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343. The Girl With The Great Trailer. 

I've not read a single word of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but I do know from talking to a few folks that it's originally a three book series by Swedish author, the late Stieg Larsson. I also know that there is a Swedish version of the film that people seem to really enjoy - though I have yet to see that either. I really came to this trailer not knowing much about the content of the films, except that it's pretty dark material. Oh, and there is a beautiful set of hardcover versions called the Millennium Trilogy Deluxe set that you can order from Amazon. (It's typically minimal Swedish design, but there is a lot of nice touches to love from an art director's standpoint. Really well-crafted books. See below or view the Amazon link that shows a video of the Art Director who designed the covers.)

Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Deluxe Boxed Set: 

The recently released trailer for the film is wonderful from a storytelling aspect. Unlike most trailers that either give away too much of the plot, are produced into a jumbled mess of one-liners, or just fit into the usual mold of the movie business as usual, this one actually teases. Just by watching this trailer, I know I want to see this film.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Trailer:

So why does this trailer work? let's break it down.

 The Soundtrack. The film is pretty dark, so who better to build the score than Trent Reznor himself? Coming off the pretty successful soundtrack for The Social Network, the former (or current?) frontman for Nine Inch Nails is making a new career for himself in Hollywood. Other than Daft Punk's ridiculously cool soundtrack for Tron (that was snubbed in Oscar-town), Reznor produced the best work last year and did in fact take home the Oscar for Best Original Score with Atticus Ross. So we have Reznor at the peak of his powers, doing his own interpretation of a Led Zeppelin tune, Immigrant Song. One could argue that this song would have worked on its own, but I prefer the update - in this particular case - because the updates help the song better match the film. That's not to say that the original doesn't matter. On the contrary, it's the perfect choice. The tweaks just help keep it relevant. So, we have a rocking tune that paces the experience, what else?

The Editing. Almost as if you are blinking more than normal while watching, the editing gives you just enough glimpses into this world that you can't help but want more; but not enough that you feel grounded into the story. These peeks move too quickly which only adds to the uncertainty of what you are seeing while being introduced to much of the cast and locations. You see everything but only in thin slivers. And of course, this editing trick matches perfectly the soundtrack we discussed above.

The Color. The trailer, which most likely matches much of the movie, is dark. Literally. The blacks are crunched to the point that you lose a lot of detail. Which seems to be a theme in this trailer, only giving enough to tweak your interest, but never a full view. Even the scenes of winter with all that white snow manage to feel black. Everything is shadow and evil.

The Voiceovers. Thankfully, there are none. And that makes it easy to forget that you're watching a trailer and get sucked into the movement of this short film. I'm sure they talked about having a voiceover, and am glad they decided against it. And the soundtrack provides all the overt messaging one needs.

The End. The way a trailer ends is probably the most important aspect in its success. And this one comes to a frenetic, mangled, and pulsating end. It leaves you on a high, much like a car driven too fast off a cliff, with broken but bold sans serif type proclaiming that this movie is coming with a vengeance, The Feel Bad movie of Christmas. Normally, I'd cringe at that tagline due to all the bad horror films and awful comedies that have used the same messaging before, around the holidays—but this one seems to mean it. The whole thing feels almost more of a warning, even the touch at the end where it simply says, Coming, instead of coming soon.

This trailer single-handedly made me interested in not only this movie but also the series of books. Not bad work for a minute and a half. It will be interesting if David Fincher can pull off this somewhat-of-a-remake.


342. Audi A6 Ad - Exported from Portland?

Not much to say here, except that some German ad agency has a lot of 'splainin to do. Re-watch the Chrysler 200 Eminem spot from last year's Super Bowl; then take a peek at the most recent Audi A6 spot. Anything seem a bit peculiar to you? According to Autoblog, "The Detroit Free Press reports that Eight Mile Style, Eminem's song licensing company, is suing Audi for this German ad for the A6 Avant that is said to use an unauthorized interpretation of "Lose Yourself" from the Eight Mile movie soundtrack."

But it's not just about the music. Ripping the soundtrack, cinematography, content AND storyboard from a single spot seems to be reckless to me. (And the result shows the difference between good creative and bad.) Small differences actually make big differences. Sure, parody is fine and can be funny - but this is straight up plagiarism.

