18 September 2013


Welcome back- good to meet you here again.

Oh, to beg a nickel for every client meeting nowadays let by someone who says:

"We're going to create a viral video."

There is a technical 'marketing' name for these people.  They are idiots.

Don't get me wrong:  creating a viral video is possible.  So is writing a bestselling book, a Grammy-winning teen anthem, and a runaway-hit Broadway play, and an Oscar-winning uber-hit.

So let's look at a marvelous example of that winning-lottery-ticket breed:  a video that's fast-earning the adjective 'viral'-

I love this video, and the entire campaign.  It's made by smart, intuitive people, who completely understand the reinvented self-parodying Bill Shatner.  They intuitively understand that if turkey is funny, a turkey deep-fryer is even funnier.  A 'dingle-dangle' is pure, well, gravy.

Most of all, I love how un-corporate it makes an ad for a massive insurance company.

Viral ads are the new platinum in the shift from 'push' (where advertisers would shove their ad in front of you- on TV or Radio, in print, or, say, with Banners on the Web) and 'pull'- where an attractive ad or idea is released into the zeitgeist, and attracts an audience.

This is not a process story, but rather a quick glimpse at how this viral ad did *not* come about.  At no time did State Farm's creative team use this handy checklist:

To reduce viral success to a paint-by-numbers formula is, alas, a left-brain wet dream.  As simultaneously seductive and elusive as mermaids, perpetual motion, and cold fusion.

Which doesn't stop clients, bless 'em, from making the hopelessly naive request:  "Can you make me a viral video"; to which Marketing creatives can respond with one of two answers:
A)  Of course!  Or-
B)  We'll try our best
The first is a big fat lie, the second screams 'fire me and meet with someone who will answer 'A'.

Creating a viral-video to order is but the latest chapter in a century long struggle to glean a formula from creative success and apply it to other campaigns.  But as self-serving as it sounds, Ad Creative is art, and art doesn't work that way.  Aspire to create a new 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and all you'll wind up with 'Friday the 13th, Part VII'.

Good to meet you here again.  Did I mention that?

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29 May 2013

More Free Lessons from the Best Print Ads

Lesson #1
Great Ads Entertain

Grasping the Age of Persuasion begins by understanding that most of our media are driven by entertainment.  To march out of step with that is to be a pair of brown shoes in a world of tuxedos.  Or an errant paperclip

Lesson #2
Great Ads Engage

Ready?  Let's rewind and replay- in slow motion- what just happened in your mind.  

"Okay, it's teeth.  Wait... the shape is funny.  Awright... it's hard hats.  Why hard hats?  Sensodyne... ah... so it's about protecting teeth."  
Engaging ads invite you into a conversation, and put you to work: using parts of your brain not required with the old-school "we'll talk/you listen" school of advertising.

Lesson #3
Great Ads Assume You're Intelligent

Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin...  People who aren't idiots resent being treated as though they are.  

Lesson #4
Great Ads are Striking to Look At

Even the minimalist ads.  Especially the minimalist ads.  
The late great David Ogilvy used to say "Only first class business, and that in a first class way."  Ogilvy owned a lavish castle in France.  'Nuff Said.

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01 March 2013

Damn, I Wish I'd Written That

By 'that' I mean this:

But I didn't (dammit), Max Joseph did.

For that matter, I wish I'd handled that direction. But, (dammit), Max Joseph did that too.

Why?  In the writing, it's the little things, which, when treated with importance, become the best parts:

  • "Always send a card on Mother's Day.  [MUSIC STOP:  BEAT]  Always."
  • The premise:  "This is what you're not going to do."
  • The "take me to the heart of the Rain Forest" app.
  • "Two twos missing on your left foot."
  • "...a guy named TJ."

Max D. Joseph
3 guesses what the 'D' stands for
You can't make this stuff up.  No, wait... you can.  Provided you're very, very good at what you do.

And the directing?  Here's the mantra all great ad directors (it's a compact club) know & respect-  and pardon the deja vu:  find little 'moments' and make them the best part of the film.  I give you:

  • 29 SHOTS IN 20 SECONDS.From the "I quit" line to our hero finding the heart of the Rain Forest 20 seconds later, we're vaulted through 29 separate, comically charged shots.  Ever hung around for a setup at a film shoot?  Someone begged, pleaded w. Mr. Joseph not to spend days getting shots- some lasting much less than half a second.   Yeah-  Mr. Joseph (dammit) edited too.  
  • "THE CLICHE GRINGO FANTASY of becoming an honorary native and leading the resistant forces" against a rapid fire slide show of visual icons, including Lawrence of Arabia, Avatar, Costner's Lt. Dunbar from Dances with Wolves... then our hero.  Every look up the word 'gringo'?  Bet Max Joseph did.
  • THE DISTANT DESERT HIGHWAY SHOT with the arrow pointing at our guy.
  • THE KID'S GIGGLE when Dad is decked.  and-  my favourite moment-
  • RECOGNIZE THE GUY WHO'S TAKEN UP WITH OUR HERO'S WIFE?  Go back to the :05 mark.  Aha!  Brilliant.  And finally:
  • THE TURN- the moment you must pay the piper for all the preceding entertainment.  The explanation of "Follow the Frog."  By then you've been entertained for 3:30- and in return, are likely happy to offer your time and attention to the final 30 seconds. Mere mortals, in lesser works, pummel you with the 'sell' from the get-go, and sprinkle entertainment moments in between.  The "Follow the Frog" message requires discipline, guts, a courageous client, and talent.   So hard to make those planets align.
You know the old story about the secret of carving a marble statue of a horse- you start with a block of marble, and carve away everything that *doesn't* look like a horse.

So it is with an ad that works.  It's not that its content feels right- it feels more like it was there, waiting to be discovered, and all someone had to do was chip away the pieces that don't belong.

08 February 2013

Dear Fred: I Want to Tell You Why Bob Levenson Mattered To Me...

On a given day, some 154,138 human beings die.

Bob Levenson 1929-2013
One of them, this past January 16th, was Robert Harold Levenson, late of the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, a standard bearer of advertising's Creative Revolution a half century ago.

Of the great stories revived about Bob, the best one circulating is Bob's advice about writing great copy.  Even his advice about writing inspires an "I wish I'd written that."
"Start it 'Dear Fred: This is what I want to tell you about [the product].'  Pretend you're talking to an intelligent friend who knows less about the product than you do.  When you're done, simply cross out the 'Dear Fred.'"
Damn, that's clever.

Copywriters should write these words on their gates.  On pure parchment, wrapped around their foreheads, tied to their arm, or nailed to their doorposts.

For the last show of our first season of The Age of Persuasion- not certain as to whether CBC would invite us back, and if they did, that we'd want to return, we took the unusual step of building an entire 27 minute show around a single ad.

A Bob Levenson masterpiece, and for our money, his magnum opus. 


23 January 2013

AGE OF PERSUASION: free online Streaming

Bless the CBC for streaming past episodes of The Age of Persuasion.  Click here.  Enjoy.  Come back and give me heck for stuff that irks you.  -mt