13 December 2010

Thoughts on a Christmas (viral) Classic

Can a viral video join the lofty, growing list of must-view Christmas films?

If it can be done, the likely candidate is "Doghouse," this brilliant viral video generated in 1988 by Saatchi and Saatchi New York, for JC Penny.

Consider for a moment that this is an ad form that didn't exist 20 years ago.  The closes available medium then was television.  And the very thought of truncating this letter-perfect 4:45 into 30 seconds is akin to reducing Wagner's Ring Cycle to a ringtone.

It wouldn't do.

Doghouse is an incredibly useful lesson in the ingredients necessary to turn an advertiser's message viral:

Doghouse ain't cheap.  Actors. Sets. Effects. Locations.  Very few advertisers who tell their agencies "make us the next 'Doghouse' " are going to be willing to bankroll a film with such high production values.

The story, the script, the actors, the direction, the 'moments'- this film works unbelievably hard to deliver worthwhile touches from start to finish. (Did you notice Donnie is bald.  But in his flashback film, he has hair- which tells you how long he's been in the Doghouse.)

Important, funny little touches like that beget repeat viewing.  This film has dozens of 'em.

Doghouse serves the viewer first.  It entertains.  It spins a great story. It introduces rock-solid characters. It leaves the viewer believing "this is an entertainment."

That flies in the face of 150 years of modern advertising tradition.  Clients tend to treat ads as elevator pitches, frantically cramming boatloads of information about themselves in a confined physical (or chronological) space.  Bad ads- and most, alas, are bad- are written for the advertiser- not the viewer.

Doghouse doesn't mention the advertiser until the very end.   And by then, it's hard not to feel grateful to them for the preceding four minutes and thirty seconds.

Few advertisers are willing to put so much faith in a short film that they're willing to bury the sales message in the last few seconds.  (If you were a major retailer, and your sales performance during the make-or-break Christmas season hung in the balance... would you?)

I suspect this sort of courageous experimentation is easier to come by when a medium- in this case, web video- is so new.  (A notion worth exploring on another day.)

For now, top up that mugga' cocoa, prop your feet (with those wooly socks) by the fire, and enjoy one of the greats.  A viral video that makes you sigh:  "I wish all web videos were this good."

24 November 2010

A Word on Chronological Snobbery

C.S. Lewis coined the phrase "chronological snobbery" to describe our natural inclination to assume that we- as a species- are smarter and wiser today than we were in the past. 

It's an easy trap to fall into, given the tragic hilarity of this 1960's TV ad for carcinogen-based flooring. 

Or an ad wherein radioactive particles are smeared across the face of a model:


Old ads are an irresistible time capsule.  They show us the 80's hair we used to have.  The groovy way we used to rap to one another. Our long-forgotten  aspirations.  And the painfully outdated norms once perfectly fashionable.

Let's laugh while we can- because there'll come a reckoning. 

In a few years, our turn will come; we, and future generations, will look back at our culture, as it is today, and split a gut laughing.  They'll laugh at our clothes.  Our hair.  Our media.  Our tastes in music, fashion, and entertainment.

And they'll laugh at things we accept that will be banned, shunned, debated and feared in coming years. 

Which makes you wonder:  what are the "asbestos floors" or our time?

08 November 2010

Adendum: The "Any Publicity is Good Publicity" Myth

In The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture, Terry and I take on several of the myths that continue to haunt the marketing business.  Flip with me to page 138, and you'll find one of the most persistent:

If it's not to late, may I offer this brief-but-meaningful post-publication addendum:

'Nuff said.

30 October 2010

An Ode to Breathing Room

To follow The Age of Persuasion is to get an earful about the legendary Volkswagen campaign by New York's Doyle, Dane, Bernbach.  And rightly so.

Funny how illogical this classic ad is.  No one who's ever driven in virgin post-blizzard snow would swoon over the virtues of a VW Beetle in such conditions. Flying in the face of logic, this ad says simply, "don't worry."  But without explanation.  A spit in the eye of "Reason Why" advertising.

