Friday, December 31, 2010

I resolve...

I really freaking love cheeseburgers. But this campaign for Dangerous Dan's Diner in Toronto — dripping with both irony and grease — has inspired my New Year's Resolutions for 2011:

I resolve to eat healthier, with less meat and more veggies.

I resolve to reduce the amount that I eat,
and increase the quality of ingredients.
I resolve to support healthy and humane farming and
slaughtering practices (as much as I can) in my food purchases.
Ummm... I forgot what this resolution was about.
Happy New Year, everyone. Be safe. Be healthy. Be excellent to each other.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bad boy branding, or just plain bad?

Definitely the latter. Copyranter posted this pathetic attempt by Jones Soda to launch itself as an "un-PC" brand in New Zealand:

Click to embiggen.

They end up coming off as both trying to hard and being incredibly dumb. If you want to make fun of political correctness, this is how it's done:

But Jones' total lack of irony just makes them look like a wannabe internet tough guy. Or at best, a troll.

Lame, DDB NZ. Just plain lame. Even the whole "unnatural ingredients" thing was done to death by Afri-Cola in the late 90s.

Update: Jones Soda head office says they didn't approve the ad, and blamed it on their NZ distributor:

This ad is counterintuitive with Jones Soda's core values of celebrating uniqueness and individuality, and we deeply apologize for any offense it has created.

Unbeknown to us, the ad was created by an advertising agency in New Zealand on behalf of a distribution partner.

Please know this ad was not approved by Jones Soda's corporate, we do not agree with it, and are working on its immediate removal.

Anorexia Kills (nudity)

Three years ago, Italian fashion brand Nolita shocked Milan's Fashion Week with billboards featuring a nude woman suffering from severe anorexia nervosa:

The woman, French model, actress and blogger Isabelle Caro, has died. News reports say she was just 28 years old.

Oddly, reports of the original campaign in 2007 stated her age at that time as 27, while other sources say she was born in 1980 — making her all of 30 at the time of her death. This is strange, because if she had really only been 25 when those photos were shot, that fact would have made the campaign all  the more shocking.

Caro had been battling anorexia since adolescence, and she had said that she allowed herself to be photographed by Oliviero Toscani because:

“I’ve hidden myself and covered myself for too long. Now I want to show myself fearlessly, even though I know my body arouses repugnance. I want to recover because I love life and the riches of the universe. I want to show young people how dangerous this illness is.”

The campaign shocked sensibilities even in naked-ad-saturated Italy, and was eventually banned by the country's advertising authority because it violated a rule that "Marketing communication should not offend moral, civil and religious beliefs. Marketing communication should respect human dignity in every form and expression and should avoid any form of discrimination."

Instituto dell’Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria (IAP) President Giorgio Floridia stated, "The photo is shocking for everyone, particularly those who are sick, and has been set up for commercial ends."

Isabelle weighed just 68 pounds at the time of the shoot. According to Wikipedia, she died over a month ago in Tokyo (of acute respiratory disease) but her family only reported the news to media yesterday.

Ms. Caro back in the day.  Is this so much less shocking?

A sad ending to a sad story.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 10 of 2010, Part 2

My five most popular posts of the year, according to Google Analytics.

5. Unreal Beauty (June 28)

I never really set out to write a feminist blog, but every time I cover women's issues in advertising I get lots of hits.

This one was about Dove's campaign for real beauty as a celebrated PR move, contrasted with a leaked casting note that specified: "MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS! Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic."

I thought it was a brand fail. Others disagreed. Lots of people read it.

4. A Case of Blondes (May 19)

This post was my reaction to an outdoor ad I saw on Bank St. just before the May 24 weekend. While not particularly remarkable on its own, it got be ruminating about the "blonde" sexy/ist cliché in beer branding and advertising and looking for other examples.

I guess it was some good collecting, because it got picked up by my favourite social science blog, Sociological Images — which brought my blog (then still called "Change Marketing") to a whole new audience.

3. Copywronging (Feb 9)

I kind of felt bad when I wrote this post. The cause is a good one, and I'm sure that the campaign was heartfelt. But this was one of the most unintentionally awful copwriting fails I have seen in ages.

You need a fairly sick (or cynical) mind to see it, so it's only natural that this post was picked up by  Copyranter — giving this post a big boost in traffic.

If ever saw my post, I hope it helped them improve their campaign.

2. Should fashion models come with warning labels? (Feb 26)

Another "women's issues" post, this one is about attempts to regulate the portrayal of women's bodies in the media — both by banning "too skinny" models, and by putting warning labels on images that have been heavily Photoshopped.

I was actually fairly circumspect about the issue, but any discussion of sexism in advertising seems to generate lots of interest and debate.

