“I make gibberish sound important.”

To all of my friends from the United Kingdom, I beg your pardon in advance for this post. But blimey! I am so tired of British voices driving American commercials for American-made products. I know brands do it to sound classy and global. But didn’t that line of thinking disintegrate along with Hugh Grant’s acting career? This isn’t a race thing. Or a patriotic thing. I’m just over the accent. Enough is enough. It’s no longer, as the Brit’s like to say, brilliant.

What took me over the edge is a new campaign for Seagate technology. I hear the radio spots every evening during my commute home from work. My eyes twitch every time the dude (Can Brit’s even be dudes?) says “dater” instead of data. The word is annoying already without adding a pretentious spin to it.

Then I saw the TV commercials, one of which is included above. Of course the guy’s handsome and debonair. Why else would they hire him? Oh, that’s right: the voice. Alas, his performance is mediocre. In fairness to his Lordship, he was given those scripts. Listen to him ramble on about data being a part of everything and Seagate harnessing its power, or some such. I’m not really sure. It’s more of that tech mumbo-jumbo. Maybe the writer figured a debonair English voice would make it sound fresh. Once upon a time it might have. Nowadays, the accent is all too common. Aren’t the days of swooning over English voices long over? Remember when Madonna inexplicably took on a British accent? I barely do either.

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“Bloody walkers!”

On the other hand, Hollywood adores putting Brits in just about everything. For example, at least three of the characters in my favorite show, The Walking Dead are British, including the lead role. The show is based in the southern United States, which has its own distinct accent! I think it’s funny that the producers cast various Brits for these roles, and then had them alter their voices to sound American. But they do alter their voices. And, frankly, they look and sound great.

Plenty of Americans worship the Monarchy. Always have. From Lady Diane and her children to the latest Princess and hers, we can’t get enough of these entitled beings. Me? I turn the page or channel whenever I see a silly hat.

Look, I know this post is bollocks. I don’t really care. Frankly, I like the BBC. Danny Boyle. Ricky Gervais. Lemmy Kilmister. Geniuses all! But I just like taking the piss. And “dater?” Well, that’s just wrong.

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Hello Sunshine!

My office of gyro San Francisco teamed up with the California Coastal Commission in creating a campaign to get people to ‘check the coast’ on their tax forms in order to help preserve the Cali coast in all its glory.

The creative idea is simple enough. Take a selfie with a hand check relating to the coast and post it wherever you post stuff, and include #CheckTheCoast and CheckTheCoast.org Then, if you are so inclined, at tax time check the appropriate box on the CA form asking for a donation. After that you can hit the beach or wherever your favorite spot by the water is -knowing you did something to help keep it that way.

To help get this thing going we enlisted actor Adrian Grenier (Entourage) and surfer-activist, Sunshine in the Fog to lend their comely selfies to the cause. They graciously accepted. As did our photographer from Wedge Creative.

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Looking good, Mr. Grenier!

This is (sea) grass roots stuff. Right now it’s mostly just us populating the sites but with billboards going up all over California we’re hoping for more participation in the social piece and ultimately some cash love on the tax form. In addition to the obvious benefit of donations, if enough folks check the coast on their CA tax forms the box will appear on it next year, which is a major victory as well.

What I like about this campaign is how positive it is. Absent are images of the goo-infested birds washing up in the East Bay. Or the scary amount of emaciated sea lion pups beaching themselves near Point Reyes. No tangled fishing lines or plastic rings. No dead fish. That crap is happening and we all know it. Yet, we decided to eschew the appeal of grim reality in favor of a more upbeat approach, one that asked little from its participants: merely a selfie and a buck or two.

Here literally are the instructions –as if anyone needed them- for taking your selfie:

– Left hand out

– Location doesn’t matter

– Copy and paste the following into your favorite social network

– Don’t forget to smile

– Add #CheckTheCoast and CheckTheCoast.org

On behalf of the California Coastal Commission and gyro San Francisco, we thank you for your support.

It can’t be… It is!

“Take a fresh look at Buick,” the voiceover tells us in the carmaker’s new anthem. The commercial features vignettes of people in disbelief that the lovely new car they are gazing upon and/or riding in is in fact a Buick. An old woman insists the regal beauty in her son’s driveway is not a Buick. She grew up with Buicks and knows her Buicks. A valet keeps running past a new Buick in the parking lot searching for what we surmise must be an old-fashioned car. Later we see him behind the wheel. “Nice,” he says. A desperately envious housewife ogles her neighbor’s new SUV, unaware it is a Buick, as her cuckold husband mopes beside her.

In the print ad a hip millennial with blue streaks in her hair smiles behind the wheel mocking the notion of Buick being only for blue-haired ladies.

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We get the idea. Buick has been transformed into a luxury car made for today. In other words, this is not your father’s Buick. Obviously, we’ve been down this road before…

In the late 80’s I was on the team that introduced America to a truly new Oldsmobile. Barely into my first job at Leo Burnett, I wrote and produced the opening commercial in the now infamous “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” campaign, featuring William Shatner and his daughter. For that, I wrote the line, “New Generation of Olds” but America really only remembers the step-up line, which became part of the pop culture lexicon. Even so, within a few years Oldsmobile would go out of business, retiring the brand forever. For more on all that, including some great insider controversy, start here.