But have a look at this ad for a moment, or several moments, through a different filter.  Consider how casually it tells its story.  Over 60 seconds- something you so rarely see today.  Notice the long stretches of 'nothing'- no graphics.  No "0.9% financing!" or engineering attributes or asinine mice-type legal disclaimers. No wet-road 'beauty shots' of the car panning quickly by.

It takes its time, and the audience doesn't seem to mind a bit.  Long, silent shots fill out the story in a way no client would accept in today's over-caffeinated mediascape.

Grab a cuppa joe, and treat yourself to 60 seconds of good old-fashioned ad storytelling.

18 October 2010

Television as the "Show Me" medium

Here's a nifty spot from Thinkbox, the outfit that markets Television in the U.K.  It's a wonderful illustration of a point my pal Terry O'Reilly is fond of making- about Television's strength as a demonstration medium.

In what is literally an underdog story, our hero- Harvey- uses Television to demonstrate his many, many virtues to prospective owners at the pound.

Like so many funny broadcast ads, its rife with wonderful moments.  Seems Harvey can use the privy, cut the lawn, cook, clean and iron.  The capper: the wonderful shot of Harvey at the end of the montage: his bag all packed. 

It's true: television is a great demonstration medium. But it's not without its woes.

Television today is what Radio was in 1955.  Still big and glossy.  Still capable of outstanding content. But its days as a flagship medium are behind it. The shift of ad budgets from TV to Internet is palpable, and well-documented.

The Internet will not kill TV, any more than TV killed Radio (as many predicted it would).  Neither did Radio kill cinema.  Neither did cinema kill live theatre. Yet in each case, a king was dethroned, never again to regain supremacy.

As recently as the 90's, water cooler talk gravitated to last night's TV offerings.  Today it's as likely to be about the latest viral video.  

Look no farther than this commercial.  Hands up- who first came across this wonderful "TV" ad on TV?

20 September 2010

Boag's Draught: the secret power of simplicity

In many respects, this is a complicated ad.  Lots of concepts and ideas.  Funny moments.  It makes you listen at one level and watch on another.  All are techniques used by some of the greatest ads.  But one facet- above all- makes this spot work.

It's focus on a single, simple concept, articulated in the first line:

"These pure waters are special.  Something goes in there... comes out different."
There.  In cement.  A single, strong, simple creative proposition.  The rest of the spot riffs on that.

Anyone who's pitched a campaign in a boardroom knows what a gentle flower a great, simple idea is.  And how easily it's crushed beneath a well-meaning manure pile of unnecessary detail.

Such simplicity runs counter to the traditional agency/client process.  I'll bet you a nickel that someone saw the virtue of this idea, wrapped her arms around it, and protected it from Category Four bombardment of suggestions and additions.

What emerges and grows is a spot worth 60-seconds of the viewer's attention.

An all-time classic?  Probably not.  A fun, watchable monument to creative discipline?  Absolutely.

As though, this once, the creative process was dipped in some special water...

03 September 2010

Monday at Noon: hear "Help Wanted: Searching for Labour Day"

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 6th  (Labour Day)
CBC Radio One

What do you get when you cross singer/songwriter Mike Ford (Canada Needs You, ex-Moxy Früvous) with the producer of The Age of Persuasion?

You get Help Wanted: Searching for Labour Day- a one-hour radio special on CBC Radio One.  Join the Mike's and travel back- and forward- in time, and all over the world to explore the origins, politics, and personalities behind Labour Day, the "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" of stat holidays.  Ignored. Overlooked- and perhaps just in need of a little love.

Keith "the Sonic Swede" Ohman, MT & host Mike Ford

Recorded at CBC Radio's Studio 213, it's a new kind of radio/documentary/musical storytelling style.

If you want to listen online, you can catch it in your choice of time zones:  click here.

Here's a brief home movie I took of Mike warming up, as The Swede sets up the mics:

I hope you'll tune in.

18 August 2010

The Evil of Faux Virals

First things first: I don't believe the trick in this video is real.

For lots of reasons: perhaps the best being this:  if Federer missed, and clocked this fellow in the head (or in a misc. extremity), he and team of lawyers would certainly go to work relieving Mr. Federer of many of the $35 million dollars he's said to be worth.

