In my second novel, The Happy Soul Industry God hires an ad agency to market “goodness in all its forms.” Alas, advertising is the devil’s playground and all hell breaks loose. I’m not writing this piece to sell my book, though I’d be honored if you read it. The paperback is on Amazon. However, I couldn’t help but think about my story when I discovered the above commercial on You Tube. It’s from Thailand. And it has well over 7 million views. Not bad for a film ostensibly about goodness. Not bad at all.

Make no mistake. This is an ad. For what exactly I had to use Google. Apparently, True Move is a mobile phone network. This is far from obvious. There is only one bit of copy. A super: Giving is the best communication. The story, which I urge you to watch, is about a man who gave selflessly and is rewarded for it at the end of his life. It’s a simple piece of melodrama, executed flawlessly.

In many respects the commercial reminds me of all those famous Hallmark commercials my old agency, Leo Burnett produced in the 80’s and 90’s. They were sappy, expensive to produce and some of the finest commercials ever made. In their longest form (120 seconds), they may have run only once, in tandem with another, usually during a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. Later in the campaign, I believe they also ran during marquee television events, like the Academy Awards. I don’t remember all the details but you get the idea. These were special commercials and they got special treatment. Deservedly so. Here’s a couple of them.

And so we see the genre again, emulated. Haters gotta hate (always have, always will) and I didn’t have to scroll far down You Tube to find this ditty:

“I’m so overcome with emotion, I have an urge to spend everything I have on whatever is being advertised here. Is it soup? I’m sure whatever company it is, they are brimming with the kindness and virtue they are so eager to promote.”

Yes, he has a point: if you can’t tell what is being advertised is it even a commercial, let alone a good one? With Hallmark you knew. Still, one cannot help but admire this film’s heart. It’s bursting. And yes, it is almost impossible to believe a story like this could ever happen. But we believe, I think –I hope, because we want to.

Back in the day, I recall making fun of my precious Burnett colleagues’ precious Hallmark films but deep down, below all the firewalls of youth, I adored them. And while I never got to write one of these lovely films (no surprise given my attitude), I’m grateful to see someone else has… and always will.

I’m not the only one beating this drum. Adfreak


Steff interviewed
“And then when I was nine…”
Steff Panel
“I was told I’d be the only bald guy.”

The New York Festivals International Advertising Awards launched its World Tour showcasing the World’s Best Advertising™ in Chicago on Tuesday, July 21, 2009. Yours truly spent a better part of the day participating in the festival -first as a panelist during an afternoon discussion and later as an audience member during the actual ceremony.

Personally speaking, there were three highlights: the panel discussion, actually winning an award, and the Lifetime Achievement accolade given to famed commercial director, Joe Sedelmaier.

Let’s start with the Sedelmaier prize. If you’re in advertising and ignorant about whom this man is shame on you! Do some digging. In the eighties, Sedelmaier was widely considered to be the premiere director of funny. His fast talking Fed Ex guy and Clara Peller’s “Where’s the beef?” commercial for Wendy’s are icons of the form. There were others: a “Russian Fashion show” mocking the brutal sameness of fast food, a Southern Airlines commercial depicting coach class as a Jewish ghetto. Many of these can be found online. I’ve attached one below.

As was acknowledged by Sedalmaier’s son, JJ and guest presenter, Bob Garfield from AdAge, the thing Joe did better than anyone was finding and using REAL people. Very real people. Often older and comically unattractive, Joe’s cattle call was welcome respite from the very beautiful and mostly fake actors representing most advertising during the glitzy Reagan era. When I started at Leo Burnett, everyone –and I mean everyone- wrote (or tried to write) in the brutally funny style that Joe Sedalmaeir made famous. Good to see him being recognized.

The panel discussion, entitled “Is craft dead?” was about whether or not the aesthetic quality of creativity suffered given the influence of social media, the recession and other mitigating factors. Internet wag, Alan Wolk moderated the group. Other panelists included the Chief Creative Officer of Element 79, Dennis Ryan and Tribal DDB’s Managing Director, David Hernandez. We covered a wide range of topics, including viral videos impact on TV commercials, crowd sourcing (good or evil?) and even the Zappos RFP fiasco. I hope the audience got as much out of it as I did.

After the discussion, panelists were interviewed for a segment on WCIU TV’s “First Business.” If you’re surfing channels next Saturday morning, try not to hurl your Cheerios.

Euro RSCG Chicago took home a Silver medal for Valspar paints. This integrated campaign continues to be our creative front-runner at my agency. Bravo team!

Had fun visiting with the many Burnett people attending the ceremony. My beloved, old agency won a handful of prizes, including a much-deserved medal for Hallmark Card’s “Brother of the Bride.” I adore this commercial and, frankly, the entire long-running campaign. Hallmark and Burnett have been making these beautiful long-form stories for decades. If craft is dying elsewhere it’s alive and well here:

The many other winners can be found on their website: New York Festivals

Finally, a special shout out goes to NYF’s Gayle Mandel. Lovely woman, the green ensemble she donned for the ceremony was damn near worth the price of admission!

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