Scene and be seen: Une soiree Majestik Hotel

So, I was heading to the Palais des Festivals for the awards ceremony honoring radio, media and outdoor Lions, when I noticed a cocktail party taking place on the swank, poolside terrace beside my hotel. Not being a drinker, I could care less about the open bar; it’s the people that make these things work.

And man, did I see people. Kraft Foods was hosting a gathering to honor one of their guests, who was featured at one of the better-attended events at the Palais, none other than the famed auteur, Spike Jonze.

For those unawares, Jonze directed Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and more recently, Where the Wild Things Are. Two of these films are in my top twenty of all time and all three are universally regarded as brilliant. In addition to revolutionizing music videos, he’s also made numerous groundbreaking films for our industry, including one of the best commercials ever created, Ikea Lamp, which garnered every award possible the year it came out, not the least of which a Grand Prix at Cannes. This year he has a 30-minute film in the show about robot love. The piece can be viewed here: Spike Jonze Film \"I\'mheremovie\"

Confession: Hours ago I played courier in a futile attempt to deliver my novel, The Happy Soul Industry and screenplay to his hotel. Yeah, I know, a total mook move. But a guy can dream…

Along with Mr. Jonze, attending the party were Bob Jeffries, Howard Draft, Dana Anderson, Ron Bess, Jonathan Harries, David Jones, Mark Figliulo, Abbey Klaassen, Diane Jackson, Lisa Wells, Tony Weisman, Edie Weiss and leadership personnel from USA Today, Hyper Island, MJZ films and countless other Ad Land movers and shakers. To appropriate a phrase from high school: it was like the C-Suite “on acid.”

Needless to say, I missed the awards ceremony. But that’s the thing with Cannes. Everywhere you turn is an existing/potential boss, partner, competitor, or client and, most importantly, mentor. To meet some of these people, however briefly, is a privilege. And besides, even if Spike Jonze has little interest in my book, I can now say I had a meeting with him!

To view a wide selection of Jonze’s work: Spike\'s ouevre.

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My last post was about U2’s 360 Tour, which I generally liked despite having serious issues with Soldier Field. Among numerous comments I received, one stood out for its indictments. Migrane66 wrote the following:

…I suddenly understood why Kurt Cobain put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He looked at his future and saw something like soldier field this weekend: banners reading “Blackberry loves Nirvana”, a huge, dumb stage that was there to take to the focus off the average musicianship emanating from said stage, and a group of musicians who have become mere props in a corporate money grab…

Though I disagree with the writer’s bleak positions, his or her letter got me thinking. (No small feat!) Are not fan disappointment and the band’s success codependent? U2 became hugely popular and now the population holds it against them.

This ironic phenomenon is not limited to bands. Frankly, it applies to many people, places and things. Because of their success the New England Patriots went from unexpected darlings to annoying juggernaut. Now that everyone loves your favorite restaurant you hate going there.

Advertisers should pay special attention. All brands want to get big. But the smart ones worry about it as well. When I worked on Altoids, we rightfully worried that our success would ultimately come back to haunt us. Whenever someone suggested we “merchandise the brand” my spider sense began tingling. New flavors I could accept but Altoids mouth wash? Not on my watch. The key to maintaining Altoids’ cult-like status relied on keeping things under the radar –in brand management and advertising. That was one of the reasons we never did TV.

Has Altoids gone too far? What about Starbucks, Apple or Nike?

Everyone lusts for growth, especially in business. If one isn’t growing their business, one is considered failing. Yet, all around us are age-old examples of people, places and things growing too big or jumping the shark. Hence the above emailer’s brutal review of U2.

Our own industry is hardly immune. Pat Fallon and Jay Chiat both asked, “how big can we get before we get bad?” They got big. One can debate whether they got bad.

The great irony remains. When David slays Goliath we cheer. When David becomes Goliath we jeer. Word of warning to challenger brands: be careful what you wish for.

Finally, GROWTH is not always synonymous with EXCELLENCE. Take cancer for instance.

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Given the grim climate in Chicago (the weather, the economy, the government), I’m thinking it might be high time we celebrate the unheralded but quality work coming out of our city’s many agencies.

We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the people, places and things as it relates to the Chicago advertising community. I want to go another way. Hold to the good, as our pastor likes to say.

In this spirit, every day this week, I’m going to feature a campaign from a local shop that deserves praise… not punishment.

G-whiz, f you’re like me, you’re scratching your head over Gatorade’s first campaign from their new agency, TBWA. While not bad, the “G” work seems (to me) like a diluted version of Element 79’s deservedly famous “Is it in you?” campaign. Proof that clients leave agencies for reasons having little to do with the “work.” Speaking of Element 79…

On a decidedly smaller stage is their charming campaign for Harris Bank. “We’re here to help” was a decent concept when it came out but it is especially relevant now. Prescient even.

However, like the Burnett work for Allstate, it’s not likely to win many, if any, creative prizes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t special. It is. Print and outdoor executions offer practical solutions to various mundane predicaments, juxtaposing a bank-related solve in clever ways. Synergizing the media enhances the campaign’s playful potential. The word jumble execution pictured here shows how much fun you can have being helpful.

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Element 79 beat my agency for this account in a hotly contested pitch. Had they not, our campaign would have been, if I’m being honest, seriously reviewed and most likely scrapped by now for its brazen confidence and pride. “We’re here to help” is a humble message, which I’m sure resonates with jittery consumers.

While Gatorade may have been intercepted by another agency, Element 79 holds its own with this small but decent effort for Harris Bank.

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