain." That's more like it. Ad agency Third Street latches on to Americans' time-honored propensity to bitch endlessly about anything and everything in a new campaign called Real Complainers Vote—a nonpartisan initiative to get young people engaged in the political process. The centerpiece is the two-minute video below—a collaboration between Third Street, street artist Ray Noland and production company Foundation Content. It's narrated by improv comedian T.J. Miller. Also check out some posters after the jump. Then go vote, and complain all you want after the election. Or, you know, just leave the country. Credits below as well.

    Third Street Advertising Credits:
    Chief Creative Officer: David T. Jones
    Associate Creative Director: Max Mearsheimer
    Director of Relationship Marketing: Phil Robinson
    Attention Agent: Brittany Mason
    Insane comedian friend: T.J. Miller

    Foundation Content Production Credits:
    Executive Producer: Samantha Hart
    Creative Director/Motion Designer: Kyle Shoup
    Artist:  Ray Noland
    Editor: Steve Morrison
    Mixer: Dave Kresl
    Associate Producer: Lily Tomczak

    "Give a F*CK" poster by Danielle Riendeau
    "Close the Curtain" poster by Blaise Vincz

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    McCann Worldgroup Helsinki reminds you to check yourself before you wreck yourself with a stranger, because you don't know who checked in before you. The spots, for the AIDS Council, cleverly play off our fondness for social-media check-ins. The spot aimed at men draws you in with some seductive making out, and then, just as her panties are about to come off, a Google Maps popup appears that says, "Ryan Smith and 19 others were here," right over the lady's crotch. Not classy, but point taken. The ad aimed at women places the popup over the dude's crotch, and now the number of partners has increased: "Cathy Mills and 34 others were here." Curious that the creative team decided to list the male with more partners, but whatev. The main problem I see is that the ads play off fear and contribute to the stigma of sexual promiscuity. We should take care to remember that while your number of partners may increase your chances of getting an STD, it only takes one. Or none, if you're born positive. So really, there's no excuse for not wearing a rain jacket. Even if you're the undisputed mayor of her vagina.

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  • 10/19/12--11:51: Ad of the Day: DnB
  • "Some people are lucky in life. For the rest of us, saving up can be smart." That's the tagline for Try/Apt Oslo's campaign for Nowegian bank DnB, which follows the adventures of the world's "luckiest woman" and a certain salt-and-pepper-haired actor who follows in the grand tradition of A-list stars doing ads outside the U.S. 

    So, what makes this woman so lucky? In the first installment of DnB's now-three-part series, she wakes up from a night of (presumably) heavy drinking in a hotel room only to realize that she has gotten married with no memory of the event. (She could have been roofied, but that takes things in a way darker direction.) Luckily, her new husband is none other than George Clooney—who then takes his new bride on a honeymoon to Bora Bora, we learn in the follow-up spot.

    This latest ad opens with a several-hundred-year flashback: A band of pirates pursues a group of treasure-wielding sailors across a remote island. But before the grimy scoundrels can get their grimy hands on the gold, the sailors bury the treasure chest on a beach. Because Mrs. George Clooney is the world's luckiest woman, it just so happens that she and her husband visit that very same beach while on their honeymoon in Bora Bora. She attempts to plant an umbrella in the sand, and lo and behold, finds the buried treasure.

    Because what's better than being married to George Clooney? Being able to match his personal wealth!


    Client: DnB
    Agency: Try/Apt, Oslo, Norway
    Copyriter: Janne Brenda Lyso
    Art Director: Stian Johansen
    Production Company: Bacon
    Director: Martin Werner
    Producer: Magne Lyngner
    Dlirector of Photography: Sebastian Blenkov
    Editor: Mikkel EG Nielsen
    Visual Effects: Bacon X

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  • 10/21/12--21:02: Déjà Vu All Over Again
  • There’s no question that Burger King is a major brand that needs marketing help as it tries to reverse a market share decline. But are the agencies dancing with BK ignoring a series of red flags?

    BK, by its own admission, is shopping for ideas, not a new lead creative agency. Furthermore, the fast-food chain wants to own the concepts that agencies pitch in exchange for a relatively small stipend, sources said. Finally, BK seems to be in perpetual search mode, having just hired mcgarrybowen as its lead shop after a review last year.

    As if those factors weren’t worrisome enough, BK also has an aggressive timetable. Marketing leaders Flavia Faugeres and Alex Macedo briefed shops at the company’s headquarters in Miami two weeks ago, and agency presentations are slated for next week, sources said.

    Among those briefed were mcgarrybowen and fellow roster players like Mother as well as nonroster agencies such as Grey, McCann Erickson and Silver + Partners, sources said. Other agencies that met weeks earlier with BK executives, including BBDO, decided not to pursue the brief.

    Most of the briefed shops will pitch creative concepts, but some may still back out, in part because of the red flags. Grey, for example, exited the process last week while McCann, a finalist in last year’s review, remains in. The agencies declined to comment.

    BK, for its part, describes its recent agency meetings as a “normal part of our marketing process.”

    At the briefings, BK execs asked agencies to develop new ideas around its “Taste is King” tagline, a BK spokesperson said.

    “Agencies have been asked to pitch concepts which bring this positioning to life in new and unexpected ways,” the rep added.

    The rep declined to discuss the stipend, but it amounts to $50,000, according to sources. BK also told participating shops that if a particular concept tests well, the agency behind it would be in line to collect a $1 million payout.

    That could be the end of it, however. And for agencies that are used to handling most or all of a marketer’s creative business, the prospect of a quick-hit payout or project is not particularly enticing, especially for a brand that spent more than $270 million in media last year, per Nielsen.

    “The pot at the end of the rainbow doesn’t seem big enough,” said a leader at a shop that BK approached. “Agencies like to gamble. Agencies do it every single day. But this one, no matter who you are, [does not have] great odds.”

    Still, some shops hope their ideas will convince BK to not only hire them but also give them more work in time. Besides, it’s a tough market, and BK isn’t the only company to look before it leaps these days, offering projects instead of lead agency status.

    Are such agencies irrationally optimistic? Perhaps. But to quote DDB’s long-running New York Lottery campaign: Hey, you never know.

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    Live-action advertising has become as much a part of the Halo franchise as gun-wielding aliens and multiplayer maps. The new trailer for Halo 4, directed by Tim Miller of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and produced by David Fincher, continues the tradition, though it's a bit of a letdown after so many years of top-tier storytelling in ads and Web promos for the series. The new trailer, "Scanned," continues the supersoldier backstory approach we saw in "Birth of a Spartan" for 2010's Halo: Reach. This time, we actually see the origin of the game's hero, Master Chief (aka John-117), who is forced to relive his Wolverine-esque transformation from sandcastle-building scamp to galaxy-saving übermensch. It's definitely above average for a game trailer, and there's surely more advertising to come, but it still lacks some of the narrative punch we saw in the incredible work twofifteenmccann (formerly T.A.G.) created for Halo 3. After the jump, check out the live-action Halo 4 teaser from June, as well as the some of the Halo: Reach spots.


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