Posts Tagged ‘spitting on the table’

The road less travelled…

February 26, 2014

Big disclaimer… this ad has some disturbing images.

I really don’t like this ad from Save the Children UK.

I don’t like shock value, and I think this ad depends on the easier to access shock value rather than the harder to achieve hope. Its shocking because they think that will get attention, and they’re right, it will get attention. But when they have my attention where do they take me? Can they get me to connect to the message and give me money to their cause, which the ultimate goal of this ad.

I think they missed the boat. They could have shown a mother giving birth, we could have heard the baby crying, but what about seeing the happy family members? What about seeing the mother holding her new born baby? They could have told a moving story, a story every parent could connect with, instead they decided to shock us into paying attention.

Instead of relief or happy or hope, they leave me feeling grossed out and kinda spent emotionally, that’s not what’s going to motivate me to give. The image in my mind is the mother turned on her side crying, is that really the emotion & message they’re trying to convey?

Beyond being off-emotion, I think the ad is off-message. The CG’s feel misordered, they should have put the midwife information into the middle of the ad, and ended with “Make sure a baby’s first day isn’t its last…” which has a nice ring to it and hits the message they’re trying to deliver.

Attention is easy, real emotion is hard, this ad takes the easy route and is less effective for it.

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Another Super Bowl Ad review…Wide Right

February 11, 2014

I think most Super Bowl ads miss the point.

You’re on the largest ad stage there is, and most ads aim to get attention instead of driving emotion and message — you already have folks attention. The SuperBowl is probably the one event where people are as excited to watch the commercials as they are to watch the event.  Do you need to entertain, yes, but the right emotion can do that and leave a memorable impression about your brand.  Instead brands seem to settle for spitting on the table, they go after the attention they already have but forget about resonating or connecting.

In the order I saw the ads:

This ad had me hooked. Great copy, “The World is full of giants…,” interesting visuals, and a great read by a child narrator. It was a paean to the little guy, the underdog in all of us (and who doesn’t love the underdog). The ad had me hanging on the edge of my seat, waiting for the reveal, I thought it was the new Chrysler ad, a tribute to America and that uniquely American juxtaposition as the last super power and the world underdog. It had me… until it became and ad for Maserati.

WTF? How? Who? Is Maserati really out there fighting giants? The cars cost like $100,000, they aren’t underdogs at all. It was a jip, and I felt cheated. Seriously the ad left me angry, that they had manipulated me.

Got a laugh from the ad, but so what? Case and point, it entertained, but what’s the message? What’s emotion that Dorritos wants me to feel about their chips? Something worth stealing? Funny, but ultimately pointless, classic super bowl ad.

Huh? What? Who’s the ad for?

Ok, this might have been the best ad of the night. Maybe I was just the right demographic, but it was on-message, it was clever, and it was entertaining. The ad shows Radio Shack gets its out of touch in today’s world, that its been stuck in the 80’s (for lack of a better decade), it says they get they aren’t servicing your needs, and that’s going to change. Good use of the platform to announce a big shift in approach.

Was it a great ad, earth shakingly good? No, it was a little too irreverent to be great, but it was good and made its point.

I know I’m supposed to get all chocked up about this cancer survivor ad from Chevy, but I think it really missed the mark.  Too slow, and why is Chevy supporting Cancer survivors? I mean we all support cancer survivors, but what’s Chevy’s particular interest? How does this reinforce their brand image or message? Just seemed like a slow random spot that was trying too hard to make me feel something.

I liked this commercial too. It says something about the brand, and pertaining to my earlier point, it taps into a particular American contrast — feeling great, but being under estimated or appreciated. My problem with the ad is I have no what Weather Tech is or what they do. I love the positioning, but needed just a little more reinforcement of the information for this ad to be truly effective.

I thought the ad was funny, but unlike the Darth Vader ad,the irreverence in this ad didn’t really connect to a larger message. Somehow there was less a sense of truth in this ad that I could relate to. My kids thought it was funny though, though anytime they hear the word butt they laugh.

I liked this ad too. Unlike the Maserati ad, this ad fits into my  existing schema of what Coke stands for. Its interesting in so far, as its the type of ad a mature brand like coke can run, but a newer brand (Weather Tech) has more trouble pulling off.

