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Entries by jj (280)

Saturday
Jul182009

264. Breakfast at Sulimay's - Music Reviews.

File this under the wish I had thought of that category. Via Woodshop Films, Breakfast at Sulimay's features three older diner patrons who review contemporary music releases. Joe, Bill and Ann rate music from such artists as MF Doom, the Decemberists, The Cold War Kids, Yo Le Tango and others while drinking a cup of coffee at the Philadelphia establishment, Sulimay's. You get the idea right from the start, but these may just be the best, most charming, and sometimes brutally accurate critiques I have heard in awhile. For instance, when reviewing Mistaken for Strangers by The National, Joe quips, "...it sounds like every man for themselves" and goes on to describe how the song seamed all jumbled up and overpowering compared to the singer. I also found their review of MF Doom and his use of the N word compelling in a demographic sort of way.

Interesting enough, I think this would make an excellent TV show though it only lives on the internet for now. From the site, "Woodshop Films is an independently owned multimedia company housed in a working woodshop in Philadelphia, PA. Founded by artist Marc Brodzik, the company serves as a think tank for the creation and production of cutting edge documentary films and multimedia work pieces." Not sure about their other offerings, but I do like this one. I also know a certain restaurant chain that this would have been a perfect idea for, alas.

Please note, that although these folks collect social security checks they DO have a fondness for the swears. And then there's the music. Just sayin'.

Breakfast at Sulimay's First Episode:


Breakfast at Sulimay's Episode 13:


Breakfast at Sulimay's Lost Episode:


Thanks to David Baldwin for the tip. David doesn't remember this, but he once gave a pretty solid review of my portfolio during One Show week about 8 years ago. He was tough, but found some stuff to really like and it meant a lot to me, b/c I respected his shop.
Wednesday
Jul082009

263. The Art of Presenting 9 — Ernie Schenck.

I am very pleased to announce — after much delay on my part — the 9th installment of The Art of Presenting. Ernie Schenck, Executive Vice President / Creative Director at Hill Holliday, has graciously given his time and expertise on the subject of presenting. Ernie is an extremely talented industry leader and since his longtime blog is unfortunately being put on hold, this might satiate those who find him as insightful as I do.

Ernie is responsible for some of my favorite work, not the least of which is a recent campaign for Liberty Mutual. It's difficult to make a large insurance company feel human, or just bigger than a place to get a policy, but this campaign did just that. It takes a stand on responsibility and I like it. Here's a link to one of the spots. You should also give his book a read. Thanks Ernie!

Feel free to download The Art of Presenting #9. Just be kind and link/credit Graphicology.

(In the spirit of full disclusure, I work within the same agency network as Ernie.)

Wednesday
Jul082009

262. Ad of the Week: Victoria Brewery

You have to love a campaign that launches "before the first ball of the Ashes Cricket series against England." Victoria Brewery (VB as it is better known) just released a fun long-format spot around the question, What banner do you march under? Developed by Droga5 - Sydney, the spot features a long parade of 'regular guys' literally marching under banners for the things they have taken a stand on or for the things in their lives that define who they are. Strategically it's a somewhat typical 'boys will be boys' approach — common with breweries — only sans girls in bikinis. (Though there might be a girl in a bikini somewhere if you look closely.) However, the creative approach and large-scale production give the launch spot enough interest to keep you watching and deciding which, if any, banner you march under. The campaign also includes a new website where you can upload your photo under your particular banner. I will post the video below as a follow-up.

Part of the fun for those of us on this side of the pond is figuring out a few of them as the vernacular doesn't exactly translate. For instance, I'm not quite sure how one Chucks a Sickie or what a Cashed up Bogan is but I do know men who don't read instructions (ahem) and I know what manscaping includes. One reason I like this launch spot is the thought that went behind the banners and their graphic simplicity. I would love to have concepted and designed a few of my own. (And maybe I will for kicks.)

I do hope that eventually they will expand the participation that consumers can have with this concept, perhaps giving the public the opportunity to create an online world full of gangs that carry flags of their own making. This might actually be an chance to do something with facebook that makes sense instead of the usual 'let's make a facebook page' garbage. I can see trying to get my friends to join my banner, "Men who have been in touch with their feelings but regret it." or "Blokes who have been in an actual bar brawl." And maybe I win some free stuff if my horde gets large enough. Ah, I’m giving away ideas here, so I should stop. Anyway, fun work from abroad with potential for creativity and connectivity with the masses.

