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Still a man’s world… Really?

The Bachelor has always bothered me. But last week’s episode took the cake, especially coming one night after the Academy Awards, which, in a matter of hours, became a tipping point for the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Whereas the Oscars built up female empowerment, leveraging the zeitgeist to considerable acclaim, the very same network brought it all crashing down with a ridiculous and ghoulish season finale of The Bachelor. For those unawares, the bachelor reneges on his proposal of marriage and the shunned woman cries for two hours. It was gross. And he was the least of the reasons why.

 

Here it is. By design, The Bachelor makes women into objects of desire. Nothing more. Yet plenty less. In a very real way, The Bachelor is worse than pornography. At least in porn no one is pretending to a romantic ideal. A show that celebrates romantic love to silly extremes, The Bachelor is as sad an indictment on womanhood as any beauty pageant. Yet women love it. Show me the ratings for The Bachelor and I’ll show you as one-sided a demographic as men and the NFL. The few straight guys that watch The Bachelor vacillate between belittling the women and ogling them. What choice do we have? Without these primitive attractions, the show has no meaning.

 

I tell my daughters that The Bachelor is bad for their soul, that it reinforces ancient stereotypes about women and men. They reply it’s a guilty pleasure, no different than guys watching sports. But it is different. With sports men (and women) do difficult things to achieve valuable things. What exactly do the women on The Bachelor… do? That is besides preening and crying. And to what aim? To be given a freaking rose by some clod! The Bachelor undermines everything women are striving for. Respect. Money. Power. Women deservedly want what men have. But they aren’t going to get there pining over some dude on a reality show.

 

Attracting a man. Fantasizing about true love. Dreaming of their wedding day. White dresses and sugary cakes. Make me a princess! That’s the stereotype our parents grew up with. The Bachelor is a relic from the 1950’s. And it should be treated as such. Yet, it’s a smash hit and primarily with women. Why isn’t its time up?

Author’s Note: Available for copywriting, content creation and creative direction: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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Falling on deaf ears?

Like Hollywood and all its stars, the vast majority of Adland despised the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. Which is why for many months so many of us rallied for a different outcome. The best and brightest from our tribe, hired by the DNC, or of their own volition, created films and microsites and social programs in a righteous effort to see the one time First Lady become the first lady President of theses United States and, with perhaps even more ardor, to make certain one very strange and polarizing man didn’t. Emulating the luminaries in La La Land we had our Goodby and Droga and all their get doing everything imaginable so that America voted one way and not another.

Funny or Die presented an entire movie mocking Donald Trump. Baldwin killed with his impersonation of DT on SNL. Poignant commercials told us “our children are watching” as clips of The Donald ran before their innocent eyes. The Tonite Show. The Daily Show. All the shows – ranted and raved. We made memes and anthems. Jay Z and Beyonce’ stood by Mrs. Clinton swearing a blue streak for blue states. The sitting POTUS boldly stated that Donald Trump was “not fit for the office” and we made endless propaganda to support that claim. Oh, those ripping hashtags. So many followers. So many Likes. So many shares.

And yet.

All the Kings horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Hillary Clinton back together again. Donald Trump won. And he did it with a clown car for support and a fraction of the money.

In Washington the autopsies are well under way. Blaming the FBI. Blaming racist America. Blaming men. And, with eyes to the floor, blaming their candidate as well as themselves. How could we let this happen? They rightfully ask. Were we so wrong? That wildfire will rage for months to come.

And so I must ask the same questions of our industry. Was our strategy and creative so wrong? How did we bungle a pitch we thought so certain we’d won?

I did not create any content for this election but I am available to do so for you: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

Much to admire in Apple’s new TVC for their latest iPhone 7. The plot is simple as all good commercials are. Despite a hellacious storm brewing, a serious bicyclist suits up to ride, including on his bike the water resistant iPhone, shown depicting his route with mapping technology. That’s essentially it.

Yet, the details are what make this 30-second film spectacular.

Let’s start with the production. The dark and ominous tone, impressive. The CGI storm impeccably rendered. The gray, black and brown color palette, accentuated by flashes of lightning, make a bold statement.

Speaking of bold color, one has to comment on the brilliant casting of an African American. In Marin County, serious bikers are ubiquitous and in the 4 years I’ve been here I can count the black riders I’ve seen on one hand. The stereotype of a lean Caucasian bedecked in colorful skintight gear is completely accurate. I don’t think it’s controversial to say, like swimming, biking just isn’t a black thing.

So we notice the man here. And pay attention. He is perfect for the role. Steely-eyed and stoic, this dude is hardcore in the best sense of the word. If anyone can handle the impending storm it’s this guy. Even his dog looks more worried than him. Kudos to the creators for casting against type. It makes this commercial.