I thought this was an interesting ad. I liked the use of Bruce Willis, and thought it was a good message for Honda. The end of the ad feels a little too silly for the message, it felt off tone. I think the ad would have been fine with just Bruce Willis or just someone hugging him (or him hugging his kids or something). The strange guy feels out of place.

Gosh, I would have liked to like this ad. Chrysler is tapping into those big themes, America, the Underdog, exceptionalism, and it had Bob frickin Dylan. I loved their “made in Detroit” campaigns from the last couple of Super Bowls. But this ad just never hooked me. Maybe it was the opening line, “Is there anything more American than America?” Is that supposed to be profound or ironic?

I mean great images, and it did have some great lines, like “you can’t import original, “you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line,” and  “So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phones, we will build your cars….”

But in the end, the pieces never add up. I wonder if ultimately that’s because of the choice of Dylan, who I see as so anti-establishment. The words seem ironic coming from a man who seems so anti-American exceptionalism in a way (not saying Dylan is anti-America, just that his brand runs counter to all those things associated with… well this ad). Eminem made sense for Chrysler, he’s associated with Detroit and has that edgy bravado they were portraying, Dylan, well, why Dylan? It just never clicked for me despite the various elements.

I thought this was a really nice ad for a sport that’s in decline due to worries about concussions.

It captures a truth, it captures all the things I love about the sport, it captures that unique sense of togetherness, of connection, that being a fan of a team can bring. It was kinda a beautiful spot, and I think potentially a powerful message.

Finally what would a Super Bowl be without a Scientology commercial…? Wait, what? Ok, this one was a bit of a surprise. Religion like politics are hard to judge because so much of your own identity comes into play. That being said, I think this is a pretty good commercial. While it didn’t appeal to me personally, I think it could be effective to connecting with folks who feel lost into’s world. The commercial felt modern and assured, it offered a solution — spirituality (not religion mind you) and technology. That’s a potentially a powerful mix.

As far as branding or re-branding the church, I think if you’ve never heard of or though about scientology its a really effective ad, if you had some idea of what Scientology is before hand, I not so sure it would help to overcome whatever doubts you (or I) hold.

So that’s it. Like the game, I thought the ads were mostly a bust. There were a few good ones, but in general I thought the ads missed the mark.

The no rap, rap.

August 15, 2012

Back in college, there was a lot of talk about your “rap.” Which meant, the lines you used to pick up women, or at the very least, what you said to a woman when you started talking to her. There was always discussion and envy of the guy with the smooth rap, who always seemed so confident and sure of what to say, and who always seemed to get the girl in the end.

Then there’s this… the rap with no rap:

The phrase came up one night as my friends and I discussed our “raps.” I think I said something to the extent that I had no rap and therefore was at a disadvantage, another friend who knew me too well, countered that my rap was the no rap, rap.

Other than the “guy with two first name” I thought this ad was interesting (interesting as opposed to effective, which I’m not sure about). It’s not a bio or any other specifically message driven on it’s surface. But it’s subtext (like many ads) is really where the meat is.

This ad is the political equivalent of the no-rap rap. I hate political ads, so I’m going to talk about my seemingly random friends. But what Gregg is talking about is a way of life, a way of thinking, and his connection to it. I would guess he’s betting a lot of Indianians know guys like Hobo and his friends, and somehow, being a kind of regular guy is an advantage against his opponent former Washington, DC Congressman Mike Pence.

Political ads today are almost always about the smooth rap — the focus on message over everything else. Sometimes that smooth rap is effective, usually when it’s authentic, something it’s just aired with such repetition that it becomes true, and often it’s just a bloodbath with two candidates fighting it out with their smooth raps to see which one voters like the best.

An ad like this stands out, whether it stands out for the right reasons or not, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting… or maybe it’s just my appreciation for the rap with no rap.

A different kind of gimmick

August 2, 2012

Wasn’t planning on writing about this ad, but I’m the middle of a great book, “Winning the Story Wars,” and it helped me focus my thoughts about the ad in a way that I thought was helpful:

I write a lot about gimmicks — ads that use a trick or device to get attention. When these ads work, the gimmick is on-emotion and in tune with the authentic story of the brand (or candidate).  When they don’t work, it’s often because the gimmick is just spitting on the table — it’s only about getting attention, and the emotional connection to the brand or message is non-existant.