According to Campaign Brief, "there will be print, radio, outdoor, on line and "The Regulars" will be brought to life in store through point of sale and refreshed packaging."

Incidentally, yes I have had my arm in a cow though I'm not sure if that is my defining banner.

Saturday
Jun272009

261. Cannes got the Design Grand Prix Wrong.

Cannes got the Design Gran Prix Wrong. Yep. I said it.
First let me digress. My overall opinion about advertising and design award shows is a combination of the opinions expressed by Jeff Goodby, Gerry Graf of Saatchi & Saatchi and Micheal Iva of Qually & Company. Like Goodby, I think too many agencies do insignificant work designed to win awards and this ghost/spec/scam work is not in the best interest of the agency or the client or the industry. (See FP7 in Dubai.) However, I think his philosophy forgets that there are a lot of smaller agencies out there doing work for smaller clients where it is impossible or drastically more difficult to do ‘famous work.’ But his point is taken. The work that wins should be significant. Graf recognizes the shows (specifically Cannes) as a source of inspiration within the industry and doesn’t seem to mind as much or take it too seriously. Iva on the other hand, recognizes that the award shows exist as little economies, making money by stroking the sensitive egos of creatives and in some cases other agency professionals. I see the benefit of recognizing excellence in any industry, but think that most shows lean heavily towards large agencies and large clients but do generally a good job separating the wheat from the chaff. Because of the festival’s film ties and international scope, Cannes has become the award show to win. Nab a gold lion and your career will never be the same. So there’s that. For advertising it’s the One Show and Cannes. For Design it’s Cannes and D&AD. These still feel like the more important shows, no matter your perspective on their worth.

Okay after that rather long tangential introduction...
The winners have been announced at the 56th International Cannes Lions Advertising Festival and I thought I would comment on the Design Lions awarded earlier this week. Not because I am any better than the judges of course, just because these are the things that make working in advertising/design fun. There was a lot of good design work on display this year (maybe a better overall year than last) though none with the significance (see Goodby link above) of 2008’s Grand Prix winner – Turner Duckworth’s Coke redesign. This year’s winner, an entry from McCann Group Hong Kong for Nike basketball, is worthy of further discussion and inspection.

Nike’s Paper Battleground.
Let me say from the start that I don’t believe this work deserves a bronze, let alone the Grand Prix in this category. What I will try to do next is explain why I think I’m right and why judges who are far more famous than me got it wrong. It’s easy to be a critic, but I’m more than willing to stick my neck out on this one.

First, let’s take a look at the entry video.


The posters became the battlefield. The random cross-printing. The battles. More importantly, the process became the message.

Okay, so basketball players from the Nike league in China were brought in to print their image on a poster, only to have other players print their image on top, and then again more players printing their images on top of that creating a printing battle that resulted in 350 uniquely colorful and layered player imagery. A cool approach indeed, bringing the competition from the court into the process of making the event posters. That much I get. I can also see how the process behind this work could influence judges into liking it, if you focus on the behind the scenes video you can easily get wrapped up in the process - as - message schtick. The only problem with this is that the result kinda sucks, to be blunt. The posters are a big let down given the thought that went into the process. As designs they cannot stand on their own at all, at best being decent colorful eye-candy but at worst being somewhat derivative in their look from a thousand others. More clearly, there is nothing new here visually. Nobody on the street is going to know the background of these pieces, which is the only thing about them that is more than mediocre.

Here is the Full-sized Entry.

Here are a few of the 350 'eh' posters.





Emphasizing the process is nice, but only when the resulting work is equally extraordinary. I bet I could train a gorilla to parachute out of a plane while painting a poster set in red helvetica on white, and that process would be truly engaging – maybe even groundbreaking, but if it ends up looking like a zillion other Swedish inspired posters than would it be worthy of a Gran Prix? Please. What I think happened here, ironically, is that the video submission behind the work is actually pretty good advertising for a mediocre design product. It sells the design pretty hard. So maybe that is what should have been entered instead, but in the film category. It might get a bronze there.

Here’s a few pieces winning Gold that could easily have won Grand Prix.

