February 23, 2015
A raw “moment.”
The Academy Awards are hard not to watch. One just feels compelled to share “Hollywood’s Biggest Night.” And I was no exception, although, I must say, I was not so much riveted by the show as buzzed by it. Having the TV on, the family with me, a half-assed dinner being consumed. Telling the kids to shut up so we can hear who won. Them not listening. Them saying, “like, who are all these old people?” Um, sweetie, that’s Robert Duvall. Sean Penn. Michael Keaton. Emma stone they recognized. And because I share a house with four ladies eyes were on the clothes and hair.
It’s a palpable buzz.
One thing I noticed in the coverage and after-coverage was the pointing out of “moments.” When Neal Patrick Harris sent up Birdman by taking the stage in his undies. When John Legend emotionally sang and totally delivered the evening’s best song, Glory. The perspiring, young writer of The Imitation Game beseeching all of us to ‘embrace our weirdness.’ All those Latinos up on stage for Birdman.
The definition of “having a moment” has got to be winning an Academy Award. I remember winning a few big advertising awards… how giddy I felt stumbling up to the stage. Of course I was drunk –I always was drunk- but I still remember those moments. I can’t recall a thing I said and that’s just as well.
I believe in moments. Life is a puzzling journey. We mark the trail with moments: Graduation. New Job. Closing a deal. Or is it a drama? Fair metaphor as well. In this case moments are like plot points: Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. Babies are born. People die. There are countless plot points to every life. Pretty cool way to look at it.
No wonder so many brands try to own them. It’s the perfect hash tag for the Academy Awards, if not life itself: #Moments
Copywriting under the influence in public service ads (a bureaucratic obsession with catch phrases).
February 10, 2015
Successful yes but it created a virus…
Public service campaigns authorized by state or local governments tend to veer quickly into the slow-witted lane, especially when they pertain to driving safety. I do not mean this is to be a complete admonishment. Often these campaigns are poorly funded and run by bureaucrats, limiting an agency’s creativity or, more likely, open-mindedness to an agency’s creative solutions.
Despite inherently dramatic stories and the public good being served, in the realm of public awareness advertising one has to moderate creative expectations. After all, these are the same sort of clients who run the DMV and Passport Services. Playing to the lowest common denominator is what these offices are all about. Repetition of a message’s main point is far more important to these practitioners than high concept.
The perfect example of what I’m referring to is the Click It or Ticket campaign, which, to its credit, gets its message across succinctly. The myriad executions of this campaign hardly matter (they are mostly Z-grade crap) but that line is a zinger. So catchy! I am sure this refrain has saved lives. When I was a kid few people actually wore their seatbelts. Now everyone does. Case closed.
My beef comes with the numerous other civic campaigns that blatantly and poorly rip this formula off, hammering home a theme line that isn’t as good, expecting the same results. Like this hodgepodge of off rhyme and alliteration:
Buzzed. Busted. Broke. Buzzed Driving is Drunk driving.
Why not just go with Think Before You Drink (and Drive) and be done with it? I’m sure there’s some tax paid research suggesting kids don’t perceive a buzz to be the same as being drunk but that’s where the word “think” comes in. You don’t need a different campaign and idiotic tagline.
Here’s a relatively new ditty, about changing area codes:
When in doubt dial it out!
In fairness, I love the It Can Wait campaign against texting and driving.
Don’t drive inTEXTicated
Yet, I can just here the droning in City Hall. “We need a rhyme! We need our Click It or Ticket!” Feeble marketing types, of which grow in local government like mildew, love simple formulas.
Next time you see or hear a public service spot funded by your government listen for the tag line. It’s bound to be guilty of copywriting under the influence.
February 6, 2015
Last year the Super Bowl! This year the scrap heap.
I grew up with Radio Shack. Like 7-11, they were everywhere. And like 7-11, they offered quick stop shopping, in their case for consumer electronics and myriad electrical supplies. I may have bought a Sony Walkman there. I don’t remember. What I mostly purchased at Radio Shack were blank cassettes, CD’s and floppy discs. And well, we all know what happened to those. For all intents and purposes they are extinct or, at best, just hanging on.
My Tweet: Let’s face it anything with the words “radio” and “shack” in its title had it coming…
For the last 10 or 15 years (maybe longer) Radio Shack clung to existence. As Best Buy and Circuit City floundered and died somehow the Shack persisted in subsisting. That in and of itself was a miracle.
I kind of rooted for them. Nostalgically, Radio Shack comprised a tiny bit of bandwidth in my aging, shrinking brain, representing Saturday morning excursions for a pack of batteries or ear buds. But then those things were available at Walgreens and, frankly, anywhere else that had a cash register. To say nothing of Amazon.
Even when Radio Shack was big it had painted itself into a corner. Quick electronics on the cheap always struck me as a shaky platform. When by comparison, Best Buy is considered “high end” you know you’re in trouble.
For a good chunk of its 94 years it didn’t matter. People defaulted to Radio Shack for camera batteries and the like long after they had to. Such was its appeal. But eventually my grandfather died. Mom got a Costco card. Radio Shack dimmed like an old TV tube never to be replaced.
Radio Shack did not go down without a fight. Various ad campaigns entered the ring but, alas, were completely clobbered. Even if some of it was vaguely clever and/or self-aware, marketing could not save them. The Super Bowl could not save them! Calling one’s self “The Shack” and trying to be a neighborhood pal isn’t sustainable in consumer electronics. Now when you’re opponents are Amazon and Wal-Mart.
The stark reality is no one under retirement age will miss Radio Shack. But they are at least worth saying good by to.
The details of RS’s demise on, of all things, Gawker.