This Cicilline ad uses a different kind of gimmick. It wasn’t clear to me until I read this from “Winning the Story Wars”:

The Trial of Gimmickry

SIN: Are you trying to make a quick emotional connection by putting all your eggs in the basket of nonsensical humor or high-intensity emotion?

SUCCESS: Or are you building emotional affinity around shared values – layering humor and emotional intensity on top of this solid foundation?

My first thought about the Cicilline ad (really, my second thought, my first thought was that the footage looks kinda bad) was that it didn’t earn the emotion it was seeking — telling stories about Cicilline coming to the aid of Rhode Islanders.  There were too many stories, and somehow they don’t resonate.  Reading the quote from Story Wars, it’s obvious to me now, this is another type of gimmick ad, though less obvious the the ones that rely on humor or some conceit. And to put it in the Story Wars framework, this ad is trying for high intensity emotion, but it’s not built on any foundation.

Look, I’m sure he helped all those people, and that’s great, but that’s his job isn’t it?  What makes these cases special or unique? Is Cicilline the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help people? Or is he an unpopular congressman, trying to bolster his image?

In some ways these ads show disrespect for the viewers. Look, all advertising is manipulative, but hopefully, it offers something more than the manipulation. The two olympic ads I showed yesterday earned their moment, when it gets dusty at the end of the Proctor and Gamble ad, it had worked to get me the viewer there, to get me invested in the story.

This ad, just those an old woman, a vet, a cancer survivor out there, trying to manipulate me without really having to try, it’s just going through the motions. They don’t invest in their story or characters, so I don’t invest my emotions in the spot. I’ve never thought of this emotional manipulation as a gimmick, but it is, and it fails big time here.

Does interesting = Good?

June 15, 2012

I was just lamenting to a friend that it’s sometimes hard for me to blog because I feel like I’m saying the same things again, and again, and again. That’s because for the most part you see the same ads, again and again, and again. In my more down moments, I wonder if I have anything to add to what I’ve already said, and worry that it’s not enough to beat the drum, if you’re beating out the same rhythm (rhythm is a ridiculously hard word to spell by the way, I never get it right).

I cam across this ad in the Daily Kos’ election roundup, a pretty useful daily guide to election goings on, and a great way to see new ads. They have a pretty good sense of the subtext of ads, and said about this one:

“This ad from 25-year-old Republican Weston Wamp (notable only because his father, Zach Wamp, held this seat until a cycle ago) is just deeply… weird. I can’t summarize it at all—it’s a series of different images (John Wayne! moonshot! Bill Gates!) accompanied by a strange meditation on the meaning of freedom. I will say, though, that I was sure Wamp had hired some ridiculously deep-voiced announcer to narrate the ad. Instead, it turns out that the ridiculous deep voice is Wamp’s own. (He doesn’t sound that way when he’s not trying.) Overcompensating much?…:

It’s a little weird, and not really your standard political ad, and yet, there’s something about it I like. It puts a premium on emotion and theme over pure message and facts. I just finished reading Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failures, by Tim Harford. Harford talks about the need to experiment away from the harsh glare of success and failure, in fact he says explicitly that being able to experience in places where you can fail is critical to future successes. He calls these outposts Galapagos Islands — places outside the scrutiny of everyday business or the mainstream focus of action.

I thought a lot about the idea of Galapagos Islands in politics — the stakes are so high (win or go home) and so much money is spent, there’s not much room to experiment because the costs of failure are higher than almost any other industry save ones where life and death are actually on the line (Nuclear plants, airline pilots and the like). Shit, Coke can role out a whole new formula, turn on it’s heels and call it a mistake with little or no fallout, other than a cautionary tale. A politician can’t even change their opinion on an issue opening themselves up to a negative attack.

I’m getting a little off topic here, but the point is it’s hard to try out new things especially in political campaigns. Every candidate wants different, or so they say.  The various occasions they’re presented with different, the reaction is almost always the same, wow, that’s so different, can’t we do something you know more… (I wrote a post about this very fact some time back).

Back to this spot, it’s different, and sometimes that seems weird.  What I don’t know is if it’s authentic? Is the spot just spitting on the table (if I stood up and spit on the table in a meeting, you’d certainly remember it, but would it be the message I want to convey)? Look at those Pawlenty for President spots if you want to see spitting on the table in action. I don’t know if this spot fits people’s image of Wamp, is he seen as a daddy’s boy, and this spot seems strangely like he’s overcompensating (as Nir implies)? Why did they make his voice sound… so oddly deep? My guess after listening to him speak normally is that they put some kind of effect on it in post.  What will people think of that? Is he trying too hard (like Pawlenty) to be something he’s not?

I don’t know the answers to those questions.  But here’s the thing I do know, I actually find the spot kind of interesting, and think in this case the usually astute David Nir misses the mark.  There is something bigger going on here.  “We went to the moon and played Sinatra ’cause no one told us not to…” that line is odd, but also strangely compelling and memorable. Which is what I’d say about the spot.  I’m not willing to say it’s good, but it is interesting, and in a world filled with safe and normal, that’s a step in the right direction. Is it a failure? Well, if it is, then it’s a failure that moves us closer to a success, and in my book that’s something to be admired.

Super Bowl Ads… The Negative

February 7, 2012

Yesterday, I went through ads I like from the Super Bowl, today, I wanted to look at some ads I thought flopped as well a continuing trend, consumer brands going negative (see what I did there, there’s negative like bad, and negative like attack)….

I don’t get it. Met Life cartoon characters, what? Other than getting some attention, there was no connection between the form and the function. What the point? This was weak creative and probably pretty expensive to get the rights to Hanna-Barbara’s characters, so why? Because they could? To try and link to some nostalgia of my generation? Again, if you’re going to do it, then do it, why not show the scooby gang facing retirement, or Richie Rich or Grape Ape, but this was just kinda weak.

(As an aside, there’s a bunch of ads that I thought really sucked beyond my need to discuss, like the  sexist”Teleflora” ad where the woman basically says if you buy your girl something for Valentine’s day, you’ll get some action…. alright.)

Here’s an ad that ran only in Michigan, that stirred up some controversy:

The ad was created by Republican ad guru Fred Davis. I’ve appreciated Davis’ flare and talent here in the past, as well as his desire to make ads stand out, and not be ordinary. But again, I feel he missed the mark here.

I just read this great article in Slate on the demise of Crispin, Porter, Bogusky (a must read). The quote this line from the Crispin employee handbook “that defines advertising as ‘anything that makes our clients famous.'” I think Davis has a similar take on his ads (and he might agree with the Bogusky quote later in the article, “My relationship with advertising was that I was not that fond of it,” he told Canada’s Globe and Mail earlier this year. “So mostly the way I approached it was to kind of mess with the form. “). Any ad that gets his client attention is a good ad, and his ads are very good about getting attention.

Here’s the thing, attention is not the same as being on-message and being on-message is not the same as being on-emotion. This ad gets Pete Hoesktra attention, it’ll get a news cycle or more of talk, but does it move Hoeskstra’s message forward, does it connect with voters any more than the creepy King character connected with consumers?  It sometimes appears that Davis (like Bogusky) holds his medium in contempt, so he toys with it, plays with the viewer, and tries to get his client as much attention as possible — because any attention is good attention… right?

Beyond the offensive chinese stereotype, this ad feels emotionally tone deaf, the “Debbie Spend It Now” line feels forced, there might be a good message here about spending and China holding our debt, but this one is such a mess that it faces the prospect of missing the beat because of all the noise.

Beyond that, here’s are a couple consumer brand on consumer brand crime:

The Chevy ad caused quite a stir as Ford tried to get NBC to not run the ad. I appreciated more than loved this ad. Chevy’s commitment to it’s concept, from the music to the Twinkies,  was well thought out, and they didn’t break the reality they had created except for the line that seemed like it came right out of the Chevy Brochure, “Ford’s not the most durable… blah, blah, blah.” It would have been enough to say Dave didn’t make it, he drove a Ford, and leave it at that, it makes the point.  Still I thought it was clever, and loved the subtly of the jab in an ad filled with excess (in a good way).

