Apple’s fall rollout of new products isn’t welcome news for some of us still adjusting to the iPhone 5 and getting the feel of the iPad we got last Christmas. Many of us who grew up in the analog age view every electronic upgrade as stressful and disruptive. Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t always welcome Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Millennials, born thinking of their opposable thumbs as digital operating devices, don’t understand that “intuitive” is a relative and generational term. Which brings me to this classic comedy sketch created for Norwegian TV a few years back.
While thumbing through Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist; 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” (Workman Publishing), we happened upon a graphic sketch that Kleon admits he “stole from his friend Maureen McHugh.” It spells out seven phases in the “life of a creative project” from an emotional perspective, not the usual process steps – e.g., concept development, research, storyboards, etc. It shows that for most of us in creative fields, projects proceed along two parallel tracks: one cerebral and dedicated to problem-solving, the other moody and erratic. Because we at @issue can’t leave well enough alone, we decided to steal McHugh’s — via Kleon’s – idea but let Kit Hinrichs embellish it with his own doodling drawings. Here it is.
This promo could just as easily have been made to promote printing papers, instead of IKEA’s 2015 home furnishings catalog. Created by BBH Asia Pacific, the IKEA marketing video channels the Apple brand persona in style and tone with its uncluttered, plain white background and its wide-eyed, uncynical spokesman explaining the amazing features of IKEA’s bookbook catalog – touch interface, eternal battery life, instant loading with zero lag, fully charged, no cables, expandable interface, preinstalled content, touch browsing, fast scrolling, easy bookmark and sharing capabilities, and voice activated password protection. The bookbook has everything you’ve ever desired in a modern information delivery system. So simple, so portable, so intuitive, it’s a wonder that Apple hadn’t thought of it before. But let’s give credit where it is truly due – to Gutenberg and medieval bookmakers. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the “wheel”; he invented an elegant means to adapt the desirable features of print to a digital platform. The attributes that consumers seek in an information delivery device have been around for at least 600 years, and tech giants have spent the last several decades trying to replicate the kind of ease-of-use offered by paper.
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.)
Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:
“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.
A Woman Comes Back to Work After 30 Years Away…
On Comedy Central’s Colbert Report last week, Stephen Colbert questioned the marketing strategy behind the new Vessyl Smart Cup produced by San Francisco-based startup Mark One. Designed by Yves Behar of fuseproject, the Vessyl is a digital cup with molecular analysis sensors that display the exact content and calorie count of the beverage within. In terms of attractive design and ingenious technology, the Vessyl is spot on. But to Colbert’s point: is there really a mass market need for it, especially at a cost of $199 per cup? Market research is a critical pillar of product development; without it, what you end up with is a geeky “parlor trick” that draws ooohs and aaahs, but few sales.
If cats were 13th century cartographers, this is probably how they would map out their known world. Or so it is suggested in this series of print ads for Whiskas pet food, created by AMV BBDO in the UK and illustrator Dave Hopkins. The vintage-style maps were drawn from a cat’s perspective, with feline significant names given to landmarks in the Living Room Plain, the Garden Outback and The Kitchen Valley. Ottoman Overlook, Settee Ridge and Magazine Mound are key features called out in the living room. Toaster Volcano, Sore Paw Crossing stove zone, and Shelf Highlands are marked in the kitchen, and in the garden, the area beyond the Great Wall is labeled “Here There Be Monsters” with two unfriendly dogs stationed nearby. The compost heap is named Pew Gardens. The sepia-toned maps are a delight to study, and they are presented with confidence that viewers are sophisticated enough to know the Whiskas brand and a fair amount about typical cat behavior. The only real branding in the ads is the Whiskas name in its familiar logotype set in a shield that vaguely looks like a silhouette of a cat’s head. The signature purple color of Whiskas packaging is completely absent.
Public service announcements (PSAs) mean well, but often times they play on people’s fears, guilt or soft-heartedness to get viewers to pay attention. That’s why these PSAs from the British Heart Foundation are so refreshing. Produced by Grey London and directed by Steve Bendelack, the new Mini Vinnie CPR ad is a sequel to one done featuring British actor/pro football player Vinnie Jones. Embedded in the spoof are some valuable tips on how to give hard and fast hands-only CPR in an emergency. These entertaining ads follow in the tradition of the British Heart Foundation’s PSA, starring British actor/playwright Steven Berkoff on how to identify the symptoms of a heart attack. They are all about stayin’ alive.
