Ad of the Day – February 10 (Portland)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: Portland
  • Client: Old Spice shampoo
  • Name: Meeting
  • Category: Film
  • Why I like it: So you’re marketing a men’s shampoo. There’s a long and arduous path between your product and a strategy of “hair that gets results.” You’re lucky if you arrive at this sort of creative launching pad: the phrase is open to many interpretations, yet it piques the interest, and it feels appropriate for the product and the target. So far, it’s all pretty strategic, somewhat rational. What fascinates me here is the magical spark that sometimes comes after this…when real creativity happens. In this case, creativity is taking possibly the most literal interpretation of the product promise, and bringing it to life in a way that is surprising, absurd and yet completely engaging. Crisp and clear delivery of a compelling message in a way that cuts through the clutter reaches your intended target. It’s that simple, and that brilliant. So why don’t we all do brilliant work more often? Is it a lack of talent? A lack of courage? A lack of understanding of what good creativity even looks like? Worth a  little introspection, perhaps, as we begin the Year of the Horse. 
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Ad of the Day – July 4 (New York)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: New York
  • Client: Southern Comfort (bourbon)
  • Name: Shampoo
  • Category: Film

Why I like it: This campaign is a gem, it shines bright for its courage and its flair. This is the second ad in the series, and it sustains the momentum and the “wtf?” fascination of the first ad (if you haven’t seen the classic, Gold lion-winning first ad, click here.) The flair is in the little details: the way he just goes ahead and checks the woman out…the old-fashioned shape of his glasses…his snakeskin boots…the real-world sexiness of the woman…her subtle smile of acknowledgement…his retro ring and bracelet…all of these details set off fireworks of secondary thoughts in your brain, and add depth and story to a narrative where seemingly not much is happening. But let’s talk about the courage, because as I watch this ad I have an ongoing thought of “wtf? this…is oddly awesome…I don’t know how to feel about this but I’m drawn to it. How did they ever pull this off?” Ask a FMCG client or account person about the ideal process to get out an ad and they might say something like: 1. concept testing/validation, 2. write-up a tight, specific brief, 3. develop creative that addresses all the nuances of the brief, 4. qualitative testing to make sure consumers get it, 5. quantitative testing to hopefully have statistical validation/guarantee of the breakthrough, comprehension, and forecasted efficacy of ad, 5. Hire director to “shoot the animatic”, without much deviation from what has been validated. We may talk about creative excellence, but really the driving factor here is to minimize RISK, to get it as close to zero as possible. This has a side effect: it eliminates the need for courage. It makes sense, after all there is big money at stake, careers, etc. So that’s fine. But let’s be clear: without risk, without courage at some point, there is no chance at all for great creativity. There. just. isn’t. In the example above, I’m sure they went through steps 1,2,3 and had a nice little strategy and brief. And then…they went off-road. How do you even present an ad like this? What is it even about? An oddly-semi-cool guy getting his hair washed? Imagine the leap of faith required! Going with this campaign takes courage, it assumes risk, it gives a feeling of mild discomfort, dread, and excitement. I doubt they tested it for validation. And I bet that they hired a talented director that added a thick layer of opinion on how the idea comes to life. And that…is how you get to great creativity. It’s messy, often risky, and requires courage and guts along the way. It’s a simple recipe to jot down, but a very hard dish to cook.

Ad of the Day – March 29 (Portland)

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Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: Portland
  • Client: Oreo
  • Name: “Super Imporant Test”
  • Category: Web site

Why I like it: I just can’t make up my mind on this one. Half of me likes the cookie side better. Half of me prefers the cream side. Half of me thinks this site is brilliant. Half of me thinks it’s pointless. Half finds it strategic. Half finds it trivial and self-indulgent. Half is impressed by the infinite content. Half sneers at the wastefulness. Half of me thinks this was made by a crack team of creatives at W+K. Half of me thinks it was the intern in the basement, with a bag of weed, a handy cam and an iMac. Half prefers the cream (again). Half the cookie…Tough choices. But, you know what? As I was making these choices…I leaned forward and engaged with brand for about 10 full minutes, hitting “redo”15 times and even “share” as I was drawn in by the random, almost surreal humor of the videos. And at the core of this engagement is a constant, repetitive question (cookie? cream?) based on THE key product attribute of Oreo. Would I have stuck around for a “rational” conversation on this? Of course not. Did I stick around for this “nonsense”? Sure did! Who’s the clever one here?

Ad of the Day – March 18 (Portland)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Client: Old Spice Wild Collection
  • Name: “Meet the Wolfdog”
  • Category: Web Film

Why I like it: How much fun! Meet the Wolfdog, the new Chief Director of Marketing for their Wild Collection line. Funny. Cheeky. Irreverent. Over-the-top. Contemporary. Viral. All of the adjectives apply – what a joy to come across a brand (and creative agency) that has committed to this type of engagement with its consumer! What really bowls me over is the ambition. The journey from silly little idea to an all-out execution must have been a real thrill ride: It’s not just this video, there is a series of videos. And Wolfdog also started a Twitter feed, has a LinkedIn profile, a Tumblr blog, and more. It remains to be seen if sales will follow, but in today’s wilderness of message-overload – Old Spice has grabbed the attention and gotten people talking. Without attention, you’re not even in the game – so…game on!

Ad of the Day – February 5 (Portland)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Client: Oreo
  • Name: “Whisper Fight”
  • Category: Film

Why I like it: A fresh, delightfully quirky take on a brand whose TV advertising is normally quite safe. How did this happen? I don’t know what went on at W+K (who pitched for and won this single-tvc project), but let’s imagine:

Creative team, day 1: We’ve nailed it!! It’s a debate: people who like the cream part vs. people who like the cookie part!

