Break it down with the cool kids

This rocks the long socks. It’s about time we got a whole lot cooler with idea-generation and these kids totally did! The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir used the allure of pop culture (no doubt isnpired by the success and the glitz of Glee) to get other kids thinking – and enrolling. A flash mob makes for a radical change from the usual graduate recruitment desks-and-brochure bore. If YOU were thinking about where to study, this would definitely speak to you.

Right message. Right audience. Good job.

Get clever. Get educated. And then you too can ask one day: ‘What was I thinking before I was thinking?’

© Copywriter Dylan Balkind

FCKH8 – The Teachers Can’t Talk

What goes against the laws of nature / where choice fits into the whole melee / what church’s say about the whole thing and even the dialogue approved for teachers in Tennessee… These are just a few of the foolish issues that have inspired the FCKH8 movement, represented by these beyond-kooky viral videos.

Sure, I thought they were a little loud at first too, but the irony of who is saying what is being said should be enough to keep you going. And when you hear of some of things this movement is looking to overturn, you might even consider turning browsing to wardrobe-buying.

I did.

Join the movement.

© Dylan Balkind

Want to know what this is all about?

A Tennessee state Senate committee has passed a bill to make sure teachers don’t mention homosexuality in classes below ninth grade. The “don’t say gay” bill got it passed 6-3 after some legal wrangling, and it now moves to the Senate floor. It states: “No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Reference.

All in all; “It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”

Barbie is a serial killer

You can’t say this characterisation of camp-Ken is entirely original; Toy Story 3 had his socially ambivalent, nonchalant, self-centredness down to a tee! An astute depiction mind you while stating what we all already knew anyway… wink wink. No matter, it is tempting to see how GREENPEACE have appropriated that character to showcase their plight and leverage awareness for the destruction of the Rain Forests by giant toy manufacturer, Mattel.

More so than just the actual packaging needed, this viral video attempts to highlight the knock-on effect that the disappearance of these forests means, and how mankind will ultimately sacrifice the endangered clouded leopard, Sumatran tigers and Orangutans… though the list is long.

The power of viral is interesting because the PR-spin ultimately does one side of the camp a favour, while creating a horrible headache for the other. It has been reported that the Barbie page on Facebook closed its comments section to their 2 257 662 fans. Seems the audience that loves the plastic blonde is the same as the one that loves the thought of pirdy tigers living unharmed; a tricky conversation to negotiate when they see a clip like this one and start airing their concerns and questions online. It is exactly this element of transparency that organisations can leverage through social networks like Facebook – however in this case, more like run from.

No doubt, Mattel will create their own viral about how Barbie cares and what she is doing to minimise her carbon footprint.

Barbie-schmarbie. There is no appropriate retort Mattel.

Clean up after yourself! End of story.


© Copywriter Dylan Balkind

Annoyingly believable

If you don’t forward this on to thirty seven of your closest friends before the big hand on the clock strikes 19 minutes to, your second uncle twice removed on your step brother’s side of the family will come back from the land he farms sheep on and you will not be sent the crate of champers by Moët. For reals.

This wasn’t made for the sake of it. The viral offers meaning and works for what they are selling. I think the lead’s annoyingly believable performance is flawless – and you wanting to continue watching will have more to do with your sense of humour than it will with your curiosity to see it through. It’s not brand new, but it is novel and it resonates with me because if I get one more drivel-pathetic email warning me of a plague upon all our houses should I not forward it, I will put a cigarette out in my eye.

What’s the worst ball of twaddle you’ve ever been expected to believe from an email?


© Copywriter Dylan Balkind

You’ve got something in your teeth

Popcorn, apples, meat, spinach, sesame seeds, kiwis and strawberries – the list is long! Having something stuck in your teeth is never fun, while someone else having something stuck in theirs is even less so. Watching some toothpick-less sap contort their tongue in stupidly annoying ways is hard enough. Having to listen to them sucking on their teeth is worse. It is after all quite possibly the worst sound in the world.

