Sunday, December 13, 2009

Real time in the moment.

Time is something that I wish I had more of and at other times wish would pass quickly. You know how when you were a kid, time seemed to stand still? It was because your mind was taking in countless details. As connections are made, your brain learns to overlook details and assume patterns. For instance, in a grocery store, it's visual overload. Your eyes scan over everything until you hone in on something. I guess it's kind of like mental cruise control. Days become weeks, weeks become months, and before we know it – we don't know where time went. Everything blurs and we can't remember the moments.

But the moments are important. What if we're missing something? Can we train ourselves to be truly present in the moment? Really focus on what's happening. Now.

Speaking of now, no one waits for anything anymore. Everything happens real time. You either pay attention or you get left behind. One untimely customer service response could lead to brand devastation. As United found out, too little too late.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Droga5 advent-ture.

Baldrick Saves Xmas from Baldrick on Vimeo.
Droga5 Sydney has tasked junior creative 'Baldrick' with the company holiday card project. He'll be posting a new idea for feedback every day until Christmas. Go ahead, throw some holiday criticism his way and help save his ass… I mean Christmas.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Audio-induced creativity.

When you've exhausted the benefits of caffeine and hit the inevitably large creative wall, but you have to push through – try music.

"The use of music as a creativity endorphin is like a sonic caffeine" – says Don Campbell, classical musician and author. "Music can be used to activate, stimulate and relax the mind and body," Campbell adds. "More and more businesses are recognizing the importance of music in a work environment."
Music can affect your mood, transport you to a connected memory or era, propel you into a new perspective, allow your mind to focus, and even set a tone for your work (whether you realize it or not). Most importantly, music influences us on subconscious levels. Choosing a project or audience-inspired soundtrack can help facilitate intuitive connections, aka lateral thinking.

People define themselves through music. Finding new music that inspires me in some way is an ongoing journey. I'm drawn to a wide variety, but prefer complex, indie, and atmospheric music. My long-term favorite albums are the ones that seem to have a '3 listen minimum' before I truly appreciate them. In fact, sometimes I can't stand it on the first listen. Apparently, the third listen is when the new or uncomfortable becomes comfortable. Either that or the album gets left for dead and never gets a fourth play.


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Saturday, November 21, 2009


Ordinary goes unnoticed. Safe, but unremarkable. It seamlessly blends into our daily routines. Quiet. Careful not to distinguish itself. Ordinary promises acceptance and believability, but delivers mediocrity. If ordinary doesn't get challenged every now and then, society remains stagnant.

Things that are new and different make people uncomfortable. Trends are basically newly accepted ordinary things. If you follow trends, you're always behind. The idea is to take the lead and create a new thing above the trends. The trick is to get your clients past the initial uncomfortable factor. Cue the patience, trust, and insert killer pitch.

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alex Bogusky and Colin Drummond gave a great overview of culture and planning on fearless q&a last week. How even people that see themselves as 'unique' long to be part of a like-minded subculture. Drummond mentioned an amazing photographic study on this subject. We pursue individuality and originality, but our basic human instinct to belong contradicts these ambitions.

I know I personally strive to be un-ordinary. Ironically, this includes all of the cliched agency creative traits: Reject the mainstream. Purposely seek things off the beaten path. Extreme confidence offset by moments of self doubt. Biggest fear? Being uninteresting and fading into the background of the ordinary.


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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Naked viral from Zappos – no brand lines showing.

400 nude-speed records later, Agent 16 and Zappos have reached the epitome of viral success with their "world's fastest nudist campaign". Landing on CNN – incognito and completely brand naked, Zappos quietly drove people to connect the dots. In sheer viral form, the ridiculousness spans over YouTube, alludes to an upcoming documentary, and you can keep track of the happenings through The Daily Nude, Twitter, etc.

As the New York Times points out, Agent 16 somehow convinced Zappos that the best way to advertise selling shoes AND clothing is by getting behind a guy not wearing any.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is this the Droid you're looking for?

And in this corner, weighing in with an impressive combination of hardware and Google brand strength, all the way from Verizon, we have the Motorola Droid. The official teaser campaign has launched, and the iPhone challenge has been issued. Could the Droid be the the first potential iPhone killer?