The Samsung ad wasn’t the first of it’s kind (it’s run similar ads before), and I think they’re well done. They seem to know their target well — some one hip and cool, too hip and cool to be an Apple Lemming (notice the re-framing of Apple fandom from “think different” to one of the crowd of mindless followers), but someone who wants the latest tech which Samsung happens to offer. Not sure about the “stylus” — which felt like an odd feature (poll driven maybe) to highlight, if you want a stylus, I can did up my old Palm Treo out of my kids toys, still this ad was pretty good, though the big party at the end felt like an unneeded add on, it was something out of a beer commercial.

Still it the ad is nice framing by Samsung, they aren’t trying to beat Apple per se, but position themselves as the alternative to Apple. There’s an aikido like strategy at work here that I appreciate.

Spitting on the table

June 14, 2011

I wanted to write about this video not because it’s any good, and certainly not because I agree with anything in it. I find it offensive and racist and sexist. I wanted to post about it only because it’s a classic example of what I call spitting on the table. What’s spitting on the table you may ask? It’s an example I always use to show the difference between getting attention and getting the right kind of attention.

See it’s easy to get attention. If we were meeting, and I stand up on and spit on the table, you’ll remember me, I’ll get your attention, and you may even talk to your spouse or friends about me after the meeting.  Of course, you’ll probably tell them about the crazy guy who spit on the table.

It’s one thing to get attention, it’s another thing to get attention for what you want to be remembered for — to be on-emotion and on-message. This video may be vaguely on message, but it’s so misses the mark on-emotion (offensive and in your face) that I doubt it would be effective at all. In fact the campaign that it’s supporting has come out against it as well.

I’m sure the group running this mess thought it was brilliant, that it everyone was going to be writing about it, that it was going to crush their opponent. They’ll have to be satisfied with one of out three…, like I said it’s easy to get attention, but what you do with it when folks are watching, well therein lies the rub.

 

 

To Juxtapose…

March 22, 2011

Today’s commercial was made by a friend of mine who I have both praised and savaged on this blog.

I really like this ad, sure it’s a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that works. The guy is running for county assessor, it’s hard to think of a more boring, less dramatic elected office.

In college, my favorite word was “juxtapose” (we should all have a favorite word). I made a conscious effort to put it into every paper I wrote — it was in part because it was my favorite word, in part it was my rather vague and subtle attempt to be subversive.  Anyway, I enjoy the juxtaposition of the western themed elements (music, color, sound f/x) and the rather hum-drum nature of the candidate and the office.

This ads makes drive by assessments dramatic for F-sake.

The funny thing is, for all the drama, music, and stylized shots, this spot works — Jake Zimmerman feels real to me. I have no idea what he’s like in person, but he appears to be a no-nonsense, straight forward guy, it seems authentic.  You could have created a standard spot, imagine the same spot without the music and f/x, it would be fine, but it wouldn’t be memorable. I remember this spot, I remember the message, Jake is fair, no drive by assessments.

(To be honest, my friend showed me a cut where the drive by assessments line was executed in a more standard way, and it flopped, it wasn’t bad per se, it just didn’t really resonate the way it does in this version).

To give this spot even more credit, I’m not sure why my friend thought this combination would work, it shouldn’t, I wouldn’t have believed it would work until I saw it.  I’m not a big fan of gimmicks, usually they’re just, well a gimmick, something to get attention (the spitting on the table), but they don’t usually drive message.  The gimmick here does, and frankly, I’m not sure why, except to come back to my favorite word: Juxtaposition.

Best of the Decade # 6 – #4

December 28, 2009

After a brief Christmas break, it’s back to my blogging.

Now up Six through Four.  Nine through six were all amazing ads, but had some faults to them, as we get closer to the top of the list, these ads are not only brilliantly executed, but form and function combine to present the message in a compelling way.

#6

You can be groundbreaking in form — movies like Star Wars, the Matrix, fall into this category.  New technology, new ways of doing things.  You can also be groundbreaking within a genre.  I’ve talked about this before with car ads.  Think about the Saturn ad that sits at #7, a car ad that doesn’t show the car, inconceivable. This ad a lot of these ads take the genre and turn them on their head, computer ads that don’t tout specs, car ads that don’t show the car, and then there is this ad:

A beauty ad that shows you the truth behind beauty ads.

