Here it is - your Friday Frolic.
The first ad agency I ever worked for was called Brown Christensen & Associates. Pretty much forgotten now. But in their day they were an important independently owned kiwi firm. They famously introduced Coruba to New Zealand and made it a best seller - and New Zealand the only country in the entire world that preferred dark rum to white rum.
I joined as a production assistant - doing analog work that doesn't exist today: filing and retrieving transparencies, making bromides for finished artists to paste down onto layouts, marking up type, checking galleys…it might as well all be in Anglo Saxon…meaningless in the digital era. I finagled my way into the creative department by teaching myself to render and by leaving my layouts out in plain site of the principals of the company.
Brown Chris were a plum that was riope for the picking - we served clients like Amex, Panasonic/National/Technics, Fisher & Paykel, NZ WInes and Spirits…DDB came knocking and bought the agency. As part of the indoctrination there was a copy of a book called Remember Those Great VW Ads. Brown Chris were bought and I was sold. I still have the book somewhere - I read it over and over, copying the writing style.
The presentation I've put together is the fist time I've used SlideShare as a maker, rather than a consumer. Thought I'd translate the classic parody by Fred Marley and Hal Riney that I used to share with my advertising students at Massey University school of design. Study it carefully. And remember it next time you just want to add a little tweak or apply some cockamamy rule or convention to a product or an idea.
There's something to be said for Newcastle Brown Ale - unfortunately it's not 'mmm, nice beer.'
But it's amusing that they have created an adorable little campaign with comics not doing their best work and b-list acrtresses doing their best in an internet campaign - because they can.
I felt this was appropriately a little flat and lukewarm.
And why go to all that trouble to be vulgar then bleep out the bleeping vulgar bits?
And now the educational part.
This is a description of newsjacking.
Walt Stack - 80 years old.
On the road. Just him, his shorts and shoes. And that's pretty much it.
This ad challenges the idea that the people in your ad should be the people your product is targeted to. (I guess that's why there are so many ads out there in the market with beardo hipsters and young families - or any number of sterotypical markers for the 'target audience'.)
Was Nike targeting 80 year old marathon runners? That's a pretty narrow niche for a mass market brand.
No, they were targeting people with spirit and commitment - everyday heroes who drag themselves out of bed every morning while others sleep for an extra hour and dream of double shot lattés.
Not Walt though. Walt's out there pounding the pavement and putting a smile on our faces. Hell, if he can do it…maybe I can see myself in his shoes.
Well, maybe not his actual shoes.
But I think you know what I mean.
The debate about gun safety can get a bit inflated in North America.
The arguments can be polar and the mere hint of 'gun control' simply means the battle lines form with the frightened on one side and the lunatics on the other.
This ad cleverly makes its point about keeping some things out of the way of children.
It reminded me of something Bill Bernbach said about not putting your logo on a print advertisement because your prior experience with the brand might mean the reader simply turns the page - and then you're screwed.
Dave Trott doesn't mince words.
By that I mean he writes his blog in staccato prose. Hemingway would be proud.
But set aside the form. It is the content that sets Trott apart in the diminishing pantheon of great British ad writers.
He writes simply and eloquently about creativity. As you should expect he is original in his thinking. Not original in the way that James Joyce was with language, Trott is plainspeak plainspoken, but in the way he marries his own personal experience to the the telling of the story.
In his book Predatory thinking he illustrates his points with his own experiences in advertising - like the story of the expensive painting where the expensive coloured squares fell onto the managing director's office carpet or how he stopped resisting his daughter's desire to channel endless cartoons on the TV by searching out animated versions of the Shakespeare.
My favourite story in the book - which is curated from his blog - is that of Robert Stanford Tuck, World War II air ace who shot down an italian bomber only to discover it was not only no match for dog fight honed skills of British airmen - which he likens to some advertising clients.
"They’re not part of the serious business of advertising.
Of taking market share from their competitors.
They just want to make a nice commercial that everyone likes.
Or do some nice online films that might go a little bit viral.
Something that everyone quite likes.
But nothing too controversial.
Not messages that will upset the competition.
Not anything that will make anyone uncomfortable.
They don’t really want to make waves.
They don’t want to cause a fuss.
They don’t really want to fight.
Which suggests they’re in the wrong job.
Because marketing, like war, is a zero-sum game.
If you want something you have to take it from someone else.
In order for someone to win, someone has to lose.
Adam Morgan described it as “like a knife-fight in a phone box”.
There isn’t anywhere to hide.
There isn’t any place for bystanders.
Everyone has to choose.
Do they want to be the predator or the prey?
Because, if they don’t choose, the choice gets made for them,
Like the Italian Air Force."
Read the full post here.
A masterclass in outwitting the competition
Trott is chaiman of The Gate ad agency. He was the creative force behind Gold Greenlees Trott and has D&AD President's Award on his mantlepiece.