Jamie Oliver Food Kits – Williams, Murry & Hamm. (London)

The Zimbabwean Currency Posters – TBWA\Hunt Lascaris (S. Africa)
(This entry won the Grand Prix in Outdoor.)

Regional Tax Collection Agency: Piglet – F33 Murcia (Spain)

Nick Germany Idents - dyrdee Media Berlin
(I love, love, love these. View videos here.)

Tuesday
Jun232009

QuickPost 4: Cannes Design Lions Preview.

Nice preview featuring design jury Sylvia Vitale Rotta of Team Creatif and Marc Shillum of R/GA. They discuss design entries as compared to ad entries that are designed. A good quick read. Interesting to see what wins. (via Creativity)

 

Monday
Jun222009

260. Schönbrunn Zoo Art Exhibit.

Give a little context to an art exhibit and it's meaning can be amplified a thousand times. Artists Steinbrener/Dempf have placed various symbols of human civilization inside the animal enclosures at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna — creating a powerful installation called Trouble in Paradise. The six pieces are designed to contrast our idealized image of wildlife and the harsh reality of habitat destruction. From the artists, "We are experimenting with visualisations of social issues. Our understanding of sculpture in a broader sense denotes heterogeneous and dynamic shapes which are exposed to concrete, social and symbolic influences."

Obviously, humans are more than just spectators when it comes to our relationship with animals and this point is hammered home by a poignant concept. Well done.

Car Prop Before Installation:


Alligator Enclosure:

Aquatic Oil pump:


Monday
Jun152009

259. The City as a Brand.

Late last week the city of Cincinnati revealed a new city logo to adorn vehicles, signage and collateral. The new identity features a modern, swishing capital C of various blue and green gradients. According to officials on Ohio.com, the mark gives the city a more inviting image and also shows progressive movement and pride. And like most municipalities, an official seal will still be used on more formal applications. In design terms, the mark feels like it would be more at home on a software box (this isn’t necessarily a complement) than a welcome sign, but does leave an overall positive impression. Even if the actual design isn’t anything special, maybe even terrible given the weird typography and congruent C’s, it’s easy to see how this mark could be used to present a consistent message to visitors. Cincinnati is moving, adapting, growing and changing. Got it. Good. (Brand New has a decent write-up on this.)

The New Cincinnati Logo:



There is an interesting little background story to be told too. LPK – a well respected branding firm in Cincinnati – designed the new combination mark, but Macy’s (also based in the city) paid for the development costs, which according to cincinnati.com was estimated to be around $75,000. (Probably this is mostly in time and soft costs, but cost nonetheless.) In effect, the city was a pro bono project for the the LPK, which is a little weird, but understandable. If you are based in a certain place, you want to see that place thrive and develop civic pride. A logo can become the focal point for such things. Both Macy’s and LPK have a vested interest in seeing the city prosper and grow. But more cities should consider themselves as businesses, businesses that need to market themselves on a national and global level. And businesses that need a finely tuned personality with a look to match.

A small number of cities have put the time and energy to develop their brand, and even fewer a good identity to match. And by identity, I don’t mean the official seal (mentioned above), I mean a communication mark that attempts to communicate the personality of the city. And precious few city councils have taken the time to pin down what their city stands for, though that would be a great place to start. I have collected a small number of municipalities that have attempted to design such a mark, with varying degrees of success. Ultimately of course, it’s not the design that will be the deciding factor in the success a city will have in attracting visitors, residents and businesses. But it certainly plays a part. On the state level things tend to be more organized for tourism purposes, but you don’t move to a state, you move to a city. Over time, I think we’ll see more and more locales working with their local design studios, ad agencies and firms to present their best side to the world, and not just in cities where tourism is extremely important (like Las Vegas). With tax revenue decreasing, the landscape is only going to become more competitive.

A few examples that I have noticed are located at the bottom of this post.

(Contributions to this list are very much welcome.) Some of these are actually kinda nice.

 

Wednesday
Jun102009

258. Apple's App Wall @ WWDC.

Now, this is pretty cool. At the World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco this week, Apple put together a live wall featuring 20,000 of the most popular iphone applications, sorted by color. When an app was downloaded off their site, it would animate in real time (or on a delay of real time) as a ripple effect across the screen. Quite an impressive little exhibit display for sure. The intention was to reinforce WWDC attendees that 3,000 apps are downloaded every minute - and to encourage developers to engage with this format. More information can be found at AppleInsider, where I pulled the following photos. Video via YouTube.

