First, let me say Happy 100th birthday to the National Parks of these great United States. It seems like only yesterday I was hiking through Muir Woods gazing up at the towering redwoods. Actually, it was only yesterday. I’m privileged in that they are only a few miles from my house.

We are all privileged to gaze upon this new campaign from Grey New York, celebrating our National Parks’ milestone. It’s a glorious body of work, befitting the subject matter. And so simple too. A tall tree creating the numeral “1.” An reptile’s eye depicting a zero. And so on.

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Using Mother Nature’s own perfect graphic design insures everyone will appreciate our precious natural resources as well as the campaign. The elegance in which the images are put together make us smile and think (not too hard) about our National Parks and what they mean: not only to us but to the inhabitants of the parks. Rare is a poster or a billboard that no one –not even an advertising hater- could take umbrage with.

The campaign has legs. Literally. It must have been a “hoot” to create. Like putting a puzzle together each time: which animal should we use, which iconic feature? Triptychs have always intrigued me. And these are great examples of why.

Rather than replicate the concept in TV, which certainly would have worked, the creative team went even further, utilizing sound and visuals wishing these parks a happy birthday. It works seamlessly with the static pieces but stands alone.

As an aside, I’d like to commend the continued renaissance of Grey, New York. When I was starting out in this business, and for years after, Grey, true to its name, was considered by all to be conservative and bland. No creative wanted to work there. But then some new people came in (Jim, Tor, others) and it got great. Their E-trade babies took over America and all the award shows. This delightful campaign continues that trajectory.

Bravo all!

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A while back, in the Admiral’s Club at Laguardia airport, this youngster caught my attention. Regular looking kid, a bit disheveled in his ill-fitting blue sweatshirt and no-name blue jeans. But something marked him apart: a striped cap with a propeller on top!

Wow.

I remember thinking he’s safe here but that goofy cap would be a death sentence in the schoolyard -certainly in the ones I attended. I mean, what symbolizes dork more than a beanie with a propeller on top? It’s a nerd icon from when nerds were at their nerdiest. Spanky wore one on the ancient TV show, The Little Rascals.

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But in this day and age, an adolescent boy wearing something so silly… in public. He might as well have had a “Kick Me!” sign affixed to his back. I decided to sneak a picture -not to mock him as a person but to document the reality. I uploaded the anonymous photo on Facebook, adding my line about the schoolyard.

The comments came quickly. To my delight they all were deeply supportive of the Beanie Boy. Here’s a perfect example from a Facebook friend, Brian Collins:

I think the kid is astounding. He is wearing it with some pride. And it looks like it’s motorized. Even better. If this makes the kid happy that’s perfect. And he looks deeply engaged on the web, too. Great.

What we don’t need are any more cookie cutter kids dressed in oversized nylon football jerseys, cocked baseball caps and ratty jeans with their lifeless eyes glued to ESPN.

Go, beanie boy, go!

Upon further consideration, Brian is right. My knee-jerk reaction was shortsighted, even ignorant. The Beanie Boy is not a dork. Frankly, he’s anything but. He’s a maverick and a rogue, a lad who’s not afraid to defy convention.

Recently, I compared the typical ad agency creative department to Romper Room. I wrote: “The older I get the more I realize how important it is to stay connected with my “inner child.” The best creative people do not grow out of it when they grow up. We remain inquisitive. Lovers of fun. You see it in our bicycles in the hallway. Our dubious wardrobes. Our playlists. Our silly snapshots on Facebook.”

Indeed, defying convention is what makes us creative. I don’t want to lose that. Ever. And so, young admiral from the Admiral’s Club, I echo the words of my wise friend, Mr. Collins and the champions of creativity everywhere: “Go, beanie boy, Go!”

Author’s note: I wrote about the Beanie Boy before. For me, he never gets old.

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Time for a new campaign…

The headline in AdAge: “Miller Coors Distributors nix planned Leinenkugel’s campaign.”

It’s a story as old as the advertising business, though less common now than it was in the 80’s, when distributors, wholesalers and franchisees held significant power over even CMO’s. And no categories felt it more than QSR (fast food) and spirits, especially beer. (Car dealers had their own version but that’s another story.)

Silverbacks and students of Adland might remember the  burger and beer wars. Rivals like Burger King and McDonald’s duked it out for market share, often quite publicly. Ad Agencies battled for their client’s supremacy like the loyal henchmen they were. And with Mafioso bravado, if a brand teetered from it’s position, the agency’s campaign and its creators were the first to get whacked. In this way, agencies became heated rivals as much as the companies they represented.

Fighting over AOR status for one of these clients was equally vitriolic. Back in the day, DDB and Leo Burnett fought ceaselessly over the McDonald’s account. Anheuser Busch pitted its agencies against one another for sport. In both cases, ketchup and beer spilled like blood.

