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323. Ad of the Week(ish): Red Blooded Luxury.

If you read Graphicology very often at all, you know that I have a soft spot for Cadillac—a brand that has a long history of producing cars with bold design and a unique mix of luxury and performance. Jumping over much of the eighties and nineties, the domestic car manufacturer is once again producing cars with that DNA, the CTS family being a prime example. You will not mistake the Cadillac CTS Coupe for any other car on the road - which is rare thing these days. Even BMW and Mercedes look more and more like the Hyundais and Kias on the road and vice versa. Slowly, the Wreath & Crest is redefining their reputation as well as their demographic. A dark-silver 2005 CTS sedan was my very first new car. A car that I loved. (Cadillac is named after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit for all you trivia players out there.) Back to the point at hand.

The problem lately with Cadillac (and a lot of GM) has been their marketing. The signing of Fallon as agency of record will help change that no doubt. Fallon produced some of the best auto advertising over the last few decades for BMW and is the perfect agency to help Caddy once again become the Cadillac of car companies. (The rest of GM is in good shape, in particular Chevrolet who signed Goodby as agency of record last year.) So needless to say I've been waiting patiently to find out the type of work Fallon will produce for the iconic brand and we have our first results below.

First, if I were on the account I would push for their tagline to be: The Cadillac of Sport Sedans. The Cadillac of SUVs. The Cadillac of Coupes. You get the idea, filling in the blanks for whatever the particular car they are showcasing. They used similar verbiage on their website but have shied away from using it as an official tagline. I think that language not only builds upon common lexicon but demonstrates the renewed confidence of the brand. All that being said, I don't mind the new tagline: The New Standard of the World, because it too refreshes a very popular tagline from the company's past (actually the company's first tagline from the early 1900's.) It's equally confident and draws a line in the sand. The campaign has a title as well: Red-blooded Luxury. It simply states the unique selling proposition of much of the Cadillac lineup, a bold take on luxury vehicles that no one can question. You may love or hate the new Art & Science industrial design, but you won't be able to ignore it. It also smartly insinuates the domestic nature of the brand ala Red-blooded American. The last point may be lost on some, but I bet it was a selling point made from agency to client and it's a nuance that I find quite intelligent.

I also like the use of Laurence Fishburne for the VO. Normally, I think celebrity voice-over talent is a waste of money, but I find his delivery to be the perfect medium for the message. It's like Morpheus from the Matrix telling you what car you should buy - and you'd buy it too because you don't question Morpheus. Coincidentally, the first version of the CTS was used heavily during the chase scenes in the original Matrix film. The soundtrack comes from the Black Keys' album, Brothers, and the track is called Next Girl. Let's check out the campaign-launching spot that aired earlier today.

Cadillac, Red-Blooded Luxury:

The spot shows what you are lead to believe are the types of people who buy Mercedes or maybe even Lexus(es?). They are passionless, cold, boring and predictable. The spot contrasts that with the personality of Cadillac: hot, unbridled, and fiery. The great thing is that all of this is totally believable. Even if you are not quite ready to say they can compete with the German luxury makes (many auto sites will disagree with you on this point), you probably believe they can compete via their unique perspective on luxury. Luxury for people who still like to mash the throttle from time to time. The spot takes a little truth that people know and states Cadillac's reason for being. You could do a lot worse than that as an advertiser.

You can see how this campaign will begin to mature by viewing this spot for the CTS-V Coupe (A pretty bad ride, which I have test-driven and thoroughly enjoyed.)

Cadillac, Arrows:

So, I have to say my grade for the spots above would be around a B/B+ or 4 stars on a 5 star scale. Or one thumbs up on Ebert's scale. I still think there is more room to give the brand additional attitude; more walking than talking as it were, but the spots are a nice start and all the pieces are in place. I'm intrigued as to how the campaign will develop over the coming years. The fortunate thing for GM is that the marketing has to live up to the product for once and not the other way around. They have the cars. They have the agency. And now they just have to tell the world. The first two spots feel like the conversation starters that they are, and I'm hoping they'll close the deal with future work.

One more interesting tidbit while we're on the subject of Cadillac. Performance after-market tuner Hennessey likes to take the CTS-Vs and make them even more ridiculous from 556 HP all the way up to 700. Here's a video that would make for an excellent commercial. They get the car up over 125 mph so fast that they trigger an OnStar emergency call. Now, that's red-blooded luxury.



