Monthly Archives: July 2009

Viral Advertising that doesn’t lie for once

Tron advertising of this magnitude at Comic-Con is a sure sign that us geeks and nerdettes are pretty close to ruling the world. According to AdFreak, mysterious tokens to Flynn’s Arcade, a location in the original Tron movies, were sent out to buzz blogs like, followed by other breadcrumbs culminating in a blacklight scavenger hunt at the San Diego Comic-Con, a live recreation of Flynn’s Arcade, and a hidden room containing a real-live lightcycle set to Daft Punk’s musical score for the upcoming movie.

Why is it that movies seem to be the best at viral marketing? Last year’s Dark Knight Why so Serious? alternate reality game and Coraline boxes were both honorable enough not to try and deceive us with a hoax and interesting enough to keep die-hard fans entertained, generating positive buzz in the process. Both won Cannes Lions for their efforts.

So why can’t brands other than movies go the same route? Thus far good viral campaigns that aren’t movies and aren’t predicated on some sort of fake youtube hoax are few and far between.


A ridiculous thing happened on my way to production…

I recall stating that I would execute some ads last week after coming up with a bunch of headlines.

I will.

Except I have to re-write those headlines.

Actually, I had quite a few of them written out for 3 spec clients on the bus downtown. Then I forgot about them until Monday when I pulled from the dryer what must have been the same shirt I wore during that fit of inspiration. In the right breast pocket lay a clump of blue-gray lint the size of a pink eraser.Writing was completely indiscernible.

Subsequent lab tests have revealed that they were, indeed, my babies.


On the other hand, if I can’t remember them now they probably weren’t nearly as good as they seemed at the time.

Anybody else got similar stories of beautiful ideas now forever gone because of an unfortunate encounter with a spilt drink or thoughtless litter? Maybe you were trapped in a cabin in the Arctic once with neither food, fire nor toilet paper and all you had was your three-volume novel which you’d just worn your fingers to the bone writing by hand…

Just saying. Anyway I’d love to read ’em.

In the meantime here are a couple Economist parodies by moi.

economist spec copy

economist spec2 copy

Yes, it’s fun, but how’s my reception on the other side?

Thanks to for this.

So global agency McCann-Erickson is catching heat for their new Cellcom commercial featuring a group of Israeli soldiers kicking a ball back and forth over the Westbank Barrier with unseen Palestinians. Groups have since arisen to demand the spot be banned, calling it “despicable” for, I guess, portraying the wall as nothing more than an obstacle to fun.

For a student of history, it brings to mind the first Christmas of the First World War when frontline soldiers on both sides declared a Christmas Truce. They crossed the trenches to sing carols, share Christmas goodies and yes, have a game of soccer in No Man’s Land. True story.

Lest old acquaintance be forgot?

Similar truces again occured during Easter and Christmas of 1915, but were soon halted by leadership who didn’t want the grunts ‘fraternizing with the enemy’. I wonder if today’s party-poopers are of the same mentality? Perhaps they’re angry because McCann takes a current event and commits sacrilege by turning it into a shill for cell phones? Sort of a ‘too soon’ tirade? Either way media like this definitely has potential to be a bigger PR debacle for the propagandists than for the cell-phone salesmen.

These ads don’t even show Palestinian faces, nor are the phones proposed as a solution to non-violent engagement. But somehow they’ve done more to humanize the enemy than all the bloody images of weeping parents and bombed-out babies on CNN combined. The commercial ends with a voiceover in Hebrew, ”After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun.” Maybe its not all everyone’s after, but it’s a start.

Update: parodies have already sprung up going for the least-inspired outcomes imaginable–Israelis responding with military force. Ho-hum.

Much-needed kudos to Agency.Asia and their Myanmar debate

Really touched by Agency.Asia’s Brand Burma debate between AirAsia, Neil French and McCann’s Philip Rowel. Much respect to a magazine on advertising for presenting in its pages a debate on whether to do business in Burma under one of the most brutal and least-noticed regimes in the world. They took an issue that the media has all-but-failed to bring to our attention and covered it while maintaining relevance to their editorial objective. Lesser rags might pretend objectivity. But these guys stated right off the bat where they stood, and even published a ‘dirty list’ of companies in Burma, which should mean that the listed can drop their ‘social consience’ cards from now on.

But they don’t. And shame on them.

Double shame to McCann for having the gumption to publish headlines like “Democracy won’t save us. But a low-cost airline might.” Infomercial testimonials couldn’t begin to approach their level of unintentional self-parody. In a few words they have cheapened everything every other corporation has done to genuinely benefit the peoples they were exploiting. In the process they stuffed bullshit into the mouths of 48 million oppressed souls.

Look, I get it. In the struggle for survival, huge conglomerates can’t pick and choose who they do business with, they have to do business with everybody. I understand that while on paper the money moving around seems like an unimaginable near-infinite amount to the rest of us, a few liquidity squeezes and the whole thing could come undone. But please don’t play dress-up.

McCann, Air Asia: how dare you declare that you are trying to benefit the Burmese people? Worse, how dare you denounce the rest of us for refusing to do business with a cadre of robbers, rapists, and murderers in uniform? If you really wanted to help, wouldn’t you take your business elsewhere and set up a drive to look after the people’s needs? More of that money would’ve gone directly to those who are suffering, and less of it to those inflicting it.