What’s wonderful about this ad isn’t the execution, but the concept.  It subverts beauty all beauty ads while building up the Dove brand.  Every time you see one of it’s competitors ads, you can’t help but think of this one, at least I can’t help it.  By being the first one into the space, Dove owns it in consumer’s minds (read the classic book “Positioning” for more on this theory), everyone else is just fighting for second place.  Dove becomes the brand that cares about women, cares enough to be truthful, and honest, imagine pitching the concept to the Dove executives, I can imagine the looks that passed between the executives.

But this strategy and its execution move Dove from just another beauty product, a commodity if you will, to something special, it now has personality for lack of a better word, and so it differentiates itself not by features but by emotion.

#5

This ad directed by Spike Jonze falls into the same genre busting template.  It’s all about emotion, about a feeling of a brand.  I admit I’m probably ranking this one higher than it deserves, but it’s just so damned well made.  The shots, the music, the POV (point of view shot) of the lamp looking into the house, watching the new lamp, while it sits hunch over in the rain.  As Boris would say, “Guys this is film.”

I like the unnamed guy at the end making his appearance, breaking the forth wall, and calling the audience on it’s connection to the inanimate lamp, but I have trouble with connection to Ikea…, unboring? Ok.  Don’t know what happened to this campaign, and I don’t remember much from Ikea after this ad, but this one is a mastercraft in film making and storytelling.  You’re never told to feel sorry for the lamp, the lamp never voices it’s sadness, but you’re made to feel it nonetheless, that’s brilliant storytelling.  Jonze leads us, but our minds fill in the gaps. adding story and emotion.

This ad is the ultimate form over function, but it’s about as good as form can get.

#4

Another great ad from VW, and another genre buster.  You see the car at the end, but it’s wrecked. That’s a pretty bold choice in a car ad.

This commercial is about shock value.  You don’t see the accident coming (isn’t that why it’s an accident), so it puts you in the mind of the characters, to quote Boris again, “Guys, this is experience.” The banter at the beginning lulls you, you don’t where this is going, a beer commercial maybe?  It breaks our guessing machine, gets our attention, and then bam, surprises us.  Remember negative emotions are easier to burn into our primate brains than positive ones (I still have this sinking feeling everytime I cross a railway track because of the Coyote and Road Runner).

I tend to discount shock value, comparing it often to spitting on the table, but in this case it works.  The shock is directly related to the message.  Quick who makes the safest cars…?

You probably said Volvo, know for their safety. How to break that link with consumers, to dislodge the first one into that space?  I don’t know if VW replaces Volvo as the safest car in my mind, but it certainly enters the conversation after this ad.  Sure it’s a stunt, it’s shocking, but it works. To me that’s effective.

Spots of the Decade: Honorable Mention

December 19, 2009

I wish I could list the best political spots of the decade, but I’m not sure I could come up with the list.

So I I’m opting for best ads of the decade, starting with my honorable mention choice.

I love this spot, it’s so well executed, and it sums up the genre of dot com spots that dominated advertising in the early part of the decade.  I still laugh out loud watching it, its very clever and memorable.  Well, kind of memorable, see I remember the ad, but I can never, for the life of me, remember who it’s for. I remember what they do is like herding cats (great metaphor), but not sure what it is they actually do.

See that’s the problem with this ad, and the other ads of this genre.  They’re spitting on the table memorable, but there message is lost in the humor and cleverness.  I’m reading an interesting book (only about 25% through), “Personality Not Included,” which argues for the importance of personality in marketing.  One of the key issues with personality is that it needs to be authentic.

This ad, and the genre is represents, are funny, clever, memorable, but they fail ultimately because they don’t connect any of those qualities to the company they represent.  Is the company funny and clever?  What is the personality of the company?  The Apple ads work because they connect to the core of what Apple is — hip, clever, outside the box, marching to the beat of their own drummer.

Its’ not enough to be all those things if it doesn’t connect to a message, a core value, a core principle something real and authentic that people can identify with your brand.


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