September 26, 2016
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/
Nature prevails in new campaign from Grey New York celebrating 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks.
May 5, 2016
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.
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.
November 19, 2015
I agree with Adweek. There’s a lot to like about this commercial for Bobble by agency, 72andSunny. The story applies a satiric blend of film clichés skewering millennials for being self absorbed hedonists. We see beautiful hipsters gyrating in nightclubs, a group racing down a coastal highway in daddy’s convertible, others floating innocently in swimming pools and oceans, all the while imbibing bottles and bottles and bottles of bottled water and then discarding the plastic empties everywhere but the garbage can.
Kids these days! Take, take, take…
While I commend the agency and client for using satire against this low hanging fruit something about the concept irritates me. The wrong thing. It’s not the vanity of these kids’ behavior that I find troubling (the commercial’s intent) but rather the way the film overplays the whole thing. It’s like this. Entitled millennials are guilty of a lot of things but littering isn’t one of them. yet, here the kids toss their empties with a thoughtlessness that’s beyond any truth. Therefore, the satire clanks.
Secondly, these same folks understand better than most the inherent vulgarity of drinking from plastic bottles. Especially in places like California, where recycling was born. Again, it doesn’t ring true. A young female jogger tosses her empty on the sidewalk and it’s as jarring as if she spat blood. People like her don’t do that. It’s a weird and dare I say unfair portrayal.
I do believe the creators intended to overplay each scene this way. Stylistically, there was too much done right for it to be a miscalculation. But that doesn’t mean it was the correct decision. We root for the commercial as we would a fake spot on SNL. But like some of those, it overshoots the message and somehow misses its mark.
At the spot’s conclusion the female narrator says, “At least we’re hydrated.” Instead of hating her smugness I’m irked by the copywriting.
Sprint has a new campaign featuring retired soccer star and super hunk, David Beckham. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen it. He plays himself looking for a phone plan that isn’t complicated. In the long version (above), he marches from store to store, and is continuously baffled by the salesperson’s spiel. “I’m so confused,” he states. Because he is who he is, more and more fans begin following him on his search for a non-confusing phone plan. At the Sprint store he finds what he’s looking for. The star struck sales gal says, “anything for you, David Beckham.” By then a cast of thousands have accumulated behind him. Upon discovering his “All In” plan, they clamor for the deal as well. In the last scene, David crosses the street, delicately holding up his Sprint yellow bag, creating a wake of fans, one of which blurts (for some reason through a dental mouth guard!), “I love you, David Beckham.”
So, before digging in to this, let me state I’ve always been ambivalent toward celebrity endorsers. When pushed, most copywriters will tell you that celebrity driven adverts are what one does when one has no choice. That’s not to say I haven’t gone down that road. One can’t go 25 years in this business and not. But those have never been among my favorite “works.”
Of course, I get that famous people can sell. But from a purist point of view, I like them to be relevant to the product being sold i.e. athletes for Nike (Just do It) or unique geniuses for Apple (Think Different). I’m also down with certain iconic campaigns that leverage celebrities in an indelible way i.e. the compelling portraits Annie Leibovitz created for American Express. Or, back in the day, retired ball players for Miller Lite.
Sprint’s Beckham campaign does neither. In my opinion, he would never, ever spend a day traipsing around looking for a cell phone plan. For one thing, Posh wouldn’t allow it. Secondly, he has people for that. Thirdly, a man of his wealth and stature wouldn’t be worried about incremental fees on his phone bill. If he is then he’s the biggest douche bag on the planet.
From an executional standpoint, why does everyone keep saying the man’s full name. “I love you, David Beckham.” “Anything for you, David Beckham.” It’s cheesy. It’s preening. It’s weird. It feels like something a client would mandate. We spent all this money getting David Beckham we better f-cking say his name! Can’t you just hear them? I could.
And what’s up with the strange way he carries that yellow bag? It’s like he’s holding a dead gerbil. Trust me, that was produced into the spot (Hold it up so the camera sees it!) and it’s not normal.
I’m nit picking. But the details will out!
This is an incredibly expensive production. We see and hear many principals, including one mega-celebrity. I’m only guessing but I presume the contract with DB was preordained. So be it. But I would have much preferred a spot where, say, he and his well-known wife have an improbable conversation about choosing new phones. Like “Gee, honey, do you honestly care about your phone plan?” He replies: “I do when they’re paying me 1.5 million Euros.”
Cadillac keeps trying to reinvent its wheels, this time channeling Theodore Roosevelt, suggesting we “dare greatly.”
February 26, 2015
If you can make it here yada, yada, yada…
Has it really been over a decade since Cadillac reintroduced their brand via the Modernista agency and a Super Bowl commercial featuring Led Zeppelin? It’s actually been longer. What’s weird is that Cadillac always seems to be reintroducing itself to the world. And so yet another new brand launch campaign, this time from Publicis, comes as no surprise. Now the creed is a phrase: “Dare Greatly.” Derived from a famous speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena.” Great when he delivered it, I’m sure. In the commercial it sounds exactly like the overblown pontifications of a preening copywriter: a purple brand manifesto if ever I heard one. Written my share of them as well. You know what I’m talking about. Such mantras usually include a plethora of big seldom-used words like plethora. Adjectives are used as nouns and vice-versa. Old-time-y phrases. It’s all here in this Ode to trying and failing and trying some more, aka “daring greatly.”
I guess Cadillac has a new CMO, a German named Uwe Ellinghaus. (Say that three times fast.) “The new point of view for Cadillac is one that embodies the American spirit in a contemporary manner without using American cliches,” Mr. Ellinghaus said.
Whatever you say, Uwe.
An uber-German selling the quintessential American car is both discomforting and ironic. But ours is a free country. If Cadillac wants to throw money at a Bavarian in order to reinvent Cadillac for the 100th time that’s their prerogative.
Wozniak dared greatly to think different!
In fairness, the consumer only sees the work. So what of it? The campaign premiered on the Academy Awards, a total of four commercials including the above-mentioned anthem. The other spots depict specific people who dared to do something great and (of course) became famous for it. Cadillac’s step-up line at the end: How dare a 112 year-old carmaker reinvent itself?
Thin argument but at least I get it. More so than the better-to-have-failed opus we get in the anthem. Still, the question comes off a tad disingenuous because, as was stated, the brand has been perpetually trying to re-start for over a decade. Like a car trying to turn over on a winter’s morning: It’s…It’s…It’s…Damn! But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, I am weary of American history co-opted to sell products. It feels tired and cynical when it should be bold and fresh. W&K’s image campaign for Levis did all of this…and so much better.
Now that’s Americana made fresh…
Expectedly, the film is pretty but the subject matter is mundane: New York City streets, iconic high rises, carefully chosen “real” people. Honestly, it’s no more than a serioused-up version of SNL’s iconic opening signature film. And they were there first. Outside of a couple shots I’m not inspired by any of it. In the end I can literally feel the advertising agency behind these commercials.
I miss Led Zeppelin.
Author’s Note: As I was writing this I got pinged from my old creative partner, Mike Coffin regarding a blog post he’d just written on the same topic! it is here: