If Silicon Valley is a Game of Thrones (if?) you could make a case for Cisco being its Westeros. After all, the tech giant has been an anchor player in the Valley long before Apple, Facebook and Google. You can also make a good case for Cisco being most responsible for the so-called Internet of Things. Which is exactly what GoT star, Peter Dinklage attempts to do in this latest manifesto from Cisco.

Dinklage was one of the first breakout stars in HBO’s masterpiece and helped GoT become the global phenomena that it is. His amazing portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, the once ‘Lord of Tits and Wine’ to Hand of the Queen of Dragons, has deservedly won him legions of fans as well as two Emmy Awards.

Alas, he cannot save this commercial from its longwinded self. Not by walking and talking. After a minute or so I was done. I knew where the film was going and did not want to tag along. Three minutes is an eternity. Maybe if people started throwing food at him like in the show. Or better yet, if he were joined by the Mountain at film’s end, having a couple pints at the pub.

They say great actors can make reading the phone book sound good. Well, guess what? Phone books were killed by the IoT and technology jargon ain’t Shakespeare. Confession. I’ve written manifestos like these and have worked the same clichés, turned the same phrases. It’s hard not to. There is no “King’s English” for much of this stuff.

Yet, there is one thing that would have improved this film. Simple fix. They should have made it, um, shorter.

For copy cut with Valarian steel and creative direction that will bend your knees: Steffanwork/wordpress

Special note: Looking for a Lit agent or similar to discuss unusual and dynamic project. Message me.


Apples to apples…

Though it can sometimes be frustrating, one of the interesting things about working on technology companies (especially those that advertise to other companies) is the relative interchangeability of creative solutions. Since so many tech clients offer similar services and products it stands to reason they share marketing strategies as well. An offshoot to all this is that our ideas for them can have another audition, even if not chosen by the intended client. When I tell a creative person (jilted because his or her concept wasn’t chosen) not to worry we’ll use the idea sooner or later I’m not bullshitting. We likely will.

So many of these million and billion dollar companies handle “Big Data,” providing analytics, storage and protection software. It’s stuff you can’t see. It’s hard to explain. That’s why so many agencies specializing in B2B treat these clients to the same old clichés and incomprehensible jargon. Everything is a “solution.”

Um, I’ll get my “solution” somewhere else…

It’s like robots talking to robots. Thankfully, humanly relevant ideas do exist for such entities and it’s my pleasure to go after them. With necessary tweaking, good ideas can translate from client to client.

When I worked on consumer products at Leo Burnett, the possibility of repurposing unused creative ideas was not unknown. Certain categories necessarily had shared strategies. Take breakfast cereal, a segment I worked on for several years. So many brands went after consumers with the same bait. There was “nutritious but delicious” and it’s fraternal twin, “delicious but nutritious.” What’s the difference? Not much. It was a question of nuance. One campaign might feature dieters astounded by a good-for-you cereal’s great taste. The other strategy had folks devouring a cereal unaware of its nutritional value, which the voice over then delightfully whispered to us. While not a creative treasure trove, we were at least able to take what good ideas we had and try them over and over again.

The great difference with B2B/tech clients is that they haven’t been treated to good ideas before. The creative mine is largely untapped. With an open mind and practiced skill, truly great work is easily discovered. That’s been my experience anyway, first at LBWorks (a B2B/technology agency I helped create at Leo Burnett) and now at gyro, San Francisco.

For every new brief at gyro we develop at least five excellent campaigns. That means four concepts remain for the next lucky customer, plus the new ones we invariably develop. It’s another gold rush in San Francisco! If one prefers a more timely reference, think of it as recycling. We are a “green” agency. I like that.

Would be Technology logos…

San Francisco is the land of tech. This is where all those companies that advertise in airports live. You know whom I’m talking about. But do you know what they’re talking about? Sometimes it’s hard to tell from their ads. Even their names are an enigma. With all those “Q’s” and “X’s” and “Z’s.” And what funny logos they have, those swishes and swirls and crazy colors!

Many are important, big companies. Billion dollar companies. Fact is the modern world could not exist without them. We recognize a few, especially the ones that make hardware and, of course, that one with the cute Apple.

But the other ones.

Mostly makers of software, they represent the lion’s share of companies in Silicon Valley. No surprise some of them are my clients. Or will be, God willing. Hi guys. What’s up?

Do these creators of the hidden wow intimidate me? A little. I did not take computer science in college. The only code I know is the one I punch in the alarm system at home. But it’s not the technology that worries me. It’s the jargon. Especially when it comes to advertising messages. I do not use the word “solution” in every sentence. Or “optimize.” Or “data.” Must they?

A man and his server…

In terms of tired imagery, technology has its pets, in particular the ‘Man and his Server.’ Like every cliché this one might have been cool the first 100 times. Now, it’s practically invisible.

I realize these businesses are not “consumer facing.” (Eek, there’s a phrase.) But that does not mean they have to talk to one another in code. It’s an ad for cool-ass software not a service manual.