It’s all over but the shouting

01.03.2015

What is it with all the screaming? Are braying animals or shrieking humans really the best way to, um, break through the clutter? From Discover Card’s “No surprises” (a goat, a mic, a man with an extreme startle reflex) to Geico’s “Scapegoat” (bad karma on the assembly line) and Sprint’s “Apology” (don’t ass-k), engaging viewers seems to have taken second place to shocking them with high-decibel tactics that all but drown out the key messages. For futures, let’s all use our inside voices, OK?

Speaking of unpleasant, the new BMW campaign promoting the X5 SUV hits all the low points—tense family dynamics and dialogue centering on a very unfunny portrayal of a grandmother in her 80s with overly romanticized memories of her youth. Although the vehicle has three rows of seats (one for the designated “backseat driver”), it’s clearly not large enough to accommodate all the emotional ugliness. A surprising turn for a brand that usually takes the creative high road.

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The softer side of the Super Bowl

02.02.2015

This year’s advertising line-up on the Super Bowl (XLIX, for those keeping score in Ancient Rome) was all about dads. And making people happy. And love. Oh, and hashtags. They were big. You couldn’t call yourself a hip and happening “super” marketer without one.

There was so much sweetness and light that you almost forgot the highly testosterone-charged scandals of the season–Ray Rice beating his wife in the elevator (sorry, NFL, your “it’s up to us to listen” PSA, however heartrending, does not make up for your own deafness on the issue of spousal assault and battery), the continuing saga of the Washington football team’s name, concussions and long-term traumatic brain injury and Adrian Peterson’s unique theory of parenting.

Almost, but not quite.

Still, there were moments of pure delight and genuine creativity, among them:

- BMW’s new hybrid i3 proving, if nothing else, that great chemistry is forever.

- Nissan’s #withdad, honoring a family’s struggle to stay together (and safe) on the road of life and on the racetrack.

- Coca Cola’s campaign countering hate with happiness across all platforms.

- Nationwide demonstrating how, unlike its competitors, this insurer sees and treats you like the important adult you are. (I also liked the spot about childhood accidents which some critics condemned as morbid, but it’s an insurance company. Who else is better suited to talk about risk management?! And to such a large and captive audience besides!)

- TurboTax, for showing that preparing for April 15 is the most exciting thing to happen since the (real) Tea Party.

- Morphie, for explaining the “why” behind earthly disasters and calamities. God’s phone has died…of course!

- And finally, the #likeagirl campaign from Always, supporting, empowering and promoting all the ways girls are worthy of attention and admiration.

Now, can anyone tell me what that halftime show was all about?

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Finding your voice

11.01.2015

How do you find your voice in the din of the marketplace? How do you use your craft to tell a familiar story in new, unexpected ways? How do you reconcile the desire to be the best with the pull of fame? These are some of the questions asked and answered in a beautiful performance documentary, “American Voices,” created and hosted by Renée Fleming and featuring “vocal masters and industry titans” as they coach and mentor “emerging artists” in master classes that are as inspiring as they are instructive.

Some lessons that apply to creatives on any stage:

1. When choosing between excellence and success, make sure you have the confidence to tell the difference. Success is elusive, art endures.

2. Your voice (however you define it) transmits power. Put it at the service of your imagination.

3. Stop comparing yourself to how great you think somebody else is. Just express yourself as truthfully as you can. That’s how you grow.

4. The last thing you want to be is generic. (What we tell our clients applies to us.) Make the most of your individuality.

5. Observe and learn from others, but craft your own style, one that’s true to your own artistic vision.

6. Never be the accompanist to the accompanist. Control the moment and the message and lead your readers, viewers, listeners to where you want them to go.

Your voice is your instrument to move the world. However you use it, express yourself with art and skill.

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