The spot blatantly mocks Apple's white space, catchy music, and ironically calls out the iPhone's shortcomings with "iDon't". All of this comes to a screeching halt with the Droid's edgy and aggressive takeover, finishing with "Droid does." We don't get to see the Droid yet, but the interruption and web site boldly encourage us to "deactivate our compromise".

The thing to keep in mind here is that Motorola owned the mobile phone category before iPhone. The Motorola Razr was a huge success. Unfortunately, they rested on their laurels. As pointed out in Do you matter?, the company simply applied the Razor veneer to new products. Instead of creating the next experiential step, they chose to imitate instead of innovate. They go on to test the level of Motorola's relevance in a post iPhone world:

A Stanford University engineering class was asked, “Who cares if Motorola goes out of business next week?” One person raised his hand. They then asked, “Who cares if Apple goes out of business next week?” Most of the class raised their hands.
Apple matters. They have mastered the choreography of the experience people have with their company through design and points of brand contact. The question is, will Motorola matter again with the Droid? Let's watch as the ad battle begins.

[The title of this post was inspired by Star Wars]


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Knowing a little about a lot.

Creativity is a place where we can get lost in the possibilities. The "what if" is by far my favorite part of advertising. Concepting requires us to bring a lot of randomness and research to the table. It turns out most of us creative-types have been collecting cultural information for most of our lives. Sooner or later we pull from this eclectic reserve. "You know that movie that starred so and so and had this guy who did this one thing?," "Now that you said that, it makes me think of this." "The brand could definitely own that." And so it goes, the creative catalyst response. We laugh, we share loosely connected anecdotes, improv scenarios (sometimes with unrelated accents), and at some point reach an insightful conclusion. The actual process cannot really be defined, it's essentially disciplined chaos.
"The process is always more enjoyable than the result." – Diablo Cody
In the end, no matter what the delivery vehicle, the core idea is the true currency. Art & Copy captures the exuberance of advertising when an idea significantly affects culture. Effective communication combines meaning with entertainment. Sometimes pulling from personal experience or authentic passion. And every now and then, with a little luck, it can be transcendent.


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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Competition and the ongoing quest for differentiation.

Competition: It's our biggest obstacle in brand positioning, but at the same time offers a chance for differentiation. There would be no need for advertising without competition. What has been done vs. what could be done. There is always a better way, even though it's hard to believe while in the midst of a supposed moment of genius.

Competitive Nature: My sister and I could not even play board games together unless we were on the same team, in which case, no one really wanted to play us. I went out for sports, she went out for band. It was safer that way.

In retrospect, I owe a lot to my time in the pursuit of general athleticism (volleyball, basketball, track, tennis, gymnastics, whatever the season was, etc.). Sports kept me out of trouble, pushed me to challenge myself, and allowed me to offset my art geek/academic side. Of all the sports, I have the most gratitude towards basketball. It was the one that I had to work the hardest for. I was not the tallest, the fastest, or the most aggressive player. However, I found a niche where I could differentiate myself. I became the go to free throw specialist. This led to outside shots and a place on the starting team. As with anything worth working for, lots of practice and dedication.

Overall thought to this rambling post: Step outside your comfort zone. Challenge norms. What exists on a pedestal as the reigning brand standard will inevitably evolve. Find a niche, hone your skills, and always pursue the better way.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Bold and the IKEA

IKEA Heights from DaveAOK on Vimeo.
Shot on the fly inside the Burbank IKEA store, this campy, guerilla-style series is taking user-generated content to a whole new level. Apparently, director David Seger was inspired by how IKEA stores were set up with faux rooms that looked like stage sets. To keep things humorous – price tags are displayed, pillows are deadly, and the melodramatic pauses are Telemundo perfection. Shows are filmed without the store's knowledge, permission would only ruin the stunt factor. The minute it feels like a viral video is trying to sell something, the virality is compromised. Seger does his best to become a tourist and captures candid responses from the show's curious or unwitting extras.

