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Wednesday
Mar092011

333. Sealy Mattress - In Bed Tagger.

Okay, although this may be slightly sophomoric, it sure is nice to see a relatively conservative company show some personality every once in a while. Sealy Mattress has launched a mobile app, The Sealy In Bed Tagger App, that allows users to add the words in bed to pretty much any sign, text or whatnot they see in the real world, and upload that to their social media outlet of choice. (Yes, reminiscent of what some people do to the end of their fortune cookies at their local Chinese food joint.) It's available in both iPhone and Android flavors.

One of the stills from their intro video:

Here's the introduction straight from the manufacturer's/agency's copywriter: 

"Transform everyday objects, moments and photos into the ultimate fortune cookie joke. Quickly snap tagged pics and pass them on to your friends and social universe. Silly? Yes. Life affirming, probably not, but we challenge you to capture an image that doesn't work...in bed.™ Go forth and remember — Whatever you do in bed, Sealy supports it™"

I don't need to say too much more about this little project, but it's one example of advertising that isn't trying too hard to change the world. It's simply giving people a way to have fun with their brand, a brand that isn't necessarily known for being all that provocative or interesting. They are showing their fun side and I think people will reward them for that. They could have done a mattress buying guide app or something more traditional but that wouldn't have generated much press or interest from anyone for that matter. This app took a little guts to approve and although it may not be smart; it's genius - if you know what I mean. And I don't say it too often, but...I wish I had done this. Great job.

And they were relatively (appropriately) racy in their intro video:

(The last I knew agency Cramer-Krasselt was the agency of record, but that might have changed. Anyone know if they were responsible for this little gem of an idea?)

Monday
Mar072011

332. So Much More Than More Than Plain.

I introduce you to one of the prettiest and most poetic spots for yogurt that you'll ever see. Mullen, Boston is helping the popular brand, FAGE, launch in the US with a spot called, Plain Extraordinary. It's a rare mix of 3D CGI, video compositing and editing (done by Psyop ) combined with the following poem set to a rich VO:

Plain was the same as it ever was the same.
Plainly plain...
Samely same...
But then...someone lit the flame.
Plain rode away on lion's mane.
Where plain met fruits with strangely names.
Such wonderful things they did contain.
A shot of life to a hungry vein.
The captive beast who broke the chain.
And there upon that fruited plane,
is where plain became what plain became.
So much more than more than plain.
Plain will never be the same.

Obviously a lot of craft went into making this spot that is a level or two more intellectual than most commercials you'll see on the tube these days. Take a look at a few of these screengrabs below, which include a weird bovine cameo, but is otherwise gorgeous. (And be sure to check out their redesigned site, which was part of the work from Mullen as well.)

And Here is the Final Spot:

 

Monday
Mar072011

331. Leibovitz & 3 New Disney Park Portraits.

Have you seen these dream portraits from legendary photographer, Anne Leibovitz, for Disney Parks? Leibowitz was hired to shoot scenes from some of Disney more iconic animated films using real celebrities as stand-ins for the main characters. For instance, Rachel Weis as Snow White, Julianne Moore as Ariel, and even David Beckham as Prince Philip. The resulting set of shots are used as landscape prints for the parks and feature the classic Walt Disney W as a drop cap in headlines that tout the park as a place where dreams and fairy tales are an everyday occurrence.

Last week, the park and the photographer released three new entries into the series: Penelope Cruz and Jeff Bridges appear as Belle and the Prince; Queen Latifah as Ursula (The Little Mermaid), and Olivia Wilde and Alex Baldwin team up as the Queen and the Mirror from Snow White.

For the most part, the lines work really well - especially when combined with the subtle surprise of which celebrity was used to represent which character. There is some debate already as which celebs should have been cast, but overall they seem to have at least chosen interesting matches. What I found to be the biggest weakness of this series is the retouching, which I am sure Leibovitz supervised. No doubt going for a surreal, or even slightly animated aesthetic, the final shots come across more as overly photoshopped. (Take a look at the teacup shot featuring Lyle Lovett, Oliver Platt, and a slightly blurred Beyonce.) I do like the idea and some of them are just beautiful. But from the art direction cheap seats, I wish they would have used a light touch on the photos whenever possible, letting the use of celebs carry more of the fantasy role. More realistic images would have made the addition of the Castle or the other special effects more palatable. To me, at least. They aren't bad per se, but they aren't quite what they could have been.

