Packaging

Packaging as Play Things

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Zombis, made in Iceland by Kjöris, is a soft ice cream product sold in single-serving-size packets, but what makes Zombis extra special is the story built into the packaging. Designed by Reykjavik-based Brandenburg, the packaging for Zombis Freezer Pops features 24 zombi personalities, each with its own name and “death-ography.” Inside each zombi is a colorful, squishy “brain” that tastes exactly like strawberry, raspberry or pistachio-flavored ice cream. Buyers are instructed to snip off the top of the zombi’s head and suck out the brain. Eating ice cream has never been so ghoulish and fun.
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Humor

Geico “You Can’t Skip These Ads”

Viewers hate YouTube preroll ads, those irksome commercials that run before you get to watch the real YouTube video you want to see. One survey revealed that 94 percent of viewers will hit the “Skip Ad” button as soon as it appears. But advertisers keep sticking their commercials up there, presumably in the belief that the few they don’t annoy will embrace their message fondly and run out to buy their product.

This brings us to the Geico preroll, created by The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia. In a YouTube ad campaign that can only be viewed as experimental, the car insurance giant crammed its ad message into the critical first five seconds, and then spent the next 60 seconds having the main actors freeze motionless, while absurd actions happened around them. The only mention of Geico was the brand name that stayed on the screen. I didn’t get it, but thought it was funny anyway. I watched it three times to see if I was missing a deeper message. The only thing that annoyed me was that a preroll ad for another product ran before I could watch the Geico ad. I hit “Skip Ad” on that one as soon as it let me.
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Humor

The Cloud of Ignorance that Surrounds Graphic Designers

Chances are if you are a graphic designer even your mother doesn’t know what you do, and certainly your grandma doesn’t have a clue. Graphic design is a profession that baffles even business executives who hire graphic designers. Some believe that if they can get their office manager to learn InDesign and Photoshop, they could dispense with the need to hire a graphic designer and do everything inhouse for a lot less money. The lack of respect that graphic designers command is wonderfully presented in this video assembled from TV and film clips by Ellen Mercer and Lucy Streule, two graphic design students at Central Saint Martins in London. If you feel unappreciated and misunderstood, take comfort; you’re not alone.

Viral Marketing

Joe Boxer’s “Jiggle Bells, Jiggle Bells”

Fresh on the heels of last year’s titillating Kmart Joe Boxer pelvic jingle choir comes this holiday’s belly-beat encore. Avoiding some of the flack they took for featuring handsome young men who looked like they were hired from the Chippendale chorus line, this year ad agency FCB/Chicago chose a not-so-buff, beer-belly cast dressed in Joe Boxer pajama bottoms. Instead of naming the spot “Show Your Joe” like last year, the sequel is called “Jingo Bellies.” Either way, the commercials are funny, and a refreshing change from the usual cloyingly wholesome holiday ads showing loving couples in ski sweaters drinking hot chocolate by a roaring fireplace.

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Viral Marketing

Business Self-Promo Becomes YouTube Sensation

This hamster video actually started as a way for Los Angeles-based social media agency, Denizen, to promote its business of creating branded content for social media venues. They tried to convince their corporate clients to buy into some of their zanier concepts but found no takers. So, Denizen co-founders Joseph Matsushima and Joel Jensen decided to start their own YouTube channel to demonstrate the possibilities. The hamster idea seemed just goofy enough to succeed, but the making of the video was no picnic. Denizen had to bring in a hamster trainer, build a tiny table and chair set with a Thanksgiving decor, and get a food stylist to make miniature food. It took nearly a dozen people a month to plan, script and prep, and another 12 hours to shoot the hamster dinner. What started out as a new business recruitment tool became a YouTube blockbuster attracting millions of viewers. Denizen has made a series of hamster videos and even integrated a tiny hedgehog into the cast. For all creatures, large and small, happy Thanksgiving.

Fine Art

What Famous Artists Serve on Thanksgiving

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Imagine that you have been invited to Piet Mondrian’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s doing all the cooking and food styling. What would he serve? That’s the fanciful musing of San Francisco-based artist Hannah Rothstein, who created her own impressions of dinner by famous artists. Her interpretations are being offered as 16”x20” signed, limited edition prints. Only 25 copies were produced and the prints are available at $75 each, with 10% of the profits going to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Order here. Happy Thanksgiving.
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Advertising

Pet Focus Group Yields Laughs for Big Lots

Consumer focus groups have long been a mainstay of marketing research. It’s a great way to gather user perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude about a product. Chicago ad agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul pulled together a panel of mostly four-legged consumers to roll out Big Lots’ line of pet supplies and toys. Two improvisational actors served as panel “facilitators,” conducting a tongue-in-cheek user opinion survey. The panel of dogs and cats weren’t exactly forthcoming in their preferences, but they did give the discount retailer an opportunity to show the vast and varied range of pet products it sells.
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Humor

Disruptive Technology Through the Ages

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.

Humor

IKEA Marvels at the Wonders of Bookbooks

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.

Advertising

What Pet Cats and Great Athletes Have in Common

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.)

Advertising

Pizza Cats – Lost in Translation or Just Lost; Editor’s Mea Culpa Revisions

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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.

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Humor

Smart Cup or Empty Vessyl?

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.

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Illustration

Brave New World for Cats

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.

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Humor

UK “Crime Bosses” Teach Emergency CPR

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.

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