The ambivalence in my lead is based on mitigating factors I will get to. First some praise. These new GE commercials are more than TV spots they are truly short films, carefully and wonderfully produced. Every element has been rendered at the highest level of craft. Listen to Beck’s score, for example, how it gently but persuasively pushes our buttons, keying in on what is humanly relevant and even profound. Making us feel the message.

Not to be a shill for GE or its ad agency, BBDO but I could easily rhapsodize about any aspect of these commercials. The casting. The writing. The cinematography. Like them or not, anyone who knows anything about production will recognize the obvious care (and cost) that went into making these commercials. BBDO has long been known for it’s prowess in making exemplary TV campaigns, and these will do nothing to hurt that reputation.

Tonally, both commercials remind me of certain odd, brave feature films that, like them or not, are deserving of praise. Spike Jonze’s award winning film, Her. And the decidedly more flawed but fascinating Luc Besson feature, Lucy. Vaguely unsettling but ultimately heart-wrenching stories of technology, people and the mysteries of life are what propel those films and these commercials.

The comparison is more obvious with Her. Its quirky yet deeply intimate style is, in my view, exactly what the filmmakers of the GE commercials were going for. I chose Lucy because, despite a dubious concept and being silly around the edges, it shoots for the stars and damn near gets there. Lucy is fresh and interesting film. It’s not boring. It tried hard to rise above its genre and B-movie pedigree. Morgan Freeman and Scarlet Johansson certainly helped.

Likewise, these commercials try harder than most. Way more.

That said I am struggling with how similar the GE Scary Ideas film is conceptually to the attached German commercial for Epuron, The Power of Wind, which won countless awards in 2007-08, including top honors in Cannes. You can’t tell me BBDO’s savvy creative leadership were unawares. I’m certain they not only knew about Wind but likely set about emulating it. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Ten years ago I would have called it plagiarism. Now, I’m not sure the term even applies. Is it iteration or a rip off?

Yet, whatever quarrel we may have conceptually or otherwise, we all need to appreciate a client and an agency that tries and unequivocally succeeds at doing something interesting. Period.


Weird yes but “we are not alone.”

I don’t know which ad agency, if any, created this ad for Facebook but I “like” it. A lot. In the news –somewhat controversially- for spending enough money to bail out Greece on a texting application, it’s nice to see Facebook doing a bit of image advertising that’s just plain fun.

Not that Facebook needs to build awareness but they could use a bit of freshening and, for me, spots like this do it. Instead of marketing some new feature, Facebook goes old school (how ironic is that?) and comes through with advertising about the very thing that made Facebook cool in the first place: community.

In this case it’s people who dig Sci-Fi. We see a bunch of geeks sporting costumes of their favorite Martians just being real and that’s about it. We hear the iconic theme music from 2001 A Space Odyssey. And then the wonderful tagline: “We Are Not Alone.”

It’s a great line. Clever in the obvious way it pays off the concept. Smart because it deftly highlights the original magic of social media (and Facebook in particular): the fact that there are a few billion people on earth and each one of us possesses interests and passions that both unifies and differentiates us.

Even if you like the spot, you could argue Facebook has no call to advertise. By definition, its users do that with every post.

Yet, I do think it’s time for some advertising. Not to get more users per se but to build its brand with all of us who do use it. Most of us aren’t going anywhere. But some of us are. Moreover, living on Facebook has become somewhat of a chore. We dutifully post images of our families and link content to our friends but the magic has subsided. Some of us have grown weary of the ritual.

And that’s what I like about this commercial the most. It reminds me of when going on Facebook was fun.

My perspective on Cisco’s new ad campaign. I’ll be blunt. It’s not a commercial yet. It’s what we call a “rip-o-matic.”  As such, it’s nicely done. But still.

For those unaware (or is it unawares?), a “rip” is a video put together by an agency to sell the “big idea” to a client. Often referred to as a manifesto or mantra, they are considered du rigueur in pitches and in the delivery of new campaigns. I have made dozens in my career. We all have.  Anthem videos are a great tool and I won’t sell them short. However, they are not commercials. They are more like commercials for commercials.  In a presentation we might use such a video to explain our strategy or set the stage for a new tagline.

Speaking of taglines that is another reason I’m nonplussed. Theirs: Tomorrow starts here. Gee whiz, I was wondering about that. Aren’t you weary of companies stating the future is right here right now? Trying to own the future is like saying you’re cool.  Show me. Which is what the creative should have done in lieu of a pedantic anthem.

