30 September, 2008


Just started a part-time stint working for b, the free daily off-shoot of the Baltimore Sun. It's geared towards the Millennial and late Gen X demographic. While I'm sure I'll enjoy having the opportunity to flame local politicians and bitch about the Orioles' regularly scheduled late-season collapses in front of a mass audience, I'm also looking at this as a cultural marketing experiment.

It's no secret that I've been skeptical of the Millennial class. Just look at them, strutting around with their iPhones and crude plans for saving the world one wind turbine at a time. Having worked with them in both advertising and education, I've been underwhelmed. I've encountered a few bright spots--kids who are willing to scrub toilets if that's what it'll take to get to where they want to be. But I've seen far too many self-entitled cry babies and oblivious gum chewers.

I'm hoping that engaging them in dialogue through the media will help refine my perceptions about the demographic beyond the generational blurbs posted in Ad Age marketing columns. I want to be wrong. I really do.

So when I'm not here, I'll be there. Here's to the pursuit of market research.

B-boyee!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

26 September, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Image

Now that the Presidential debate is officially back on (McCain's decided to play for the Jets), my Friday night is set. After I put the new kid to bed, I'll toast democracy with bottles of adult beverages named after a great American patriot.

I'm not going to turn this into a political post. MTLB and WMJP do a much better job meshing politics and advertising on a regular basis.

I will, however, venture a guess as to who the winner will be: whoever sweats the least.

Ask Nixon. People listening to the 1960 debate on the radio said Nixon won. Those watching TV proclaimed Kennedy the winner.

It's about the image. The polish. The packaging.

Debating the state
of our economy in
a thong? Got my vote.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Product Placement

Friday Ad Haiku: ImageSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

24 September, 2008

So Good You Didn't Even Know It Worked: Gates-Seinfeld Ad Post-Mortem

We canceled our subscription to Cinemax, so I spent a good part of last night thinking about the Bill and Jerry ads for Microsoft.

On the surface, the spots don't look like much, you know? Some shrugged them off as being derivative and pointless. Others simply cocked their heads like dogs watching C-Span. The general response was underwhelming, adding wind to the storm of rumors about why they were taken off the air after a two-week run.

The truth is, it doesn't really matter whether John Q. HardDrive liked them. It wasn't about cajoling people into buying a PC. Not yet.

The spots had one simple purpose: make Bill Gates seem human.

Easier said than done considering he's worth more than the GDP of Panama, Jordan, and North Korea combined. But in a flurry of multi-billionaire ass-wiggling, cheap shoe-horning, and non sequitor bantering, Crispin Porter + Bogusky managed to convince some of the unwashed masses that Bill Gates lives the same kind of mundane, WalMart, paper or plastic life as the rest of us. Now whether it assured consumers that he was a lovable schlub or simply portrayed him as a socially awkward uber-nerd, that's up for debate. Either way, it took people's minds off the fact that he's helmed an empire that's characterized as a ruthless behemoth, a modern day monopolistic love child of railroad robber barons and telco strong-armers.

The Bill and Jerry spots were foreplay for the "I'm a PC" ads that followed, a coy under-the-bra grope at breaking negative perceptions of Microsoft. What better way to start than at the top?

Now, it's going to be all about kumbaya good vibes and digital high fives as Microsoft sets about liberating the pigeonholed PC user from the smarmy tyranny of Apple's "Mac vs. PC" campaign. And they're doing it on Apple's turf, taking ownership of their catchphrase. Using it against them to paint them as the elitist, myopic a-holes.

So fight the power, PC brothers and sisters. Perhaps the era of rampant Bill Gates-hatin' and PC user stereotypes has finally been Control-Alt-Deleted.

So Good You Didn't Even Know It Worked: Gates-Seinfeld Ad Post-MortemSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

19 September, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Product Placement

Watched the latest episode of Entourage and couldn't help but notice the gratuitous Bud and Bud Light placement.