The point is Buick is trying to do the exact same thing. My guess is that it won’t end well for them either. I say this not because the strategy is necessarily wrong but as Oldsmobile learned the hard way it might very well be a dooming one. No matter how clever the executions –and these are decent- Buick is still telling folks that it is not an old-fashioned car (anymore), which, alas, has the unfortunate side effect of reminding people that Buick is totally known for being old-fashioned. It is a paradox. A bit like saying your cool ultimately means you’re not cool. We see these commercials and we cannot help but think Buick doth protest too much.

I mean no ill will for Buick or their ad agency. But I have spent decades wondering what went wrong with Oldsmobile, especially given how much America loved our silly campaign. There are but two reasons: The new generation of Olds was not as good as our father’s. And that the marketing released a deadly worm into the world dooming Oldsmobile to the scrap heap of history.

Anything can happen. After all, these new Buicks may well be damn fine cars. But perception is reality and this campaign inevitably ignites a very dangerous perception.

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When I was coming up at Leo Burnett, promotions were celebrated via “pink” memos, written by one’s supervisor, which would appear on the desks of everyone at the agency. These notes were pretty special, something to show your parents and put in the scrapbook. While memos and scrapbooks have gone the way of the dodo bird I still think there’s something powerful about “seeing it in writing.”

Therefore, I am going to share the “memo” I wrote on behalf of three people, who were promoted at my agency. At first I wondered if this was too private information to post here, but that’s silly: It’s good news for all involved. Besides now these men have a link they can send to their kin!

(For the record, mentions of clients and projects have been redacted.)

It has been years since anyone in the creative department has been promoted. To my knowledge none in our department, past or present, has ever been made an Associate Creative Director. Well, that is about to change. As part of our “intensification” plans for gyro SF we are asking three individuals to step up in their role and responsibility to the agency.

During his time here and over the last couple years in particular, Toby Petersen has elevated his game to heights even I hadn’t thought possible. Happily, I was wrong. His efforts have brought gyro some of our finest work to date. His skills as an editor and with motion graphics are well known to us. More recently, he’s demonstrated a keen understanding of art-direction and become a valuable asset in that regard. For these and other reasons, please welcome and support Toby as Associate Creative Director. In addition to helping Steve with overall art direction, Toby will oversee our burgeoning adventures into film and video production.

No employee at gyro exemplifies deeper loyalty to his fellows, a passion for creative excellence and sheer hard work than Eric Flynn. Often first in and last out, Eric demonstrates a work ethic we all learn from and benefit from. Perhaps more importantly, Eric is a fountain of good ideas that never seem to run out. Basically, he has contributed critical and even brilliant ideas on every project he’s worked on. He gets social. He gets mobile. And he knows how to write well and fast. Therefore, Eric Flynn is now Associate Creative Director, overseeing copy for the agency.

Jonathan Kochan walks softly but carries a big stick. His ability to create and produce work is well known to all of us. How many times have I heard and said, “Where would we be without him?” I don’t want to know. Jon produces digital assets for our clients with quiet calm and unparalleled grace. More than a showman, Jon is a craftsman. I want him to keep doing what he’s doing and to be recognized for doing it. Therefore, Jon is now Associate Creative Director, specializing in Digital.

On a personal note, we also realize that these individuals will need to make personal and professional adjustments as well. Instead of pointing out problems and issues, they will be required to help solve them. Walk the talk if you will. More than a two-way street, this is a busy intersection and everyone has a right of way. We do not want or need traffic cops. I’m beseeching our new ACD’s to humbly collaborate with everyone here so that we may achieve new heights together. Maturing gracefully into positions of true leadership will take extra effort from them and all of us. To be effective, they will need your support as much as we need theirs.

We want everyone here to feel their efforts and achievements mean something. Your careers matter and therefore so do promotions. I have no doubt in time more will come – in all of our departments, for all of our people. Building a great creative culture and an agency culture in general depends on it.

And here they are, in pics I snagged from the fellas’ Interwebs…

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Jonathan Kochan

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Toby Petersen

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Eric Flynn

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I love it when I crack the code on a piece of creative. You might not believe me but I love it even more when someone in my group cracks the code on a piece of creative. Either way, this was, is and always will be the best part of my job.

Which is as it should be. It doesn’t matter how big or small the job or what medium it’s in. That first peek at something that works, that will work, that will please the person paying for it, is bliss. You won’t believe me again but seeing a set of banners that totally nails the brief is as intoxicating as looking at a tight and right storyboard for a TV commercial. Knowing to one’s core that a piece of creative is capable of winning the day is, if I remember correctly and I do, like that first sip of that first martini: so freaking good!

Whether it comes right away or is the result of toiling, bearing witness to the birth of a healthy campaign is why I get up in the morning and go to work. Everything else -operations, meetings and conference calls- is work. It’s the job part of the job. The creative piece is the gift. And as with any good gift the giver feels as good or better than the receiver. Which is also as it should be.

Within the last two weeks I’ve gotten to see such a thing. Twice. Two different projects. With differing people involved, and me to a certain extent. How lucky am I? While it would not be professional of me to discuss specifics or showcase the work, I most certainly can write about the joy that it brought.

So much of what we do in Adland is fraught with anxiety and stress. We bicker over strategy and deliverables and what’s right and what’s wrong that we often forget that in the delivery room are babies (and I don’t mean the creatives). New campaigns, hours old, are things worth celebrating. Of course, we seldom do. They’re fragile here. And besides now we must prep them for clients, tightening the copy, tweaking the art direction, responding to the pokes and prods of our fellows, and otherwise getting them ready for that precarious run up the flagpole.

But sometimes even in this newbie state you know everything is going to be all right. You just know. Internally, with the client, and even the consumer you know you are holding the Ace of Spades.

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