27 August, 2008

Olympic Logo FAIL

Unlike the good Cap'n, I'm not ready to get all hari-kari up in here now that the Olympics are over. Truth be told, I'm glad it's done. The act of kicking a foreigner's ass at random sports in the name of national supremacy has really lost its luster over the decades. Where's the soul? Pure, determined...and un-narrated by Bob Costas? It's all advertising now. Just a bunch of well-muscled coporate logos sprinting and jumping and swimming about.

Speaking of logos, WTF is up with the logo for the Olympics across the pond in '12? A design group billed £400,00 to come up with this? That's, like, 3 trillion dollars in American money, or something, right?It looks like a first-grader tried to fingerpaint the KISS logo. Punk Points for those calling foul on this one; and a triple-word score for our pals over at WAS who converted complaints into action, sponsoring an online open mic night for new logo designs. Even I submitted one (below), though admittedly, it's more ad than logo (and more awful than good).The mindset behind it was simple. Understatement. Seemed to mesh with the archetypal (maybe stereotypical) Brit: detached, unimpressed, and exceedingly non-plussed, with just a bit of irony for flavoring. I always think of the Monty Python line delivered by the knight who's just had two arms hacked off in battle, "It's just a flesh wound." So, there it is. Olympic rings, tea, and two minutes with Photoshop.

Carry on, mates...we only have to look at the London Olympics logo for 1500+ more days.

In logo-related news: Starbucks logo roasted for showing its naughty bits.

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25 August, 2008

The Olympics Are Over: I'm Depressed

This complaint is somewhat related to advertising, but moreso to television. Anyway, the close of the Olympics has me depressed because:

1) The Olympics are fun. I've played at least three sports a years since I was nine, so I could watch almost any sport--withstanding anything labeled "synchronized _____" and "ice dancing." (It's not that I hate figure skating. It's just that after 214 hours of triple axles and triple lutzes, the last thing I want to see is a guy in skin tight lycra prancing around on his toe pick for another three.)

2) They only come every two years (winter Olympics in Vancouver, February 2010 baby)!

3) For the past two week I knew I'd have something to watch when I turned on the TV. Swimming, gymnastics, soccer, diving, men's volleyball, women's volleyball, beach vollyeball, water polo, team handball, track & field. (Although somehow I missed the entire decathalon and heptathalon, but I guess that's what they get for using the metric system. Does anyone get that?)

4) But what depressed me most were NBC's commercials for what will be airing this fall to replace the programming I've been enjoying for the past two weeks, because they only showed those commercials about a thousand times: America's Toughest Jobs, Crusoe, Knight Rider, Chuck, Lipstick Jungle, Heroes, My Own Worst Enemy, Celebrity Apprentice, Deal or New Deal, The Biggest Loser and worst of all:

Sunday, Bob Costas should've signed off with, "Hoped you like the Olympics, America, now you can go back to watching crap."

Unfortunately, NBC can't air Earl, The Office, 30 Rock and Life 24 hours a day. The real biggest losers--people without cable. At least we get football in two weeks, excluding NBC of course, who has the worst NFL coverage of any network, including the crack technical team at we'll get you that crucial replay in two minutes-CBS. Remember "Must See TV?" I don't either.

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

The Olympics Are Over: I'm DepressedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

22 August, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Dumb Luck

Running a little late today, pesky project managers and account execs and their "deadlines." Well, last week we Haiku'd about working hard and getting nothing for it. This week, we decided to go with the opposite, because sometimes the cards fall the way you want them to. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. And sometimes you just pull one out of your...desk.

Your Friday Ad Haiku: Dumb Luck

Good thing they needed
A laugh. Now I'll remember,
It's TISH Computers.

Last Week on the Friday 5-7-5: Failure

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

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21 August, 2008

The Real Sterling Cooper, Eh?

I'm sure somebody's already done this, but for turds and tickles I typed sterlingcooper.com into the ol' Firefox address box. Who wouldn't want to see what kind of site AMC cooked up for the debaucherous faux Madison Avenue ad house known as much for AEs chasing T&A as it is for its rye-soaked genius?

Up pops the homepage for a mechanical engineering firm.

In Canada.

The world just got a little lamer today.

M.M. McDermott, ACD/Maple Syrupy

Much to the chagrin of MTLB's Bill Green, more Mad Men worship: Don Draper gets me all hot and bothered; and Maddened Minority.

Update: The Sterling Cooper site is here: www.sterlingcooperadvertising.com.
It's just a dummy jump to AMC's show page. Boo.
via Scott Monty.

