Tag Archives: agencies

Roy and Coach K rocking out… together?

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, what comes across the screen?

Wow. Coach K jamming on guitar? In his undies?  Really?  And with Roy Williams (and Bob Knight and Rick Pitino) sans pants, no less.

I thought Michael Phelps rocking with A-Rod, Tony Hawk and Kobe was the peak of ridiculousness this campaign could hit:


What stomachache-inducing combo will DDB (and H.S.I. Productions) come up with next?


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Music in Commercials

When the Martin Agency first started making UPS Whiteboard commercials, their ironic choice to use the music of The Postal Service was well documented.  While I thought the song choice was a perfect selection for the quirky UPS ads, I also had a hard time getting past the band’s name to sell the services of USPS’s rival.

Music is a powerful ingredient in advertising.  And just like any kitchen recipe, the amount and intensity of an ingredient should be dependent on the balance of all the elements in the composition.  It can carry the recipe, or can complement it.  And of course in failed concoctions, it can overwhelm or underwhelm to work against the intended message.

Here are two commercials that ensnared my attention lately due to the musical components:

“Victory” McDonald’s spot for 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
Music: Os Mutantes – A Minha Menina
Agency:  DDB Chicago

I downloaded this song within ten minutes of seeing the commercial.  That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the music: it was arresting, catchy, and put me on a mission to listen to it more.  I also love that the music tells the story completely and that there was no need for dialogue whatsoever.  Despite the strength of the music, I don’t think it overpowered the message.

Visa commercial
Music: Smashing Pumpkins – Today
Agency: TBWA

The Smashing Pumpkins have been getting a lot of flack for “selling out” this week by letting Visa use their music in this commercial.  Maybe they are selling out, maybe they aren’t, but the point is, TBWA picked a ’90s anthem which not only cuts through clutter, but also drives more attention to their brand because of the debate.  Plus the agency chose Morgan Freeman, who an AdWeek columnist names “the official voice of God in this age of mild Depression,” to narrate the commercial, making it even more memorable.  I think the song is an interesting choice and empowering, which I believe was TBWA’s and Visa’s intention.  I think the bad press is more catastrophic to the band than the brand, but I also believe that most of the general market will like or dislike the song while caring little about whether or not Billy Corgan and his band sold out.

I think both commercials successfully incorporated the music they chose and adequately conveyed their brand’s message, but the first one was a far better and more memorable commercial overall.

What songs have you seen in commercials lately that grabbed your attention?  Did they work for or against the brand?


Filed under advertising, music

Chuck Brown goes wild

Today we wrapped up our portfolio class with the end-of-semester critique. Everyone finished in time and it was nice to see my classmates’ work (and my own) come to fruition. We got some helpful feedback from industry pros which enabled us to gauge our progress on “making our books.”

No matter how you slice it though, it’s been an exhausting journey. As my friend Stacey put so precisely early this week, “P2 [intermediate portfolio] is full of growing pains.” I agree. Unlike in P1 (beginning portfolio), we’re sorta at the point now where we know when our stuff sucks, but are still grappling at making things good or great. There’s a whole lot of being satisfactory or adequate, but not special. Needless to say it’s frustrating, but all part of the learning experience.

Anyway, like all things in life besides the really important things like family and friends, you just have to remind yourself “it’s just advertising.” We all get sucked into our own little worlds and forget about the world going on outside. We don’t return phone calls. We go underground for unknown periods of time, conversing only with others in the same situation. Our tempers are short and we’re ready to pounce on unsuspecting copy center employees, should they mess up our order or coloration on our final ads. We worry about the most infinitesimal details… “I don’t have time to get coffee, I have to redo the Gaussian blur.” To quote my undergrad econ professor, Ken Elzinga, “In the long run we’re all dead.” How much difference will that extra 10 minutes for a snack or caffeine break make in the long run? Will it be the difference between a lower and higher score at critique? Probably not.

But who am I kidding? I got sucked into the madness just as much as everyone. As usual, seeing everyone else stressed out frazzled me as well. Call it pathetic, but I was glad for it to end because for the first time in a week I sat down and watched three TV shows in a row. I stress the word watched, because I’ve been listening while graphic designing/art directing or cutting my foamcore for the final mounted ads for the past week, but hadn’t truly enjoyed the art of watching TV.

Going back to “it’s just advertising,” a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this unbelievably hilarious YouTube video parodying agency life. I laughed loudly at least six times during the video, and thought over and over again “this is what I’m going to school for.” I think if you can’t laugh at yourself you won’t be able to survive in the working world. It was the perfect thing to watch after a day, week, month, and really, semester of portfolio obsessing.

I love that it doesn’t miss a single detail. Egotistical creatives* driven by the incessant need to win awards (and toot their own horns about it). The mention that Crispin always comes up with the great ideas, looking for inspiration in the CA annual, which works perfectly, as that issue arrives in December. Guerilla marketing. KISS – Keep it simple stupid (I enjoyed the surprising substitution of “shithead” though for that final S in the acronym). “Concepting.” There’s a word you don’t hear enough of in the advertising world.

