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.
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.
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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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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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.