I do think it would be fun to keep duplicating the spot, one version after the other—in much the same way that a key is copied—until the original reference is no longer recognizeable. Of course, that might have rendered a much more interesting advertisement.

Chrysler 200 Super Bowl Spot:

Audi A6 Imported from Berlin?


341. InFocus Worst Powerpoint Slide Promotion.

image courtesy of infocusInFocus, a leading maker of projectors, displays and other presentation equipment recently ran a promotion looking for the world's worst Powerpoint slides called, What Not to Present. I think this is a brilliant example of a promotion that fits a companies brand while not taking itself too seriously. Sure, they could have run a 'best Powerpoint slide' competition, but where's the fun in that?

These are the types of assignments that an agency (or in-house creative department) do on a regular basis that usually don't get much love from the outside world. These are also the types of promotions that thousands of companies do three or four times a year but are usually mediocre at best. So this one deserves a bit of credit. Sure, this isn't executed in a way that would appeal to many creative award shows but it's simple, smart and humorous - all good things in our view. Yes, they could have had a lot more fun promoting this contest (and that might have been enough to give it more creative heft), but the idea is pretty fun at its core. (I'd love to run a worst slide in advertising contest! I'm pretty sure we have some whoppers out there.) Here are a few examples of the contest submissions with more at the link above.

Uh, Makes Sense to Me:

Contest Winner: It's Good to Set Clear Goals:

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should:


340. Ad Trends #1: Phone Print.

Here's the first of many such articles to come, Ad Trends #1. Basically, when we start seeing something being produced and think we'll be seeing a lot more of it, we're going to post about it. Maybe we'll celebrate it or maybe we'll bemoan it. Who knows. Recent examples (had we started this series earlier) may have covered projection mapping or tilt-shift video. So here goes. Let me know what you think.

Phone Print. Print designers are not getting much love these days, and have been left in the dust of interactive designers who get to have all the fun. But print isn't dead and some creatives have been pretty crafty in the way they are combining print with those little media centers everyone carries around in their pockets. We've been seeing a lot of executions lately asking readers to put their iPhones on top of ads to get a more complete narrative from their traditional media. Of course, those print people still need to have moving content and work with their broadcasting/digital rivals to produce these spots, but by doing so they are trying to remain relevant. (For the record, I still like a solid print idea. It's just we don't get the opportunity to make them as much.) This phone+print stuff is a trend that has been slowly building over the last two, maybe even three years.

These guys claim to be the first:

Here's an early (2009) static-only execution for Axe, whom I loathe:

VW's Test Drive from early March:

(And another print ad to play on:)

Mercedes Benz - Rearview:

It's difficult for all of these ads to seem original because the idea of combining the phone with the print is usually the most creative aspect of the concept. That's not to say that we won't see a more interesting approach over the next year or so (most likely we will), it's just going to have to really push things to get a thumbs up from me.

Phone Print Demonstration (as resume):

Ha - Print to Mobile, "The Ultimate in Digital Interaction":

One of the more interesting developments is demonstrated by the company SnapTell (part of Amazon's A9). They are a visual search company. From their site, "Our Snap.Send.Get™ image matching solution converts an image into a 100% opt-in, interactive search targeted message..." Basically when an advertiser creates an ad, it can allow a consumer to take a picture of that ad and get content (links, coupons, or whatever) sent back to them immediately. It works like a QR code, only without the ugly QR code. From the outside at least, it functions much like Google's Goggles only with a marketing bent. The major issues with this setup is the instructions you have to give someone, making any print designer go "Blech." Here's one for Maserati.

Maserati SnapTell Print:

There are other players in this field. Here's a demonstration how it works when using an Israeli-based service called XSight. Oddly enough in the last year their site has gone down, even though you can still download their iPhone app. Of course, a lot of examples seen here use the QR code to fetch video or images that complement the printed element.