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.
Unbeknownst to most sports fans was a completely different Super Bowl competition being played out on the sidelines. Sponsored by Intuit, maker of QuickBooks, TurboTax, Intuit and Quicken software, the contest drew 15,000 small business contenders who vied for the chance to win a free 30-second spot during the big game last weekend.
And the Intuit winner was GoldieBlox, a startup that offers construction toys strictly for little girls. A Kickstarter-funded project, GoldieBlox was founded by Debbie Sterling, a Stanford-graduate engineer who was disturbed to learn that 89% of all engineers in America were men. Taking a walk through a toy store, Sterling noted that the “blue aisle” was lined with construction toys and chemistry sets, while the “pink aisle” had lots of princesses and dolls. Sterling vowed to redecorate the “pink aisle” with construction toys to send little girls the message that they could pursue a career in science, engineering, technology ad math too. San Francisco-based Sterling developed an interactive storybook series with a companion construction kit. The book’s heroine is a girl named Goldie who likes to invent mechanical things and seeks the assistance of the young reader to build them using pieces from the project kit.
Dedicated to “consumer whisperers, mother targeters and brand guardians,” this video by Toronto-based Open Creative Company satirically celebrates the feats of advertising marketers. It was made as a call for entries appeal for Strategy magazine’s Marketer of the Year. The words and sentiments in “The Marketers’ Anthem” are all too true, but the male voiceover, dripping with tongue-in-cheek gravitas, pokes good natured fun at the achievements of men and women who “moved us to vote, follow, share, pin, tweet, retweet and like” everything from underarm deodorant, cookies, toilet paper and shampoo. The video taps into the bipolar reality of marketing people who are both proud and a bit embarrassed by what they do. On the one hand, they know their marketing campaigns are the engines that drive the economy. On the other hand, they know that their days, months, years are spent debating how to express the exceptional softness of a brand of toilet paper, or the virtues of one floor mop over another, or the desirability of frozen pop-tarts. No one has yet won a Nobel Prize for market advertising, so it is good that the industry hosts its own awards. Only a jury of your peers can really appreciate the monumental accomplishment of making a cleaning product stylish and exciting. Bravo.
Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz demonstrated how its amazing Magic Body Control suspension system offers passengers a smooth ride through the use of placid chickens funky dancing to Diana Ross’s “Upside Down” disco tune. For those of you who have never met a chicken that wasn’t already baked, grilled or fried, you should know that live chickens have the natural ability to keep their heads perfectly still even when their bodies are moving. For German ad agency Jung von Matt/Neckar Stuttgart, this chicken analogy seemed like a much more memorable and fun way to explain how Mercedes’s suspension system offers awesome motion stability. Daniel Warwick directed the dance number. No CGI was used in the making of this video; the chickens did it all with a few helpful hands.
These commercials aren’t selling what you think they do. They were created by London-based John Nolan Studio/Robot Factory, which boasts an impressive portfolio of film assignments including “Dr. Who” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” The Nolan’s Cheese and Nolan’s Nuts brands don’t exist, but John Nolan’s animatronic design and FX services do, and the videos show off the firm’s talent and capabilities quite effectively – little wonder that they went viral online. The cheese video came out first, and a nutty variation of the idea followed.
This skit by the British comedy team David Mitchell and Robert Webb from Channel 4’s “That Mitchell and Webb Look” sketch show kinda feels like the circular discussions that many of us sometimes have with clients, creative directors and team leaders. OK, not quite like that, but kinda like this. OK, the talk isn’t about fictional heroes, sex or killer sharks, but swap out the sex and killer sharks with marketing lingo and brand positioning and it’s almost identical. Well, not identical, but close. The free-association constructive criticism has the same baffling effect. Maybe not, but you know what I mean. If you don’t feel like that, just ignore this and enjoy the video for what it is. Or not.