First things first. I love the song. Though recorded before I was born, Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is one of those rare tunes that transcends time. If the song came out tomorrow, sung by Adelle, it would be a smash hit. It’s that good. And it’s certainly the best thing about Toyota’s big budget, 60-second anthem for Corolla, which debuted recently. Because of this commercial, I’ve been singing the hero lyric, off and on now for several weeks. In that regard it’s indisputably memorable.

And yet something is the matter. The “creative algebra” doesn’t add up. Using a classic ballad of female empowerment for selling mainstream automobiles to Millennials is not enough to turn the trick. Showing assorted attractive young people engaging in mildly rebellious behavior isn’t enough either. Try as they do to appear otherwise, the cars seem incongruous to the lovely pictures and strong music. By definition most every commercial is fabricated reality but if it’s pushed too far the stink of bullshit corrupts the narrative. In my view that’s what’s happening here. The ad’s slip is showing.

Said another way, there’s nothing particularly interesting or provocative about these cars except for the fact that they’re in this commercial.

The ad is clearly targeting twenty-somethings and according to this article might actually be working. I’m suspicious about this data so soon after the commercial’s premier. Especially given my intuition points in another direction.

And then, just before posting, I saw another execution in the “You Don’t Own Me” campaign, a 30-second spot.

30 second version, with story…

The same great tune. Slick production values. But this time there’s a story. A young woman quits her job from an ornery chef (he can’t own her) and starts a food truck business. The Toyota Corolla gets her from point A to Point B. It’s a simple story but it is a story. And it made me like –maybe the better word is appreciate- the campaign. Stories will do that.

I haven’t enjoyed a Toyota commercial in ages. Compared to the white bread suburban approach the brand has maintained for eons, at least this musically powered approach –helped now I see by stories- has ambition. What do you think? Have I gone soft or was my original assessment accurate?

(Author’s note: I’m avail for copy, content creation & creative leadership:

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:


Freelancing be dancing…

Forgive the delayed post.

In absence of full time employment, I’ve been working my ass off. If this sounds contradictory it is not. As any freelance writer will tell you, the hustle is as crucial as the creation. Unlike fat and happy FTE’s the freelancer must work to get work before he can work.

Ah, the hustle. It’s like the fisherman who has to both catch fish and sell them. Two jobs. Both with distinct roles and responsibilities. He rises early to fish. Stays up late to sell.

Same for me. Work the phones in the AM. Write into the wee hours. Get up and do it again. Call it hustle and flow. I’m not complaining. Just saying.

Though I am also dutifully searching for full time work (there are many birds in my nest!), I do find rogue satisfaction in being a grinder. The hustle keeps one alert. My sonar is on. Even the glimpse of silver beneath the waves and I turn to it. Lowering my bait. Jigging for a nibble.

The writing part I know well. Am good at it. Adore it. But after composing a manifesto for this client and writing content for that website, I’m just too fatigued to tend to my blog.

I trust you understand. And if you’re so inclined, hit me up. I will most certainly deliver. Spoken like a true hustler, right?

My portfolio:

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.

Sing it:

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.