My thoughts (tips and obstacles) about using Phone Print:

  1. Make the process as simple as possible. People don't want to have to download another app or go through sixteen steps to see your little video. They just don't. Make it seem effortless.
  2. The print should still function beautifully and aesthetically on its own. Most do not.
  3. Content is still king. The tough thing about this trend is that it is asking people to do more just to view an ad beyond the ad they are already viewing. That's a lot to ask even if people are interested, let alone increasingly cynical. So your content better be good. And in most cases better than the examples we have looked at above. That way, the reader will know they'll likely be rewarded or entertained the next time you ask them to 'view more.' Be it utility, entertainment, or information — it's always wise to add value to the experience.
  4. Clutter. The more advertisers do something the more likely consumers will go out of their way to  avoid the message. It will be more and more difficult to engage someone using this method. If you are an entertainment brand that fact might not be too much of an obstacle. If you are a laxative advertiser, you better bring your A-game.
  5. Don't be too proud of yourself. As you can already see, this trick has been developing for a few years now. If you are attempting to be innovative, the bar is constantly being inched higher. And you're not the first. At least until you add something new to the mix.

I leave you with one more recent example that you may have seen, produced for Reporters Without Borders (For Press Freedom.) It doesn't check all the boxes above, and it is similar to other pieces but it uses simplicity and controversial figures to good effect.

Stay tuned for more Ad Trends in the near future. Thanks for reading.



339. Ad of the Week: Ben & Jerry's.

You know I love a nicely crafted ad campaign. And you also know that I really like looking behind the scenes of a nicely crafted ad campaign. The folks over at Elastic have posted some fantastic stop-motion work for agency, Amalgamated and their client Ben & Jerry's. The campaign is a fresh take on the It's What's Inside That Counts platform that has been running for a few years.

Each spot takes place in and around the ice cream carton, but is otherwise an otherwordly experience that brings the story behind the company to life via charming dioramas. What's cool about this work is how it manages to contemporize the brand without losing the hippie charm it has always had - even though it's technically now owned by Unilever. Very non-hippie. The production company has provided a download of not only the spots, but the making-of videos to boot. Very hippie of them. Not only does what's inside count, but also what's behind.

Packed with Brownies:

The Making of Packed with Brownies:

Bonnaroo Buzz:

The Making of Bonnaroo Buzz:

There is also a print portion of the campaign that isn't quite as complicated but does support the broadcast nicely. (I do wish it were more robust, but they probably spent their budget on the TV.) The fair-trade twitter digital piece, however, may be my favorite campaign element of all. It takes whatever leftover characters you don't use (up to 140 of course) when posting via Twitter and pushes a message about the benefits of Fair-Trade business practices. It's simple, totally on brand, and manages to use the inherent characteristic of a piece of technology in a new way. (My current MAS students, see what they did there?)

Ben & Jerry's Fair Tweets:

Two Print Examples:

(Images and video courtesy of the agency and production company listed above. I also saw the the brownie ad first on motionographer - a very cool site in it's own right. Thanks guys!)


338. Ad of the Week: The Whole Country of Switzerland.

I know it's been making the rounds, but I do love this spot. Wonderful, endearing, witty storytelling used to update a brand's image while at the same time reinforcing the old reputation. The campaign was produced by Spillman / Felser / Leo Burnett of Zurich and is just the type of narrative I like to create. Well done Swiss folks.

Switzerland Tourism — More Than Just Mountains:


337. The Return of the Bunny Suicides. 

I've written about one of my favorite exercises to give students before, one that helps build divergent IQ by solving one problem in as many ways as possible. (Simply put: this is the type of IQ we use when we solve creative briefs.) I show the students Andy Riley's wonderful little series, The Book of Bunny Suicides: Little Fluffy Rabbits Who Just Don't Want to Live Any More. And then I give them an hour to come up with as many suicidal bunnies as possible. No, this isn't the most PC assignment ever — but it is one of the most memorable.

For the past few semesters (quarters), I've had the students concept in this way and then I pick the best suicide scenario from that batch. But it doesn't end there. I put up what I get paid for teaching one class for any student who can beat the best suicide from the early set, in a round-robin, rolling tournament. Now, let's be clear - that's not a lot of money, but it's enough of an incentive to try to kill some bunnies for sure.

This quarter I'm teaching a spring session of Miami Ad School's Everything is Media course, and I thought I would give the same assignment, but this time open up the voting to the general, design-blog-reading public. So check out the gallery of the 15 bunny suicides and let us know which one you like the best in the comment section below. After we choose a winner, let's set the deadline of next week April 30th, we'll see if anyone can beat that champ over the next few weeks. And maybe one day, Andy Riley himself will help choose the winner. Andy, if you are reading this, let us know what you think (and thanks for not suing us for using images of your wonderful work. I do encourage everyone to buy your books.)