 

 

 

 

Monday
Jun082009

257. Ad of the Week: National Addys Best of Show.

I had the opportunity to go to the National Addy Awards this weekend in DC. (The national Addys are the bracket style creative awards from the American Advertising Federation (AAF), where the winners from local and regional shows advance to the final round.) I had a spot win a silver award, but that's not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to show the Best of Show winner, not because it won Best of Show, but because I agree that it should have won Best of Show. Oftentimes the winner is controversial, in an 'easy' category, or arguably - simply not as good as other entries. But this year the judges got it right.

The winning spot is a sweet take on a somewhat standard lottery strategy of just think of what you could do with the money. The interesting concept and perfect execution of the spot saves the strategy weakness and leaves the viewer with a larger than life, almost philanthropic feel. Simply put: it makes you feel good inside. And consider buying a lottery ticket, of course.

Washington Lottery's - Bird:


Credits go to Publicis West (Seattle) who sat right in front of us during the show and seemed like good chaps. There is also a nice behind-the-scenes post from Fischer Edit, the group responsible for some of the post work. Congrats guys - a well deserved win.

Monday
Jun012009

256. Verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude. I had an old communications professor who used this word a lot. (At the time I thought it sounded like a $50 word only someone with a Ph.D. would use. Maybe I still feel this way.) Anyway, It means roughly having the appearance of being true or real. Taken in context, it’s usually used to describe something that is genuine. Verisimilitude is an important quality for an advertiser to convey — that is to say, it is important for a campaign to have at least a little truth at it’s core. This makes whatever exaggeration and theatrical liberties inherent in the concept, as relevant to the audience as they are entertaining. Verisimilitude is what makes a lot of ads work. Simply put: they’re believable.

An advertiser (or agency) can get into trouble when they neglect reality for a substitution of their own making. I don’t expect all ads to be realistic in terms of creativity. Of course a lot of campaigns are far flung fiction — but if they are to be effective — they must somehow communicate a truth. When this is neglected bad things happen. Take for instance the tv spot described below:

Imagine a commercial that opens with a retro full-size van crashing through a wall and skidding down the road to the tune of a vintage tv show soundtrack. You then see clips of other older vans busting through fences, jumping ravines, doing burnouts and generally being driven with reckless abandon as if in action sequences of shows long since cancelled. As a matter of fact, you even recognize one of the vans as the one featured in the A-team, the show that gave Mr. T claim to fame. This is a pretty cool spot you think to yourself as the words Respect The Van appear on the screen.

But then a Honda minivan slides into a titlecard and the tagline The Van’s still Rockin’ appear to make a complete mess of it. “This is a minivan commercial?” you say to yourself.

Yes, this is actually a real spot.

Honda Odyssey's Respect the Van:



The footage you just watched featured a bunch of full-size domestic vans. These vans were made by GMC, Dodge and Ford. And most of the clips did come from old sitcoms. They were cool to be sure, but have absolutely nothing at all to do with minivans. Or more specifically, Honda minivans. It appears that the company is stretching to make their product relevant by attaching it to the nostalgia of the big bad vans of ‘70s pop culture with which it had absolutely nothing in common. Watching the spot again, it’s easy to see how this would actually be a great spot for a Dodge or GMC Van (bankruptcy not withstanding).

If the only thing ‘cool Honda can say about its minivans is that if you close your eyes and use a little imagination it is in some small vague way similar to vans of the past – that’s not a good thing. The old vans were somewhat worthy of the respect, being the gaudy hotrods of their day. The comparison only highlights the silliness and unmanliness of the Odyssey. By comparing they are actually contrasting. In fact, the campaign kinda makes me want to go out there and buy a real van. (Maybe the same thing happen to Portland designer, Aaron Draplin.)

Here is another spot in the campaign, and it could be argued that it's even worse.


Generally, I’ve been a big fan of a lot of Honda’s advertising over the years, But selling the minivan as the modern incarnation of these loud, hippy rides is just not believable. It lacks a reality check. It's terrible advertising because it lacks much needed verisimilitude. So, this is a lesson to agencies and advertisers alike, your branding must be authentic for it to resonate.