Allow me a tangent. Certain random pieces of copy drive me bonkers. Not because they are loathsome clichés or shilling too hard but, oddly enough, because they are precious and unique. To a fault. Like when millennial hipster John Krasinski applies the made up word “coolish” in an Esurance commercial. Here it’s the phrase “The Internet of Everything.” I think they’re going for childlike wonder but it makes me cringe. In both cases I suddenly become aware of the copywriter and that bothers me. Maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe “The Internet of Everything” is coolish.

So, I’m wondering why Cisco and its famous ad agency opted for a piece of Wikipedia-like show and tell instead of good stories and remarkable feats. Perhaps the brand team fell in love with their baby too soon and birthed it prematurely? Lord knows it’s hard denying a client who loves something even if it isn’t cooked yet.

My guess is the real advertising will come soon enough.  Maybe tomorrow, which I’m told starts here.


I was thinking about the concept of love/hate. Not love (puppies, your children, etc) or hate (terrorists, traffic, etc) or even of loving to hate (Abba, Reality TV, etc) but love/hate, that odd state of experiencing both feelings more or less at the same time.

Staying on point with this blog, nothing in my view exemplifies love/hate like advertising. Everybody hates TV commercials but loves them, too. We can’t stand how commercialized our culture is but are fiercely patriotic about it. Don Draper is loathsome… but awesome!

I wrestle with it daily. The strap line for my blog is “We make you want what you don’t need.” Hell, I wrote a novel about it, The Happy Soul Industry. Advertising plays fast and loose with most all the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Pride and so on. Coveting is bad juju. Materialism is pagan. Yet, these dark drivers steer us like go-carts, careening us into one another and ultimately ourselves. Outside of the Dalai Lama, I can’t think of anyone who is exempt from this conflict. And I even wonder about him…

“I love those Geico ads.”

What other thing inspires the majority in such a way? Politics? Maybe. Though when push comes to shove we generally take a side. We choose. And while it’s unlikely we ever love a candidate we certainly can and do hate the other.

There are variations of Love/Hate. We adore music but we abhor certain kinds of music. We crave food but loathe many dishes. I, myself, dig peanuts but despise peanut butter, which, of course, is another variation on this theme. And what about the laws that keep our society intact? Love those but hate lawyers. And yet what parent doesn’t want their kid to grow up to be one?

What’s unique about advertising is that we all most certainly would love a world without it yet at the same time would likely hate the world we live in without it. Paying to watch sports on TV? Times Square without neon? The Internet without banners… Okay, scratch that last one.

Ah, the Internet! That’s one isn’t it? In it’s pure state so free and unbridled by advertising. But what are the most popular domains? Amazon, Craig’s List, Ebay… That’s right. Basically all Advertising! OMG, it’s like brain freeze, which, by the way, I secretly love.


Today the water broke at gyro!

Ladies please forgive the comparison but we are in the process of birthing a new TV commercial, our first. And it is indeed a lot like delivering a child…metaphorically. And today we show the client the fruits of our labor: the rough cut. One big difference, unlike a child, the client is not obligated to love his commercial unconditionally. While I have ample reason to believe otherwise, he may loathe it.

The agency is a maternity ward, with expectant fathers pacing about, excited and nervous. The copywriter works the phones, preparing for his baby’s introduction into the world. The art director steals outside to smoke cigarettes. The account executive keeps asking all of us if there’s anything she can do, God bless her. And the client wants to see his goddam commercial. Right. F—king. Now!

And then there’s me: the most nervous and the most proud papa of them all. For it was only a few weeks ago the idea to make this spot was consummated. Until then, the scheme was but a glimmer in our agency president’s eye. He planted the unlikely seed with our client and they fertilized it with enthusiasm. But it was I who told my business partners and clients that yes we can do this thing; that it will be born on time, in budget, and most of all it will be fabulous! And so it will be me who presents this creation to our client, they who footed the bill, trusting us, trusting me, now anxiously awaiting a glimpse of their progeny: the rough cut!

At no time is the cliché about ads being “our babies” more apt than in the making of a TV commercial. For me, crafting a print ad or some graphic design is more like art. More intimate. Less frantic. Waiting to see a piece of film, with living breathing characters, acting in a story, is as amazing as it is precarious. The stakes (emotionally and financially) are massive. Even in the Internet age the average broadcast commercial costs several hundred thousand dollars to produce. Ours was no exception.

And they liked it! God willing, so will you…