Fresh and charming

Talk to a room full of people from different age groups and you’re in for some interesting opinions about mobile phones. Whatever yours is, these devices are not going anywhere, and – with even the worst technophobe’s starting to weigh-in – phone companies now have bigger audiences to entice.

Cue these TV commercials for Sprint done by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, SF. At a dinner table, Mother announces to the family that her parents are moving in and will be Staying Awhile, all via a series of texts and emails from her mobile phone. In response to their shock and horror, the forum allows her to tell the family that texts, emails, tweeting and other expected standards are unlimited – while conveniently missing the point.

Others in the series offer the same straightforward communication in differently-dry yet quirky situations. I don’t think they will have anyone winning any Yellow Pencils or offer them the opportunity to say “I’d like to thank God, and my Mom and Dad…” – but that’s not to say they don’t do the job.

Hey just because you have someone’s number, doesn’t mean you actually want to talk to them, right?

They’re not going to start a cinematic revolution, but they never said they would. They are all short, sharp and to the point while the relevant information is conveyed through fresh and charming performances. When it comes to these ads for Sprint, it’s mac and cheese being mac and cheese! That’s all.

I like them, do you?

Beauty in vulnerability

Life offers us beautiful cycles. We are little only once, and then, as cycles go, we hope to get to see it all over again from a new perspective. Those precious moments are more special to the people who get to watch them than we will ever know. It is this beautifully sacred sentiment that agency Isobel, London has captured for Werther’s Original.

It is a surprising angle for chocolate sweets because we traditionally expect couples and lovers in cosy situations – or simply women and a more feminine slant. But what we see here is more powerful because we see men in a manner that is so seldom shared: sensitive vulnerability. These memoirs between fathers and their sons are poignant and moving: First days at school, playing in a park, dress-up for the school play or even just a special walk home. All are precious and beautifully private in some very public spaces.

Set to Bread’s classic – “Everything I own” – the score is appropriate because of the generation it reflects. The performances are honest and pure, and even though you might find yourself surprised at the product being advertised once you get to it, you know you like it because it makes you feel alive. (The ad, not the chocolate.)

I have a dad and I think I love and appreciate him even more when I get to see something as special as this.

Advertising is traditionally the promotion of a product for the purpose of moving stock from shelves to homes at a fee that makes accountants smile. Brand equity ads have the same goal for creating awareness, but offer the opportunity to do something more. Something different. Something special. Something like this.

It’s definitely one of my new favourites. What do you think?

Copywriters: an endangered species? Language is power

The way the sun silhouettes a cloud while it hovers above Venice, New York City, Berlin or Johannesburg will be different every time. Different because of where you see it from, how you feel while you are there and who you feel that feeling with. Different because of what it took to get you there, the music you heard, the food you ate – and who you got to show your pictures to when you end up back at that place you call home.

Travel advertising should work differently. Of course, advertisers can show you crystal-blue waters, deserted beaches, illuminescent sunsets-or-rises, and views from the tops of places you thought only God could see; but that gets tired, doesn’t it? How many times can you look at those and honestly be driven to convert browsing to buying and want to pledge a month’s salary to getting on a plane, train or bus and make your way to destinations you have never ever seen before?

It’s always enticing – but it doesn’t always spark a connection. Advertisers have to be smarter than that and appeal to different likes and connections in each of us. I for one am an ardent fan of music and movies, and because of that I appreciate the sentiment behind what Álvaro Rodrigues, Luis Salvestroni, Ivan Loos and Ricardo Franco at Agência3, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil did for the Shangri-lá Travel Agency: they told a story. No pretty pictures. No prices. No (unrealistic) muscle clad, 0% fat bodies, walking paired footprints across a beach you have never seen before… Instead, they prompt the viewer’s own theatre of the mind with copy alone and let you set the scene for the travel experience you hope you can have.

As a Copywriter, I know that the battle for words on a page is being lost. With Twitter and the impact of social media, we want to read less, see more and absorb messages instantly. Marketers and communicators are hoping to instil a sense of understanding within seconds, to billions of people, with a picture – and quickly. The guys at Agência3, Rio de Janeiro took a bold step and volunteered this intellectual offering to an audience they obviously hoped would still read and interpret with their own imagination. To me, it works! Whoever we are and whatever we do, we cannot discard the power of words and what they are able to instigate.