Whereas the Pocahontas set feels more like your average taxidermy-filled display at a local museum of natural history, the Cinderella shot is perfectly done. Hit or miss as a whole. Of the three new ones, Queen Latifah as Ursula looks great, and the Queen (with Mirror) looks almost illustrated, which actually works. However, you can see in the Beauty and the Beast shot how things can go quickly into a PSD nightmare.

Here's a Making-of Video:


It's always hard finding fault with someone like Leibovitz (Who am I to critique her work, alas?), but I have posted as many as I could find, below, for you to form your own opinion. I have included the three new shots as well. As a set, this is a fairly impressive undertaking for which the compay and photographer deserve a lot of credit. You can tell they had a lot of fun putting them together.

Disney & Leibowitz Dream Portraits (click for larger view):


 

Friday
Mar042011

330. We Are There - Spain's Red Cross.

Now, these ads are nice and astonishingly they are print. You remember print? Paper. Ink. Non-moving design? Well, this campaign uses it all well and unlike a lot of over art-directed (and mostly spec), cutesy stuff meant more for someone's portfolio than anything else and very popular at international agencies, these ads actually make you think a little bit differently about the Red Cross, or Cruz Roja Española. Just because you don't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there, somewhere, doing good. Well done, the subtlety rewards the viewer's attention. Creative Credits go to Publicis.

The three print executions. (Click for larger view):

Wednesday
Feb162011

329. VP of Pop Culture. 

I must admit that I'm a little biased towards the agency behind this work (Zambezi out of LA)—since long-time friend and somewhat erratic Graphicology contributor Jon Runkle is now employed there, gainfully if he's lucky—but the new PopChips campaign is a great example of how to use a social media campaign to good effect. This campaign has everything you'd want: audience participation, an interesting premise that ties into the product, a cash prize, and celebrity. Two Celebrities in fact, Guillermo (from Jimmy Kimmel Live) and Ashton Kutcher.

Basically the snack-chip maker is looking to find the best candidate for a new postion, VP of Pop Culture. The winning candidate will be awarded a $50G salary (that's it?) and be required to cover a few events as spokesperson for the brand. Guillermo and Kutcher are featured in a launch video searching for the candidates out on the street and to good effect. The work so far has managed to feel less like an ad and more like a late-night skit from Conan..er Jimmy Kimmel Live or something, which is a compliment. Not to mention that they somehow have made Kutcher likeable - which is amazing in itself. (Obviously, I'm not much of a fan.)

VP of Pop Culture Launch Video:

The voting for the contest closes today, so your chances are pretty slim if you are just now entering. The winner will be announced March 14th. You can also follow along on the brand's twitter feed.

Last year's State of the Pop Union (using Kutcher as President) isn't quite as endearing but I understand using him because of his massive twitter following. It's the addition of Guillermo that makes the newer stuff shine. Kutcher needs a sidekick, it just hasn't been obvious until now.

Last Fall's President of Pop Culture Video:


Guillermo's work at last year's NBA Finals:

Monday
Feb142011

328. Ad of the Week: Goodyear's More Driven. 

I know it may seem contrary to what most think, but I'd rather write about work that I like than critique work that I don't. It's simply more fun. So while some work needs to have the bright light of reason shown upon it (see post #326 below), other good work can go somewhat unacknowledged in the major press. Awhile back I wrote about how Kraft was marketing like the category leader they are and how the branding confidence they have shown is harder to find these days. (One needs to look no farther than Groupon who has 'pulled' their ad campaign they aired during the Super Bowl. Sure, some people were offended because of the punch-lines, but I was offended because they weren't very good. The only thing that makes it worse is that they show no confidence in themselves and very little self-respect by pulling the ads. How can consumers feel good about a company that is so uncertain? They can't. See not everything Crispin Porter touches turns to gold.) Stick to your guns, friends.

Back to the point, it appears that we may have another Kraft on our hands. A few weeks ago during their annual dealers conference, Goodyear Tires announced a new branding campaign called, More Driven. Developed by Austin, TX-based GSD&M, the campaign demonstrates the confidence we appreciate from companies, especially those who rule a category and hope to do so into the future. The spots and print feature a new take on the famous Wingfoot icon, replacing the Good*Year logotype with two-word headlines that scream attitude and the street-cred that few can match. You don't even need the Goodyear logo at the end/bottom, because you know from whom this message is coming. Ad design, writing and branding all wrapped up into one neat little trick. And this trick works to a soundtrack of rock and roll and to visuals of smoke, curvy roads and icons from the world of speed. 

