Years ago the CEO of a company I was working for was hospitalized at the time the board of directors’ group photo had to be taken for the annual shareholders report. Another executive who was roughly the same built as the CEO was recruited to stand in his place. Later a photo of the CEO’s head was pasted and airbrushed onto the stand-in’s torso. It looked okay, but anyone who knew the CEO found something about his pose unsettling.
For another annual report cover, we had a shot of a logging truck traveling on a freeway past a forest of gorgeous fall colors. Due to reasons I’ve forgotten, the photograph had to be flopped, so the freeway sign made it look like the truck was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I remember right, a print had to be made of the photograph so the retoucher could fix it, and then it had to be converted back into a transparency.
That was in the days before Photoshop. Because significant manipulation of a photograph was such a big deal back then, it used to be said that “the camera never lies,” Now designers are often overheard saying, “Don’t worry. We’ll photoshop it in (or out) later.” Photography has become an “impressionistic” art form. Seeing isn’t believing. Changes can be made in an instant on a computer by virtually any designer. The airbrushing and retouching professions have all but disappeared. Through Photoshop, a hybrid art form has emerged that is producing some incredible images. More and more, designers have assumed control of the photograph, and taken it out of the hands of the photographer.
Created by Wieden & Kennedy London and directed by Dougal Wilson at Blink, “Lurpak Cook’s Range: Adventure Awaits” is the latest episode in a series of commercials that expose home cooks to the exhilarating universe that they have been yearning to explore. This 60-second epic journey opens to the majestic strains of the soundtrack from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and closes in tightly on a mysterious landscape of bumpy cauliflowers, gnarled ginger outcroppings, an artery of pomegranate kernels, and membranes of flaky bread.
It’s bold. Challenging. Heroic. It’s all about butter and cooking oil! This ad for Lurpak, maker of premium Danish butter and cooking oils, is intended to inspire and encourage intrepid cooks to venture forth and discover new culinary frontiers, secure in the knowledge that Lurpak butter won’t let them down.
At first this commercial for Temptations Tumblers cat treats by adam@eveDDB/London seemed like a brazen effort to hook viewers in by combining two of the most popular subjects on YouTube — top athletes and adorable cats. The first half of the “Time to Play Ball” Temptations commercial did look like an ad for Nike or Adidas, with not a furry paw in sight. But then the shared attributes of jocks and cats came into focus. The athletes looked steely, determined, alert and focused. Even the hairs on their neck stood at attention. The cats, presented in elegant slow motion, exhibited the same kind of single-minded concentration. Nothing distracted them from the tiny Temptations Tumblers tossed their way. The comparison came together nicely and worked. (It didn’t hurt to be able to feature cute cats and buff jocks either.)
How do you make herbs and spices tantalizing on a visual and auditory level? Asked by Schwartz Flavour Shots to create an ad that turned its seasonings into a complete sensory experience, Grey London unleashed Schwartz herbs and spices in an explosion of colors choreographed to a classical arrangement by M.J. Cole of Soho Music. Directed by Partizan’s Chris Cairns, the Schwartz Flavour Shots commercial used pyrotechnic designers to trigger 140 separate explosions of spices. Several sacks of black peppercorn, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, ginger, cumin seeds, chili and coriander were synchronized to blast off on cue to the notes and chords of Cole’s piano score. Filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK, the commercial had to be shot in one take. The final result was an exciting visual feast.