1. The Facebook Double (D) Standard on Obscenity (November 18)

My most popular post of the year by a margin of about 2,000 unique visits, this one came out of nowhere. It was one of many anti-Facebook rants — published on Facebook, of course — calling them on their apparent war on breastfeeding pictures in profiles.

Basically, the author compared several semi-pornographic cleavage pics, found on a simple Facebook search, to several innocent breastfeeding portraits (like the one above) that had been quickly removed as "obscene".

There is a very large lactivist community in social media, and when I managed to screen cap this note before it was deleted — and put it on a third-party medium — it got picked up by many of the communities who had experienced similar selective censorship.

Some were surprised to see a man taking up this cause. Those who read regularly know it is one of my most heartfelt pet issues.

So, what can I learn from my blog's most popular posts? Maybe I should offer Jezebel or Feministing my services as token male correspondent ;)

Merry and safe Christmas, everyone. I'm on vacation until the New Year, but may post sporadically if I miss you all too much.


- Tom

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 10 of 2010, Part 1

Today and tomorrow, I'm going to do a year-end roundup of the ten most read Work That Matters posts — according to Google Analytics.

Here are numbers 10-6:

10. Okay, so this is awkward... (Dec. 14)

A very recent post, this one got a big boost in viewership when I tweeted it at Ice T, with the smirking "@FINALLEVEL, call me... O_-" …and he RTed it.

It's just me goofing around with the "How Hetero?" application by Stockholm Pride, which analyzes your heterosexuality based on keywords in your Twitter feed. Ice T and I ended up being equally "just gay enough".

9.  Wow. Just Wow.   (Jan 29)

This was my reaction when I first viewed the "Embrace Life" PSA by Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.  It has since been viewed over 12 million times on YouTube and won multiple awards — including a Bronze Lion. But when I first read about it on Osocio, it was only viewable on the client's web site and not embeddable — very social media unfriendly.

Looking back, it's fun to read the comments as Marc van Gurp (of Osocio) and I  work to convince Neil Hopkins of Sussex Safer Roads Partnership to put it on YouTube ASAP. The final straw comes when I let hiom know that someone in Brazil managed to bootleg it on their own channel. Just over an hour later, Embrace Life was officially going viral.

I like to think that Marc and I played some tiny part in getting this spot online sooner than would have happened otherwise. It also cemented our online friendship, and Marc invited me to join the Osocio authors that March.

8. An immersive creative experience (April 16)

Usually, my most read posts are on burning social issues. But this one was quite the opposite.

It was for the launch of our campaign for the opening of Calyspo — Canada's largest theme waterpark, and went through our creative process in developing the characters that give the park its thematic faces. These illustrated characters have since been replaced by live action ones, which we also designed. The cute backstory is that Wildman Jack, the nature-loving blond guy, is named after my environmentalist young son.

7. Ottawa Admen go *POP* (July 30)

Another fun post, this one was about twin Art Directors (and friends) Daryn Wantuck and Tim Wantuck, and their participation in the exhibit Pop Life: Living in a Material World at the National Gallery of Canada. The twins work together at The Bytown Group, and I used to work there with them. So did illustrator Michael Zavacky who is now at McMillan. What was cool about this one is that Daryn, Tim, Zeke and I collaborated online to add an Ottawa ad industry touch to the exhibit — matching retro Doublemint Gum shirts!

6. (April 26)

One of the most heartfelt jobs we did this year was for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. It was an appeal for donations by Canadian Olympic Bronze medallist figure skater Joannie Rochette — who lost her own mother to heart disease during the games.

This online video, shot by Acart Videographer Christopher while Joannie was making an appearance in Ottawa, was our launch of the "iheartmom" fundraising brand on social media. We ended up seeding to blogs all over the world. Joannie took "iheartmom" with her to her new role as spokeperson for Birk's, opening up a whole new fundraising stream for the Heart Institute.

Tune in tomorrow for the Top 5.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wax yourself beautiful

 No, this isn't about womanscaping and manscaping... I'm talking about making yourself look like you were cast in wax at Mme. Tussauds.

A colleague recently received this link to Portrait Professional, software that "has been 'trained' in human beauty."

The site also gives you access to a before and after gallery that is intended to show how easy it is to make subjects more "beautiful". What it really does, for me, is open up a can of worms about what its developers thought was ugly.

Freckles are ugly:

Before: Real cute

After: A RealDoll

Strong features are ugly:

Before: Attitude

After: Anime
Children are ugly (or, perhaps, not sexy enough....):

Before: Sweet

After: JonBenét 

And the "character"lines of age? Also ugly:

Before: No-nonsense

After: Non-stick

To be frank, the only possible way you can achieve an acceptable standard of beauty is if you get rid of your disgustingly flawed old body altogether and become a Japanese computer animation:

Before: Frank

After: Fake

I get it. People want to look more glamorous. But scrubbing their individual beauty away and making them candidates for Photoshop Disasters is not helping in this image-obsessed world we've made.