Another counter-intuitive aspect that raises the commercial up is the lunacy of riding a bike on a mountain road during a raging storm. Normal people don’t do that. But intense people do. Instead of thinking what a nut, we think what a badass. If the commercial weren’t made so well, the narrative might’ve come off as preposterous. It doesn’t. The result: Like his other gear, the iPhone feels like serious equipment for a man on a mission. We want what this guy has: his reckless courage, his boldness, his phone. In other words, the ad works.

Finally, again surprising and delighting, is the unexpected use of AC/DC’s iconic anthem, Thunderstruck. Slowing potting up the song’s alluring guitar riff builds excitement and tension, placing us directly in the rider’s mindset. Thrilling. Long a bastion of white stoners (now sober dads like me), the AC/DC song, like everything else in this commercial, totally disrupts expectations – forcing us to pay attention.

Watch the spot. That last image says it all. To hell with the weather, let’s ride. We can handle it and so can the iPhone.

Creative leadership, copy & content: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

According to Tim Nudd’s marvelous piece in Adweek, this Secret deodorant commercial debuted on the season premier of The Bachelorette -a show I deplore but my wife and daughter’s adore.  I’m not going to get into a rant on that but I do recognize the genius of this media buy. Like the Bachelor, the Bachelorette is a reality show about choosing a mate for life. Though such outcomes rarely happen long term for these contestants, the show acts as if it most certainly will. And that mythology is a potent one for lots of women and, I suppose, a fair amount of men. Whatever. This commercial flawlessly plays off and pays off the proposal ritual.

Instead of a rose, we get a fortune cookie. And the result is charmingly messed up. I won’t go into the plot. Watch the film yourself. It’s fabulous storytelling. Nudd’s analysis is spot on:

It’s a sly mix of comedy and tension, with great casting and subtle acting that really lets the scenario build nicely. When the reveal happens—even if you see it coming—it feels believable, and like a breakthrough, because of the obvious stress of the situation. Which by the way makes for a fine connection to the brand, even if inverting gender roles to sell product can still feel icky, however pure the motive.

The craft is first rate as well. Directed by Aoife McArdle for Wieden + Kennedy, the realness is laudatory – far more authentic than the Bachelorette that’s for sure. Everything about the spot rings true. (Not faux true.) The cast. The location. Direction and acting. It all works. I especially love the woman. Rather than get into specifics, let me just say it feels like we’re eavesdropping on a totally genuine moment and one that is delightful, romantic and full of life. Real life.


More of the same…

A bunch of new ads began running yesterday against Donald Trump for President. Like earlier ads they focus entirely on Trump’s infamously nasty comments directed toward women over the years. One in particular stands out because it puts these misogynistic sound bites into the mouths of regular women. I say “stands out” because in a normal universe it would be an atomic bomb for Trump’s candidacy.

But this is not a normal universe. And like all the other ads taking Donald “at his word” it will do nothing to change the course of this election. In the end, Donald may not win but it won’t be because of these ads.

Here’s why. The awful things Donald Trump says about women, minorities and ideas and people in general are what made him so popular in the first place. Why the Dem’s keep thinking he’s his own worst enemy is a fatal flaw in their strategy. He is the GOP’s presumptive nominee (like it or not) precisely because he talks smack. People, lots of people, find his candor, albeit buffoonish, to be highly refreshing and a change of pace from, well, anything they’ve seen or heard before from a politician.

it’s working.

Frankly, by dramatizing his words in ever more creative executions Trump’s rivals are only strengthening his position. Why they don’t see it this way defies logic and, moreover, will hurt the Democratic bid, maybe even mortally.

If I were proposing an ad campaign to thwart Donald Trump, I would do ads that point out his utter cluelessness in terms of policy. I would not attack the inherent racism of his “building a wall against Mexico” I would state he has absolutely no way to actually do it, let alone “get Mexico to pay for it.” The Mexican President has already said that his country has absolutely no intention to pay for anything of the kind. And he won’t. Period. End of story. Therefore, I would challenge Mr. Trump –in ads, in debates, everywhere- on just how in hell he intends to do it. He can’t and deep down we know he can’t. But until that truth is brought to light, and so many other truths, his fan base will continue to grow.

But the Democrats and their Super Pacs keeping wasting time on the smokescreen that is Donald Trump’s shocking statements. In a weird yet undeniable way, it makes the Dems seem out of touch with reality, which only helps the Trump machine get stronger. Trump has a foul mouth. We know that. Go after his brain. Do you want me to write the ads for you?