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that lends itself to cliché ad images of ruddy-faced Dubliners drinking in pubs or a testosterone-infused sports bar with buff guys guzzling beer while gorgeous women with pearly white teeth, red lipstick and long perfectly coiffed hair laugh flirtatiously at their cleverness. What is totally unexpected in Guinness’s “Made of More” brand campaign is seeing nattily dressed men in the Republic of Congo going out on the town. Yet London ad agency AMV BBDO linked the Guinness ad series to a real group of dapper Congolese gentlemen, known in Central Africa as the Sapeurs – La SAPE or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. By day, the Sapeurs are ordinary workingmen – farmers, taxi drivers, laborers, and the like. But after work, they dress up in stylish and often colorful attire to express their own individuality and creativity. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” said one. Despite living in an impoverished war-torn region, the Sapeurs abide by a code of honor that respects peace, self-dignity and politeness. They are role models in their community. They live by the beliefs expressed in 19th century poet William Henley’s Invictus — ”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Oh, how marketing has changed since YouTube came into being in 2005. On the whole, online commercials are more entertaining and longer in length than the 30 and 60 second spots shown on television. This video for OPI fingernail polish titled “Instinct of Color” is like viewing a mini stage performance. Sensuous and mesmerizing, this video features a dance challenge between a beautiful thoroughbred named “Lady in Black” and four talented dancers – all to promote fingernail polish. Created by DAN Paris using music “Down the Road” by French DJ’s C2C, the 2 ½ minute video ad doesn’t display the actual OPI nail polish bottles until the end and mostly shows the best-selling colors in the OPI line on the hooves of the horse and the dancers’ apparel. The commercial is without voiceover or marketing spiel. You watch it for pure enjoyment. This is the push-pull difference between TV and Internet. TV ads push their message in front of viewers by ”barging” into hit TV shows. Online advertising videos have to pull viewers to their site by offering the promise of fun and amusement. They need to give viewers a reason to seek them out and tell their friends so their message will go viral.
This is a car commercial inspired by epic themes found in Herman Melville’s 1851 classic “Moby Dick.” Told by a tormented Alaska tow truck driver, played by David Florek, the modern-day Ahab is fraught with frustration, yearning and regret over the car that kept escaping his grasp, even in an arctic blizzard. Created by San Francisco ad agency Venables Bell & Partners, the commercial spins an overblown account of trying to hook the wily Audi Quattro. Though exaggerated to mythic proportions, the tale of the tow truck driver versus the Audi Quattro is not anything like the story of Ahab’s obsessive and vengeful pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale that chewed off his leg and ultimately destroyed his Pequod ship and him along with it. But the comparison makes a wonderful yarn, especially when you consider that the commercial is really about Audi Quattro’s four-wheel drive system — which would really be boring if the narrator told it straight.
The weather was reportedly mild when TBWA Canada filmed this 2014 Nissan Rogue commercial in Toronto last fall, so it seems prescient that they so accurately recreated the monster blizzard that would assault the Northeast this winter. Who knows, maybe in the brutal whiteout conditions of the recent Polar Vortex, real zombie snowmen were angrily roaming about wreaking havoc. This 60-second spot, which plays like a trailer for a sci-fi thriller, was directed by Mark Zibert, with production by Sons and Daughters, post-production by The Mill, and TBWA executive creative direction by Allen Oke.
Without a strong concept, illustration is just glorified doodling. The same can be said of design as well. Those entering these professions need to exhibit more than technical skill; they need to engage their minds and imaginations to get at the crux of the story they want to tell.
I was reminded of this while watching Craig Frazier’s video. A prolifically talented illustrator who still sketches thumbnails with pen and ink and cuts his final image out of rubylith film, Craig explains. “If there is anything magical about making illustration, it happens at the sketch stage. That’s when the idea comes out of the pen. The DNA of the illustration exists right in the sketch. If it is not there, it is not going to show up later on.”
This commercial for Pedigree dog food is beautiful for its pure simplicity. Shot at 1000 frames per second using a Phantom camera, the slow-motion video captures every movement and feature of each dog, from the twitch of the ears, the attentive eyes, the loose tongue, the tensed muscles and flying fur as the dog leaps for the Pedigree treat. The plain studio backdrop and lighting eliminate superfluous environmental distractions, making the dogs the sole point of focus. Viewers can’t help but marvel at what expressive and unique creatures dogs are. TBWA/Toronto made this commercial for Pedigree Petfood Canada, with film direction by Bob Purman of Imported Artists Film Company and sound by Joey Serlin at Vapor Music.