Imagine what you can on TV do when nobody's watching

I like this campaign. Not just because it's freaky, and the illustration style is really cool, but because the message is really well thought out:

Ads that are creatively rich and have a deeper meaning? (And a message so pure that it easily translates?) The only thing that would make this campaign cooler is if it said something poignant about the evolution of media.

Oh, wait. It does that too.

via Ads of The World

Monday, December 20, 2010

When it comes to offending people, this ad goes both ways

According to AdFreak, this Publicis Milan ad for the Renault Twingo is under attack for its sexiness, or heterosexism, or both, having managed to get banned by both state TV and Silvio Belusconi's media empire, as well as gay rights groups.

So, what was the issue? We're talking about Italy here, where TV and outdoor ads regularly feature very naked female models. And where people make out (as well as argue) passionately in public, and beaches are topless. And it's a land where Big Man Berlusconi himself is said to pay for all kinds of love.

So what's the big deal? They don't even kiss. If the victim of the bondage carjacking had been a man, it probably would have been seen as a good joke on him (although the perp would not be as nicely dressed for her getaway). By the way, the tagline is "Competition is feminine".

Well, I think Publicis has managed to find a way to outrage Italian social conservatives, by normalizing homosexuality in a mainstream ad, while at the same time exploiting hetero male fantasies about gay women in a way that pisses them off too.

It's like the worst of both worlds, embracing the softcore porn ethos of "Yeah, we're cool with the whole gay thing, as long as it's two hot women getting it on while we watch!"

And that's also why this saucy commercial will ultimately be a success. With young, heterosexual men.

But will they want to buy a pink Twingo?

Ummm... you're welcome?

As a Creative Director, I really kind of hate Google Adwords. It's as if advertising had been invented by — and for — robots. With all of our training in concept, art direction, copywriting and even font choice, we now find ourselves reduced to writing a text-only haiku with a URL at the end.

Not to imply that Google AW are an ineffective medium. They're quite the opposite, and "smart" or "social" ads like them are here to stay. Which is why I find myself using horrible texting slang and prince-like "4U" language just to get the point across.

Which is why it seems ironic that Google has created this long, awkward and horribly paced "thank you" ad in glorious video for all the advertisers who have made them the reigning gods of teh internets.

Google Adwords - Thank You from PostPanic on Vimeo.

But like Google itself, the ad takes as well as gives.You'll never get that time back.

(via I Believe in Advertising)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Have the guts to go guerrilla?

When I first saw the thumbnails for this campaign on Ads of The World, I thought it was for PeTA. Or maybe organ donation.

But on closer inspection, it turned out to be a very gory self-promotion by Der Doctor Guerrilla, an Italian alternative marketing agency that wants to get noticed.

How would you react to receiving one of these nasty little things on your desk? Especially just before lunch?

"Would new ideas be of service to you? [Need new ideas?] Fresh human brain from a male adult (but not too adult)"

"Could a hand be of service? [Need a hand?] Fresh human hand from an adult male (but not too adult)."

"Would heart and passion be of service your agency? [Need more heart and passion at your agency?] Fresh human heart from an adult male (but not too adult)."

What we non-Italian audiences (and readers of AOTW's bad translations) are missing is the pun. In Italian, "servire" isn't just used like English "serve" but also to indicate a need. That's why I provided the awkward double translations above.

Another thing that doesn't really translate is the fourth concept. It's uniquely Italian, and to understand it you need to know that Italy's first civilization, the Etruscans, considered the liver to be the most important organ in the body, the seat of life and the soul. The Etruscans were later so assimilated by Rome that even their language has been lost. But today, Italians use the expression "if you have the liver for it" like we use "guts", "stomach" or "balls" — to indicate willpower, determination, and manliness.

So now you can amaze your friends and frighten your enemies at agency Christmas parties by deconstructing this ad:

"Would the liver to do guerrilla marketing be of service to your agency? [Does your agency need someone with the guts to do guerilla marketing?] Fresh human liver from an adult male (but not too adult)."

UPDATE: The Doc himself left a note on Acart's Facebook page:

Hi Tom, thanks for the post and nice to meet you ... The translation of the concepts you've done is apt, I knew I likely to encounter misunderstanding on the "liver". There is only one small mistake: I am not an agency but a freelancer looking for work as a creative:)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Now, that's a reach...

Usually, this is a criticism of someone's really obscure creative rationale for a pet idea that doesn't work. In this case, though, I meant it literally.