He penned the legendary Hello Tosh got a Toshiba ad - which might seem quaint today but was notable for not only its populist riff (when the Poms were still ever so proper), repurposing Alexei Sayle's Hullo John Gotta New Motor - but also for its novel use of computer graphics. (Hey - they were touting flat screen as if it was the second coming…now Samsung are distorting reality with curved screens…how times change).
Read this book - it is timeless.
I have to confess that Apple's advertising in recent years hasn't really rung my bell. It could be that their products are just iterations of things that already exist (and competitors are snapping at their heels with products that have features every bit as good and in some cases better than Apple's). In the past they had news - like the Mac, the iPod, iPhone (early days) and iPad.
The ad kicks off emphatically off as a tribute to how the iPhone can augment the experience of making music before meandering off into the back blocks of wherever on motorcycles, boxing gyms and in-home planetariums - wrapping it all up with the message 'You're more powerful than than you think'.
It's a bit of a Bohemian Rhapsody kind of thing set to the Pixies Gigantic song. In other words - it's a mess. It seems as if Apple's flat industrial design and flat UX design is a triumph of focus and clarity of purpose - while the marketing department has lost its way. The iPhone may well be just about all things to all people (there's an app for that) - but if you throw everything into the pot at the same time then nothing shines through.
Frankly I think the ad is a bit of a clunker. It almost comes under the heading of - if you have nothing to say then sing it. Though, rather than finding an elegant riff and sticking with it, they went with an atonal mess.
Ads work better when you have a clear proposition - one that potentially resonates with a person. People can't focus on too many elements at one time (especially when they are distracted - or you are distracting them from their purpose - like watching their favourite show on TV).
There is an old advertising trick to demonstrate this to clients when they want to jam pack too much information into a commercial. Get five ping pong balls. Toss one to the client. They'll probably get catch it. Now throw all five at once - good luck with that one. Maybe Apple's agency didn't have the balls to remind their client of that communication truth.
A strong, single minded proposition will beat a complex sequence of information every time.
From time to time the idea of reincarnation is trotted out in advertising.
Top is a magazine in Brazil that covers luxury trends. In these ads they have imagined what Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates might look like if religions that promote the idea of another roll of the dice are right. Setting aside the question of - what on earth they did they do wrong in this life? to deserve such terrible fates (and in the absence of cash would another Llama breed with Mr Gates?).
The ads have been translated into English - Portuguese is the local lingo - so may have lost something in translation - but they remain kind of funny - who doesn't like to take a moment from their hard-scrabble lives to laugh at the uber-wealthy.
I'm being unkind though - in context the ads make a nice point - after all the magazine catalogs the bling and tat the nouveau riche are attracted to.
Ironically Zuckerberg and Gates are notoriously unaffected by their wealth - while Donald Trump takes his Midas touch thing a little too far sometimes - if you've ever visited Trump Tower in Manhatten you'll know what I mean.
My point here is about exposition - creating a visual ad then having to spell its meaning out - it's a bit clumsy. In this case it's easy to get the impression that the suit or the client's wife said something along the lines of: "E se ninguém entende que a coruja é senhor Trump?" - "Maybe you should put his name in the headline?
All communication is better when it is clear. Strip away as much clutter as possible. if your advertising is distinctive you might not need a logo (Bill Bernbach even suggested you might have a better chance of being heard if you leave it off altogether). If you have a strong visual story resist the urge to spell it out in words.
Fewer elements mean less chance of distraction and confusion.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Language can have a powerful effect on people's perceptions.
When things rhyme people think the statement is more true.
Of course if you ask anyone if it is true that things that rhyme is true they will laugh at you.
All is revealed in a study named "Birds of a feather flock conjointly - rhyme as reason in aphorisms"
We explored the role that poetic form can play in people's perceptions of the accuracy of aphorisms as descriptions of human behavior. Participants judged the ostensible accuracy of unfamiliar aphorisms presented in their textually surviving form or a semantically equivalent modified form. Extant rhyming aphorisms in their original form (e.g., "What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals") were judged to be more accurate than modified versions that did not preserve rhyme ("What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks"). However, the perceived truth advantage of rhyming aphorisms over their modified forms was attenuated when people were cautioned to distinguish aphorisms' poetic qualities from their semantic content. Our results suggest that rhyme, like repetition, affords statements an enhancement in processing fluency that can be misattributed to heightened conviction about their truthfulness.
If you use rhyme in your advertising then likeability and the perception of truthfulness increases.
Remember OJ Simpson's trial? Well, you probably don't remember many of the details, aside from the media circus - details are far too complex to process. The jury - who had been subject to a barrage of facts and counter-facts over the course of a very long trial were told by Simpson's clever defence lawyers "If the glove doesn't fit - you have to acquit." And they did.
So, while advertising copywriters might sneer at the idea - maybe there is truth in the adage: If you've got nothing to say - sing it.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.