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19 August, 2008

48 Hour Film Project Update: We won!...ish.

In July, we posted, Under the Influence, Team Renegade’s submission to Baltimore’s 48-Hour Film Project. As we noted then, we won the Audience Favorite Award for our group. The rest of the votes are in and we won…Best Graphics and Best Writing (tie). The winner for Best Film was Of Mares and Men, a musical/western made by Eastern Tech High School. It also won Best Directing, Best Costumes and Best Choreography. Last year’s winner was a film titled Blood Money by Family Cave, another local company. It also won Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design and the Audience Award for its group. Oh, and here’s the link to our film from last year, The Davidson Account…again.

Of Mares and Men was in our screening group, and a lot of people from our team selected it as one of their three favorites (all of the attendees to the screening get to vote for three films). Eastern Tech had a lot of fans there, but the audience still selected our film as the favorite for the group (which to us was like beating the eventual league champ in the regular season). In 2007, I saw Blood Money’s screening as well. Although I thought it was the best film in its group, I’m not sure it was even in my top five of the forty shorts I saw over the two days, and the comments on youtube (which have since been deleted) definitely showed mixed reactions to the film.

I Will Not, a film by Butler Films won Best Film in the 2006 Baltimore 48-Hour Film Project. It won an Audience Award, Best Directing, Best Writing, Best Acting and Best Sound Design. It looks and sounds great (definitely more professional than the films that won in 2007 and 2008, and most of the 48-Hour films in general), but in my opinion the story was just okay. (I should note, though, to write a good story that makes sense and tell it in under seven minutes is actually incredibly difficult.)

Again, as I noted in earlier posts, the writing was a much more difficult process for our film this year, and it won Best Writing. Last year the writing went more smoothly (not smoothly at all, but more smoothly) and we didn’t win anything, but last year our film was more of a series of gags than a coherent story. I didn’t feel the film we tied with this year, Love Virtually, was the best written film of this year’s festival either, but people from our team liked that film as well.

After thinking about it, we did find it weird that an audience watching it live chose our film over the eventual winner, while a separate judging panel didn’t. I would agree that the scope of Of Mares and Men and the location shooting was far grander than our film, but it really felt like two separate movies that didn’t make sense together (for me anyway). Still I give them enormous credit for outdoor shooting, singing and dancing when it was nearly 100° that day and filming with a thunderstorm approaching (look at the lightning in the background). And they had to choreograph dance numbers and write songs in one night so it could be shot the next day (again, a very grand scale).

It just goes to show you that when it comes to “creative,” you never quite know what your audience will be looking for: different, edgy, quirky, smart, silly, brilliant, avant-garde or just clean and professional. In the end, all you can do is make a film you won’t feel embarrassed to show your friends. Then regardless of what “awards” you win, you at least have something you’re proud of.

With that in mind, next year we plan on making a movie about bloody, singing police horses that arrest their dates in virtual reality, starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. That's all my time for today, I think I hear Hollywood calling...

No, it was my bank. I bounced another check. Captain Awesome has come to be known as Captain For the Love of God Don't Accept This Guy's Credit.

--Captain Hollywood, Copywriter

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18 August, 2008

The Intern Sweatshop: No Gold Medal For the Golden Arches

Olympics advertising is perhaps even more cutthroat than the annual media circus that is Super Bowl commercials. Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou got a reported $300 million to organize the Opening Ceremonies , and if you saw, they pulled out all the stops. Don’t worry, there haven’t been any wardrobe malfunctions (yet).

But when the Games aren’t on, it’s when commercials use the Olympic spirit to sell cameras, phones, and Oreos. Intercut with shots of the world’s finest competitors, either running the track or pole vaulting or back stroking. That’s all fine; I love me some doublestuffs, and it makes me kind of proud to buy something for the betterment of the world.

But then McDonald’s pulls the big one:

Right. Because no Olympic athlete’s diet is complete without a Big Mac and fries. I’m guessing Morgan Spurlock is going to try out for the decathlon in London ’12?

Of course, with the grueling training sessions these athletes endure, it’s likely they need orgasmic amounts of calorie intake, and a value meal will put over a thousand of those suckers in you right quick. For example, according to several sources Michael Phelps takes in nearly 12,000 calories a day. Do they all need to be deep-fried or sugar-laced though?

If that isn’t enough, the Beijing 2008 website also lists Snickers and Budweiser as commercial partners. You know, so the athletes are covered for their pregame sugar boosts and postgame “R&R,” respectively. Of course, that must be why.

Oh well, McDonald’s being the worldwide institution it is, would definitely not be absent from the Games. However, they are showing all the Olympians enjoying their Big Macs together, like kids in the school cafeteria. Well, let’s just hope one of them brought a healthy yogurt or bean sprout sandwich to trade.