Without that first skill you are taught at a school-going age – things are pretty hopeless? Language is power. And for a travel ad, this is strong enough to entice your sense of exploration – even if it only resonates with a cultured few. Movies and music take you places and the titles of both are enough to ignite memories and imagination in even the hardest of hearts.

Travel is inspiring. Language is just as.

Hope you read this far and am glad if you did.

Only entertain the best or nothing

Whether debunked as a theory or not, I know that everybody (or almost) agrees to the theory of left brain / right brain thinking. You agree because you know you are one or the other. Whether you like it or not, there are traits about who you are and how you do things that posit you on either side of the fence. And if you are sitting there shaking your head and professing to be equally proficient with both set of talents and attributes, well then you are probably an over-achiever and should get out more often (once you’ve finished reading my blog, of course).

Y&R Tel Aviv, Israel, recently created this print campaign for Mercedes. Creative Director Gideon Amichay has definitely lead a stalwart team and the Music, Paint and Passion incarnations are undoubtedly proud, credible works for the individuals and teams that converged to create them.

I believe these because I buy what I am reading and seeing. The campaign has been thought about. It has gone through options and alternatives, has been looked at, talked about, negotiated, argued for, argued against – and that is just within the agency. Whether you are rational or intuitive, or look at parts or look at wholes, you see yourself in one (or all) of these. They are clear that it takes all types to create these finely-tuned machines and that Mercedes only entertain the best or nothing.

PS: I’m right-side. Which side are you?

Sorry pigs. Better luck next time

Some agencies are made up of talented individuals who understand the complete creative process and who are wholeheartedly committed to the final product. Other agencies are filled with simple idiots who barely pitch up for work most days and are just there to take home a salary at the end of the month. This commercial was definitely created by the latter.

No self-respecting creative would have allowed this to air. Ever. All it does do is stand as a true reflection of its print counterpart: pathetic.

The expressions are fake. The end is ridiculous. And as far as the poor pigs it has been created to represent go, well they don’t stand a hope in hell if this is who they have doing the ‘talking’ for them. Like I said before, Public Service Announcements or messages for charitable causes don’t have to be soppy, but they do have to be clever. Sorry piggies – this one is neither. Better luck next time.


€3. That’s all

Dressed-up dogs are catchy and will definitely have you watching to the very end. Why? Well because most sane people agree that dressed up dogs are a little peculiar – except for Paris Hilton who thinks that tarting your dog up is the way forward. Accompanied by a funky beat and the constant price change, we can’t help but want to see where this is all going… and that’s hot.

Whether taken literally or not, this is an interesting comment on our 21st Century sense of importance. I am not here to condemn a love for fashion – God knows we all like to look good! But it’s an interesting take on the way we prioritise and – given a little food for thought – how we may be swayed to do so differently. Reminiscent of the old Master Card ads, the memorable moment is still “priceless” and sheds light on the more important things you could do with a little of your money.

€3. That’s all they’re asking. And I think they did a great job of setting it up. Public Service Announcements or messages for charitable causes don’t have to be soppy, but they do have to be clever. This one works hard for the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation: no featured talent and a clear, clean, memorable message. Nice job by Jakko Achterberg, Niels Westra and their team at agency Selmore in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

That’s hot. What do you think?

Someone like you

I tend to have a big mouth, but, every now and then something comes along that has the power to silence even the most opinionated of us. It’s music – and good music – that can do that to me. It’s not always what is being said that has the power to floor me; it’s the combination and composition of how it is being said – set upon a melody that exists in the space between the viewer and the performer.

Few have real talent these days. Most are manufactured. Some are able to capture a feeling that people all around the planet can identify with, and paint it for all of us to see. This is one such example.

Just standing there, being raw, real and really really good.

I love it. Do you?

Mercedes BlueEFFICIENCY: One day nature will return the favour

Going green has been something of a sigh for car companies. The idea that power-enthusiasts have is that the newer, lighter, greener versions don’t quite have the same kick that their pre-green predecessors do. So, initially there was somewhat of a challenge for advertising agencies to communicate. Things have changed though – and quickly. The newer the car the safer the guarantee that you are buying something with some sort green stamp attached to it. This makes buyers happy because to jump on the bandwagon declare their commitment to the future of our planet, the tax man clamped down too and is implementing a higher tax on carbon-emission cars.