 

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Screen grab from the good old days…

 

Here we have a remnant of that skullduggery. My guess is the distributors wanted a more predictable, macho approach to “their commercials” than what San Francisco shop, Venables & Partners came up with, which features a quirky group of Wisconsinites playing an impromptu version of Boston’s “More than a Feeling” on a lakeshore up north in the Dairy State. The tag: “Welcome to the Leinie Side.”  (You can watch the commercial in the AdAge Article here. )

Is it the best commercial ever? No. But it has an understated, shaggy charm that I think fits the brand to a “T.” I like the spot. Moreover, I think young adults would have to. If Leinie’s mission, under the glaring watch of Miller Coors, was and is to expand the brand’s popularity nationwide this funky take on Wisconsin hipsters (such as they are) probably makes a lot of sense. The spot has a light touch. And, who, if only secretly, doesn’t love Boston?

I’m guessing the Goombah wholesalers demanded hotter chicks, more jocks, and club music. That or a blue collar Wisconsin, more about hunting, fishing and campfires – a linear evolution of the family heritage campaigns Leinenkugal’s did for years before selling (out) to Miller Coors.

Rightly or wrongly, the dealers won. We can only morbidly wait to see their “fix.” It’ll probably look a lot like this:


An older spot, ripe with obvious…

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With great passion comes great responsibility.

Recently, I was asked about my creative philosophy. Namely, do I have one? Seems like a reasonable question. Seems like something an Executive Creative Director ought to have.

Well, I’ve had many. Which, if you think about it, is as it should be. As creative professionals, we must remain open-minded and forever teachable. For us, one-way streets are typically dead ends.

Look at the term, “creative professional.” It’s almost an oxymoron, isn’t it? There’s tension there. The right brain (creativity) and the left brain (professional). But that’s the gig. That’s what we do. The first word in ECD is “executive.” Therefore, any philosophy we have must strike a balance between passion and responsibility. Said another way, we are both craftsmen and business people. We gotta do both.

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Both ends burning…

Your exact philosophy will be a function of percentages. I’d say my current philosophy is 60% passion to 40% responsibility. Those numbers change over time. Back in the day, I’m sure my split was more like 80/20. But then I started facing clients. I had to mitigate my obsession with winning awards and other personal achievements. I had to compromise. I had to listen. I became responsible-ish.

It is important to note that while passion is the fun part -and closer to what people think about when they think about creativity- it is often destructive in too large a dose. Without empathy for the business, even the most brilliant creative person will be stifled… often by his own hubris. Obviously, I don’t need to discuss the unduly “responsible” creative. They are hacks. To me, mortgaging one’s passion to the hilt is both sad and unmanageable.

While percentages vary, I’m a big believer in “responsible passion.”

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Gaga did good…

Outside of picture-perfect weather and a truly beautiful performance of our National Anthem by Lady Gaga, little about the Super Bowl was amazing.

Unless you’re a fan of crushing defense (which is something), everything about the game was… okay. It was a sloppy, penalty-ridden affair, periodically fun to watch and technically competitive. The score was close. Both defenses were good. Denver’s was outstanding. Peyton Manning “The Sheriff” got to ride off into the sunset with a Super Bowl win. He’d be insane to come back. But staying home and making hokey commercials could easily drive him back onto the field. I don’t care one way or the other. Do you? Sometimes nice guys don’t finish last.

So that was the football. What about the rest of it i.e. the commercials and the halftime show? Again, the word “okay.” Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars were slick, watchable and, frankly, forgettable. Folks in the Bay Area grumbled that it should have been local artists, Metallica that did the show. According to reviews, the band killed it “The Night Before” at AT&T park. This would have to suffice as the only controversy surrounding the halftime show. Given the NFL’s tumultuous year (concussions, deflated footballs, domestic violence), I’m sure they were delighted by an “okay” show.

The advertising had no outstanding entries, excellent or terrible. Lots of celebrities and talking animals. Again. The “Wiener Dog” commercial for Heinz was cute. An Audi spot had the added gravitas of featuring David Bowie in its soundtrack. Jeep gave us a nifty hashtag with #4x4ever delivered on the back of a rambling anthem for their vehicles. Doritos iconic triangles were sky-written across San Francisco’s azure skies. Clever. There was a dancing monkey-human baby. Whatever.


Not just dogs – wiener dogs!

Honestly, I was somewhat bummed there were no truly awful commercials, though the preponderance of bizarre medicine spots grated. I mean a stomach puppet? Honorable mention for sucky goes to the specious argument put forward by Scientology –something about it being the intersection of spirituality and technology. Scientology is neither. Still, the commercial came and went. Hating on it more would be like beating a dead horse.

All in all, the SuperBowl was damn okay.

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