322. Made in Oregon Sign Part 2. 

It's been over a year since I wrote about the Made in Oregon sign that welcomes visitors to downtown Portland. The soap opera surrounding the landmark has finally resulted in actual changes to the sign. (I would highly recommend you read the earlier post - it was a crazy story.) Last week the sign lost its Made in lettering and gained Portland, so it now reads Portland, Oregon. A little obvious and lacking in concrete meaning, but much better than losing the sign entirely - which was possible at several points in the past. They held a lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving complete with the traditional red nose of the white stag.

Here are a few images/videos of the process plus the final sign for your um, approval.

The tittle being removed. *sniff*

More Removal:

The a Coming Down:

The New Script:

The New Completed Sign:

Images and videos courtesy of the references connected to this post. Thanks.


321. Ralph Lauren's 4D Fashion Show.

This past Wednesday Ralph Lauren put on a little light show at their (or his) Madison Avenue Flagship location. This light projection medium is certainly the visual du jour; but this is the best one that I have seen and as such it gets a place on the blog. The medium turns a normal product launch / fashion show into something much more engaging. The only fault that I see is that the show slows down quite a bit when an actual product is displayed. The products literally bring the pace to a halt, but it's still a pretty cool show especially for those that could see it in person. (RL called it a 4-D event as mists and breezes (along with sound) were sent out over the crowd periodically.)

And probably making for even better viewing - the behind the scenes process used to produce such a cool show.


320. Flag on the Field: Unnecessary Graphics, -15 Yards.

If you are even a casual football fan you have no-doubt noticed a trend over the last few years while watching NFL games. The networks are getting increasingly gratuitous with what is called their live video insertion systems (or L-VIS) graphics package.

It all started innocently enough if you can believe it back in 1976. That was the year the concept of showing viewers at home the rough location of the first-down line was conceived and proven possible. It took another 21 years for ESPN to use a system during a Bengals/Steelers match produced by a company called SportVision. Not to be out done, CBS launched their own line a few weeks later during their big Thanksgiving Day game which was produced by a company called Princeton Video Image. The two production companies had been working together than became competitors, each trying to woo the broadcast networks with their proprietary method of putting graphics on the field during live-games.

The 1st and 10 Line:

During each NFL game, there are at least four cameras—each with a dedicated computer—and a fifth computer used for chroma-keying along with two operators to run the current system. It involves generating a 3D model of the field in reference to the cameras and setting up certain colors that can be masked over (usually the greens of the field.) It sounds complicated but it's pretty much the same technology used for years during weather broadcasts.

The Now-defunct DraftTrack from Fox:

Since then, all hell has broken loose in terms of live on the field graphics. We've seen the virtual strike-zone during MLB games, 3-D renderings of the draft surrounding NASCAR vehicles as they go around Daytona, and an infinite amount of virtual objects plopped down in the middle of the stadiums as a palette for anything from advertiser logos to rosters and league standings. We've even witnessed something called video in perspective which takes the basics of the 1st and 10 system and allows for video to be inserted into the live feed. So the capabilities have come a long way and like most things are abused. But just because you can doesn't mean that you should. For example, there is this one annoying graphic display over every network broadcasting NFL games. 

Let's Talk About this Arrow:

This L-VIS graphic is produced by FOX Sports and like every other version on the other networks, it drives me crazy. It's probably the best designed in terms of graphic execution of them all, but that's not really the point. Here are my problems with it:

  1. It's unnecessary. All of the information that it contains (who has the ball, which direction they are going, and the down/yardage is either completely obvious or already displayed in the score graphic above.)
  2. It's garish. They take pride in these arrow graphics and as such make them huge.
  3. It's stays on-screen too long. As the play evolves and the cameras zoom into the action... the graphic often remains on the screen, sometimes taking over the screen until the whistle stops.
  4. It simply detracts from the simplicity of the game. It is the very definition of visual distraction.

They have taken something helpful (the first and ten line) and made it into a large, unhelpful, attention-craving monster. And again, this was the best designed example. Let's take a look at the other networks.

Here's the one from NBC:


And CBS, which isn't even an arrow (though nice 1st and 10 graphic):

So, besides being unnecessary there are the other problems. This is what happens frequently as these graphics are displayed.

Graphic Duels: Which information is more important?

Keep Your Eye on the Ball. They compete with the action on the screen:

Doormat Graphics. You often can't see them anyway:

I understand how we got to this point - it was competition. Almost like a sports graphic arms race. Each network had to demonstrate their capability over the other; then take it one step further. And because one network deemed the graphics necessary - all of them do. I think this ignores the fans completely. Again, there is no new information in the on-field graphic, so at its very best it's redundant. I would respect it more if they'd get rid of the score graphics and do it all on the field. At least they would have made a decision; as it stands it is sloppy broadcasting. Most fans know who has the ball because, well, they have the ball. And we know what direction they are going because they are facing that direction. And we know what down and yardage is left because the station has been kind enough to already tell us.

