19 January 2011

Hold the Eulogy: Great Super Bowl Ads ain't Dead

Why... this is my favourite spot from last year's Super Bowl, thanks for asking.  

Call it 'storytelling by other means'; the art of telling a story by unconventional means. Such as... say... a TV spot that tells a story, not with actors, dialogue or on-screen text, but by queries on a search engine. 

Or Hemingway's famous "shortest story ever":  "For sale: baby shoes.  Never worn."

It was part of the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, who opened Dial M for Murder with a Ray Milland / Grace Kelly sequence that told us everything we need to know about the main characters- without a word of dialogue.

Hitchcock did the same again in Rear Window- where in one opening shot we learn that Jimmy Stewart's character is an accomplished magazine photographer, that he was working too close to a crash at a motor race, that he broke his leg (and still got a great photo), and that he was cooped up in a wheelchair in his apartment.

Not a word of dialogue in either of 'em. 

This Google spot not only tells a story, but- as anyone with a marketing eye notices immediately- demonstrates the product in doing so.

'Nuff to leave you speechless.

05 January 2011

Cities: the new Blank Canvas of Advertising

Owners of heritage buildings are forbidden to make even the slightest changes to their own properties without a litany of applications, reviews and approvals.  The reason, one presumes, is to protect the integrity of the urban landscape.

An advertiser, meanwhile, is much freer to unleash immense, evocative, provocative works of outdoor sales-art with far less opposition.

The best of them inspire by infusing a brand message onto the everyday landscape, effectively creating a new medium; which- yes- becomes the message.

Every day, fresh patches of the urban landscape are claimed as a canvas for advertisers increasingly desperate to rise above the growing daily firestorm of ad clutter. But while prevalent, the trend is by no means new.

In 1925, André Citroën advertised his automobiles on the side of the Eiffel Tower, in what Guinness long regarded as the world's largest advertisement.


Advertising is an accepted, even welcome component of most urban landscapes.  No one fond of downtown Tokyo, or Times Square in New York, or- heck- anywhere in Las Vegas would advocate a downtown ad ban in those places.

Urban advertising-art is undeniably brilliant.  And a vibrant conversation-prompting addition to the landscape.

What sits wrong is that, outside of advertising, our society incorporates no economic motive, wields little collective will, to creative similarly inspiring architecture, neighbourhoods, public art installations, and gathering places on the blank urban canvas.