In the end, I understand that’s smart advertising. 39.5 million viewers tuned-in to watch Michael Phelps swimming the 200-meter butterfly last Tuesday, and 39.9 million watched Phelps win his eighth gold medal in the men's 4X100 meter medley relay Saturday night. And that may not even include the many who watched on the Times Square Jumotron and the more than 70,000 (ed. note: Minus 55,000, give or take. But who's counting, right?) who watched from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., Phelp's home town.

But it still puts a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended, have you eaten at McDonald’s recently). Then again, I’m not sprinting the 400 meter individual medley after wolfing down a Quarter Pounder. If you’re feeling the irony as well, wash it down with this Coca Cola ad. Yes, it’s still selling a product through the Olympics, but at least this ad makes an effort to promote cultural understanding and not world-class athletes hawking burgers or chicken sandwiches with 1000+ mg of sodium…and pickles.

--Aditya Desai, Intern

Previously fabricated under duress in the Intern Sweatshop: Missile FAIL.

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15 August, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Failure

It happens to the best of us. Hours, days, weeks, months of hard work go into a project or proposal and in the end it flops like a European soccer player. Sometimes you miss the mark and sometimes the mark is something you probably didn't want to aim for in the first place. So, in honor of at first not succeeding and subsequently trying again and again and again,

Your Friday Ad Haiku: Failure

Three months of market
Research, and they go with a
Clown getting kicked in

The crotch. RFP?
Request for Please bludgeon me.
This is why we drink.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Stock Photos.

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

Friday Ad Haiku: FailureSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

13 August, 2008

A Dark, Guilty Pleasure: Local Car Dealer Ads

I can't hide it. I won't hide it. Call me soft in the heart--or maybe in the head. But there is a piece of me who finds child-like delight in local car dealer spots. Particularly, those for Scotty Donahoo's Foreign Motors. Behold:

I won't get into a semantic debate about why these spots are or aren't awful. That would be like arguing whether or not rain is too wet. Sometimes the best spots are the worst. The Tao of Scotty Donahoo.

Donahoo's 30-second antics have transcended the business and transformed him into a bit of a Baltimore phenomena; it helped him generate serious attention when he publicly considered a run for mayor (NOTE: he couldn't do much worse than who we've got now) and even even inspired a Baltimore club scene remix.

The ads work for me because they don't work hard at all. It's just Scotty 'O, killin' 'em not-so-softly as he does some kind of car-huckster interpretive dance. He makes a total and awesome fool of himself--and enjoys every second of it. It's so unabashedly unconsumed. There's a lesson to learn from him, something I hear over on George Parker's space from time to time: People in this business take themselves too seriously. Stop.

Of course, I won't ever buy a Kia. From him or anyone else. But I like him for trying. And that's more than I can say for most spokespeople.

I'll leave you with this, an 80's car dealer spoof from a long-since defunct Baltimore production house. I think it'll provide just the right amount of perspective. (Warning, NSFW or the easily offended)

M.M. McDermott, ACD/Lease to Own

Previously in dinstinctively Baltimore ads: Local lawyer rains down golden shower of fire and brimstone.

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12 August, 2008

What I Learned from American Cheerleader

Found this ad in a copy of American Cheerleader that our old Training Project Manager used to receive. Why did he receive American Cheerleader? I don't know. What does our Training Department do with American Cheerleader? Well, a big part of training is teamwork, so perhaps it's a reference tool. Why was I reading American Cheerleader? Let's just say, some trips to the bathroom take longer than others.

After looking at this ad for a while, most of it eventually made sense to me, but have a look see at what hung me up.

1) Now the ad placement makes perfect sense. It's a cheerleading sneaker in a cheerleading magazine. Score one for Power Cheerleading Shoes.

2) With all of the logos at the bottom and the headline dominating the top half of the picture, it took me a while to figure out exactly what the brand was and what the shoe was called. But this is a magazine for cheerleaders, so I'm guessing most of them would know. Push.

3) Why is there some overly serious guy in a black on black suit so awkwardly presenting this shoe to the cheerleading ether? Wait, that must be Choreographer/Director Wade Robinson noted in a tiny font above the picture and again in the fourth largest font on the page below the subhead. Again, I'm guessing cheerleaders would get this, but it still looks weird. I feel this could've made more sense, but Push.

