Tag Archives: Creative

Would You Hire Han Solo?


As we head into a new year amidst Star Wars insanity (among other, less fun, insanity) it’s a time to ponder future plans both personally and professionally. One of those might be the future makeup of your team at work – which drives the question of whether you’d hire Han Solo for your team. He has no Ivy League pedigree, he often shoots from the hip, he procrastinates and then often gets the job done better than others (always with a sheepish grin), he allows his street smarts to drive decisions rather than a background in business theory, and is often “creative” in his solutions.  Does every team need someone like this?

If you look at ESPN’s evaluation of the Star Wars characters and what roles they would play in the the starting lineups in the major sports, Han is one of three constants across all teams the others are Chewbacca and Luke. But, Han’s position is consistently more of a leadership role on the field. So, leave out your favoritism that may have formed over the years… Would you hire Han Solo? I would.

TV Ads Score Supreme During A World Cup Of Fewer Ads

It is easy to get caught up in the fervor of the World Cup as hundreds of millions root for teams from around the globe. Many of those viewers may be seeing ad styles that they’re not used to seeing if they are not already watchers of Soccer/Futbol – with no breaks other than half-time. With that being said, it’s interesting to see the quality of the futbol-themed ads and the alternative viewing data that’s revealing itself in this first week of competition. Tubefilter reports that 1.2 Billion minutes of World Cup adverts have been watched on YouTube alone in the first week. What was refreshing beyond the numbers was the opportunity to see some great spots in a language I don’t fully understand when watching games on Univision – where the advertisers have really score in producing strong ads with emotional strings that defy language.


While there are many good spots that capture the great skill of the sport in a technical sense as a solid celebration of the game, the strongest visceral response I had was to McDonald’s “House Divided” spot in Spanish.  Honestly, I even had a little letdown when I saw it in English as it changed the resonance somewhat.

What does seem to be the case is that the general public gets an opportunity to see ad creative surrounding the Beautiful Game that they otherwise might not get a chance to see.  In the case of McDonald’s, they’ve gone to an agency they’ve had strong history with from an emotional perspective tied to futbol the Alma agency based in Miami.  Alma created another futbol-based winner for the golden arches in February of ’13 with their Ancha spot.

World events like this have that great by-product – love ’em or hate ’em – of TV ads that can truly connect emotionally.  Even with the limited opportunities for running within the matches themselves, their strength and emotion reign supreme during this Beautiful Tournament for the Beautiful Game..

Two Films Fighting It Out In Theaters and OOH. Winner Is?

The battle lines were set for two films opening tomorrow (May 18th) for quite a while – and we’re not even talking about the box office take. Presenting some of the most impressive out of home (OOH) creative we’ve seen in a long time, Paramount and Universal have certainly had some fun with the outdoor creative for THE DICTATOR and BATTLESHIP respectively. Imagine if there were no trailers or TV spots available for films and all they had was OOH creative.  How would they convey the story and what type of impact would they have on sales. If there were a way to deduce who will win the box office race based on OOH alone, this would be a compelling fight.

Paramount  effectively began a campaign that was tied more to the essence of the film than the actual marketing of the film.  There were numerous very large depictions of Sacha Baron Cohen as the Dictator as if he was actually the Dictator of Los Angeles.  Whether it was the depiction of him winning sports awards in a place that is usually reserved for Kobe Bryant or another professional athlete on the side of the Figueroa Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles:

Or, the portrait of him holding the bird of prey in a placement on La Brea in central Los Angeles, Paramount (with considerable input from Cohen and his team) they were able to make a strong presence work without even including the film’s title in a readable form.

They then went on to start putting up some great OOH creative that included the title, but it was easily 6-8 weeks after launching the campaign that they made that jump. It might not be until people actually see the film that they understand the brilliance of the campaign in the way it ties into the narrative of the film. I’m sure it was not a simple approval process to get very long lead in prominent spaces with no mention what it was actually about.  Props to them for taking the risk and pulling that off.