For those who fly a lot, it may seem that when you’ve seen one international airport you’ve seen them all. If you’ve disembarked in a jet-lagged daze, you wouldn’t know where you’ve landed from looking at the identical retail concessions or the runways outside. That’s not true for the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport. It’s a great place to be if you have to wait around a couple of hours to board your flight. A 72-foot digital LED tower streams dreamlike sequences of cloudscapes and ocean waves and abstract graphics. Large digital LED screens respond to the movement of passengers, triggering images and sound inspired by travel destinations. The dazzling effects are so entertaining it almost makes you wish that your flight is delayed. The spectacular digital LED landscapes were created by Digital Kitchen in collaboration with MRA International, Sardi Design, Moment Factory, Daktronics, Electrosonic, Smart Monkeys, Inc. and Los Angeles World Airports.
Today would have been the legendary Saul Bass’s 93rd birthday and Google Doodle has paid tribute to him on its homepage by piecing together some of his signature film title sequences – “Vertigo,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,” “Psycho,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” “West Side Story,” among others.
This brought to mind my brief encounter with Saul. About two years before he died, I was assigned to interview him for an article on film title sequences. In his late 70s then, Saul had downsized his Sunset Boulevard studio maintaining what he called “a repertory group,” a small core staff with additional expertise brought in on an as needed basis. At the time, he was doing a title sequence for his friend “Marty’s”(Scorsese) film, and explained that at this stage in his career, he only wanted to work with “nice people who respect and like us and who we respect and admire…I don’t want to deal with clients who think we’re just doing a job for them. With rare exception, all our clients think we are wonderful and we think they are wonderful.” From a career standpoint, that seemed to me like the ultimate luxury.
In the world of TV advertising, the “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon” commercial that first aired 32 years ago is a classic. Now it is back, but expanded and embellished for Internet and interactive viewing.
The latest Grey Poupon campaign started with a traditional television ad that aired on the Oscar Awards TV broadcast last Sunday. The 30-second spot, played like a trailer for the feature-length online version. Titled “The Chase,” the commercial, created by CP&B, picks up where the original left off in 1981, with two uber-rich gentlemen dining in elegance in their separate chauffeur-driven cars. As before, one gentleman leans out his window to ask the gentleman in the passing car if he had any Grey Poupon. Once he receives it, his car speeds off and that’s when the excitement begins…and leaves off. To see where the plot goes from there, viewers are told to visit the Grey Poupon website and click on the 2-minute “lost footage” version. From there, viewers are enticed to re-run the video and find the hidden “haute” spots to win prizes such as caviar and champagne flutes.
Co-branded marketing has long been a part of the film business. Tacit endorsements – a star holding a brand label-legible soft drink can or a box of cereal sitting prominently on the kitchen table as the TV family eats breakfast – register subliminally in the viewer’s mind. Better yet, aligning your brand identity with a sexy, daring superhero raises desire. Lately, video shorts and YouTube have brought another type of co-branded marketing to the forefront. The one above is timed to the release of Peter Jackson’s new “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” filmed in New Zealand. It’s a concept that works beautifully, from its tie-in with the title “Unexpected Journey,” to the on-board safety instruction for Hobbit passengers heading to Middle Earth, to its plug for Air New Zealand. The airline is also offering a global sweepstakes. Count the Elvish codes in the original safety video, visit the website to unlock the code, and you’re entered to win a round-trip ticket for two to attend the world premiere in New Zealand, along with other Middle Earth prizes. It all works – and travelers may even pay attention to the safety video rather than take a snooze.
For Coke Zero’s joint promotion of the new James Bond film “Skyfall,” Belgian ad agency Duval Guillaume Modern set up an elaborate stunt in the Antwerp central train station. It began when unsuspecting commuters walked up to a Coke vending machine, which displayed a promotional offer that came with a hitch. They could win two free tickets to a special screening of “Skyfall,” if they could get to the vending machine on Platform Six within 70 seconds.