4) One feature they don't note in the copy is the sneaker's ability to help you levitate other sneakers. A dodgy PhotoShop job has perched the sneaker perfectly on Choreographer/Director Wade Robinson's fingertips. Ah, PhotoShop, hand-in-hand with Stock Photos makes our creative lives so much easier as we heap hours of time onto our graphic designers. But at times people can get way too PhotoShop happy or simply hack up an image in the interest of trying to make something work. Know when to stop and you're Matisse. Forget that good art means eventually putting down the brush and you could end up with something that looks like plastic surgery addict Jocelyn Wildenstein (warning: freaking frightening cat lady).

In the end, this ad for Power Cheerleading Shoes works for this magazine and this market, but a few tweaks (like with most art) could've made it much better. I wish the same could be said for The Big Bang Theory. ZING! Honestly, I want those 10 minutes of my life back. Not one laugh. Not one laugh. It's supposed to be a freakin' comedy. I'm sorry. I got carried away. But seriously, please cancel it. Give me reruns of Hee Haw or Quincy M.E. with Jack Klugman or something. Okay, I'm done.

-Captain Awesome, Copywriter

What I Learned from American CheerleaderSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

08 August, 2008

Van Wrap Powers ACTIVATE! Form of...a funny!

The Law of Unintended Consequences has finally been set to a Top 40 soundtrack.
One thing I've learned about designing van wraps: never overlook the nuances of functionality. They'll come back to bite you in the sas ass.

via: FAILblog

M.M.McDermott, ACD/CAD

Van Wrap Powers ACTIVATE! Form of...a funny!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday Ad Haiku: Stock Photos

We all know stock photography is life saver when it comes to quick turnarounds on print projects, comps for clients and saving huge costs on budgets. But either their search engines need a little work or photographers are really stretching the tags they use for each picture. Here are some gems we've stumbled across for various projects.

Okay, now this guy came up under a search for "lawyer," but really he looks like something out of The Neverending Story or Star Trek.

(These I found with Google.) Either way, unless your firm specializes in cases involving giant flying dogs or is on retainer for the Klingons, this image probably isn't going to help you.

These gems we found under "teacher" and "customer service representative," respectively.

Customer service rep is a world unto itself, because after looking at a dozen images, I started wondering, exactly what is the service industry you're working in? There are some "old" professions out there.

And ironically, while teacher and customer service yield images of sultry models, one of the first images for "sexy" was the first picture below, and the very first image for "woman" yielded a picture of team Japan after the World Crew Championships, and I'm pretty sure that's not even the women's team.

So in honor of the stock photos that save our hides and the many stock photo misfires that completely baffle us, your Friday Haiku:

Stock Photography

"Comp on deadline.
No budget for design. Find
pic of teacher. Thanks."

I searched stock photos
To save our hides. No teachers
But how 'bout a skank?

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Offending Customers

-Captain Awesome, Copywriter

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07 August, 2008

Bob's Discount Furniture, Macaroon and Machiato Emporium

A couple weekends ago on a trip to Boston, I kept passing this truck while sitting in Friday afternoon traffic on the grueling stretch of I-95 between New Rochelle, NY, and New Haven, Conn. (after sitting in traffic for two hours, I decided I was either in hell or just an exit ramp away).

Bob’s Discount Furniture is a New England-based furniture chain. Now this isn’t the exact same truck. My attempts to take a picture resulted in no less than three near collisions, so I figured discretion was the better part of valor and hoped the Internet would be able to help me out. And once again, my dedication to the preservation of human life coupled with laziness paid off when a simple yahoo image search yielded the above photo. It’s not the exact same truck (mine didn’t have the graffiti), but you get the gist of it. Pictured on the truck is Bob, the slogan “I promise you sweet deals,” dried out-looking chocolate chip cookies (Bob does love to tease the diabetics) and for some reason, unbranded paper latte cups (possibly Bob’s social commentary on post-industrial revolution capitalism and how the world is no longer by mother’s milk, but by pure Columbia grown caffeine).

I see two problems here.

1) Mixed messaging. You’re trying to advertise a good price—a “sweet deal.” Well what’s something sweet? Cookies, of course. Now suddenly this furniture truck is covered in cookies. I assume Bob feels his unique selling proposition is good prices, which it very well may be. But if you now took “Bob’s Discount Furniture” off the side of this truck, you’d be left with cookies, lattes and a guy with a forced grin promising “Sweet Deals.” I’m sorry strange sir, but my children will be sticking with Chips Ahoy, thank you very much. Now please move your truck.

The phrase “sweet deals” doesn’t bother me at all. It makes perfect senses for this Dairy Queen advertisement. But now the imagery chosen for Bob's advertisement no longer reflects his product. Perhaps a better choice would have been to replace the mustard yellow background (which totally clashes with Bob's shirt by the way) with a furniture spread, and in the foreground have Bob holding a lollipop or a spoonful of sugar. Although, I’d probably be more likely to take a stale cookie from a smiling, gaunt stranger than I would candy or some ambiguous white powder. The lattes? There I’m totally clueless.

