June 13th, 2011
If you haven’t heard about the stolen laptop and the deadbeat dude that boosted it, you’ve been asleep at the wheel, my friend. There’s a Tumblr page with blow-by-blow descriptions of the theft, the lack of help from the local cops and — wait for it — images of the thief taken with the on-board camera by an installed app built to identify just such an evil-doer.
Such Astroturf marketing is becoming more common at the same time it’s becoming less distinguishable. And to those in the biz who make it their work to blur those lines, we salute you. Who hasn’t had the client request for a “sure thing viral campaign”? Who hasn’t hoped that a bit of creative “magic” will take off and rack up hits in 6-digits and then some? To all of us, here are some stealthy contenders aggregated by Todd Wasserman and Mark Book. Can you tell which is which?
Evan Longoria’s Crazy Bare Hand Catch (Gillette)
How To Hack Video Screens On Times Square (Limitless)
Walk On Water (Hi-Tec)
Kevin Durant Is Moving In Right Now (Nike)
Bike Hero (Guitar Hero)
Are You My Man In The Jacket? (Witchery)
Rear View Girls (Levi’s)
Butterfly Attack (Qualcomm)
Danish One-Night Stand (VisitDenmark)
January 3rd, 2011
Challenging the creative community to create and submit “Ads Worth Spreading,” the TED organization hopes to raise the bar for online ads with its first call for entries. Online campaigns created during 2010, specifically January 2010 to January 2011, are eligible, but organizers have asked for never-before-seen work and are looking for video in particular.
Chris Anderson, TED Conferences curator, expressed the mission this way: “We want to encourage development of ads-with-a-difference. Ads that engage our audience authentically, intelligently, delightfully. Ads that people will want to share because, like the rest of TED, they encapsulate ideas worth spreading.”
TED, an annual four-day conference in Long Beach, CA, originally focused on technology, entertainment and design. Since 1984, the event has evolved into a global initiative with speakers and exhibits playing to exclusive attendee rosters, smaller salon-style video playback and discussion sessions, and a treasure trove of online content that is available for consumption at any time. Now a resource for innovative thinking in all fields, the organization has set its sights on changing the way we think about and create online messages.
“We’re not advertising experts but we know that the relationship between the consumer and online advertising needs to change,” says Ronda Carnegie, TED Global Partnership Director. “Because Ted is so open we think we can put this challenge out there and not have it be about our own self promotion.” She also states that this challenge was created as “a celebration of great creative,” adding that the venture is “not another awards opportunity.”
• Tells a captivating story
• Offers an idea that makes the world a better place
• Humanizes the company/creator
• Uses technology in ways we’ve never seen
• Engages the audience in solving a problem or answering a question
• Hilariously funny, ingeniously clever, highly engaging
• Delights the audience with visual wonder
• Amplifies passion rather than ambushes it
• Speaks authentically
• Elevates the craft to improve online advertising
• Features a moving call to action
• Deserves the passionate attention of the world’s online community
• Serves a fundamental purpose of promoting a company, cause or idea
What I found striking is the implied relationship between engagement and results. True to their online content strategy, TED is encouraging contestants to submit 30-second to 5-minute videos. It’s no surprise that these facilitators see the future of online engagement in compelling and animated storytelling. And while they do require a “moving” call to action, it appears that entertainment will trump enterprise.
Perhaps what I find most striking is the complete lack of connection to measurable results. Time and again we have seen the most engaging (and shared) online campaigns do little or nothing at all to effect the bottom line. 2010’s most viral campaign—a series of video ads for Old Spice—has made no measurable uptick on the accounting ledger, according to those managing the brand.
So, could this competition change the way we think about creating online ads and engaging online consumers? Could we see a paradigm shift in what plays out on our screens, large and small? Or will this call for entries encourage us to examine the user experience in total and sharpen our focus on the measurement as well as the making?
Ad campaigns are not content creation, but could we see the blurring of that line in the winning submissions for TED’s first online ad competition? This could be one very interesting contest. Stay tuned.
February 1st, 2010
The Flip has landed and the fun has just begun. This is a quick field test of the UltraHD, sans tripod. Mic picks up absolutely everything. Color is true and consistent. Upload and transfer couldn’t be easier. Getting 120 minutes of record time, more than 6 hours of battery life and 1280×720 video resolution means I’ll be taking this everywhere and sharing the adventure here.
December 28th, 2009
Started the week (didn’t we all?) watching Avatar in a 3D IMAX theater. Ended the week watching Aurélia’s Oratorio (we all should!) in a small rep theater. Probably the closest I could get to two extremes of storytelling. Made for a lot of thought on how we do this as producers of stories and how much we bring as consumers of stories.