Y&R Panama gets and understands the situation and offers these simply phenomenal print ads for Colgate dental floss. As much as I am an advocate for the power of words, I am in respectful admiration for an image that doesn’t need any.

Brilliantly crafted, these visuals present problem-solution in a crisp, straightforward and memorable campaign.

You like?

Credits: Advertising Agency: Cerebro Y&R, Panama; Creative Director: Jorge Heilbron; Art Directors: Francisco Bernal and Alberto Weand Ortiz; Photographer: Carlos Villarreal.

PR and Social Networking, sitting in a tree…

What do Marc Jacobs, BP, Toyota and Domino’s Pizza – among others – have in common? A soap-opera’s share of PR and Crisis Management drama – and none of them are entirely blameless in each of their situations. Tread carefully with whom you dish your twitter passwords out to, or how you treat your employees; that little website called YouTube is just one place they can flex their unhappiness.

Public Relations is the art of making the consumer see your business as you would like them to see it. Now is the time to believe that Social Networking is PR’s BFF. Well, in a perfect world that would be the case, but in reality, it all depends on whom you have typing your 140-character sentiments up; something Marc Jacobs and his organisation learnt about the hard way recently when they let a young intern loose on their twitter account. Obviously not a happy chappy – and certainly not a fan of big MJ or company CEO, Robert Duffy.

“You have no idea how difficult Robert is … Roberts a tyrant … I don’t have the energy for what is expected … Spelling is hard for me…”. The ‘anonymous intern’ was definitely not having a grand ol time trying to leverage the brand via twitter. It’s a pity because there are hundreds of people who would kill for that job – and they gave it to someone they obviously didn’t respect and who has a problem with spelling. That’s PR blunder #1. Sure, you don’t have to lavish expensive gifts on the petulant child who is in charge of steering your social networking page – but then choose the right candidate to begin with. Somebody that actually wants the job might be a good place to start.

Unhappy employees can no longer be overlooked. If this was 1988, you could just ignore the problem or bury them with double the work load and half the pay, but somewhere between big hair, blue eye shadow and the constantly-online world we now live in, a shift happened that evened out the playing field (to say the least). With your organisation’s reputation very much at stake, the power to go online is something that people have to respect and be very, very careful of. “Anyone with a camera and an internet link can cause a lot of damage,” says the reporter in NBC’s news report on the Domino’s employees who took hygiene care to the dark side – and filmed it for sh*ts and giggles.

The power for something to go viral is immeasurable and what may be funny to two idiots on a random day at work may not be funny to an audience, the collective organisation or the brand’s reputation. If everybody stopped buying Domino’s, the company would have to close its doors and you would have thousands of unemployed people who, for the most part, spend everyday doing an honest day’s work to bring home the pizza. How funny would your video be then, Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer?

How companies respond to issues like these is paramount to their survival. Sure, not many of Marc Jacobs’ twitter followers have a personal relationship with him, and – thanks to movies like The Devil Wears Prada or John Galliano’s recent rants – we don’t expect fashion stalwarts to be angelic. Still, there is something to be said for knowing that a revered brand’s CEO has an unnecessary, nasty personality behind closed doors or dangerous, lurking anti-semitic sentiments. Jacobs’ organisation responded to their little twitter-gate with a clean and clear message that all is well and implied they had simply been hacked.

Nothing memorable or particularly impressive, but decent enough. Maybe playing it down is not a bad thing. At least they didn’t pretend it never happened which is more than we can say for those charmers at BP throughout 2010. Their eventual reactions were so bad – “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” BP CEO. Err… No reaction would have been better! The whole fiasco proved that, unless you have impermeable business operations that are devoid of any possible error, be sure you have a super-effective crisis management and PR strategy.

Toyota has suffered many blows to their brand and reputation. I’m almost starting to feel sorry for them. When what you are selling is built on safety and reputation, you face a massive problem when you have to admit that those very same elements are in question. It has been a long journey for the motor vehicle giant; one that led to production of this commercial no doubt. Reputation fix? I’m not convinced.