Goodyear More Driven Experts:

It's no accident that a lot of these ads are debuting around the start of the NASCAR season and its biggest race, the Daytona 500. Goodyear is the official tire supplier for the sport and has been as long as I have been watching. (There was a time when Hoosier was heavily involved among others, but that's ancient history now.) The big race may not quite get Super Bowl attention, but there are a lot of eyes on this spectacle too. And those eyes like cars and those cars need tires.

Cheating The Two Word Setup to Good Effect:

More Driven replaces the former tagline Get There and focuses on all the innovation and expertise the 113 year old company uses to supply specialty industries and experts - and how that translates into a superior consumer product. But it's more than just semantics. What makes this new campaign more powerful is the attitude with which it is presented. The work stands tall, talks proudly and almost struts as it delivers it's message. It simply has more energy than what has been running over the last few years. The agency says this about the new work, "The More Driven campaign tells the story of the many experts that choose Goodyear when it really matters and that what Goodyear learns making those tires goes into the ones they make for the demands of everyday driving.

Goodyear More Driven Proving Ground:


Notice all the little details on how the supers are treated in that above spot? Really nice, although subtle, post work was done by Logan, a Santa Monica production company known for its work for Apple, Nike, VW & Reebok – as well as many music videos and the opening credits for Zombieland. The rockin' sound design was produced by Singing Serpent and the sound effects by LA-based Mophonics.

Goodyear More Driven Print Sample:

The tire company is playing to their strength here, showcasing their expertise and having fun while doing it. In short they're acting like a leader. This is an approach that is at once classic but forward-looking. It's easy to see how this campaign and the use of their 'identity as message' could run for a long, long time and still be relevant. And the tire business is no fluff category as you have a lot of people to please and a lot of stake-holders to convince—the least of which are writers of a small ad blog, but good work guys & gals. Confident work is a joy to watch.

Goodyear More Driven Action Hero:

(Thanks to agency GCD, Luke Sullivan and Account Director, Nicole Locke for the generosity of additional information and time spent answering my questions.)

Friday
Feb112011

327. The Super Bowl Spot That Wasn't.

The following spot from Strawberry Frog (post work from The Mill) has everything you'd want from a Super Bowl spot. It tells a story, has a celebrity, uses that celebrity in an interesting way, is thoughtful and funny at once, and builds off of some human truth. Oh, and it's gorgeously shot. This could have replaced half of the real Super Bowl spots last week with ease. The only one that stands up to this type of epic production was the Chrysler piece with Eminem. (Which although I'm no fan of his either, it worked on a lot of levels. Even though the rapper has baggage, was used in an earlier spot mentiong that he didn't 'do' commercials, and looked like he was 15 behind the wheel - he made that story come together. I got chills at the tagline Imported from Detroit. But you've seen that one already.)

The Jim Beam spot, Parallel, focuses on the choices we all make and how they can send us down totally different paths using one of my favorite actors Willem DaFoe as the hero. They probably could have thrown in a 'choose to drink responsiby' line in there somewhere, but that would have killed the mood. I hope they have some extended version of this (even longer than the 1:30 below) because I simply want to see more. Maybe it will pop up over the next few weeks. Unless you're the city of Milwaukee, there's nothing to dislike here.

Friday
Feb042011

326. Ronald McDonald is a Hostage.

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat. I like the enthusiasm and energy and maybe even the vague concept behind this work from Finland's Food Liberation Army, or FLA. Basically, they are holding Ronald McDonald hostage until McDonald's comes clean about their processing and ingredients. It's all fun and games up to that point. But what's not 'cool' as it were, is the use of a style taken directly from terrorism execution videos and the promise of executing Ronald by next Friday (February 11, 2011 at 6:30PM EET) if they do not receive their information ransom. Sure, it's meant in jest - but can we not leave some things for the real world? Like terrorist execution videos? Is that too much to ask?