2) Now I could see paying for this ad to throw in the Sunday circular, but wrapping a truck is not cheap. And there are at least two of these trucks out there, so this wasn’t just one isolated accidental truck wrapping incident. Someone thought this creative campaign should be emblazoned on the side of many Bob’s trucks, confusing many adults and causing countless New England children of reading age to crave not a trip to Mrs. Field’s for their afternoon snack, but a ride to Bob’s Discount Furniture.

There’s the rub. This is not a campaign for now, but a campaign for 20 years from now, when these young crumb munchers will be buying furniture of their own—nuclear powered torchiere lamps, hover futons, and carbon fiber papasan chairs. Bob, the Pied Piper of Hartford, just might be the smartest furniture man in all of New England. Or maybe I put way too much thought into an ad campaign that needed just a little more.

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

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06 August, 2008

Writing Taglines on Autopilot.

I spent most of the night finishing an H.L. Mencken bio. (Spoiler alert: He dies.)

I guess I can blame lack of sleep and eyestrain for this awful headache I've got now. It's like a hangover headache, but without the ethos.

Days like this, wouldn't it be nice for creatives to have a little help?

Well, wouldn't you know:

Sloganizer's been around for awhile, but so has the fire extinguisher in our kitchen--if there were ever a time to break the glass in case of emergency, today would be it. Click photo for the link.

Also available in sauerbraten flavor!

M.M. McDermott, ACD/Why is it so bright?

Related: What would Jesus write?

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05 August, 2008

Cheese Floats

I was sitting in rush hour traffic in downtown Baltimore yesterday with a typical commuter’s afternoon headache, when I turned from Guilford Ave. onto President St. and inched reluctantly forward next to one of those “Ride the Duck” boat-buses. I was stuck. I was annoyed. And I was forced to listen to "YMCA" and watch people dance with duck whistles in their mouths (on what I can only assume is vacation time.) I wondered how much people are paying to “Ride the Duck”, so I went to website when I eventually made it home. It’s $25 bucks for adults and $15 for kids 3-12--pretty smart in a devious, novelty kind of way. Why rope in one sucker by land when you can get two if by sea? A little more digging and I found that “Ride the Duck” is a brand of Herschend Family Entertainment. HFE’s other brands? Most notably Dollywood, but there are a surprising number of others- theme parks, adventure parks, aquariums, etc… They made a killing in Missouri and have a ton of corporate and entertainment sponsors.

Apparently cheese works a lot better when creating a successful brand than I thought. I’d love to live in world in which people who think up slogans like “quack-tacular” aren’t paid more than the teachers who tried so hard not to fail them. I'd also like to see them put torpedoes on that thing and take out the paddle boats that litter the Inner Harbor with their lameness.

Anyway, I’ll cross my fingers that I don’t get stuck behind the duck again and try to work Dollywood into my next trip to Pigeon Forge, TN.

Maggie Ross, Trainer/Recruiter

B-more archives: Shoot but don't get shot; Hard Times are behind us; Our horse race keeps it real.

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02 August, 2008

Friday(ish) Ad Haiku: Offending Consumers

Caving to the outcry from some very vocal and thoroughly offended folks in the gay and lesbian community (and, of course, Bob Garfield), BBDO's Snickers spot--featuring Mr. T doing a drive-by on a speedwalker with a Gatling gun that fires candy bars--has been bounced from TV.

Personally, I thought the ad was funny--and well-positioned for the brand's core consumers: teenagers who eat too much crap and laugh at low-comedy. I certainly didn't see it as a candy-coated gay-hating manifesto, and I said as much on AdRants. Naturally, with a topic like this, there were some who disagreed with me. A lot. Nothing like a friendly debate to remind you why this business is so much fun.

With the recent imbroglio over offensive advertising--from anti-gay to anti-pit bull-- I've been left wondering a few things. Namely, can great advertising survive this current tide of hyper-political correctness and the continual kid-gloving of special interest groups? Or are we destined to sink into a pool of safeness, to drown in the vanilla extract of soft mediocrity?

Channeling legend Ed McCabe, adstud Dave Trott reminds us: An ad that doesn't cause a ruckus is a lousy ad.

Pissing people off is simply the occasional tax on your investment in making ads that get people's attention. I'll take that over shelling out for FICA every two weeks.

Your work has managed
not to offend anyone.
Now clean out your desk.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Finding the Muse.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Mr. Wrong

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