This means there are more of the greener options to choose from now and the playing field is levelling out once more. The communication from agencies therefore goes back to being what car advertisements have always had to be about; informative, functional, pretty and memorable. Sure, there is a lot to be said about the automatic start/stop function, electrically assisted power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic refinements, blah blah blah and blah, but all the while, consumers want to know that they are doing their bit for the environment in a great car that makes them proud and looks good pulling in and out of the garage.

Doesn’t this sum up Mercedes perfectly? So the job for BBDO Singapore and Creative Director Danny Searle to communicate the newer B Class BlueEFFICIENCY version could have been easy. What they came up with is more than that. I like these print executions because they are elegant and almost effortlessly cool. They showcase a newer incarnation of a slightly older model, now ticking all the green-friendly boxes, set beautifully on open roads and getting the speeds critics doubted to start with.

They get away with this open road guilty pleasure and owe thanks only to themselves. ‘One day nature will return the favour’ – and because it can, there will be no fines in the post for either of these. I like the concept; it’s clean and clear, and it talks the talk.

Look after the planet and she will look after you.

Do they do it for you?

If you’re looking for more of the man-talk about the car, watch this.

Hot designs: cheaper than therapy

Your designer is the guy whose accountant friends all think he has the coolest job in the world because he gets to play around with pictures all day. He also gets to go to work in his slippers without having brushed his hair and is usually at the bar by 3pm on a Friday. His friends moan because they have it so hard; they have to file paperwork to Doris, the frigid, grumpy office administrator. They have to back up their totals with figures, cross-references, ledgers, credits and debits – and God-forbid they don’t balance. So the designer’s life is super-chilled and easy then, isn’t it?

It isn’t. Like any job, the designer has good days and bad ones, good briefs and bad briefs. Sure, we would all like free range for the work we do, but in the pecking order that puts half a dozen interpretations between the brand and the creative, coupled with an audience that can never sit still, it’s often hard to have his initial concept ever see the light of day. That’s why effective designs are memorable and effective designers even more so.

Your designer has to deliver on-the-spot creative brilliance twelve times a day – and back up those choices with a strategically-sound rationale. Not always fun. Always high-pressured and as accountable for the message in his work as any accountant out there. No wonder he’s at the bar at 3pm on a Friday.

It’s easy to tell when a designer has had a good day at the office, because they produce work like these examples for the Batelco Directory by agency FP7/BAH in Bahrain. Both conceptually and the design for these print ads are strong. It is clear that, as a team, happiness was achieved and the designer got to get to work. Print ads offer vast scope because you can do a lot with them. You can morph images and play with depth, perspective and use poetic license with illusion to your designer’s heart’s content.

For the Batelco Directory, the entire city has been morphed into the pages for the directory, highlighting that whatever you are looking for is both included and will stand out. The flipside of this execution is that they are intrepid enough to offer no copy to back them up. This implies that the target audience is an intelligent one. If not, the group behind this concept run the risk of having the message lost altogether and that would be a pity. All the same, I like them and I think the designer and the creative team involved surely had a great time bringing them to life.

They might have been at the bar a little later that day, but worth a drink to celebrate all the same. What do you think?

Credits: Advertising Agency: FP7/BAH, Bahrain | Creative Director: Fadi Yaish | Art Director: Supparat Thepparat | Agency Integrated producer: Mar Wai May | Photographer: Surachai Puthikulangkura | Illustrators: Surachai Puthikulangkura, Supachai U-Rairat | Producer: Anotai Panmongkol | Production House: Illusion.

Active beds aren’t always a good thing

I haven’t gone completely mad, I promise you. I have to ask that you watch this commercial for the movement-absorbing bed from Pfister, more than once before you see what I saw. Then you’ll undertand why I like this spot more and more with every time I press play (and trust me, there have been plenty).

Performance is everything to me. I appreciate the greats and think a lot of the fluff we have filling our screens in movies these days could learn plenty from them. Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Sean Penn, Greg Kinear, Edward Norton, Javier Bardem, Leonardo Di Caprio, Marion Cotillard and Julia Roberts – the list is long (enough). They are masters at subtlety; that’s why they gat paid the big bucks. Kate Winslet is able to convey half a dozen emotions without opening her mouth and saying a word. With a glimmer in her eye, you can see the desolate desperation of one core substance or the appreciated sanctity of another.