The thing about American football is that it is so graphically pleasing. They call it a grid-iron for goodness sakes. Sure, it wasn't because of the golden mean but there is a sense of geometric order on the field. Everything is carefully marked out and divided. It's clean and perfect. A game of violence on top of a beautiful and minimalist field and that's what makes these live directional arrows so darn annoying. 

But this is what made me write this article: Fox decided to go one-step further with a playclock graphic. And true to form, this also is distracting and redundant. But they can't help themselves, they just have to keep adding more and more 'stuff' to the on-screen presentation of the game. I would ask when it will end; but I know that it won't. Neither FOX, NBC, CBS or ESPN has ever demonstrated a design restraint when it comes to broadcasting sports.



319. Help! (How do you handle the cute?)

Image used from Check him out.

Dear friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends,

I don't normally use the blog for such things, but I need your help and participation. We're conducting a social experiment that categorizes how people respond to cute things. Some people squeal. Some people look hypnotized. Some people grit their teeth and squeeze the air.

We'd love it if you could help us out by recording your reaction to a video clip of something cute (aka "stimulus" as the scientists say). All you need is yourself, a web cam and a desire to have your heart melt a little. Below are a few steps to follow. We'll prompt you as you go along, but this is to prep you. We promise, it's easy. And worth it. Five minutes or so.

  • Step 1: Please sign our release form. It's a legal requirement. The form explains more, but it's nothing to really worry about. Sign it here.
  • Step 2: Then go here to participate.
  • Step 3: Once everything loads, you'll see two boxes. The reaction recorder and the cute clip. Click "allow" on the reaction recorder. This should activate your web cam.
  • Step 4: Click "record" on the reaction recorder and "play" on the cute clip.
  • Step 5: Watch and react.
  • Step 6: Stop recording and send the video to:

With your help, we'll advance cute reaction research for the benefit of all humankind. Thank you.




318. Ad of the week: The 2011 Mediocrity.

The 2011 car model not getting enough press these days comes from small manufacturer Mediocrity. Their new sedan is being marketed to everyone who doesn't want to stand out or simply enjoys being vanilla. The product launch comes with a brand new beige site that allows you to build your own or choose from three pre-determined package levels: basic, convenience (with cupholders), and power (with air conditioning.) From the official press release, "Do you want to blend in? Fly below the radar? Achieve the ordinary? If so, look no further than the all-new 2011 Mediocrity Sedan. The midsize Mediocrity is traditional in every sense, with no special features or unique options to help distinguish it from the competition."

The 2011 Mediocrity:

Not only can you find dealers, check out a wide array of interior and exterior shots, and connect with the community of owners but you can also find all the trappings of a normal car launch. There's a new car review over at, interviews with the designers (one of which you can view below), as well as a quiz to see if the car is the right car for you. (Which do you think is more awesome? Metal-detecting or Electric Guitars?) There's even a tricky game of commute you can play, if you are bored enough. And you just have to get a glimpse of the 2012 model. Not that you it's difficult to imagine.

The 2011 Mediocrity Mission Statement:

Mediocrity Design Philosophy:

Gotta love the whispered "Mediocrity" at the end.

Although slightly reminiscent of a recent campaign by Chili's called P.J. Bland's, I find the new 2011 Mediocrity campaign to accurately reflect a lot of the sentiment in car buyers today. (P.J. Bland's site redirects to Chili's, but you can still see the campaign's twitter page:!/pjblands). The Mediocrity is the average or lowest common denominator car for everyone who doesn't want to stand out, and it's a marketing campaign by one of the few car companies that has a reputation of being a little weird: Subaru. There are plenty of links from the Mediocrity site to Subaru's new Legacy model being tauted as a noncomformist sedan choice; and they make that point. When you drive a Subaru, people will know that you are driving a Subaru. There's a little truth in there that the creative and strategic team of Carmicheal Lynch exaggerated and made more interesting by creating the bland amalgam of the competition.

And just for giggles, to my trained eyes the 2011 Mediocrity is pretty darned close to a unbranded, slightly-altered 1994 Toyota Camry. But it could really be any car and that's the point. (See comparison below.)

In the end, this is an idea I would have loved to work on; and that's why I posted it. It looks like the team had a lot of fun putting this together.


317. Nike's and LeBron's Answer.

So, we knew this was coming; Nike and LeBron's answer to The Decision. Nike just released "Rise" for the upcoming NBA season. The great thing about this spot is that it actually deals with the problem and doesn't run away from reality. I'm not so sure it's going to make any Cleveland fan feel better (because they'll just be answering "Yes, my God, Yes!" throughout the whole thing,) but it does feel like it actually comes more from the player than the company. Even though it probably didn't. 