These "prop" versions are cool gimmicks, but you have to wonder how long the extensions will last on the streets of Toronto. (If the vandals don't get 'em, the snow probably will.)

What I like even better are the diptych and triptych versions. What can I say? I'm a sucker for any social campaign that takes the piss out of consumer advertising.

Inspired? Give to the Salvation Army here.

By Grey Canada, via Ads of The World.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why do ad agency xmas cards usually suck?

The clichéd answer is because we're our own worst clients.

But I think this year's lighthearted effort has managed to break the Curse of the Agency Card. All it took is for us to step back and take a hard look at how ridiculous our industry can be — and then let off steam through the magic of satire. Focus groups, memes, sexism, fads, personal agendas... we all deal with them. But at the end of the day, sometimes a simple idea is really worth saving.

I wrote the script. Christopher directed the voices. Kerry and Marco did the animation. Vernon, John, Lynn, Jason, Meeta and many others kicked in. And Al let us do it.

Merry Christmas to those of you on an early vacation. I'll be updating all next week.

Just another random Facebook social ad fail...

Nothing to see here. Move along...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The real question is, did Han do shots first?

This little gem has been jumping around hyperspace for quite some time, but it was new to me.

It's a 1979 anti-DWI PSA for the US Dept of Transportation, done in collaboration with Lusasfilm:

Featuring the freaky aliens from the Cantina scene in Mos Eisley, it seems to show that even alien space pirates with the death sentence on twelve systems don't let friends drive drunk. Then we get a cheap shot of the Millennium Falcon and the one actual human star of the series, James Earl Jones, telling us,

"When friends drink too much, even in galaxies far far away, friends don't let friends drive drunk."

What's especially amusing about this PSA (in addition to its epic crappiness) is that it comes from a long time ago when the Star Wars brand was still in its experimental stage.

Flush with unexpected success from the first film, Lucas' early attempts to keep people interested until Empire Strikes Back was in theatres were often quite comic.

Let's not forget the monumentally regrettable Star Wars Holiday Special:

In context, using some of the lower-priced assets for social marketing purposes was downright virtuous.

Oh, and there is... another... awkward example of Star Wars social marketing...

Use the Force, folks, and stay safe and healthy this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I thought you were supposed to cover up...

As Animal NY just reported, Marc Jacobs has enlisted Victoria’s Secret model Marisa Miller as his poster (okay, "t-shirt") woman for a campaign against skin cancer:

The campaign, which has previously featured Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum, Victoria Beckham, Winona Ryder, Rufus Wainwright, Eva Mendes, Julianne Moore and Selma Blair in the raw, has raised over $1 million for Melanoma Research at the NYU Cancer Institute.

According to the campaign Facebook page:

"The public awareness generated by the T-shirt campaign is enormous, not to mention the funds that have been raised," says Dr. William L. Carroll, director of the NYU Cancer Institute, who notes that proceeds of the sales of the T-shirts benefit IMCG. "We are grateful for the generosity of Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy in allowing the NYU Cancer Institute to focus on research and advancing clinical care."

The campaign was started bu Jacobs and his business partner, Robert Duffy, in 2006. Duffy is melanoma survivor.

But is showing skin really the best approach for skin cancer, rather than encouraging fair people to cover up?

At least they can wear the t-shirt to the beach.


The world's oldest recorded joke is a fart joke, from 1900 BC, so I guess they will always be with us.

Add some advertising students to the mix, and you get this campaign from Cuca Escola de Criativos, in Brazil (via AoTW):

Tagline: "Life is hard. Prepare your stomach." It's for an antacid.

Cute campaign, kids. It's a gas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Okay, so this is awkward...

I just happened upon the "How Hetero?" application by Stockholm Pride.

It asks you to submit your Twitter name, select your gender, then it calculates how heterosexual you are, — based on your tweets.

So of course I entered my handle, @CreativeTweets...

69% HeteroCreativeTweets is 69% Hetero

Being happily married to a woman, I was a little alarmed to see that my online self was almost a third gay. Is it my advocacy of equal marriage? My support for anti-hate campaigns? Or maybe it was that time I RTed Lady Gaga while drunk...

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I thought I'd try a few celebrities to calibrate this f*cker.

69% HeteroFINALLEVEL is 69% Hetero

Okay, so Ice T and I are equally straight, and equally on the downlow.

62% HeteroPerezHilton is 62% Hetero

Perez Hilton is only slightly less gay than me? WTF? Let me check @Queerty...

1% HeteroQueerty is 1% Hetero

Now I suspect maybe Perez is the one with issues.

For one last check, I entered the feed of sticky ladmag @FHM_Australia:

72% HeteroFHM_Australia is 72% Hetero

Well, okay then. I guess I'll be staying with my team.