The two performers cast in this commercial, directed by Ben Gregor from Production Company, Knucklehead London for Pfister Furniture, have more than enough talent to leave you convinced. Watch the subtlety in their eyes, the flirtation, the shyness, the temperament of a new covert relationship that is hopeful about flourishing, even after dinner with food that makes it uncomfortable to be cool with. But it is the svelte seriousness of it in this setting that makes it oddly funny.

Set in a dream sequence only afforded to those who can sleep soundly, the hotness of her date is interrupted by the reality of her snoring husband – because they don’t have the new movement-absorbing bed from Pfister… yet. I like the soundtrack, I like the treatment, art direction, extras, colours and grade used, food, actor and actress and, I reckon, in a nutshell, the director has captured what it takes to make a definite hit with his audience. Commercials can be mini movies and Ben Gregor proves it with this spot.

Watch it more than once and let me know what you think. I like. Do you?

Spitting milk through your nose for Doritos?

I thank my lucky stars that we are all unique. I couldn’t imagine the world having to put up with two of me, let alone two Robert Pattinson’s, Justin Bieber’s, Robert Mugabe’s or two Mubarak’s. God alone knows, one of each keeps us busy enough. This makes for an interesting landscape for advertisers and the scope they aim their messages at. Even though we are unique, we most certainly fall into groups with common interests. Mine do not include Pattinson or Bieber, but yours might and that is cool too.

Advertising appeals to how we view ourselves. So at first, when looking at these two Doritos commercials, I would have said I preferred one above the other. In hindsight, I simply think they are smart enough to have hit on different audiences under the common element of humour. They work for the brand because they are able to attract the attention of a (hopefully) versatile audience that has one thing in common: a love for Doritos.

I don’t like The Best Part’s geeky guy. He is a little over enthusiastic about Doritos if you ask me, but, in all fairness, I don’t fit into a group of people who think electrons, data and the hypothetico-deductive model is cool or phenomenal. The guy in this spot strikes me as one who does – so that is exactly who they are appealing to. His type – and anyone closely associated with his type – is going to find this funny, whereas it just left me straight-faced and unimpressed.

The House Sitting version appeals to me in a bigger, better way. Yeah, it’s silly, but it is also simultaneously cheeky and self-deprecating. The college guy forgets to attend to any of the things he was supposed to do and is faced with that last minute panic to get the house back in order – with one final clincher that aims to score points for the power of Doritos.

The difference between the two is that one highlights Doritos as the hero and the other lets the (supposed) humour take over. No matter which one you prefer (if any) it comes down to whether you are buying into these corny chip ads or not – and whether that is translating into sales of their products. The rest of the series proves they are definitely that – corny. I am sure that their creative team salutes everything about Revenge of the Nerds, and I don’t doubt for a second that they have some people laughing so much they spit milk through their noses or suddenly discover their own incontinence. But, like I said, I thank my lucky stars that we are all unique.

Others in the series:

No matter how you feel about these, they are harmless. Even if you don’t like them, it is unlikely that they are going to mean you refuse to buy Doritos from this moment forward. I’m thrilled they haven’t won me over entirely. I hate spitting milk through my nose and quite fancy the idea of being able to control my bladder.


Advertising meets Tourism Promotion: Ambient Media

I love it when I get handed fliers at intersections. Oh no, wait, that’s not right. I couldn’t be bothered and absolutely never ever look at them. A respect for the person who is doing something to earn a living combined with the fact that I would rather put them in the recycling than see them end up as litter is why I take them. Now just think about all those important messages that never get seen.

Not the best way to market your business then, is it? And most definitely not if you are in Tourism. An advert for your Tourism venture should drip with sentiment, allure and something so palpable, the receiver can almost feel the salt water on their skin or smell the scent of wild grass as it fills their nose. It’s no wonder then, as we humans get smarter with technology yet no better with our attention-spans, that Ambient Media and Tourism are such good friends. Both are about a tangible, visceral experience that should provoke or change the way you think and feel about what you are doing and where you have been – instantly.

Handed with the task of advertising South Africa for the South African Tourism board, Mumbai agency ‘Contract’ developed engaging zebra crossings for pedestrians that took the literal angle on an old traffic-related necessity. These are clever because of the double-play afforded to them and will leave an impressed, unforgettable impression on anyone who has to cross the same old street – in a brand new way. The clincher? South Africa – “It’s closer then you think.”