On the Universal side for BATTLESHIP, they went big as well.  Their challenge was in the conveyance of how a board game logically makes a movie.  I don’t believe that their OOH solves the challenge.  They do convey that it is an alien encounter movie with awesome forms of destruction, but until the end, that was about it. They did have a huge placement near Hollywood and Highland that seems to convey the scale of a Summer blockbuster:

But the execution that really excites me is the dimensional billboard that is placed as if in a standoff with the DICTATOR portrait on La Brea.  They actually face each other.  The details are really cool:

What is most interesting is that it seems like the studio’s marketers did a late push to bring some character development into the OOH with a bunch of character pieces coming in late in the campaign.

All in, I don’t know if this will draw many more viewers because they came late in the game and we still don’t know much about the characters.  I wish that they had even listed their names to generate some kind of interest.

For BATTLESHIP, I was just mostly impressed with the dimensional billboard because it was so eye-grabbing.  I think there may be some answers about how the film is tied closely to the game once people see the film, but the big question is whether people will actually go see it.

Its a much larger discussion and deeper bit of knowledge required to establish whether people would see a big action film because it is there.  It’s the same when trying to judge whether people will do the same for a comedy. In both cases, there have been many more misses than hits and it definitely depends on many factors.  But all things being equal – same release date and equally solid OOH creative – which one does a better job of drawing audiences.  Perhaps we will be able to connect the dots after we see opening weekend box office, but I would put my money on THE DICTATOR.  In this face off, who do you think will win the fight?

Begging the Question – Is Questionable Execution Worth A Good Buzz?

Just like most marketers, I’m always looking for innovative ways to draw attention and get the message out.  Sometimes, a bunch of buzz is generated for an execution that seems – on the surface – like it is a brilliant use of the technology.  Unfortunately, when you actually check it out, it leaves a little to be desired when it comes to actually conveying the product’s narrative.  One such case is the French adventure/outdoor products company, Quechua, and the Facebook Timeline piece they launched yesterday to launch their new commercial. The concept was cool, but in practice, the experience was clunky and actually acted counter to the product they were trying to promote.  It certainly begs the question whether buzz about marketing products is good even when that execution is not all it can be.

The Quechua Experiment is getting buzz specifically as the “First Scrollable Commercial on Facebook Timeline.”  I don’t know how much people were waiting for that feat to be attained, but the buzz it’s generating is technically correct. In this case, is that such a cool thing or just a media hook?  When a user goes to www.facebook.com/QuechuaExperiment, they are asked to scroll down on their timeline and push the equivalent “more” button 15 times.  Once at the bottom, press both the SHIFT and SPACE buttons to start the frame-by-frame movement upwards through the images in the Timeline.

Essentially, they are trying to explain the benefits of their 2 second tent with a web mechanic that, annoyingly, takes much longer to experience. When you look at the “video”, it provides beautiful imagery that makes people want to camp out in the wilderness and, at the end, shows how simple it is to break the tent down when you are done. It’s frustrating because we always talk about how interactivity makes the experience deeper for the user – yet this interactivity takes away from the original source of the information, which is the beautiful video.  If all you are getting is another version of the video, is it worth it? It should have been as quick and simple as the “flick of a wrist” that it takes to set up the tent…

Courtesy of Quechua

The company seems to be cutting-edge in general – not just in the materials they use, but in their marketing.  One such example is a beautiful commercial for their products – melding the campers and the environment beautifully – and then enabling a rich behind the scenes environment through technology to explore more. I give them and their agency, Fred + Farid credit for trying new things with this Facebook Timeline execution, but I think the actual mechanics of it miss the mark.

I can’t fault them as they are getting buzz about it. I’m just saddened when a good mechanic is not optimized to become a great marketing product.  With the emphasis being placed on being the first ones to try something, you really want that “first time” to be something really special.  I don’t feel they’ll get anything negative from this and I definitely wouldn’t have known about their products had it not been for the buzz – so that’s a positive for them.  I’m just looking at it as a marketing product, and the full mechanic didn’t convey the product benefits as best it could have. I almost would have rather them had a tongue-in-cheek message that it will take longer for the user to experience the marketing than it would to either set up the tent or take it down.

In the end, I would rather the good buzz support a good marketing mechanic – something that better conveys the product. Additionally, except for in the most extreme cases, buzz is mostly good for a product. I’m always up for some good buzz – I just get disheartened when it leads to a marketing execution that is not all it could have been.