Too risky.

As I post this, the YouTube posting has more than 700 thousand hits.  And the press, including the Toronto Star- and yes, your humble servant- are helping spread the virus.  CBC aired audio this morning.

Gillette isn't so brazen as to insist the 'trick shot' is real.  The backlash would be too mighty if and when the deception was exposed.  Instead the bask in the glow of owning the viral-clip-de-jour.

This is cynical.  The short-term gain Gillette enjoys comes at our expense- especially to those of us in marketing.  It adds more erosion to the trust audiences have for what they see, and the stories they're told.

It another cry of 'wolf'.  It shouts 'fire' in the crowded movie theatre, then titters at the reaction.  A selfish act that adds another smidge of erosion people's trust.in what they see, hear and experience.

Time to start visualizing a world where people believe nothing. To the fading, echoed voice of Bill Bernbach, who said:

"All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level."

22 July 2010

Cannes Lions: Stories Matter.... Ici!

Here's one of my favourite Gold Lion winners from the Cannes 2010 Advertising Festival held last month.

Months ago I'd received this video by viral email: a sign of popular consecration that eludes many award winning spots.

We know America's AMC for its tagline "Story Matters Here."  When France's Canal+ Pay TV channel launched an original series of films, docs & series, it's agency explored the same creative headspace.

Age of Persuasion followers will know we have long lauded the power of storytelling as a means of planting an idea or brand in people's heads. It was as true for Sheherazade as it is for today's Ad Agencies.

The joy of this wonderful short film is its transition from 'big' to 'small'- from epic adventure to bedroom farce- quicker than you can say "Gérard Depardieu."

And how much humour it leverages from that gloriously abrupt 90-degree turn.

* * * * * *


Here's the spot recommended by Stupid in Regina, below:

19 July 2010

The 2010 Cannes Lions for Advertising

For a few short weeks each summer, the Cannes Advertising Lions winners are posted for all to see.

Then- poof! They're gone. Unless you're willing to shell out some serious Euros to see them.

Click here for a boo at the ads that won this year's film category- that includes online ads, and ads for TV and cinema.

Click here for the Radio Lion winners- the world's best radio ads of the past year.

Then let's meet back here in coming days.  I'll feature some of these ads, and we'll talk about why the caught the well-honed imaginations of the Cannes juries.

26 June 2010

Why I'm Leaving The Age of Persuasion

Today marks the last Age of Persuasion episode of the season, and the end of my involvement in the show.

It's been a privilege and a hoot working with Terry and Keith, creating more than 100 shows, and collaborating with Terry on The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

It's been the best kind of work- and the hardest. Being the lone full-time staffer on the show, I've logged more than 450 days researching & writing, and more than 1600 hours in production, and a half-year of working full-time, flat-out, on the book manuscript.

Now it's time to see what the rest of the world looks like.

And whatever comes next for AOP, I'm delighted to leave it as it should be- in its prime.

And now? It's kind of you to ask; I've been commissioned to create and produce a one-hour special for CBC Radio One, to air on Labour Day. Please pop back here in coming days and I'll spill the details.

That's in addition to a return to the *other* work I love- creating ads, and giving talks and workshops on creative communication.

So now I wave so-long to The Age of Persuasion with no small measure of gratitude to Terry, Keith, our CBC friends, the great folks at Pirate- and especially our listeners- for such a great ride.


17 June 2010

When Is a Great Ad a Lousy Ad?

It's great when-
  • it stands out from the pack
  • it captures the imagination.
  • it makes you laugh.
  • it makes you want to see it again.
  • it makes you want to share it with friends.
  • it lives on through the Internet- (here, for instance) long after its birth.
It's lousy when it doesn't sell the brand.

Here's an easy test- plug any- and I mean any- cellphone brand in at the end of this spot. Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Still funny, isn't it?

This is great entertainment, not a great ad.  I'm glad I saw it.  I'm glad you're seeing it.  But as at least one great ad sage has noted, when you can remove the brand from an ad without the ad falling apart, there's something seriously wrong with it.