It touches a nerve if you ask me. Too close to what they are still dealing with and, as they say in the business, you can’t rebuild a house in a hurricane. There is no doubt that this is a very pretty commercial, I just think it will be wasted on the audience at this time. They they will scoff at its message and say ‘yeah right’. Moreover, I think it is trying to say a lot without actually committing to anything concrete. So you created this glass body? Show us what happens to it when you drive the car into a wall.

Mending business wounds is a tricky business and one that professionals probably only have to learn about as they walk that unexpected road. One thing the Toyota commercial does highlight for organisations big and small is their need for PR and Crisis Management strategies: We’re all fragile – especially on the inside.

Can viral marketing beat the bullies?

Would you think it ok if boys threw your pencil box from the third floor balcony at school or pushed your head into a locker? Would it be ok if you were hospitalised from a beating based on your sexual orientation? Probably not. But there are horrible, angry people out there and bad things happen to good people.

So? What makes an ok day for you?

What makes an ok day for Casey Heynes is not being beaten up or duct taped to a pole. Who is Casey Heynes? Right now he is the hero of every underdog ever pushed, beaten, ridiculed or taunted. He is the Australian schoolboy who fought back at the cowardly runt who picked on him one time too many.

Because the set-up was malicious from the start, the altercation was filmed (with a different outcome expected no doubt). The video has since gone viral and can be found on YouTube, embedded within online news reports from around the world and featured in interviews with Casey Heynes himself. Here the power of viral marketing is obvious and while teachers and bullies alike are backtracking and preaching innocence and shock, the fact is, it took the explosion of this issue in this boy’s life for the bigger picture to be seen – by a MUCH bigger audience.

It has been shown that when one person has an impactful online experience, he or she will tell 12 more people. This is the dynamic that powers viral marketing. This is the dynamic that makes for fast-track superstars like Lily Allen and Justin Bieber. In this case, it is the dynamic that brought this young man some help – from around the world.

It’s staggering to read worldwide statistics on bullying and the connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children and teenagers (according to a new review of studies from 13 countries by the Yale School of Medicine). How this happens is beyond me. We all come from something so beautiful. Still, because of this disease, organisations like the Give a Damn Campaign and the Trevor Project have been formed – with every superstar and figurehead known (including Barack Obama) getting behind them. The message to bullied, lost or suicidal kids out there? It Gets Better.

Singers like P!NK and Taylor Swift (to name just a few) are using their medium to wage war on bullies and celebrate the beauty in being different. So if you’re too school for cool, and you’re treated like a fool, you could choose to let it go… or you can go viral. It’s your channel to use. The world is online. The world is listening.

So now? What makes an ok day for you?

If there is somene out there to whom you now feel you have something to say, get in touch.

It will make your day more than ok.

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.

(Even Implied) Sex Sells

Axe Deodorant proves that sex sells time and time again. And it does. Whether you are gay, straight, bisexual or even just ‘easy’, provided you have been through puberty – imagery that responds to the source of your attraction is going to have a positive effect on how you relate to the brand’s image. Sure, this is a target market that is an easy reach; it is very definitely easier when you have a product like deodorant that appeals to – and is used by (hopefully) a wide scope of people. And by wide scope I mean men, women or anyone with a pulse!

What makes this print campaign for Axe Deodorant even hotter is that they have taken all the abovementioned hormone-driven ‘theory’ and represented it without all the skin, thighs, cleavages, biceps and six packs. They are leveraging the fact that you are a human being with some sort of drive, and that you know, play, participate or at the very least understand the dynamics between – in this case – men and women. Above all that – they make you think. It’s not a long shot because you get it quickly, but they inevitably made me smile, nod and all in all I think these print ads work well. I don’t think they are trying to win new customers; they are doing what Nike and Coca Cola do so well: they remind their brand-loyal customers that they are part of something cool, current and edgy.