Thanks for voting.

MAS Spring '11 Bunny Suicides Round #1: (FYI: You can click-and-grab the images to see the entirely of the sketch.)

Get the flash player here:



336. In Short — This is not Advertising. 

I utilized my first ad-blocker via Mozilla Firefox last week. It was about that time that I noticed an unholy amount of disgusting new banner ads while using Facebook. It's not that I have a problem with advertising (obviously) or even advertising on Facebook—farmville and adwords are ads—but I have a problem with advertising that ruins the platform it was created to support. This new rash of banners made using the social site almost impossible. I'm not sure if this was due to a new push to monetize the site or what, but after complaining for a day about it, I downloaded adblock plus.

To give you an idea of this experience (in case you have already had the ad block software installed pre-banneradapalooza or don't use facebook-gasp!), I've grabbed a few screens. (The screens are edited for my privacy, of course.) Basically, the new ads take up a good third of the screen. Check 'em out:

The Dog-Human Hybrid?


This Hurts My Eyeballs:

Clearly, we're not talking about the height of creative advertising - as is often the case with banners. But I have a bigger problem with the setup. Surely, there is a more creative way to push ad content to Facebook members that isn't as ugly, distracting, disjointed and annoying as these now traditional flash banners. (For instance, the ad platform that non-subscribers see when using Pandora is just as visually compelling, but it's less distructive to the experience.) I submit that there must be a better way to give a brand's story on this social network, something I don't know... more socially engaging. Instead of shouting with the most obnoxious swirling goo of pixels, maybe there's a way to entertain or in Sally Hogshead's words, fascinate the users. Otherwise, more and more people will be going out of their way to tune them out, and rightfully so.

Think Sausage or Think Taxes?

It's funny - well, not clown funny - how the internet has become a petri dish of what works in display advertising. And by works I mean, it generates a click on it — no matter how cheap that click may be. This might be fine if you are trying to sell some shady mortgage loans but not so much if you are an otherwise reputable company trying to use social media to further extend your brand. There is no easy fix, but Facebook should be working with advertisers and agencies to better utilize all those eyeballs in a way that doesn't send people running and screaming away from those messages. There is a lot of work to be done.


335. 33 by Asics. 

It's rare the spot that leaves you wanting more, but the new Levitation work for 33 by Asics is one such spot. Produced by Vitro (and creative directed by BrandCenter alumn KT Thayer), Levitation is 30 seconds of science made very cool. It's a simple idea. The 33 line is lightweight, and what better medium to use to demonstrate that features than air itself? And a bunch of color ping pong balls. It's simple and visually stunning. The only thing I have to complain about is that it's far too short. I hope (wish) there was a longer format version, with more shoes perhaps doing more stuff and utilizing the air/ping pong ball deal to even more dramatic effect. At least give us a longer, behind-the-scenes peek, Vitro guys, c'mon!

33 by Asics - Levitation:


334. Wilkins Coffee. An Ad School Failure.

I'm a little upset that despite an entire undergraduate and graduate experience dedicated totally to all things advertising at VCU (GO RAMS!) that I was never exposed to the genius of these Wilkins Coffee spots. And in order to make up for this oversight, I am sharing them with the world. An odd mix of violence, puppetry, and salesmenship, these :10 spots probably would only be able to run today as webisodes. (Because we all know that on the internet you can get away with saying words like 'boob stab' and 'triple kill _____'.) The victim of these spots, Wontkins (get it?) dies in more ways than SouthPark's Kenny, and some think the main character, Wilkins, was the beginning of Kermit the Frog. Yep, these 1950s spots were produced by none other than Jim Henson. I would LOVE to know the writer of these puns too. You can read more about this crazy campaign here. Here. and Here.

They remind me of something that Bryan Buckley of Hungry Man told us (while we were filming a documentary about the SportsCenter campaign back at—yes—the VCU AdCenter, in 2000). Roughly quoted: "When you do a ton of spots, you don't have to worry about each one being good. You just shoot a ton, a ton of spots." You just shoot and have fun. Now, these Wilkins spots aren't good per se, but you get the idea. There's a bunch of 'em and I bet they had fun doing them. Puns and cliches be darned.

Coffee Can Mail-in Puppets:

Wilkins & Wontkins Vinyl Toys:



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