If the brand- it's Kyocera, by the way-  ran this as part of a long series of ads in the same headspace- to a point where that mnemonic at the end was associated with first-rate ads (like a swoosh, and the words "Just Do It"), then this ad could be one piece in a powerful branding machine.  But as a one-off, it's a confection: sweet, delicious, irresistible, quickly forgotten.

Tricky thing, this ad business.

01 June 2010

My New Favourite Website

The Cheese & Burger Society is a marketing vehicle for Wisconsin Cheese. The beauty of it is that it never 'feels' like it's selling you something. Yet it does.

Oooooooooooo, but it does.

Like all great works of marketing, this site's single-minded objective is ever in focus: dress your burger with Wisconsin cheese.

Pop quiz:  it's your job to create a website that incites people to do that. What do you do?

The immediate answer is to create a recipe-destination site, with 'beauty' shots of burgers and easy-to-follow recipes. It's a great idea, which is why a gazillion other marketers have already done it.  Your brand might as well join the Witness Protection Program.  What the Wisconsin Cheese added was a not-so-secret ingredient:


With crisp visuals and deliciously simple design, the site tells the story of dozens of burgers, borrowing the irresistible voice of Patrick Warburton, in that rare class of 'born-funny' people who can generate a laugh with the casual twitch of an eyebrow. His credits include the voice of Joe Swanson in Family Guy, the pie-eating Agent 'T' in Men in Black II, and David Puddy, Elaine Benes' boyfriend in Seinfeld:

To those who are suckers for the Warburton style (your humble servant included), it's impossible to hear just one burger description.  It's so easy to flip from "The Couch Potato"  to "The Lumberjack" to "The Big Ben" for lovingly written 15-ish second descriptions.

The "sell" to the site is tucked neatly in a back pocket, and left there.  No "sign up here."  No being herded to a site listing cheeses, cheese manufacturers. No painfully mandatory "Meet the CEO" page.  Subtle branding like this requires enormous courage: you must hope people are so enamoured of your web content, that they consciously stop to wonder "who did this?"

The URL- www.cheeseandburger.com-  betrays nary a wiff of 'sell'.  Never does this site succumb to the temptation to insert any sort of in-your-face product pitch.  

Don't underestimate the importance of entertainment-driven online content.  The emphasis must be on courting, winning, and keeping each visitor.  The moment a website serves itself instead of its visitor- click- they're gone.  Faster than you can say bored-dot-com.

The site's strategy is so simple: Come for the laughs.  Stay for the cheeseburgers. Leave feeling good about Wisconsin Cheese.

It's a brilliant recipe.

26 May 2010

Nike: Write the Future

Have a good look.

You won't see an ad this 'big' very often.  Because, shy of confirming extraterrestrial life, the return of Christ, or the discovery of why two socks go in the dryer but only one comes out- the FIFA World Cup is the only world event worthy of an ad of this scale.

Or vice versa.

So big is this ad, that it had 'teaser' ads made, promoting- not the World Cup- but the segment featuring Britain's Wayne Rooney.

Nike created a similar teaser spot for Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.

The spot is airing in 32 countries.  The director is Alejandro G. Iñarritu, known for his Hollywood titles Babel and 21 Grams.

The joy of the spot is the aggregate of countless- and lovely- 'blink-and-you-miss-them'  moments: all the babies named "Wayne," the "Ron's Samba Robics" infomercial, the club dancers paying homage to Fabio Cannavaro's bicycle kick.  To the mere mortals of advertising, these are budget-breakers.

Beyond Rooney, Cannavaro, and Ronaldo- look closely and you'll spot football greats Didier Drogba,  Franck Ribery, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Patrice Evra, Gerard Pique, Ronaldinho, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Thiago Silva.

The world's biggest sporting event meets the world's biggest sporting brand. Result: an ad that reduces Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, and Homer Simpson to cameo appearances.

For this epic ad, Nike left everything on the field: a metaphor not lost on astute brand-watchers.

