Posts Tagged ‘Hey Whipple’

You’ll pry that soda out of my dead sausage fingers…

February 9, 2011

With all the hoopla and spectacle of the Super Bowl ads, I almost forgot there was actually one political ad that aired during the big game.

Let me get this off my chest right away: This is exactly the type of ad I hate. A supposed real person, railing against the latest government injustice.  The “real person” in question is unusually well informed and amazing speaks like a policy wonk.

Sigh…, do these spots ever work? (Ok, this one did, but then again this one didn’t have actors channeling a poll.) This ad is obviously aimed at a certain segment of the population — folks who are angry and think government is too involved in our lives, so it may have some effect in getting them fired up against the Soda tax.

But really, “Government needs to trim it’s budget fat and leave our grocery budgets alone…,” I mean come on who wrote that line? Where does that come from?

What makes me so angry about this ad is that it’s essentially a cynical attempt to tie itself into some existing discontent. Oh, people are angry, tea party, government bad, socialism, blah, blah, blah, let’s make the ad about that.  There are no principles there except trying to scare folks into thinking that government is coming for your soda.  Look, I’m sure some people will see this ad, and they’ll get angry, but a lot of people remembered Mr Whipple too.

(As an aside, interesting to note that the most memorable super bowl ads were not the same as the most liked — which is more important…?)

Is this an effective, I don’t know, but let’s say that it is, does that mean it’s ok to create a badly executed, badly written cynical ad? Shouldn’t we be trying to do better?

I really hate ads like this one, have I said that already?

It’s the story stupid…

February 7, 2011

Super bowl ads. Everyone’s talking about ’em. On twitter, I linked to this article, “Super Bowl TV Spots (Versus All The Rest of the Year).” The gist was basically, yeah Super Bowl ads have a larger audience, but the quality of our work shouldn’t depend on the audience that’s going to see it. It’s summed up with, “Just seems to me that a TV spot is a TV spot. TV, radio, any media buy is a public appearance for which we ought to put on our Sunday best, no matter how large our congregation is.”

Super Bowl ads are known for their spectacle, for their over the top quality, but the ads that I always seem to like are the same ones I like the rest of the year, it’s the ones that tell a story and connect with me emotionally.  Seriously which ads to do you remember over the years?

Ad Age just did an all-time Super Bowl ad poll, it came down to Apple’s 1984 spot and Coke’s Mean Joe Greene ad, according the reader’s poll Mean Joe Greene crushed Apple’s ad.

(Here’s a link to all the ads polled: My favorites NFL “Crazy” & Reebok “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker,” Monster, “When I grow up,” and EDS “Herding Cats”– though it’s a little too much of a gimmick, I find it amusing).

I’ve never understood the appeal of the 1984 ad, though of the spectacle ads it does have a compelling narrative and emotional element (the drive to break free from Big Brother). But the Mean Joe ad, come on? Just watching it now, I was almost in tears. “Hey kid, catch…”

That brings us to this year’s ads which has the usual blend of stupid beer ads that aren’t funny the other 364 days of the year, the offensive — Groupon, the unremarkable…, can’t remember any of those, and the spectacle — Coke & Audi, which were all right, but will probably fall into the unremarkable category before too long.

So which ads did I think were the best. To me one stood out:

I don’t know if this ad was targeted to parent’s but it sure felt real to me. Another company might have gone for over the top, might have tried to make it funnier by making it more absurd, and they would have lost the reality of the moment. Absurd is fine if it’s real, but when it becomes surreal, it needs some element to ground it back to reality.  This ad feels so true to life to me, and it’s so well executed, down to the music, the way the child rushes past his dad at the end, and the surprised reaction at the end.

Does an ad like this sell cars? I would say yes. It’s clever and honest, and somehow sympathetic, and I believe it makes VW seem clever, honest and sympathetic. They could have shown the car racing around corners, but that wouldn’t hook me the way this ad does. That’s the power of emotion.