I’d heard the hype on James Cameron’s new movie and was struck by the harsh critique of the storyline. I was more interested in the technology and effects, but found myself paying more attention to the storytelling than I might have had I not heard the criticism. Bottom line: The story is a simple one, and one that we’ve been telling each other for a long, long time. I believe that anything more complicated would have weighed down the story, pulling us away from some of the most telling truths of the film. Using just one visual metaphor — that of light and illumination — the film-maker has captured so much, and tells us so much, about life and truth.
I had not heard one word about the live theater piece I saw nearly one week later. Reading the program as the venue filled to capacity it became clear that I was about to see the latest in a long line of performance pieces spawned from cirque and ancestral to so much modern-day big-top entertainment. And while there were words uttered during the 70-minute show I found those sounds so unnecessary. The colors of the spare set, the simple props told so much of the story. The movements of the performers — just two for the vast majority of the piece — did more to communicate than any dialogue could. The producer of this story certainly had a point-of-view and a story to tell, but the space that was allowed for each of us in the audience to bring our own experience and expectations was such a counterpoint to the tightly scripted and structured tale I’d taken in just days before.
As storytellers we could all take a minute to consider the silent spaces between lines and the import of the audience in filling those spaces for themselves. If what we’re truly trying to accomplish is an experience — a positive and memorable one at that — shouldn’t we be inviting the collaboration of our consumers (the listeners, viewers, users, guests) and creating authentic and available space for them?
November 30th, 2009
Now screening in select art-house theaters across the U.S. is an 86-minute documentary entitled, “Art & Copy.” No stranger to the documentary genre and familiar with commercial film as advertising, director Doug Pray points the camera at ad legends and affords us, the viewers, an opportunity to see and hear from the creators of iconic campaigns and cultural game-changers.
I sought out the film, having heard about its release post-Sundance, and found myself sitting in a tired, old movie house amongst what appeared to be kindred spirits. There’s a certain stature to advertising creatives — or I like to think so — and we all seemed to carry the same attitude of reverence for the masters in front of us with a touch of show-me-something-new cockiness. All casual and laid back, but all knowing and up front about it. I was actually surprised at how many of us showed up for a Wednesday 8pm showing. I thought we’d all still be hunched over our keyboards, working out one last thing before the holiday.
I was also surprised to learn about two amazing women who pioneered this testosterone-heavy business — Phyllis Robinson and Mary Wells. It’s not often that women or their work are showcased, but here they have quite a bit of screen time. Robinson, the first copy chief at Doyle Dane Bernbach and originator of the “Me Generation,” speaks gracefully of how her process was not so much one of complete creation but of reflection. Mary Wells, first woman to own and run an ad agency, first female CEO to take a company public and creator of the “I Love New York” campaign, describes how an ad campaign turned into a complete re-branding and changed an industry.
Two other favorites — Hal Riney and Lee Clow — get plenty of attention as they explain what creativity is, how it works (and doesn’t work) and what makes a brand, a company and an agency successful. Riney passed away in March 2008; Clow will retire in 2010. Both men created some of advertising’s most memorable campaigns and have some of the best backstories on those campaigns. And while each man’s distinctive style may not sync with the quick-cut, hyper-speed sensibilities of today’s creatives — and certainly the brands trying oh-so-hard to stay current — they will both be missed.
Art & Copy, a film by Doug Pray. Worth the wait. Worth the search. Order the large popcorn.
November 9th, 2009
Pre-production began nearly a year ago. Principal photography, for all intents and purposes, wrapped in early August 2009. And after many interviews, presentations, reasoned arguments and irrational fears, a team of film-makers, storytellers and dreamers are now waist-high in post-production on a 60-minute documentary film. I’m honored and excited to be a part of the team and the process.
What I’m finding of most interest at this point is the experience of building a narrative — crafting a story from hours and hours of footage. We intentionally created this path for ourselves, knowing that we could never predict the stories and soundbites we’d find once filming began. Now to be on the other side, sifting through so much material, the choices we made months ago have presented us with some very particular challenges.
I’m curious, relatively new to this, what typically happens as the documentary film-making process unfolds. Does a writer/director outline a story arc and produce the footage to support the story? Or does that creative person conjure a direction, broad and open, and go in search of whatever may come up along the way? One direction seems so purposeful and yet so conscripted. The other organic and unruly. How often might this describe the creative process in general?
Something to consider: How do we prepare for creative challenges? How comfortable are we, as designers and developers, with the unexpected?