* * * * * *

Under 'N' for 'Nikeus Interruptus'- when the much-hyped, much-anticipated full-length spot debuted, England's ITV accidentally cut away from the ad just before the end- depriving millions of viewers in in southern England and Wales of the last few seconds.  

21 May 2010

More of the The 'Making Of' Trend: Honda Choir

A highly potent sister to Honda's "Cog" commercial (see post below)- "Choir" is another fascinating idea for a web-based spot, with a no-less compelling "making of" video:

Terry and I have spent four years preaching- and practicing- storytelling as a powerful means of drawing and engaging an audience.

That's the power of this pair of YouTube clips.  To follow the 'making of' video- if done right- the viewer becomes less of a detached critic, and more invested in the ad- and the brand.

Like 'Cog' it's fascinating in that all sounds are generated from human voices- and not studio gadgetry. 

19 May 2010

The "Making Of" Trend: Honda Cog

The storied 'Honda Cog' ad required 600 takes over four painstaking days and nights to get right.  And there is one, completely invisible edit at about the one-minute mark.

Two stories here.

The first is the amazing ad, from the London office of agency Wieden & Kennedy, which snatched every award on the planet, and moreover, enjoyed enormous viral success  Shot in France over several days, it uses only parts are taken from a real Honda Accord.  The voice at the end belongs to Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor, who has voiced Honda ads for some time.

Why not Computer Generated Imagery?  Why the time, expense, and agony of enduring 600 takes to get it right?  You probably know the answer instinctively. Somehow the ad, and the brand, become more authentic by not "cheating" with the effects.  The accomplishment becomes genuinely astounding. And working feverishly to get it right becomes a metaphor for the Honda brand itself.

The second story is the 'making of' video attached.  As Terry and I describe in our book, we live in an age where people love to know what's 'behind the curtain.'  "Making of" features scratch a mighty itch among consumers to know how things work, and how they're made.  Hence the obligatory 'making of' features that come with DVD's, creating the ironic need for two camera crews on every movie shoot: one to shoot the movie, and one to shoot the shooting.

If you find your interest tweaked by the video embedded above, and the previous four paragraphs, I rest my case.

12 May 2010

The Most Interesting Ad Campaign in the World?

The actor is Jonathan Goldsmith.
The voice-over announcer is Will Lyman, best known for PBS's Frontline.
The client is Mexico's Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery.
The agency is Euro RSCG New York.
The beer, of course, is Dos Equis ("Double X").

I loved this campaign at first sight.  Its decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone. Its consistency.  Its attitude: so-funny-it's-cool.  Or vice versa.

And its litany of one-liners worthy of Stephen Wright.

Again, do you notice that the pictures and v/o are telling different stories at once?  See under 'O' for 'Old Jedi mind trick.' It's a technique that better engages the viewer.

Will this campaign burn out?  Probably. Certainly if they pound out too many spots too quickly.

For now, it's keeping a vast audience, including your humble servant, thirsty for more.

06 May 2010

"Mom! Dad! Guess what?"

SFX:                       PHONE RINGS / PICKUP
MOM:                    (answers) Hello?
DAUGHTER:          Mom!  I can't believe it!  I got a job!
MOM:                    A job?
DAUGHTER:          In a commercial!
MOM:                    What's it for?
DAUGHTER:         I didn't ask.  Wow! I can't believe those two weeks of
                             acting lessons paid off!
MOM:                   That's wonderful dear!  What's it for?
DAUGHTER:         Oh, who cares!  The point is, I'll be on TV!  And
                              everyone I've known in my life will see it!  And if
                              it's on YouTube, they'll send it to everyone they've
                              ever met!
MOM:                    But shouldn't you find out wha-
DAUGHTER:         Gotta go!  Love you!
MOM:                    Love-
SFX:                      CLICK 

* * * * *

30 April 2010

This Isn't Your Father's Old Spice

A few years back, "Old Spice" was Dad's aftershave.  Case closed.

The viral spread of this new campaign is an object lesson for all in the persuasion game: done right, an old brand can play Lazarus: rising quickly, almost inexplicably, from the dead. Just as Captain Morgan aimed its guns at a younger generation in recent years.