Along those lines the other ad that caught my attention was the Eminem Chrysler ad. A paean to Detroit (and America frankly), I think it’s a powerful ad, that appeals to that underdog spirit in all of us. I love the script, again eschewing talking about the car, the car is a symbol for something more powerful, and if you want to connect with that story, if you want that story to become your story, buying the car is a way of broadcasting that to the world.  I love the end tag, “Imported from Detroit,” simply brilliant.

Here’s my problem with it, do you need Eminem in it? Why not have him narrate the entire spot? The spot is great for 3/4 then it falls apart at the end. Why does he get out of the car? What’s the deal with choir?  It’s one of those commercials that had me, then loses me at the end. Don’t get me wrong it’s better than 90% of the car commercials out there because of the script and the music, but it ends up falling flat at the end.  Too bad.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the negative ads of the night…. What, wait you missed them?

How about this one:

The ad is obvious swipe at Apple from the 1984 reference to the white ear buds. I find the interesting, but not credible. The ad is trying to turn Apple from the rebel fighting Big Brother into Big Brother. But ultimately I’m not sure that I believe the argument coming from Motorola. I’m not sure what people think of Motorola, but rebel isn’t really one of the first ten themes that come to my mind.  So ultimately while I like the message aikido going on here, I’m not sure it can be successful without some other validation.

The other spot that I recall going negative was this one:

A lot of spectacle, pretty funny and well executed, but ultimately it felt like they were too clever. Audi is trying to be luxury for those who don’t want luxury or something like that. That might be the right position for them, and this ad communicates it well, but there’s not emotional component to it other than the basic message. Compare this ad to the Chrysler ad or the VW ad, which one moves you more?

Still, it’s good to see brands going after each other at the Super Bowl, gets me excited for 2012.

Super Bowl ads remind me of big Hollywood blockbusters, full of sound and fury but ultimately as forgettable as Transformers or X-Men. The best blockbusters, like the best ads are the ones that focus the sound and fury in service of an emotion and a message. The best way to do that is to tell a story. The best ad this year was probably the least expensive to shoot, the same thing was true of my favorite ad from last year.  You can be simple and powerful if you focus on story and emotion instead of spectacle and being clever.

It’s a little like M.A.S.H.

September 8, 2010

I re-tweeted a post from “Hey Whipple Squeeze This” author Luke Sullivan entitled, “Super Bowl Ads (versus all the rest of the year).”

It’s a good article, which basically argues that we should put the same effort into every ad that is put into a Super Bowl ad.  Why does a Super Bowl ad have to rock, but for the other 364 days of the year is it ok for an ad to be just ok.

I agree with that thought, there should be no throw away ads, though too often, especially in politics there are, we need a response ad: Cue standard response ad.  We need an attack: Cue standard attack ad.  You’ve seen them before.

All that being said, sometimes it’s just not possible to make a great ad.  My partner and I say, a great ad a day late, is worth nothing.  Making political ads is far different from general advertising in this respect.  The timelines are shorter, turnarounds faster, and the pressure to get it right (because there is a campaign end and you don’t get a second shot) higher.

I’ve often compared political ad making to general ad making like this:

General ad making is like operating at a hospital, there are emergencies and such, but time is scheduled the pace is predictable, there is an order to it.

Political ad making is surgery in a M.A.S.H. unit (for those of you old enough to remember the movie and TV show). Often it’s meatball surgery.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance for brilliance and creative genius to shine through (as it often did in the hands of Hawkeye Pierce). But sometimes it’s just enough to get an ad to air in time to respond or attack or whatever. My purpose here is to say it doesn’t always have to be just getting it out, that there is room for more.

My partner and I once turned an ad around in 2 hours from writing to shipping to stations to meet an airing deadline.  How good an ad can you create in two hours?  Someone said, “It looks good for an ad made in two hours,” and I replied, “Unless you’re going to be there telling the viewers we only had two hours to create this ad, it better look good for an ad, period.”