One more irritating tidbit is the group's psuedo-arabic flag. Maybe because I spent some time in the middle east I've gone all soft, but the allusion of mimicking Arabic script smacks of a really hateful stereotype. Yes, I get the joke - it's actually "I'm loving it" upside down. Clever. But it's definitely trying to represent an Islamic extremist group 'vibe' and I guess I have found out where my line is because they've crossed it. No doubt their response would be, "It's just a joke." But they themselves are close enough to a PETA-like extremist non-profit that it just comes off in poor taste. I am no fan of McDonald's, but I'm no fan of this either.

The groups's Flag and upside-down 'joke':

Here's the Hostage Video:

The FLA has also launched a site, freeronald.org, where they have posted eight questions they expect the fast-food giant to answer as well as the video of 'how they kidnapped Ronald.' You can even sign the petition should you agree with their cause.

The Kidnapping Video:

I know this is just a plastic statue. I know it's supposed to be a joke - albeit a joke with a point. But it wasn't that long ago when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and later beheaded in such a video. There is still a war going on, not to mention a much larger struggle between extremism of all sorts and rational civilization. I wonder how long after WWII it took for people to joke about Japanese internment camps or how long after Vietnam it took to joke about Agent Orange, but this stuff is still going on. It's too soon to me. Or maybe it's just not funny enough to warrant the use of the material?

Of course, McDonald's isn't going to respond to this ("We don't deal with terrorists!"), so by next Friday we'll see how tastefully an organization can hold a 'beheading' party. I would not want to be involved, that's for sure, even if it's beheading an ugly, plastic statue.

Yeah, we need to be aware of - and oftentimes use - current events in our marketing efforts. That's what can help make them timely and relateable. And the smaller, more politically oriented groups are under even more pressure to do something that 'breaks out of the clutter'. But we also must be aware of the temperature in the room, where are peoples' hearts and minds? Maybe in Finland this is funny. Heck, maybe it's funny here in America. But from where I'm sitting, it makes me a little ashamed that I'm in advertising at the moment.

YouTube user, c3bhm, would disagree with me, "THIS is a perfect example of the kinds of super cool - yet 'harmless' - kinds of social protest ('terrorism' - ha) that will actually succeed in having an impact - because it is sweet and fun but also serious and respectable but also dangerous and illegal but also crazy - and the internet community all around the world loves it. Even network news turns to web-content now, because it's the most entertaining and thought provoking stuff. Thanks guys. Keep up the good work."

This work leaves me with a feeling similar to what I feel after I eat a few Chicken McNuggets. At first I think this is going to be all right, I might even say I like it, but then the aftertaste and discomfort are too much to ignore. Anyone else feel the way I do or am I totally taking this too seriously? I usually err on the side of 'anything is fair game' but not this time. Maybe by posting this, I'm trying to figure out why exactly that is.

Ronald McDonald is a hostage. Or is taste the real victim? I look forward to your comments and dialogue.

Friday
Jan212011

325. Ad of the Week: Intel's The Chase.

It's already a few weeks old, but this is the best thing I've seen so far this year and I want to help make sure everyone sees it. To launch the Core i5 Chip, intel produced a Bourne Identity-esque spot featuring everything you'd want in an action-movie. Using the interface of common computer software, it's a chase around your desktop powered by their new technology. The heroine of the story hops from media player, to a Word document, to Facebook, iTunes, IM and other applications all the while being animated in the style of that particular software. It's a pretty effective storytelling device that makes a lot of sense for the product. Very few times would I want to see an ad on the big screen, but this would be one of them.

Credit goes to Venables Bell & Partners here in San Francisco. Kudos guys and gals.

Thursday
Jan132011

324. Branding Should Have a Backbone. 

London 2012. Gap. The BigTen. Starbucks. Just the beginning of some of the identity redesigns that have generated strong negative feedback recently; within the design community but also from the general public. And increasingly the public is getting more involved in the critique perhaps because it is easier and easier to do so with technology. It's not like you need a degree or any talent to say, "That sucks" or some other helpful anonymous and constructive criticism inside a thread of comments. Obviously Gap is the best example of the public altering a brand's design direction, but Starbucks has been dealing with contempt for their logo long before they changed it last week. The launch was covered on CNN with a headline that read: New Starbucks Logo Generates Disdain. Hmmm.

A few Random Comments on Starbucks New Logo:

Now, one thing that Starbucks did when unveiling their new look that Gap didn't was attempt to provide some context for the change via a video from CEO Howard Schultz.