Tourism Promotion always has that obstacle to beat. Getting people to consider going somewhere they think is further away than it is – and we’re not talking geographically. With the combination of technology, air travel, and the accountability of recourse that social media places on any organisation, travel is trustable and it is easy – you just have to want to do it.

Another engaging execution was by our sunshine-contemporaries in Brazil. Competing for a similar audience across Europe and the rest of the affluent Northern Hemisphere, agency ‘Artplan’ transformed bus shelters across several cities in Europe. The shelter offers actual warmth – a welcome respite for your hands if not anything else – and promotes the warmth of a country and her people.

“Ambient advertisements are effective means at pushing a brand message in front of consumers and can develop even better top of mind recall within target audiences.” – Wikipedia. Both of these executions successfully highlight Tourism effectively and did their bit to ‘take you there’. In an ideal world with fabulous clients and even better budgets, all advertising could be allowed to be this clever.

Would these have caught your eye?

Originally written by me  for

The tablet to create a better world. Really?

Romance reminds us we are alive. We revere it because it is good to us. It makes us hopeful – no matter who your significant other is, or is going to be. It’s no stretch then to understand why advertisers use it to sell products; it makes for that warm and fuzzy feeling we all like so much and, I am assuming, along with many, many, many other messages, this is what Motorola hoped to instil with their new tablet commercial – “Empower the People”.

It’s big. It’s pretty. And it’s pretty over the top. Set against the construct that we’ve all become drones in a world with little originality and self-expression, Motorola’s tablet commercial crafts boy-meets-girl, boy-likes-girl and boy-gets-girl – all because he has the Motorola tablet (in a nutshell). That alone is a bit weak if you ask me – but the weakness is overlooked because of the size of the commercial and its treatment. Still, it left me asking “what for?”

Love is strong enough to be your main theme – why confuse the issue with half-a-dozen others? The 1984 George Orwell reference irritates me. This novel is about a collectivist society – the ultimate Big Brother. But by advertising this product, you obviously want everybody to have a Motorola tablet, right? The problem with this is that then you are perpetuating the cycle. I just think there are too many messages here. Why? Because I bet there were too many cooks in the kitchen for this concept, script and shoot, and once again, you have a final product that has tried to make too many people happy.

Why not celebrate how the Motorola tablet simply makes you stand out from the crowd? The execution wouldn’t have to be dramatically different, but you could highlight how the individual can stand tall because of the help from Motorola. They make it clear that our male lead stands out because he is different. That’s one commercial all on its own. They then get lost and clutter it up with too many others – all because they want you to believe that the Motorola tablet is ‘the tablet to create a better world’. Really?

Sure – it’s visually impressive. He’s good looking, she’s pretty, and the tablet looks like a cooler than cool device, but I’m still not buying the message.

What do you think? Does this make you hopeful or remind you that you are alive?

Super Bowl Supernova

I didn’t like it. Then I liked it just a little bit. And now… well… it’s won me over. No, I don’t think Chevy Camaro is going to have hundreds (or even tens) of women – teachers or not – rushing out to buy the car – but that’s not what they wanted, is it? Because sex sells, you’re going get guys fist-punching air a lot as they head to the fridge for another beer, shaking their heads at how cool the car is when, well, it’s all the other messages they really like, isn’t it?

A squad of women to choose from (there are joys in being able to click through a variety, right?), the chase-sequence, the roof-top breakout, and the nice girl at the end – PHWOAR!!! Looks like you have a complete tailor made solo-session right there guys. Will it sell cars? Probably. Pity about the payoff line though.

Otherwise, I just like it because… well, I’m not entirely sure to be honest.

Even Angels Will Fall

Epic. There is no other word to describe this larger than life, ninety second mini-movie, than epic. Another creative gold for Axe, this opulent execution of being able to tempt even the sweetest of angels is flawlessly brought to life by Rupert Sanders for BBH London, Production Company MJZ and client, Axe Deodorant.

From the genuine performances of each and every extra, the fallen-Angels and the Axe-hero himself, to the beauty of the backdrop this story is set against, it is clear that everything has earned its rightful place in front of the camera. It is obvious that this Director gets up everyday with a fuelled desire to go out and do what he does – brilliantly.

There’s no mistaking the power of this commercial – and then some! It will have people talking for a long time and, well, when Rupert Sanders is up 210% in IMDB popularity this week, he’s got to be doing something right. I am sure his diary is pretty booked up for the next very-long-time. This final cut is without doubt from the heavens itself.

What do you think?

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