Storytelling-wise it feels a lot like Nike's World Cup 'Write the Future' campaign; with the edits and effects; but this isn't a bad thing either. The commercial is definitely an answer to the swirl of bad publicity and second-guessing around James (a lot of it his fault, in my opinion). Not everyone will like the answer - in the form of a lot of questions - but at least they tried to address it. And they managed to do it with more charm than we usually see from both parties.

I will say that no matter how little awareness The Decision demonstrated on behalf of everyone involved, it will have a dramatic and positive effect on the bottom line of James, Nike, the NBA, and the Miami Heat because those games are the hot ticket and the buzz around a new season has never been this loud. I just wished they would have handled it all with a bit more class; because you can't buy that with loads of cash.

Nike / LeBron - "Rise":


316. Your Second Shot by Canon.

It's rare that an online campaign manages to not only be interesting but also has a strong tie back to a product and its benefit. That's really the sweet spot between agency and advertiser that is seldom hit; usually the solutions are too crazy / gratuitously weird or the opposite, boring and cliche.

I stumbled upon a clever little site that manages to strike that balance — an online campaign by Canon called, Your Second Shot. It's not a complicated idea at all: giving people a second attempt to shoot a photograph that turned out to be less than perfect because of bad lighting. On the site you'll be able to watch background stories about the missed shot and how the photographer (and subject) were redeemed by the hero, a line of cameras made with low-light technology built-in. (Something Canan calls the HS System.) My only hope is that not all the stories feature people that could be models and are more 'everyday' than the first two.

The site was just launched and most of the missed shots are 'coming soon' but I thought this simple solution was warm, charming and totally communicates something for the client too. I'm sure these stories will be cut-down to :30 television spots (and they should/could be); but it's the details in the longer formats that make the second shot worth getting; and watching. You can also submit your own photo and win a chance to have a second shot at capturing the moment.

I'd post one of the videos, but currently they don't give you an option to embed. Tssk, tssk. So go to the site link above if you are so inclined.

I know that Dentsu America does a lot of work for Canon, though I'm not sure if they partnered up with a digtal shop to produce this effort. I do know that I think it's a nice piece of storytelling and a really simple idea that works. It probably won't win a Gold Lion or anything, but it's the type of work that will go under the radar and still work for camera company.


315. A GAP In Confidence.

Courtesy of: now the whole design world - and the rest of the world at large perhaps - have heard about the new GAP identity introduced last week. The controversial mark was produced by Laird and Partners and highlighted in the usual top-notch style over at Brand New, which recently posted a follow-up because the traffic and interest was so high. Read those two pieces if for no other reason than to get to this quip: "Fake logo Twitter accounts: just a few inches from rock bottom, people". More on that later. If for some reason you've managed to avoid all the hub-bub (and good for you if you have,) here's a quick, one paragraph run-down.

Gap tweaks their website to include their name set in a husky Helvetica with a gradient blue field in the upper right corner as if a superscript mark. A few design blogs pick up on it and the new identity gets roundly booed. Never before has safe, boring, old Helvetica generated such venom. (Well at least since the backlash after Helvetica the movie was released and it became way too cool for any designer to like anymore.) Then on GAP's Facebook page the retailer of the basics pretty much asked the world for their ideas via a crowdsourced spec project. They love their design but want to see what others can do. Huh? This move creates even more disdain as nothing is as controversial as crowdsourcing these days. The new logo is everywhere. It's being denounced, but it's everywhere. Or at least everywhere in ad / design circles.

The Old & New Identity Comparison:

So, what are people saying now? That it must have been a genius marketing move to use the fast-spreading design blogs to trumpet GAP all over the internet for free. Matt Dolphin ends an open-letter by basically congratulating them for a campaign of which other retailers would be jealous. You can read it here but it can be summed up by the old adage that any publicity is good publicity. To be fair, he also raises some very wise points about the necessity for context and press releases when launching a new look. Apparently AIGA and Bryan Byczek have written and posted open letters as well.

To give you an idea of how well spread this design debacle is — the parody machine is already kicking, quite possibly furthering the argument above. You can already GAPimize your own brand, via the Crap Logo Generator by the Barbarian Group. No, I'm not going to show you an image of Graphicology's crap logo because 1: I have better things to do and 2: I don't want to see it in a future gap agency case study on how this 'fake ugly logo project' became viral. Not that I think this was done on purpose. It wasn't. There is also the aforementioned fake twitter account, which is pretty funny for 15 seconds of fame. Maybe 12 seconds actually.