Whether you want Starbucks to sell cellphones and car tires or not, at least they hinted at broadening their business and why they simplified and focused their identity. (For my taste, I like the new one. The old design was long ago turned into a bad cliche and parodied to an inch of its life. The circle text was horrible. End of story.)

Starbucks Logo Parodies Collected by LogoMania (Click for more. Some use the swears.)

Clearly the design of a brand will be engaged by the public in some way, and it's important they know for what it stands. But it's not important that they like how it looks. The growing design critique from the masses should be ignored for a lot of reasons.

  1. The majority of people don't know enough about design.
  2. They can't envision the context in which it will be used.
  3. When asked, some companies simply won't generate positive feedback on anything. Starbucks is an easy target, but yet they have what is considered one of the strongest in-house design teams around. "Oh, you want my opinion on something Starbucks related? I hate it. What are we talking about again?"
  4. The identity is not the entirety of the brand and it's more important for the public to like the other stuff (experience, customer service, price, personality, and oh yeah - the product.)
  5. And most importantly, the public really doesn't care. At least about the type and color over the short term. They say they do, but they don't. They do care about it being authentic and how it connects with them over time. (This is what you pay the experts for, by the way.)
  6. The public's attention span is shorter than yours. Usually, the masses will forget the controversy and the new look will be established in short order.

Duffy and Partners said it best in a related post on their blog, "But this is our reality. We put something out there and we get instant feedback from the masses. People are not only throwing out their opinions but also sending in their own free design solutions. It's becoming a beauty contest, the exact thing that we try so hard to avoid with every design project."

They used the recent BigTen redesign as the anchor of their article and it's a good one because it was designed by Pentagram; one of—if not the best—studios in the world. Now, I don't love everything Pentagram does, but personal opinions aside, it's always smart, well-executed and appropriate. Unlike most of the vitriolic comments that they heard after the launch. Not only could Pentagram out-design pretty much any amateur or common citizen out there, they can out-think them too. And that's the real difference.

The BigTen: If You Don't Like This, You're Wrong. Ha.:

The best point Duffy made was this, "Many can create something beautiful, but so much more goes into creating a great identity. The hoops we need to jump through these days are endless and sometimes we are fighting winless battles along the way. But without being involved from the original brief to the actual launch and all the steps in between, how could you possibly render a legitimate opinion?" For the record, Duffy can go toe-to-toe with Pentagram as they're pretty darn good too.

Sure, this blog and many like it critique design and communication just about everyday. But some of us have a history of commentary, a design education, experience and a portfolio to back all of that up. Anonymous commentary from the masses is bad enough, the fact that companies are listening to it is borderline insane. Sure social media and the instantaneous 'dialogue' it engenders between companies and the public is powerful and can be used in many, many useful ways. But it shouldn't be used for crowd-sourcing or group-thinking your entire design approach. I don't understand how companies can be so stubborn and insular about some processes and yet so 'invertebrate' about others. Research. Hire experts. Do something. Evaluate it. And don't listen to people who don't matter.

The public hated the new Gap logo, even though a case could be made for it, especially with how they were planning on implementing it inside their retail space. I didn't like it, but that doesn't really matter either. It also goes the other way. Here in California, people seem to love the new Golden State Warriors logo, a design that might just be the worst designed identity in the world right now. It is—as Charles Barkley would say—Turribull.

I Don't Care What the Public Thinks: This is Garbage:

The point here is that more companies should do what Comedy Central did when they launched their new look. They gave people the reason(s) behind the move in a way that resonated with who they were and basically told people to deal with it. How do I feel about the design itself? Well, the old identity was a mess and the new one has very little personality (albeit a little wit when the copyright aspect is considered.) But I love how they didn't blink when it wasn't received very positively.

Comedy Central. This is our logo. Cope.

Comedy Central: This Is 2011
www.comedycentral.com
Funny Jokes It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Ugly Americans

People don't seem to like change, even when it makes sense. But give them something that is smart and forward-thinking, or maybe even challenging at first and they'll eventually accept it. (Though if you ask them, they'll probably deny it.) Just remember Company X Brand Manager: at least they are talking about you and paying attention to your communciation design. How you respond (or don't respond) to this conversation is key.

People will be far more likely to respect you as a company if you respect yourself first.

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