The re- re- re- re- invention of the Grand Old Party

14.04.2014

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As the sainted Ronald Reagan might say, there they go again. The Republicans are reinventing themselves, slipping in and out of personas faster than a model changing clothes during Fashion Week. All in a vain attempt to put a pretty mask on a harsh, plutocratic and insurrectionist face.

Meet the new Republicans (spoiler alert: same as the old ones), who have launched a hip and happening new website to set forth their new (old) positions: lower taxes, smaller government, American exceptionalism and local values (states rights?). It features a cool-looking line drawing of an elephant that, when you glance at it quickly, appears to be moving backwards. Best of all, there’s a section called “critical thinking.” It’s just a collection of policy papers but you have to admit that “critical thinking” is a curious descriptor for a party that rejects evolution, climate change and healthcare reform.

Jindal and Jeb are lurking there too. After all, we wouldn’t want to take this re-invention thing too far.

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Homes, phones and logo design

07.04.2014
New graphic identity proposed for IKEA

DIY design

Like the cherry blossoms, the housing market is emerging from its long winter of discontent and with it comes a crop of new creative selling  and selling around “the American dream.” Our listings this week:

Berkshire Hathaway is bullish on real estate. On homebuyers and sellers’ acumen, not so much. In this new commercial, an affluent family, surprisingly angsty first-time home sellers, is helped through this arduous ordeal thanks to their HomeServices broker’s gentle ministrations. The photography is house-porn beautiful but the overall vibe with the whispery tones and emo music is more Ingmar Bergman than the sunny seer of Omaha.

On the other hand, the realtors in ATT’s “Professional Women” close the deal on their business mobile share plan with a minimum of fuss or wasted emotion. While all the talent and styling are top-notch (those blazers! that hair! the crossed arms!), the lone guy on the team (Evan Arnold) brings down the house.

Where would homeowners be without IKEA, whose spectacularly named DIY home furnishings lend a playful spirit to any décor (at least until you try to figure out the instructions). UK student designer Joe Ling has proposed refreshing the brand’s identity with a stacked logo suggestive of the company’s iconic Allen wrench and the flat packaging for which the retailer is known. Engaging, clever and eye-catching, this new design is, as the HomeServices people might say, very “good to know.”

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Cents and nonsense: making what you will of financial services advertising

31.03.2014

March Madness is upon us. No, not college hoops, but that last, frantic dash to preparing income tax returns (the one time of year I totally identify with Grover Norquist) and thinking maybe, just maybe, we the 99% need to get a little more organized about budgeting and financial planning.

Luckily, help is on the way. Investment houses, tax preparers and other advisors have heavied up their ad buys during this enervating season to exhort and encourage Americans to get smart about money. Here are four:

 H&R Block.  The granddaddy of all tax prep companies asserts that Americans fail to claim at least a billion dollars in deductions every year. To the sound of Peaches and Herb, this spot, one of several in a highly entertaining campaign, reunites taxpayers with their money by urging America to “Get your billion back!”

 E*trade puts an end to the talking baby‘s career by casting a singing cat as a sidekick and provoking a reaction that’s true to smart-aleck form: “I quit! Diane, bring the car around!” Also running:  fast-talking, hyper-fast-cut series of commercials that promises an end to endless transaction and management fees. Adding up to “less for us, more for you.”

 ING. What are we to make of this company whose original name was enigmatic enough but has now been inexplicably changed to Voya, “an abstract name coined from the word ‘voyage’…guiding customers on their journey to retirement readiness.” You could have fooled me. Looks like the company—for all its promised expertise in retirement planning (and signature orange money)–has been taking naming lessons from Hightail.

 Edward Jones. If you have to ask what it means, you probably can’t afford it. The  company boasts it has “over 12,000 investment advisors and $700bn assets under care” yet humbly claims that it “got big by not acting that way.” In other words, it has receptionists who answer phones and planners who put their cell phones in a drawer while meeting with clients or pick up donuts for a very early morning meeting. I guess even if you’re too big to fail, little things mean a lot but still, that’s not an especially compelling hook to hang a brand promise on. If they want me to show them the money, they need to show me a better selling argument.

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