The Old Spice scent is the same, but the brand is vibrant and new.  And the past needn't be obliterated- merely updated; note the familiar whistling of the classic Old Spice signature tune at the end.

Interesting that it seems to target women, urging them to buy Old Spice for their men.  Axe and Tag, meanwhile, target young men by way of the ever-dependable male libido:  "buy our product = get horizontal with pretty young ladies."

Would love a peek at the research:  how many women buy fragrance products for their husbands/boyfriends?

19 April 2010

The New York Times Reviews AOP

April 16, 2010

When Marketing Becomes Almighty

SUPPOSE aliens landed on Earth today. What would be their main impression of our culture? Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant argue that they’d be struck by the omnipresent influence of advertising and marketing.

“Had you stumbled upon this planet in any other era, you might have concluded that we lived in an age of stone or bronze, an ice age, an age of reason, or an age of enlightenment,” they write in “The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture” (Counterpoint, $26).

“But today? You couldn’t help but conclude that we live in an age of persuasion, where people’s wants, wishes, whims, pleas, brands, offers, enticements, truths, petitions and propaganda swirl in a ceaseless, growing multimedia firestorm of sales messages.”

Mr. O’Reilly hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series “O’Reilly on Advertising” and co-founded Pirate Radio and Television, a production company. The book is named after another CBC series, “The Age of Persuasion,” created by Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Tennant, a freelance writer and lecturer.

Their book is at its best tracing the evolution of modern advertising — from the mid-19th century through the present.

The authors credit Samuel F. B. Morse’s invention of the telegraph in 1844 with allowing manufacturers to exchange transcontinental communications with newspapers. The next year, they say, Volney Palmer, a Philadelphia businessman, created the first modern ad agency. The business was essentially a middleman that bought up blocks of ad space in newspapers across the country, then resold them in parcels to expansion-minded manufacturers. Although it was still up to the manufacturers to create their own sales messages, the agency freed them from the task of identifying and negotiating dozens or even hundreds of ad placement opportunities.

In the 1920s, Burma-Shave pioneered billboard advertising. The company eventually posted sequential signs in 45 states with messages like “Special seats/Reserved in Hades/For whiskered guys/Who scratch their ladies/Burma-Shave.”

The Burma-Shave signs helped set a standard for advertisers to provide consumers with something of value — in this case, entertaining quips — in exchange for their attention to sales messages.
With the dawn of radio, the authors say, this advertiser-consumer exchange evolved into a “great unwritten contract.” On radio, the provided value was daily offerings of entertainment and information, whether in music, drama, comedy or news briefs.

“It was a great deal, and it solved a huge problem for early broadcasters, who, unlike theaters, couldn’t charge admission, and who, unlike magazines and newspapers, couldn’t solicit subscriptions,” the authors note, adding, “This same unwritten, unspoken contract would form the economic template for television and, more recently, the Internet.”

YouTube, founded in 2005, follows in the tradition of exchanging something of value for audience attention. The authors say it is revolutionizing marketing by enabling “democratized ad messaging.” Rather than being the passive recipients of sales pitches from advertisers accompanied by entertainment or information, consumers can now create and disseminate their own entertainment and information in the form of videos.

“Since the rise of the Internet in the ’90s, and with the growth of texting, instant messaging and online social networking, ad-driven mass media, especially television and print, are fast losing their power as the gatekeepers of information, music and entertainment,” the authors say. “People are connecting directly in groups and communities, leaving many advertisers locked outside, pawing longingly at the window.”

A large chunk of YouTube’s audience, he notes, is under the age of 20 — the so-called Yoots, who account for $570 billion in annual buying power. The authors contend that to reach the Yoot demographic, marketers must learn to create “a whole new language” for selling products and services that taps into the Yoots’ fondness for customizing and personalizing messages.

As a prime example of an existing marketing model, the authors cite Starbucks. They say it broke the premium price barrier for a cup of coffee by changing the name of what was once described in common use as a “small” serving to what the chain describes as a “tall.”

