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Adios amigo.

Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man in the World” is a thing of the past. For whatever reason (one provocative theory is here), last year its agency replaced the iconic character with a younger yet sadly cruder version of TMIMITW, who quickly bombed. Then Dos Equis replaced its agency with another agency, Droga 5. And that’s that. One of this centuries best advertising campaigns has almost certainly come to a close.

The new agency will do something sort of kind of good (like the beer itself) and it won’t really matter. Dos Equis will fade into the Mexican sunset becoming once again a beer we drink on vacation or at the occasional BBQ.

With TMIMITW, Dos Equis had its pop culture moment –a moment that lasted a decade. Few ad campaigns actually move the needle the way this one did. Explosive and sustainable growth is so freaking rare. (I had similar success with the “curiously strong mints” campaign for Altoids and consider myself VERY fortunate.)

Let’s face it, most campaigns, even the best ones, don’t blow up their respective categories. Advertising, whether we admit or not, is usually about not losing ground and maintaining the status quo. Beer number one advertises so beer number two doesn’t overtake it. We all think –or should think- that our work will make more than dents. But those overblown case study results aside, dents are what happen when we’re lucky. More than that and we’re blessed.

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She can’t stop looking at his nose…

A lot of us will blame the new guy for the campaign’s demise. But honestly TMIMITW had lost its interestingness some years ago. After many years of inspired copy the bit had grown stale. Nobody, not even the last copywriter, is to blame for that. When we see the joke coming and coming and coming we cross the street. Havas may have been foolishly chasing millennials by casting a younger hero but in my opinion they were just throwing up a Hail Mary. The public had already stopped being thirsty.

Adios amigo. It was fun while it lasted.

May I create some interesting copy for you? https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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“You’re in the great game now…”

Adweek published a story asking the big winners at Cannes 2016 what their “secrets to success” were. You could read the article here or just stay with me and I’ll tell you how to win at Cannes. Forget analysis and trendspotting. Don’t be mystified by all the never-ending categories either. Winning at Cannes has more or less relied on the same formula for years.

First and foremost, do great work. Then get it seen and talked about. This one-two punch, by the way, is the same formula for ANY awards show.

Ideally, at least some of your great work should be real. Real means it went through the gauntlet known as your client (not to mention your agency’s often debilitating process) was brilliantly produced, ran in genuine media, and received boffo results.

Enter the shit out of it.

But, dear friends, you know as well as I do, that it doesn’t end there.

Long ago intrepid creatives learned how to game the system. At first simple cheating, what this looks like now is far more, shall we say, ornate. Boiled down it means mimicking the legitimate. Something like this: Create gorgeous work, share it with select others internally, maybe have a friendly client smile at it wistfully, then run it on your own dime somewhere cost efficient or, even free, like posters at the local coffee shop or via some innocuous website. Take a bunch of pictures of it “in situation,” make a case study video and voila: you have award show bait!

Enter the shit out of it.

Professional winners have huge budgets for entering shows and a complicit team doing it. Mixing in fake campaigns with real creates a juggernaut that is hard to untangle. A few real pieces win; a few scams. Who knows which is which? Who cares – the agency clearly does good work.

Be part of a network that knows all the ins and outs. Networks have a regular, sustained presence and they will massage the process to help you win. Networks know people in high places. Networks get judges into shows. Networks have wags who do interviews, predictions and the like i.e. Global Creative Directors. Networks do PR. Networks spend money.

Gaming the system has become the system. Varying degrees of corruption are tolerated for the greater good. A few unfortunates get caught and thrown to the –ahem- lions. The rest is the rest. If it looks like a winner and comes from a winner then, by golly, it is a winner!

The agencies that won the most at Cannes do all of the above, legitimately and otherwise. Been this way for years.

The best marketing in 2009 did not arrive via new media. It wasn’t a so-called “viral.” Nor was it “consumer driven.” It was an ad and it came in the form of a TV commercial –you remember those?

The best advertising in 2009 wasn’t edgy or ironic. Frankly, it was anything but. Our deserving winner was old-fashioned, easy going and pleasant. Driven by classical music. Sedate.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Droga 5, Mother or BBH didn’t produce the best advertising in 2009. While those shops made lots of fine work they did not create the finest. Nope. The best ad in 2009 was made by one of the biggest, oldest advertising agencies in the world: Ogilvy & Mather.

Appropriately, this terrific TV commercial wasn’t for a hip technology brand or the latest new, new thing. As a matter of fact, the best advertising in 2009 was for something more associated with last century than this one.

Without further ado, the best advertising in 2009 was the “Smiles” campaign for the American Express card.

Shot by Kevin Thomas for O&M in New York, I can think of no piece of creative I admired more in 2009. Two months ago I wrote about the campaign in detail. Fittingly, that post (Amex review) continues to be one of the more popular stories on my blog. The comments it received are universally praiseful.

Likewise, my young daughters shriek with delight whenever the commercials appear in our living room. In this respect the spots are more popular than even Spongebob Squarepants.

It gives me great pleasure to close by stating the most shocking thing about this campaign is how utterly un-shocking it is. Will it win gold in Cannes? Probably not. And that wouldn’t shock me either.

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