And finally, a warm ‘Here! Here!’ to Neil French, whose acerbic style echoed the very best satirists in his humorous-but-sound thrashing of his opponents’ arguments. And again, thank you Agency.Asia.

The -$6000 Question: Are you really sure you want to do this?

creative job web copy

Based on extensive research, this is my artistic rendition of what the creative profession looks like.

In Words…

Day in and day out, designers, copywriters, art directors, illustrators and web programmers are filling boxes. These boxes are magazine-sized, screen-sized, billboard-sized and sometimes even city-sized. The packaged ideas are then sent to the client where they are almost immediately incinerated. The creative, though upset, is oftentimes too busy filling the wall of new boxes which demand his/her attention to protest much.

After which I get asked the titular question.

It’s the negative $6000 question because if you answer yes you will have to pay at least that in tuition for ad school. These days ad school is just about mandatory if you want to break into the industry*.

So I’ll likely come out of ad school in six thousand dollars of debt, working for free as an intern in the boiler-room of some agency, putting lightbulbs in boxes and placing them on a conveyor belt to client-hell, where they will likely be converted into smoke and hot air.

And yet my answer is still an emphatic yes.

Why? Because trying to portray the daily feeling of NOT working in the field of advertising is impossible. I simply can’t imagine how a career in another industry could be better. This pressure to communicate selling ideas would likely explode my head if left unreleased.

Next Week…

In the interest of demonstrating that I can write, I am crafting a campaign a day that will be headline-driven. Next week I’ll execute and post them online.

*Despite what creative directors and current creatives may tell you, it’s practically impossible to even get an internship without having gone to an ad school, at least in North America and the UK. I have met more ad school graduates than I have people in the ad industry of similar age, which means school ain’t a sure bet, but I’ve never met a creative younger than thirty who didn’t do an advertising program before getting in.

IE8 ads with 90s Superman not being 90’s Superman and everything else that’s wrong with it

Thanks americancopywriter for showing me how underwhelming anything after 2 Girls 1 Cup can be.

In my mind, Internet Explorer carries a lot of the same baggage as AOL. they’re a lot of people’s ‘firsts’ and so carries a lot of baggage. You discovered the wonderful experience of online through them and there’s something magical in that. But after a while you probably felt embarrassed you ever got it on(line) with them. Especially since anybody who knew anything about the act teased you about how ugly and fat and inadequate IE was and how easy it was to catch a virus with repeat visits, etc. so you probably moved on to somebody cleaner, slimmer and more attractive.

Well now IE’s back. And bat-shit insane.

There was a time, not too long ago, when it seemed everybody in the press was drawing attention to these ‘online memes’ and how they were ‘the newest thing’ (despite the fact that media commentary on memes could, arguably, be a meme in itself). When advertisers started to do commercials spoofing memes, it was a nod not unlike if somebody’s dad started dancing at one of your parties, or some such thing. Nowadays, sheepishly referencing internet memes is a sure sign that you not only don’t ‘get it’, but that you are hopelessly behind us, the meme followers. Today’s effective brands don’t just reference memes, they make them a la Whopper Freakout, Dove Evolution, Ecko’s Still Free, the list goes on.

Needs more vomit (Like Team America more).

Dean Cain is hopelessly miscast as one of those older turtleneck-and-blazer-patrician-types, the references are light years behind what’s going on now and the call-to-order screen should have been composed on a grid with more attention paid to the kerning. Seriously, everything about this campaign is horribly executed. This whole ‘do you suffer from >insert tech related joke here<‘ shtick is also just really old.

There may be some juice left in the concept, but the direction should have been to go even more over-the-top than the memes themselves, with crudeness so low people can’t help but send it around. Instead they tried to match or muffle the shock value of the originals.

On the other hand, given how IE’s problems are far greater than the need to get noticed (it really has to shake off allegations that it’s unsafe to use, slow, messes with code and is incompatible with certain applets), entertaining people so they’ll remember the brand alone isn’t going to help. I guess the main problem with these ads is strategy: they don’t come close to addressing the fundamental issues with Explorer.

Months ago, Microsoft had to issue a statement acknowledging what everybody already suspected about IE: that some gaping hole of a flaw in its programming made it hopelessly unsafe to surf with. No mention in these ads about whether 8 still has these problems. This is suspicious. After announcing how much your product sucked, you expect us to just use your updated product without at least some assurance that it doesn’t suck anymore? And if they aren’t going to address this issue, then why bother advertising the new version at all? Why show us old memes that seem tamer and less interesting when viewed through the IE8 lens? Worst of all, why invent fake disorders that mock your users and can only remind them of how dysfunctional your software actually is? If the new product’s any good, give us a demonstration. Otherwise, it won’t matter if the advertising’s making your product seem crappy or vice versa, you will still suck.

Cold Calling, what of it?

Any thoughts on cold calling? I used to do this all the time back when I worked as a recruiter, and lately I’ve been thinking of doing the same with myself as candidate. Do people still do this in the ad industry? Aside from showing that I’ve got the balls to do this, would my time actually be better spent mailing my portfolio out first?

Just curious…