Marketing Of Prescription Drugs Going to The Dogs

We have now become used to television commercials for prescription meds with their sadly humorous speed-reading of warnings and side-effects.  I guess that’s why the ad for Trifexis caught my eye. The spot ran just as any other prescription drug spot would run with that very same disclaimer blog – both in voice-over and text. But it left me confused because the formula they used for the ad was exactly what we see for humans all the time – not what we see for dogs. You see, Trifexis is a prescription med for canines. As I looked deeper, it pointed to something quite scary – the further societal consideration of dogs as equal to humans.  Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and even sort of understand how some families really do treat their dogs as if they were biological children. As I took a look at some of drug maker, Elanco’s marketing for Trifexis, I was just amazed how pets are the next frontier for prescription meds.

The spot I saw on TV was innocuous enough, with a happy family on a beautiful day.  The only problem the family faces is that the dog is being treated like the “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (like that 1976 John Travolta TV Movie).  Through the course of the commercial, you can’t tell if the protection is for the dog or the family.  Not until the second half, when all of the legal mumbo jumbo comes in do you really get what it is.

I give them credit for not only doing something so striking in its imagery and closeness to the accepted norm for human prescriptions, but for also being consistent across all channels. Their messaging has slight changes between formats – with digital outlets being the clearest from the beginning about what it is.  The digital media creative starts off with the “in the bubble” image and “Protect Your Dog From Parasites” line of copy.

The print ad I found in Parade Magazine was a little confusing because, again, you didn’t know immediately whether the drug is for humans or dogs. The image is of a boy snuggling his dog with big gloves through the plexiglass and the tagline below reading, “Don’t let parasite protection come between you and your dog.” The campaign then goes on to follow the same format as other human drug ads with a bunch of legal on the main page and the next, a mail-in rebate offer and a little bit of marketing specific to what it actually does.

Perhaps I don’t view enough programming to have seen ads of this nature for pets before.  I know I’ve seen ads for Frontline, Advantix and other flea and tick controllers, but they just aren’t prescription meds and did not devolve into legal disclaimers. Funnily, Advantix is owned by Bayer – who knows a thing or two about marketing drugs to humans…

Is this a sign of things to come?  With prescription meds being a huge business vertical, do pet meds expand the market exponentially? Is it a way for companies that are not usually prescription drug providers to jump into the fray for a different customer? Whichever way you slice it – except for a few creative flourishes, there is bound to be many products and campaigns on their way to market that will cause us to scratch our heads in wonder.  Oh, and don’t forget, there is probably a drug for that!

Consumers Connections as the Metric To Rule Them All – But What Is It?

Yet another iMedia Summit has come and gone and I think they did a really nice job.  This one was the Video Summit and there was more than enough in the way of presentation and provocation to push the conversations along about media and digital video content. Shelley Palmer was the chief instigator as he pushed for people to think and make choices one way or the other about how this is all going to work – sometimes he pushed too hard, but his insights were welcome throughout.  It seemed clear that the biggest hurdle for all players – traditional media planners, digital media planners, publishers, brands, technologists and developers – is the navigation from where we are in the way of monetizing digital video content to where we think it can be.  What exacerbates the challenge is the never-ending search for the metric that clearly works for both television and digital distribution. With that search, the problem remains that powerful storytelling and true connections with consumers is oft skipped over by technologies and program mechanics – leaving everyone questioning what metric will rule them all.

Jen Dawson (TubeMogul), Felix Gomez (Pointroll), Jonathan Tavss (Scarlet Strategic)

iMedia tried something new this time by offering a track specifically for creatives and production companies to explore the tricks of the trade and, countered against the media-heavy elements of the rest of the summit, the creative samples were refreshing.  Though there could have stood to be more creative attendees, it was a strong first-go. I do wish that there was more interplay between creatives and planners as way to extend the conversation about what the possibilities may be. It ended up feeling like the creatives were excluded at a certain point and that was a shame – especially as one of the presentations in the In-Focus track showcased a strong partnership between Moxie’s media and creative teams worked closely to produce a very compelling campaign for Verizon.  Showcasing that stuff to everyone could have gotten the juices flowing about solutions other than what planners already know and the tendency to stick with that known commodity.