As Boris used to say when someone tried to defend their work, “Guys, it is on the screen.”

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I get it, political ads can be tough to make well given the money and timelines.  Sometimes good enough is good enough because it makes it to air in time. But that doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t treat each ad like it was airing on the Super Bowl, at least we can try.

Library Day

June 12, 2009

Maybe Library Day will become a weekly feature.

Oh, what is Library Day?  Well, it’s the day when I recommend a book I think is interesting or helpful in creating great political advertising.

The first book I’m going to recommend is, “Hey Whipple Squeeze This.”

There are a lot of books that litter the bookshelf closest to where I work.  Those are the special books, the books that regardless of topics, I go back to again and again. Sometimes a books come and go off the shelf depending on what I’m interested in at the time, but there are a core that stay right there: “Hey Whipple” is one of those books. (For those of you paying attention, I’ve already quoted from it at least twice on this blog.)

Its subtitled “A Guide to Creating Great Ads,” and that’s exactly what it is.  Filled with observations, tips, stories and examples, it really is the one book on advertising that anyone interested in the craft should read.    What I really like is that Sullivan writes in an engaging tone, and he offers advice that gives you a good theoretical grounding (“Rule #1 in producing a great TV commercial. First you must write one”) while also being eminently practical (“Write sparely,” which is particularly good advice to political ad makers who tend to cram as much copy into “30” second spots as they can; you’ve never seen a grown man cry till you try to get a voice talent read 36 seconds of copy in 30).

The book breaks down advertising into print, TV and radio, then ends with some trouble shooting stories and advice (“Peck to death by ducks”).

And the title? It refers to the Charmin ads which dominated the 70’s.  For those of you too young to remember, Mr Whipple was the cranky grocery store clerk who admonished buyers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” while himself fighting his own squeezing demons.  Mr. Whipple had the distinction of being both the most remembered character on tv and the most reviled.  Sullivan points to the campaign as a cautionary tale of overwhelming the airwaves with ads that aren’t very good can produce results, but, well I’ll let him speak for himself, “What troubles me about Whipple is that he isn’t good. As an idea, Whipple isn’t good….To those who defend the campaign based on sales, I ask would you also spit on the table to get my attention? ”

Ultimately the book is a call to smart,  elegant, and creative advertising because spitting on the table demeans not only those doing the spitting (the consultants or ad execs) but those who they’re spitting for (the business or candidates).  Even if you win, you don’t win.

For that message alone, the book is a perfect choice for my first library day.

I wish I said it first

June 5, 2009

“A new advertising agency for companies that would rather outsmart the competition then outspend them.”

Fallon McElligott Rice Ad Headline, 1981

Welcome to Ad Nauseum

April 16, 2009

Welcome to Ad Nauseum. For a blog about political video and ads, that’s not such a creative welcome. Hopefully it’ll get better from here.

The story how this blog was inspired goes something like this: I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week discussing my new company, Rabin Strasberg Media, and what I thought we could add to the glut of political media.  In the course of our conversation, discussing videos and ads we liked and disliked, he said something like, “You know, you should write a blog about this stuff.”

My first reaction was, who would read a blog that I wrote?  Well, my mom — except she doesn’t even know that the internet is a series of tubes.  So I put that aside for a moment.

Then I thought, what would I say? Well, that part was a lot easier; I always have something to say about what I see out there — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and there’s a lot of ugly out there these days.

A last note: I’m not here to rip on people or their work, though I will certainly give an honest critique. Frankly, I want to be inspired, I want to be moved by what I see, but all too often I’m left either empty or shaking my head. Maybe this is my attempt to raise the craft of political media, to make ads everyone can be proud of.

I read this quote in the wonderful book on advertising, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.” Steve Hayden, who wrote the Apple 1984 ad, said, “If you want to be a well paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.”

Greatness is something we can all aspire to.


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