With an execution like this, you also don’t have to argue morals or negotiate territories where showing skin is taboo (like the agency who had to create this set). It’s a straight-forward play on a tic-tac-toe game and, for the guy who uses Axe? Well, he always gets the girl(s).

Other ads (Volvo, Lavazza and PS2) have taken it further and pose a different argument. These go straight for the… let’s call it “heart strings” for the purpose of this family-friendly blog, and appeal to a whole different sense of physical attraction and sexual drive.

How do you feel about these different ads? Which do you prefer?

Credits for Axe Deodorant: Advertising Agency: Lowe Mena, Dubai, UAE | Creative Directors: Mark Lewis, Marwan Saab | CGH / Art Director: Mansoor A. Bhatti | Group Account Director: Tej Desai |Senior Account Manager: Prashob Ravi

The Westcliff Mannequin: A real-life princess!

And so continues my creative-crush on the team from Publicis, Montreal, Canada. They are obviously highly conceptual, have a driven cohesive attitude as a group and have found a place where their client’s message can resonate with powerful imagery and just the right amount of explanation to go with it.

Their concept-heavy print ad for Westcliff Shopping Centers speaks with an intelligent audience rather than to or at them. This is not a call to action ad or hard sell in any shape or form. It stands proudly on its own turf and gives you the chance to engage with it – or choose not to. If you ask me, it is likely to incite some giggles, fuel many great conversations and even spark creative-debate. Did someone say “brand awareness”? Whether arguers are for or against the execution, those conversations have the potential to turn viral and, where they go from there… well, you couldn’t measure that even if you tried. Either way, just because I’ve fallen in love with a piece of plastic, it doesn’t make me a dummy (tssk tssk).

Brand preference is a biggie and with over 200 000 shoppers a day, the Westcliff Shopping Centers – like their ad agency – must be doing something right! Even the mannequins need to take a break. God-knows – looking pretty aint easy!

What do you think?

Credits:  Advertising Agency: Publicis, Montreal, Canada | Creative Directors: Nicolas Massey, Carl Robichaud | Art Director / Digital artist: Bogda Truta | Photographer: iStock

Pigs can’t fly. Purina Puppies can!

Clever Ads are clever because, without trying too hard, they make you step back, have an ‘ah’ moment and with a bit of extra luck, start conversations about themselves that last long after the ad itself does. Publicis Montreal does exactly this with this print execution for Purina; a puppy so happy with his food that he is about to take flight. Because what do happy puppies do? They wag their tales! So enough said!

It’s clever without trying too hard. There is no copy because conceptually it is strong enough without any and, for any pet owner looking for a new brand for man’s best friend, you are going to remember this one and no doubt be convinced to spend some money on it.

Advertising effective: ka ching!

Credits:  Creative Directors: Nicolas Massey, Carl Robichaud | Art Director: Julien Thiry | Copywriter: Florence Majérus | Photographer: Alain Desjean |

I like! What do you think?

(Beer) Boys will be Boys

Now we’re talking! Boys will be boys – and why should they be any different when it comes to competing for the last beer? The storyline is that basic and it’s perfect – because it doesn’t need to be anything deeper. What would the point be? Doesn’t beer sell itself? It’s beer. ‘Course it does!

Arm wrestling gets taken up a notch for Tiger beer when each player vies for the last beer in dramatically unfolding new incarnations – and what a visual spectacular the revelations are! Shape shifting never looked cooler on its way to the beer buzz and when you finish off with a hot blonde… well, most guys would say you had them at ‘hello’.

What’s impressive is the realism within the non-realism. From the featured extra’s to the hero in each scenario, these guys take this realm of comedy seriously – and look serious. There’s a little lesson in that somewhere (take note insurers); don’t act. Be. Even if being a Tarzan jungle junkie isn’t relevant today. Make it look hot, deliver a performance that respects the VFX being done (and vice versa) and you’ve got a memorable movie that supports the brand and its reputation.

A goodie all round. What do you think?

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