Well enough with the overanalysis. I’m going to KISS and get ready for and go to bed — a plan that has worked for thousands of nights of my life already, and yet never loses its freshness.

*I will post my opinions on this word in a future post. Stay tuned.

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Filed under advertising, agencies, graphic design, Peanuts

The Advertising Ivy League

So today I was internet-ing and I stumbled upon (though not by using StumbleUpon) a list of advertising agencies that allegedly compose an unspoken Ivy League. I’ve thought about the concept a few times and was curious if anyone had ever ventured to publish a list, and somewhat serendipitously found this today.

According to the daily (ad) biz, these are today’s Ivy League advertising institutions (as of May 2008):

And of course Honorable Mentions… aka “Bubble Teams”:

While I don’t pretend to know any more than the next ad enthusiast, I’d be surprised to see CP+B, Goodby, and W+K not on the list. TBWA is a far from shocking inclusion as well. I was happy of course to see Virginia is for Lovers‘ (of old) (The) Martin Agency on the honorable mention short list though.

In an industry so volatile, you can never be certain how long any agency can maintain Ivy League status. This list (though a blogger’s opinion) could well be obsolete in a matter of months. Either way, it was enjoyable to see a blogger venture to rank the advertising world’s titans for the rest of us to contemplate.

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Remember the Slowskys?

The other day I was talking to a friend about using animals to make funny ads, and I mentioned how much I loved “The Slowskys” campaign for Comcast from a few years ago. I was shocked to find out that she hadn’t seen the commercials, and I figured that this was preposterous and necessitated an immediate remedy.

For those also unfamiliar, the commercials featured Bill and Karolyn, a married turtle couple, more fondly known as The Slowskys. The turtles liked things just so, at their own, slow pace. They found the high-speed of Comcast internet overwhelming and instead opted for a more comfortable alternative for them, in the form of slower DSL service.

My favorite thing about the commercials were the subtleties. One of my favorite lines was when Karolyn piped up that they “felt rushed” by Comcast’s high speed. Another commercial has a strategically placed coffee mug that says “Decaf for life.” These fine details really add up to the atmosphere and overall humor of the spots.

Here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy:

A good introduction to the Slowsky family…

“I didn’t know you could read!”
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.”
(Great banter between Bill and Karolyn)…

Love Karolyn’s sass when she quips about Bill’s middle name:

All these and more are the great work of Goodby Silverstein & Partners out west in SF.

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UPS Whiteboard – What happened to you?

I was a huge fan of the UPS Whiteboard commercials when they came on the scene. They showed an “actor” (actually a Creative Director at The Martin Agency in Richmond) drawing fascinating little doodles on a dry-erase board that could somehow be partially erased or slightly manipulated in order to explain a B2B shipping task, like routing or freight.

These ads were so simple and yet so attention-grabbing. Maybe it was the quirky, long-haired artist, or the irony of using a song by The Postal Service to sell UPS shipping, but I found these ads catchy and couldn’t watch them enough. Here’s an example:

Unfortunately, at some point during March Madness, I saw that these Whiteboard commercials had adopted a new look. Before, all of the UPS capabilities were demonstrated in 2-D on a dry-erase board. Now, these ads use some sort of animated component in order to demonstrate the same messages as the older commercials, but in a slightly more complicated way. I’m curious to find what others think of about the renovated strategy. Here’s one of the newer ads:

I wasn’t even sick of the old ads yet, but I feel like The Martin Agency should have opted to execute more of the traditional-style ads but with different graphics and “lessons.” If it were my decision, I would have opted for a new soundtrack… perhaps a different tune by The Postal Service, or even a new band all together that shares a similarly interesting yet soothing electronic quality.

Maybe UPS advocated for the new approach as opposed to vice versa. Either way, whenever I see one of the new commercials I am saddened that it isn’t one of old.

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Sonic: Mystery Solved

Finally, after a year or two of checking every so often online, I found out what agency makes Sonic‘s hilarious commercials! Not only that, but someone else who touts the campaign’s genius. As it turns out, Barkley, an employee-owned agency out of Kansas City, churns out these dazzling ads.

According to an article in Ad Age (proof that someone else enjoys these commercials as much as I do), these ads are acted out by improv actors. Turns out the amazingly entertaining actors have been improvising gems to the prescribed scripts this entire time!

The commercials either show the same two male friends interacting or a husband and wife team. I think the commercials with the pair of guys are a complete riot. Here’s an example of the duo in action:

The husband and wife are less absurd, but are certainly still funny. They run in the 60th percentile of funniness, let’s say, while the all-guy team is consistently in the 80th-95th percentile. Nonetheless, I love that the wife is always giving the husband lip, instead of the other way around. The pitiful husband is a great foil to the stronger, and mildly sardonic wife. Check them out:

Just like I’ve been saying for several years now, I can’t wait to see what ol’ Sonic comes up with next. Apparently the guy team has made 115 “video blackouts” together since 2003. What great comedic chemistry!

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