Something fishy



I’m a news junkie and a doctor wannabee, so between those two passions, I end up paying attention to a lot of pharma commercials targeted to, well, the older and less well among us. Usually I lose interest after the first few seconds because once the “creative” part of the messaging is done, there’s a dystopian list of contra-indications and side effects so scary it makes me want to swear off prescription meds for good.

“Ask my doctor”? I think not.

Pradaxa, an anti-coagulant, takes a different path. Yes, those disclaimers are still there, but they’re organically integrated into the visual storytelling. More importantly, as entrancing little red goldfish (blood cells) cavort through the arteries, the spot educates patients about their condition in a non-threatening way and shows how the drug works and why.

For their creativity and nuance, the drug company and its agency deserve our heartfelt gratitude.

Oh, grow up!


There are commercials that pique your interest and others that just piss you off. To start off the new year in an appropriately picky frame of mind, here’s an example of each.

Schwab “Own your tomorrow.” On the theory that even high-net-worth individuals don’t know everything there is to know about making (and keeping) money, Charles Schwab presents its wealth management advisory services with subtle but telling family dynamics that would make Shakespeare proud. Each spot in the campaign is a jewel, well cast and beautifully produced with dialogue and subtext that make you wince (in a good way).

Speaking of cringe-worthy, Geico’s usually high-spirited creativity falls flat for me with this aw-w-w-w-w-k-ward class reunion scenario featuring Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and classmates who clearly haven’t aged well. I get the saving money part but there is something so grating about the performances, excellent though they are, that watch them, it’s not what I do.


Cats to the rescue (again)


From breaking the Internet to safeguarding national security, cats are having another of their nine-lives moments. How better to reward them with a treat, especially in light of the horrible and demeaning costumes we make them wear. Herewith, the best spot of the Christmas—or any—season. Thank you, Temptations Cat Treats and servez-vous!

Vive la France

Banksy-Pray for Paris

A prayer for peace in the face of war

Once more the shock. Once more the horror. As always, artists are on the front line capturing what we didn’t even know what was in our hearts. Liberté, Egalité, Creativité.



On the road and off


In the pantheon of pain, air travel ranks up there with root canal and tax prep. From security theatre to DVT-inducing seats, the reality of life in the air contrasts cruelly with the promise and romance of the open skies.

Not so with Delta Airlines whose new spot keeps its messaging focused on the horizon as it takes the viewer from take-off to flight–climbing from what could be a drudgery-laden trip to an adventure. Who knew a runway could be at once so hypnotic and exciting?

In the same vein, Honda takes automotive advertising in a different direction with an extraordinary stop-motion narrative that recounts the brand’s 60-year history. Every bit as mesmerizing as Delta’s, it’s proof that when you change your perspective, you can change the world.

Belsomra wakes up a tired category


A few years ago, The New Yorker ran a fascinating story about the FDA and the long, nightmarish process Merck underwent to get approval for a new class of anti-insomnia drugs. The article appeared in December 2013 and this month, the first commercial promoting the medication arrived…with a whisper.

Unlike most sleeping pills, which knock you out (like Ambien), Belsomra works on a different part of the brain and blocks the neurotransmitters that promote wakefulness. Needless to say, in our hyper-aroused always-on times, falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up without grogginess would be a dream come true (although the list of contraindications and side-effects is enough to scare anyone awake).

Unfortunately, the new spot misses the point. It shows a woman being kept from sleep by her dog (helpfully named “Wake”) while what she really wants is “Sleep,” portrayed by her furry white kitty.

This is backwards! Anyone who has cats knows that they come alive at night, chasing imaginary prey and jumping on our faces. It’s our dogs, who snuggle in with us, often under the covers.

Belsomra is a potential blockbuster, a disrupter in Big Pharma and in bedrooms everywhere. I just wish the brand’s creativity had lived up to its very cool science.

Too old to make excuses


A few weeks ago, Dominique Browning, writer, gardener and woman of a certain age, declared her independence from the insecurities and “annoyances” that, in her younger days, would have “knocked her off her perch.” Her new mantra? “I’m too old for this.”

I know the feeling.

I’m too old for the profession I once loved. And, to be fair, still love–for all its excesses and foolishness. I just don’t have the patience for advertising that’s poorly done, insulting to the intelligence, gratuitously loud and vulgar or just plain unwatchable. I used to say when I didn’t “get” an ad, “I must not be the target” (as though I somehow lacked the imagination to figure it out). But I think Ms Browning got it right. I’m just too old for this.

Consider these two recent crimes against creativity:

Sling TV. What is the significance of these—there’s no other word for it—fat kids assaulting old-school TV viewers in a variety of set-ups? How do these “anti-spokes-boys and girls” represent the brand in a good or persuasive way? (Who can even remember the selling points?) What client or agency would think bullying or obesity is funny? Is it a revenge fantasy for overweight individuals? “Take back TV”? Take this campaign off the air. Please.

VW diesel and “year end” sale. The former seek to dispel such “old wives tales” as diesel is slow and smelly; the latter makes sad, inappropriate puns about the year-end (rear end) sales event. Both campaigns feature a preternaturally patient salesman and four old harpies in helmet hair and braying, nasal New Joisey accents. Helmut Krone and Julian Koenig must be spinning in their graves.

Yup, too old.

And yet, there comes a campaign that restores my faith in the craft. Fiber One refreshes a tired old story—weight loss—in a sweetly humorous way, urging dieters (personified by a shlumpy shark and two Valley Girl lionesses) to give in to their instincts for dessert and satisfy their cravings with 150-calorie snack bars.

I’m never too old for that.

PSAs that pack a punch


Our devices are killing us…literally. AT&T reminds us that no text/post/email or phone call is “worth a life.” Put that phone away! And if you can’t–if the addiction is too strong–get help. Seriously. A brilliant and much needed campaign.

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