September 26, 2016
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.
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September 20, 2016
Bono has a great line from a lesser known U2 song: “Some days have bouncers that won’t let you in.” Well, today was one of those days.
In big ways and small I was vexed by unmet expectations. A rejection here. A late coming change order there. Computer problems. Trouble at the bank. Scheduling issues. Just a myriad of stuff. The day would not let me in.
Undoubtedly you have had such days. God forbid worse. God forbid lasting longer. For these are the vicissitudes of life. Said another way, shit happens. And no one is immune.
Yet, I did not succumb to it. When one crummy thing led to another per Murphy’s Law I did not rage against him. I paused before each fallen hurdle. Took stock. Thought about the many blessings in my life. When I picked up my youngest from school I asked about her day, giving a smile and looking for one back. It was received. Despite feeling hurt, my attitude spared loved ones. I did not make things worse.
Later, in the car with my middle child, a daughter of 15, I told her that this was a difficult day for me – the truth. She asked for details and I explained some of it. She put her phone away and we had a meaningful conversation. She worried and wondered and asked good questions. By the time we got home, we were both laughing. I came to realize my bad day enabled a rare moment with my daughter, something precious.
Silver lining? A door shuts another opens? There are many proverbs about our challenges teaching us but when we are in them they are easy to forget. For me, anyway. The old me would have added to my difficulties by creating ten more. Maybe I would have lashed out to those that were vexing me and to those that were not, making everyone feel bad, effecting consequences.
But today I did not falter. I remembered to pause when agitated. Take stock. I even asked a confidant for help. These are things many of you do intuitively. For me it’s a daily reprieve, this grace under pressure.
Maybe these words will help one of you. Writing them down is another tool for helping me. Like saying thank you for this day and all of its blessings.
(Author’s note: above mentioned lyric from Some Days are Better than Others, off U2’s 1993 album, Zooropa )
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Back when I started in this business, at Leo Burnett, the agency had its share of iconic clients and for the most part did iconic work for them. None more so than it’s fabled “Fly The Friendly Skies” campaign for United Airlines. At the time, the agency had just procured rights to the quintessential American anthem, Rhapsody in Blue and in my opinion there was no finer way to advertise an airline. While United has since changed agencies and themes many times over, if you fly the airline they still welcome you to the “friendly skies of United.” They can’t let it go. And why should they? It’s better than anything they’ve done since.
Regarding technology, there are three critical plot points in the 20th century: The automobile. The airplane. And computing. For many years, nothing defined an agency better than a big car or an airline client. And Burnett was cock of the walk in that regard. Then Apple turned everything upside down.
But planes are still a big deal. And when a new campaign for one as big as American Airlines comes out, we take notice. Not like in the eighties and nineties, but still.
“The World’s Greatest Fliers Fly American,” is AA’s new theme, introduced by agency CP&B. The first thing you notice is how serene it all is. No voiceover. Just idealistic, lovely images with superimposed copy. The intent is to idealize the best in fliers, even if the reality of airline travel is anything but. Forget that today’s “fliers” wear ill-fitting sweatpants and eat stinky Whoppers from a paper bag. This campaign is a romantic myth, which, while understandable, is admittedly a push.
Still, I do like its audacious simplicity. Like a soaring eagle, the AA logo casts a shadow over the gorgeous images – the poetic titles a polite interruption. Another word that comes to mind is glossy. On gossamer wings, right?
For the most part the aviation industry has recovered from its lengthy post 9/11 slump. Many are now turning big profits. So we are not talking about saving American Airlines. But I wonder: Is this campaign enough? Will it make a difference? Will consumers change their flying behaviors or even notice at all? I’m not being coy. I really do wonder.
View the rest of the campaign in this story from Adweek.
August 23, 2016
Here’s to the Crazy Ones…
I admit it. I’m crazy. And for the most part I’m okay with that – not that I have a choice. Ever since I can remember I’ve been aware of my, shall we say, unique perspective on the human condition – or my condition anyway. I wasn’t like the other kids. And I’m not like the other men. And while that can prove irksome at cocktail parties, or at times to my wife, it is simply reality.
Fortunately, I was able to forge a very successful career in advertising, where tempered crazy mixed with hard work is called creativity. Finding compelling ways to persuade people into believing in a product, brand or service requires more than a sound strategy; it demands a unique intuition. Crazy good ideas are hatched from crazy good minds. On good days I was crazy.
Like a lot of crazies, I ran into trouble “augmenting” that reality with drugs and alcohol but those days are thankfully over. I accept the way my mind works, even relish it, and am “aware” in ways no artificial stimulation can simulate.
Going deeper, I’ve come to the conclusion that for a great many of “us” being crazy is merely being more wholly aware than most so-called “normal” people. I am aware of my demons and defects and, for the most part, have learned how to live with them and even play with them. They can be muses. Pandora’s Box can be opened and shut. Yes, depression and anxiety are a part of it. And this is not always a small price to pay (see the preceding paragraph). So be it.
Looking at the world, we see chaos. In religion. In politics. In every other Instagram feed. Millions upon millions of people acting crazy but not identifying as crazy. Speaking and voting and even killing and not aware of it as crazy. Are the multitudes normal or just in hopeless denial?
We crazy ones know the difference. That doesn’t make us “better than” or “less than” but it makes us saner.
(Author’s note: The above anthem is the never-aired version with voice over by Steve Jobs. In retrospect, I prefer it to the read given by Richard Dreyfuss.)
Here I go again on my own…
While there’s little chance any of these children know Whitesnake from asparagus (Hell, I doubt many of their parents do either) this back-to-school anthem from Walmart rocks.
The idea couldn’t be simpler, which is why I like it so much (that and my penchant for 80’s metal). You see, it’s time for kids to kiss summer goodbye and get on that big yellow school bus. But they are not moping. Anything but. Armed with supplies from Walmart they do so with a vengeance!
Historically, I do not have an affinity for Walmart. Nor their advertising. But this. This kills it. We barely see the store. No parking lots. No greeters. No deeply discounted back packs for $9.99. None of the tired tropes so familiar in retail advertising.
Instead it’s all kids, facing up to the un-face-up-to-able: School. And they do it with an awesome song in their heart.
Here I go again on my own,
going down the only road I’ve ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.
But I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wasting no more time…
So, let’s hold up our cigarette lighters –er, I mean iPhones- and shine a light on this joyously fun ode to new beginnings.
One request. Come Halloween I hope Walmart has the stones to go even harder. I’m thinking Motorhead.
Final note: If this indeed was The Martin Agency’s swan song for Walmart (having recently lost the account to a Publicis agency) then they should hold their heads high. They went out with a bang.