ECD: Yeah, but that’s been done to death. Miller beer…even Oreo did it a couple of years ago. This is the Super Bowl, folks! Think harder.

Creative team, day 3: Bam! Thank you! We’ve got it! It’s a debate between the cookie people and the cream people, and it gets totally violent and out of control! Cops come in, a big riot, it’ll rock!

ECD: Not bad, but it feels a little gratuitous, a little out of nowhere. What’s interesting about the violence? There’s something there, but it’s nowhere near ready. Think harder.

Creative team, day 7: Boom shaka-laka! That’s what am talkin’ about, bitch, knowaimsain? Check it check it: It’s a debate between the cream-ers and the cookie-ers that quickly escalates into an all-out riot, and…wait for it…it takes place in a library!! The cognitive dissonance between the location and the action is what gets us over the top! Thank you for pushing us before, or we wouldn’t have nailed this twist! (at this point the creatives have secretly sworn to quit and start over if the idea is not approved.)

ECD: Hmmm. Yes. Nice. But…its…not quite there yet. Something is missing. This is good, even very good. We could shoot this tomorrow. But we need outstanding. How do we get to outstanding? What is the variable that we’re missing? Think harder.

Creative team, day 10: Ummm. Well, we were thinking, we’ve got this riot going on in a library, and then we though – libraries, you’re not only supposed to be still, but you’re supposed to be quiet, or the librarian gets angry…so then we thought, what if we make this whole riot happen in whispers? It’s just a small thing, and kind of silly, but people would relate, and we think that maybe…

That burst of inspiration that makes an ad special…it can happen at any time, and can come from anyone. The trick is to keep pushing and never be satisfied. Always tinker, always improve. All of the successful creatives I’ve met share that trait, that “divine discontent” with the work. Here’s to the pushers and tinkerers!

Ad of the Day – January 21 (Portland/Tokio)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: Portland/Tokio
  • Client: Nike
  • Name: “Vapor trail”
  • Category: Film

Why I like it: Idea and execution. Content and craft.  “A great story…well told”. It all comes back to these two critical ingredients of good advertising. In most cases we strive for a balance, because that is how you maximize the chances of hitting the creative jackpot. A great idea, told in an amazing way – that’s the ticket! If the balance is tipped towards either ends of the scale, it gets really hard, because then your idea or execution has to compensate for that imbalance, and most simply cannot. But…every once in a while, you see it. Especially on the execution side – an execution so different, so unique, so well done, so all-absorbing…that it becomes the idea, too. Here’s a great example. Not much of an idea there, as traditionally defined. And personally, I dislike the player, so the celebrity angle doesn’t even work. But man…I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The execution is so good that it crosses over and becomes the idea, and along the way converts an ad into entertainment. Quite rare (although perhaps less rare for W+K: Old Spice and Honda “Cog” come to mind,) and always fantastic to see.

Ad of the Day – August 14 (Portland)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: W+K
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Client: Levi’s
  • Name: “Go Forth 2012”
  • Category: Film

Why I like it: This is the follow-up to the original (and magnificent) “Go Forth” ad by Levi’s, which happens to be my favorite ad. It’s interesting how they maintained the urgency, the optimistic/inspirational quality, and the underlying “youth call-to-action”. But the ads, although part of the same campaign and sharing the same DNA, are actually made quite different through choices in execution. Let’s see: the 2012 ad is much more heavily branded with Levi’s clothes of all types, it’s practically an entire catalog. The setting is very urban, very recognizably NYC, no longer non-descript and vaguely European. Likewise the casting is very consciously hip, NYC, urban and multi-racial, all adding up to a more contemporary (and more formulaic?) picture. The narrator is a young woman and not a gruff, grizzled Bukowski-type. And finally the copy and the narration, not only in its wording but in its cadence, is much more contemporized, rythmic, manic and concrete. I think the overall intent was clear – given that this is a follow-up they wanted to “land the plane” and make it a little more relevant and a little more understood, more tangible, more approachable. They basically made the ad less “art” and more  “advertising” through these choices. Do they pull it off? Does it work better as a piece of communications? Will it have lasting impact? Does it improve upon the original? Yes, possibly, no, no, in my opinion. What do you think? Either way, what’s not debatable is that the folks at Levi’s and W+K Portland are playing at a very high level – hats off to them!

Ad of the Day – August 16 (Portland, OR)

Every morning I go to adsoftheworld.com and other sites and look at 10 random ads (in any medium) from around the non-US world*. Then I post for you my Ad of the Day. Some days it will be awesome, some days it will be pretty weak. But it’s the Ad of the Day!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
  • Location: Portland, Oregon, US (*I’m making an exception because I think this rocks)
  • Client: Levi’s
  • Name: “Go Forth”
  • Why I like it: The words from Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart” provide the backdrop for this somewhat-haunting-yet-tremendously-inspiring celebration of youth, desire, life. This one I think will be somewhat polarizing: many will find it a big bunch of BS. Because, for one, this is  advertising is 100% emotion, 0% product. Yet…for an iconic brand like Levi’s, in this context, I think it so works. It really resonated within me at age 39…if was an 18-year-old kid…man I’d be ready to go and take on the world after watching this. Two side notes: these ads were pulled in England given the riots, what bad luck. Today is Charles Bukowski’s birthday, so it’s a fitting exception to my non-US rule!