The LA Times compares this user-generated show to their recent company-produced show:

Brand-wise, "IKEA Heights" is absolutely harmless. In fact, Seger and his friends have essentially done for free what "Easy to Assemble" cost IKEA $50,000 to do. And done it better. As of Sept. 7, "IKEA Heights" had been downloaded 14,168 times.
Is this where advertising is going? Do we blindly hand brands over to the general public to maintain? Partially, yes. Allowing people to connect and share in the conversation keeps a brand relevant. Provide logical outlets for brand enthusiasts to do what they feel compelled to do. Steer things as you can, but know that part of being transparent is honestly dealing with an unpredictable little thing called free will.


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anti-decorators unite.

Creative strategy is the elusive element in the marketing business model. Sometimes it's right in front of us. Other times it requires an extensive search party, GPS equipment, and state-of-the-art tracking devices to locate its whereabouts. Account executives and time sheets hate this part of the process. Either way, when the big idea comes together it's exhilarating (and hopefully sooner than later says our CFO).

The longer you work in this business, the more adept you get at making new conceptual connections faster. I tend to bombard myself with information which at some point surfaces and restructures into a cohesive thought. Though I'm an art director, I have no interest in designing something cool if it has no message or meaning. I've never wanted to be a "decorator." Today brand participation and connection are the end goals. Pretty pictures and sick graphic elements alone are not going to get that done. It's not so much the how, it's the why that matters most. However, it still should be cool. Just meaningfully cool. Here are some of the angles I start with (ever-changing and in no particular order):

1. Finding, embracing, and celebrating a core brand truth (good or bad, it's all in how you spin it)

2. Creating a sense of escapism

3. Connecting emotionally or through nostalgia (experiential experience)

4. Cultivating a belief system or "club" that people want to be part of

5. Anything that encourages brand participation, gets people talking, or works its way into pop culture. A stunt, an inside joke, a movement or initiative, a good deed, etc.

6. Whatever you think, think the opposite (Paul Arden says it best)

7. Work as a team. Copywriter meet art director and vice versa.

8. Procrastination, distraction, and reevaluation. Sounds odd, but sometimes you need to step away and come back. If I get locked into an idea too early, it's harder to change direction. Speaking of procrastination, I need to get back to what I'm working on and stop with the blogging.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Tell me a story.

This morning I was talking with our bleeding-edge senior copywriter about the collision of branding and storytelling. Is that story in your brand or brand in your story? It seems companies are tired of the business babble and ready to engage in more meaningful ways. Why not throw the audience right in the middle of an epic adventure, loosely associated with a brand? J Peterman is notorious for making seemingly uninteresting items into coveted treasures by rambling off tales of world intrigue. Dos Equis brilliantly aligns with the most interesting man in the world, who incidentally, lives vicariously through himself and knows how to speak French in Russian. I must admit, I'm a sucker for dead-pan third-party narration. Absurdity and suaveness, always an ideal combination. This campaign has turned standard frat-boy beer advertising on it's end.

Touting product features, dotting the i's, and crossing the t's only gets lost in the sea of safe marketing mediocrity. Big industry words are easy to ignore. Everyone's got the same product category features. And if they don't, they can easily attain them.

Check out Venables Bell & Parnters. AdPulp says their mission statement is "outstanding" and how they tell a brand story is pretty amazing as well.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Be the audience, or who the audience wants to be.

What do Apple and Harley Davidson have in common? The ability to cultivate unconditional brand loyalty. By aligning their vision with the people who are most passionate about their brand, or the so-called brand evangelists, these companies have established a relationship of evolving authenticity. People are emotionally invested in these companies, and their success. Of course, I'm a member of the Apple cult, but what about Harley?

"Notorious since 1903" sets the stage for mischief and mayhem. Carmichael Lynch plays up the renegade factor – even though most customers are affluent, middle-aged professionals (28% have never owned a motorcycle before and a large percentage are women*). Unapologetic. Rugged. Bold. There's an experiential lifestyle element that becomes part of the brand's mystique. The general public follows because they want to believe, just for a moment… that they are the carefree rebel surrounded only by open road and adventure. 

*Post inspiration and statistics from Do You Matter? How Great Design will Make People Love Your Company

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