Ever since helping give rise to the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids, I’ve been a huge fan of outdoor advertising. Especially posters, propaganda and signs. Yet, maybe the awe for it goes back even further than Altoids…
Case in point a small excerpt from my keynote presentation to the Outdoor Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC), which I gave earlier today:
…I grew up in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Nice now, but when I was a kid the area was rife with gang violence, in particular a turf war between the Latin Eagles and the Latin Kings. Their flamboyant signs permeated my neighborhood, haunting the alleyways, literally threatening me from around every corner. Marking their territory, if you will pardon the expression…
Crude as it sounds brands exert power marking their territory. We are here, they say. And we mean business. You cannot resist us! Granted, brands don’t jump you in the alley and take your bus money (not yet, anyway) but that doesn’t make my crude metaphor any less accurate. Signs and symbols have always been used to convey messages. For good. Evil. And everything in between. And OOH has done so for a longer stretch of time than all the other media combined.
November 11, 2013
Good Lord, that baby will destroy us all!
So, I’m watching football this weekend when on comes this giant ass baby. I was like What The F—k? There’s a humongous baby in this dude’s garage. Then it’s bawling its eyes out in front of a gushing fire hydrant. A car crashes. And then it’s over.
Is this a trailer for a new movie? “Honey, I enlarged the kids!” It wasn’t a beer commercial. Taken aback, I open up my laptop and search “giant baby TV” or something similar. On YouTube I find the gargantuan infant. He (at least I think it’s a he) is the star of a new commercial for Nationwide Insurance!
I watch it again. And still I’m bewildered. The giant baby is so distracting I miss the point of the commercial. Upon further review, I get the gist of it. The voice over (none other than Julia Roberts) tells us “that’s what’s precious to you is precious to us.”
But I’m still wrong. She’s not talking about protecting your family, of which I assumed the giant baby was a metaphor. They’re talking about car insurance. The baby is a metaphor for this guy’s car. Talk about discombobulating. It took me multiple viewings to sort it all out.
Watch the commercial. Am I crazy or is it just confusing as all hell? I will give it this: the spot got my attention. It also got me to search it out and watch it numerous times on YouTube. So, in a sense, I guess the commercial is a success.
Yet, what stands out to me is the giant baby. It’s just a great, big, weird image and something I can’t associate with car insurance. Maybe if the concept were executed differently? If the VO said “Your car is your baby.” I don’t know. I still would probably have pissed in my Huggies when I saw it/him/her.
One reason to drag TV outside. Name another?
I keep seeing advertising for AT&T’s U-Verse; if I understand it correctly, the primary benefit seems to be the ability to watch TV anywhere you want. Ok, I guess that’s a benefit. Was anyway, like in 2007. With tablets and smartphones, people can now view content on a submarine.
I know… What AT&T is really advertising is the ability for people to watch their big-ass flat screen TV, wirelessly, which means Joe Blow can move his giant LCD from the living room into the backyard (or wherever) and still be able to watch it.
Fair enough. But wireless? You still need electricity. In other words: a wire. Moreover –and this is my bigger issue- in order to watch TV outside one has to schlep the TV outside. Which, despite what this swell how-to video claims, has got to be a royal pain in the ass.
He makes it look so easy…
Not only does a person have to unplug and lug the damn thing to another location (probably requiring help) said persons also have to prepare a safe and secure resting place. This likely means procuring a table (another chore) and setting it up near a power source, far from a no-brainer out of doors. “Honey, do we have an extension chord?” Yup. Another wire.
Is anyone that hard up to watch TV outside?
Frankly, isn’t lack of television one of the main reasons for being outside? Did not our parents constantly beseech us to “stop watching the idiot box and get our butts out of the house?”
One commercial in U-Verse’s campaign depicts two men watching a ballgame in a backyard. Fun in theory. But not when you consider all the above-mentioned hassles. Furthermore, now these two knuckleheads are further away from the bathroom, refreshments and a consistent climate. God forbid, bad weather rolls in. Rain and electronics are a bad mix. And even on a perfect day isn’t it then almost impossible discerning the picture? Either way, scrambling to drag a large TV back into the living room is an accident waiting to happen.
Unless I’m seriously missing something, I have to conclude U-Verse’s primary “benefit” is a novelty at best. A nightmare at worst. One of those things that seem cool in an ad but in fact is a big f–king drag.
For the record, I keep questioning my judgment on account of all the money AT&T is spending advertising U-Verse. (Surely, there must be more to it?) I’ve seen numerous 30-second executions airing during some of the most expensive programming, like the NFL. I find it hard to believe an advertiser would spend this many millions to sell a glorified novelty item.
October 29, 2013
I’ve been thinking about agency culture or the lack of it. By definition, a “culture” forms in/on something that has permanence to it, like mold on a piece of leftover bread. I know that’s a gross analogy but it’s not inappropriate.
In Adland, we like to talk about our respective agency cultures. It seems vitally important to everyone, old and young. The CEO makes impassioned pleas about it, resurrecting old ideas from old dudes. Yawn. Even more insufferable, the under-30’s rhapsodize about culture’s importance and how f—king awesome it is at that other agency, you know, the one over there, the one with the culture. News flash, kids! Culture is an old-fashioned idea. It ain’t trending…
I can relate to culture. After all, I “grew up” at Leo Burnett in Chicago and was part of its second golden age (88-98); I swear on some days it seemed even the sewage spewing out of 35 Wacker smelled like Pillsbury biscuits baking in the oven. Back then Leo Burnett had one hell of a culture. From a work perspective, it was all about rolling up your sleeves and telling a good story. It was also about long-term relationships and big ideas. And not just with clients but with each other. People stayed at Leo Burnett -for the above reasons and an Xmas bonus that would take your breath away like a fishbowl martini at the Drake. I was there 18 years! I made a lot of ads, a lot of friends and a lot of money.
Needless to say, that culture is long gone. Like a vampire sprouting new flesh after its silvered, LBCO endlessly reinvents itself. Or tries to. And I’ll wager a lot less people are getting a lot less bonus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a big, important shop (certainly among the best in Chicago) but its culture has been greatly and necessarily diminished.
I say, “necessarily diminished” because, honestly, all agency cultures have suffered greatly or gone extinct. Why? It goes back to my gross analogy about mold growing on stuff. For better or worse, advertising (or whatever you call it) is simply not a permanent enterprise anymore. Not for anyone. For myriad reasons (most of them shitty) clients and employees don’t have loyalty to a company or its people. Everyone leaves.
And what about you, Gentle Reader? How long have you been at your present job? Thought so. When did we start counting in months? That’s life in Adland. Commercials are now 6-second Vines. Work is all project based.
Therefore, why should one’s career be any more permanent? Maybe it shouldn’t. But don’t talk to me about culture. How does anyone expect a culture to grow if no one sticks around long enough to cultivate one?