Both Palmer and Intel’s Futurist, Brian David Johnson beseeched everyone to envision a great future and make it happen. I agree whole-heartedly with what they said, but opportunities to get the imagination going could have been done through programming that led to more sharing and problem solving.  Whether it was by way of presenting some of the In-Focus track sections to the entire community or programming round-table sessions –like what iMedia has done at their Breakthrough summits in the past — people could have been prodded more completely to be creative and then see where that lead us.

But, in the end, the fact that there is an environment where people can share thoughts and ideas without too much preening or jockeying within a social context, these iMedia Summits are invaluable.  Hopefully, they will continue to grow and evolve.  As this was the first Video-specific summit, I look forward to seeing the evolution of both the medium and its programming in the future.  It can’t do anything but further itself into the conversation as the powers that be are pushing digital content further into the stratosphere that is usually reserved for television.

I’ve already conveyed my concerns about not staking digital as strong and specific, yet different beast and present it as such to the media community – and I brought it up at the conference as well. But, we can all hope that the similarities and differences are carefully and clearly communicated and understood by the influencers and the decision makers. Again, the type of interaction and communication that is offered at these summits can go a long way toward that becoming a reality.

Media Automation Could Be Leading Us Into Huge Problems

We’ve been heading into a phase that could prove to be disastrous if not thought through with a clear mind.  That phase is one of automation and its relation to media planning, production and execution. We’ve seen it in every industry that has become automated – and even in our personal lives – that as computers and applications have been set up to make our lives easier through automation there is more work that fills up the time cleared by those developments. As ad networks and automated media planning become more automated – with some projecting upwards of 75-80% of all media spends being automated, we could be sliding into a huge problem.

It’s not just about media planning.  There are some interesting solutions that are hitting the market that espouse the ability for people with limited creative and technical knowledge to create quasi-compelling ads.  Unfortunately, they don’t really cut it.  With Google’s AdWords, there is solid automation where companies can go in and buy against search terms to have their ads show up alongside the organic search, but the placement of those ads is only half the battle. There needs to be evaluation of its many nuances to fully garner the power of the automation.

The proliferation of self-service marketing options lately is reminiscent of the rush for self-help books in the last decade of the 20th Century. They were of help, but there is still a strong demand for therapists – if not an even greater one.

The reality is that there is too much information working its way through the system – even with automation – to remove the sound judgement and strategy that needs to go into media plans and the marketing collateral that goes with it.  While numerous companies are pitching social media and media planning dashboards, the need for people to analyze what’s being shown in those applications and make judgements on how to react is still there. Unfortunately, too many companies are looking at the surface of media planning and execution and just figuring that automation will allow them to optimize the limited or reduced staff they already have.  In the end, we know that more work is usually piled on, data is collected by these automated tools and then disappears into the ether.  Or worse, the company keeps doing the same automated things over and over again – even if they are not as successful as they could be.

On the creative side, there are tools like what Jivox is offering with their video unit capabilities for political campaigns.  It almost makes it seem like an intern could make the changes on the fly successfully.  They probably could do that, but would there be a cost in the effectiveness? Does that mean companies could also do away with their creative vendors because the belief is that video is king and that anyone would be able to just take a video piece and automatically change it into an ad unit?  I don’t think that would be a smart move on either side.

There are certainly enough stories about media planners who are all about the RFP and have a hard time providing strong analysis of how a campaign did and what could be done in the future. That alone is not enough reason to go wholly into automation.  On the flip side, there is no need to rule out automated services just to justify keeping staff.

I do believe that automation is great if the company is set up to leverage that for growth and key learnings.  If there is proper staffing – whether on the client or agency side – to be able to not only plan the media, but evaluate in real terms what went right, what went wrong and optimize for future campaigns AND also look to create strong campaigns through creativity and innovation, then it could be a win-win.  But, that mix is organic and needs to be tweaked constantly.

Clear strategy and understanding of the need for streamlining processes while also enabling analytical, creative and innovative thinking in media planning and execution are key to our collective success.  Depending too much on automation will lead to banal ineffectiveness and many lost opportunities. Figure out the mix that works best for your company, but don’t discount the power that the mind brings to the equation.  And definitely don’t believe that automation equally reduces the need for head count.  Without the good mix of human and automation, your problems will be much larger than the execution of ad campaigns.