“In fact, the coffee culture championed by Starbucks has millions of customers speaking in tongues,” he says. “With its baristas serving iced quad Venti with whip skinny caramel macchiatos, they draw customers into the Starbucks culture, complete with its unique language, creating an exclusive club and community.”

“THE AGE OF PERSUASION” suffers from the fact that the authors are not veteran nonfiction print journalists. In the hands of a writer like Tracy Kidder, this book could have been more compelling. Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Tennant have a habit of scattering historical tidbits throughout their narrative without providing proper context.

They also fail to note that for many consumers, a brand-based language can be off-putting. I, for one, still insist on ordering a “small” coffee, not a “tall,” and on shutting out most of the 24/7 sales messages that attempt to invade my personal space.


09 April 2010

The New Tiger Woods Ad

There are too many opinions rattling around about Tiger Woods.  Allow me to become part of the problem.

 I like that Nike stuck with Tiger.  Dropping him would have been understandable- and gutless.  Note that the decision itself is consistent with Nike's mission statement:

Just Do It.

Deciding on a direction for this would have been agonizing. The trick was finding a message that would surprise and intrigue the viewer.  One that avoids mitigation and contrition. One that doesn't try to repair the hero, or rebrand with a "bad boy" skew.

Instead, they went with a fascinating "what if," built on the question "what would Earl think of all this?" And they resisted the temptation to resolve anything.

I don't think the ad is 'great' in the way we define great on our show.

But I do think it's perfect.

06 April 2010

Desert Island Reel: One of my Favourite Spots Ever

True, it's like choosing favourite Children.  But if asked to grab a few all-time favourite ads to take to the proverbial desert island, this Pepsi spot, 'Spartacus' is an easy choice.

I love how the innocuous 'Pepsi' story is a fire & ice contrast to the original scene of intense selfless courage.

That Romans would care which condemned slave left is bag lunch at the rest stop.

Little touches: that the 'Spartacus' on the lunch bag is written in an ancient lettering style. That it offers a whole new explanation for the tear in Kirk Douglas's eye. And that the chief Roman should sound like a DNA relative of Don Adams.

So much care went into this spot.  From the brilliant-if-mercurial director Joe Pytka, for BBDO New York.

29 March 2010

Age of Persuasion State Secrets Revealed: My Favourite Links to Great Ads

 Keith & me working on AOP

Yay, friends! You too can access the fantastic spots we source for The Age of Persuasion.  Beyond the banker's boxes full of reels and cassettes and CD's in my office- and the heaps of spots in Terry O'Reilly's collection, many of the feature spots on our show can be found online, on some wonderful websites:

A search-able database of so many wonderful American radio ads from one of the better ad awards competitions.

Not as search friendly, but there are great spots posted in the archives here.

A wealth of material- Canadian and some international- going back decades.  But it's like a big pile of goo dumped in an attic.  Many treasures, but finding them is a crapshoot.  Cataloging is poor, and details are nonexistent. This site has been most useful when I've known what I was after before I started searching.  Now and then I discover spots on here that I wrote 25 years ago.

This site has been a plum for Age of Persuasion research.  Not just for its treasury of great Canadian TV spots- but especially for the detailed, well-researched backstories behind them.

The Quebec Radio Bureau site has some wonderful links to ads- English and French.  Been a great place to browse when I wasn't sure what I was looking for.



10 March 2010

Why I'm leaving The Age of Persuasion

This week I am announcing that I'm leaving The Age of Persuasion radio series after this season ends (in June).

It's been a privilege and a hoot working with Terry and Keith, creating more than 100 shows, and collaborating with Terry on The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

It's been the best kind of work- and the hardest. Being the lone full-time staffer on the show, I've logged more than 450 days researching & writing, and more than 1600 hours in production, and a a half-year of working full-time, flat-out, on the book manuscript.

Now it's time to see what the rest of the world looks like.

For now, we're still very busy on the shows that remain between now and June. Whatever comes next for AOP, I'm delighted to leave it as it should be- in its prime.

And with nothing but gratitude to Terry, Keith, our CBC friends, the great folks at Pirate- and especially our listeners- for such a great ride.