So it's chaos. Nobody is sure if GAP is going to stick with their new combination mark or if they will retreat and go back to their 'old' identity. They've created the design equivalent of a marketing crisis pretty much without reason. However because of the industry GAP is in and because of their recent struggles to halt same-store sales declines, this publicity is certainly not good publicity. There is only one thing you need to survive in fashion let alone advertising and that thing is confidence. There are companies aplenty doing all sorts of less than perfect marketing but because they do so with confidence people embrace them. And in fashion the need for confidence is particularly acute. Have you seen a catwalk lately? The only way you can pull off some of that 'design' is with a knowing look of self-assurance. The Diesel Stupid campaign may lack taste, originality, and soul but it certainly screams confidence. What GAP is communicating to retail shoppers is an uncertainty that almost means death in this industry. If they can't design their own brand, why the heck do I want them to design the clothes that I buy? Maybe they should crowdsource that instead and leave the identity to the professionals?

GAP's 1969 Premium Jeans had a slightly better launch:

GAP's design agency knows all about this necessary confidence too, having produced sophisticated work for Donna Karen, Calvin Klein, Juicy Couture, Vera Wang, and Bottega Veneta to name just a few. These brands stand for a lot of things but they all stand for confidence. Unfortunately GAP lost their confidence a long time ago. Long before this little identity crisis too.

This design is only the latest in a string of tepid marketing. It's been more than a decade since GAP was on fire, doing promotion and advertising work that was the best of the best and producing clothes that although usually basic were in high demand. Yes the spots generally used the tried and true celebrity or popular music, but they felt exactly perfect for the brand. They were culturally relevant and appropriate. I submit the following as Exhibit A: the Khaki Swing spot from 1998 or so. Some said this spot helped bring back swing in the late nineties, but it certainly helped make GAP successful. This spot is just as confident as any of Apple's iMac and VW Beetle work from about the same time.

GAP's Khaki Swing from 1998:

My how fast the mighty have fallen. Today, GAP is almost invisible. There is one positive to come out of this mess—if we are all lucky. I've said this before but I think because the backlash has been so wide and heated that companies may actually think twice before launching another lifeless, bland, meaningless sans-based look. That would be a grand silver lining indeed. But before you decry the new identity design as the beginning of the end for the retailer you might want to look further back. The self-esteem on display in the above ad has gone somewhere into the ether and they desperately need to find it. There is hope and one needs only to look towards Old Spice to see what a little swagger can do for a brand. Confidence and a great agency.

In my best fashion designer voice: I hope they learn to work it again.


314. Ad of the Week: Not a United Spot. 

About a month ago, I posted an article about Virgin Atlantic's new identity, livery and print campaign. So I thought I would follow-up with their newest campaign element. Yesterday the airline launched a new television spot in Britain that builds on their long-standing idea of stewardess as sex symbol. Of course it's shallow and silly but I will say that they do seem to have a certain—shall we say—standard for their flight attendents. Selling this as part of their brand is nothing new of course. (Some of us will recall the famous headline of "Coffee, Tea, or Me?") Having flown a few airlines in my time, this guy would submit that the talent on KLM is actually superior but I digress.

I'm not sure how this article has devolved so quickly. Back to the point with apologies.

The spot feels like a mix of a James Bond title-sequence, that music video for Robert Palmer's Simply Irresistable, and an airport. It's gratuitous on purpose and seems to abound with symbolism. Of course the ladies in the sky are the main attraction throughout in typical Richard Branson style. The soundtrack is none other than Muse's song Feelin' Good, which also reminds me more of something by Rufus Wainwright than the rock-opera band's earlier stuff. The spot ends with the tag-line: "Your airline's either got it, or it hasn't." This might be my favorite part of the piece because it has that Virgin attitude. I could do without all the flying disco balls and martini glasses as hot-tubs however.

I understand that Virgin has always stood for bringing back the glamour in flying and it's a strategy that I like and one that they can pull off better than most. I don't always agree with how it's executed; usually with more of a sophomoric than sophisticated approach. Not that anyone is asking but I think it would be even more effective with a bit more intelligence imbued into the work. Or do I mean class?

Though the spot is now running in Britain, you can see it in the states starting later this week during the MLB Playoffs. (Oh yeah, baseball. I remember that. I stopped watching in July when the Mets started to tank. They're still playing baseball?!?) Be sure to go to Virgin's main site to learn more.

Your Airline Doesn't Have this:

And just to show that this isn't anything new, I submit last year's Still Red Hot spot for Virgin's 25th Anniversary:

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