Product placement is heady business. It either makes sense for the character and story, or it doesn't; it blends in if it does and distracts if it doesn't. But I'm more likely to believe long-necked aliens scarf down Reeses' Pieces than I am that Bud light longnecks are the first choice of musical icons and faux celebs.

I'm a bad check away from homelessness half the time, and even I can pony up a few extra bucks for a sixer of something that's not consumed from novelty hard hats with tubes.

I see where they're going, of course. After the InBev coup de tat, the marketing boys are looking for smarter (read: cheaper) ways to push the brand. Placement in a popular TV series--whether it makes sense storywise or not--is Bud's version of spending wisely. Especially when you consider their pre-InBev marketing budget meetings probably looked a lot like Scrooge McDuck taking a dive into the money vault.

Here's to product placement.

Horatio Caine's
been shot! Quick! Somebody get

me a Diet Coke.
Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: The Traffic Department

Friday Ad Haiku: Product PlacementSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

15 September, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku Lives!

All three of our regular readers noticed last week's Friday 5-7-5 was M.I.A.

Things got a little hectic 'round the creative factory. And, while I'm technically on paternity leave, I couldn't let another week go by without breaking out the signature dish.

So, here's to the traffic department. I have a feeling they're going to have their hands full finding staff to look after my projects while I'm gone (Cap'n, the coffee filters are in the top-left cabinet in the kitchen).

Need to change my pants
because a bathroom break was
not on my schedule.

Shut it. I'm on vacation.

Long, long ago in the Friday 5-7-5: Agency Holidays.

Friday Ad Haiku Lives!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

11 September, 2008

"No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford" and other fine art.

Our Print Production Manager, Dennis, clued me into an artist named Brandon Bird.

I haven't looked at life the same way since.

Imagine Norman Rockwell downed a fistful of Percocet while watching Family Guy reruns, and you're only scratching the thick patina of Bird's genius. A few of my favorites are below; click them and they grow, as will your appreciation of fine art:

Signifier and Signified

No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford


Pax Cybertronia

Other works include a series of Valentine's Day cards featuring the cast of Law & Order SVU, a depiction of the Last Supper starring James Woods (and RoboCop), and Michael Landon wearing cut-off shorts and grieving over a dead squid.

He's also got a
disturbing marvelous fascination with Christopher Walken.

But who doesn't, really?

"No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford" and other fine art.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

09 September, 2008

From Refried Beans to Billy Ray

Yesterday I enjoyed a microwaveable enchilada, rice and refried beans Banquet dinner for lunch. Not a fan of refried beans; they sat idly by as I consumed the rest of my 360-calorie meal. For a microwave meal, it wasn’t so bad. Because I ran four miles Sunday, and I was in pain, I decided I’d wait until I had a reason to get up to throw the plastic tray in the garbage. I’m also lazy.

Later, walking to the kitchen with the tray and now-congealed bean mass, I wondered, what genius pitchman turned reconstituted bean curd into an unbelievably popular food product? I wonder if it went something like this:

Food Taster: Why are they called refried beans?

Genius Pitchman: Well, we fried them. Then, just for added flavor, we RE-fried them.

Food Executive: Okay…but this looks like a bowl of diarrhea.

Genius Pitchman: I know, but trust me, it’ll move off shelves like Taco Bell through the large intestine. Try it.

Food Executive: It does taste better than it looks, but that just means it doesn’t taste like poop. Actually, it doesn’t taste like anything.

Genius Pitchman: Exactly. We’ll pair it with spicy food to give "balance" to the meal.

Food Executive: What’s wrong with bread?

Genius Pitchman: This is way cheaper. Plus, no wasted crust.

Food Executive: I don't know. Who else is carrying this?

Genius Pitchman: Mexico.

Food Executive: Sold.

It’s probably similar to the story of how people were convinced to smoke tobacco or marijuana.

I’m no barber-surgeon, but I’ll bet it’s a bad idea to put dead leaves in my mouth and then light them on fire. Meh, I’ll give it a whirl.

That makes me wonder how many leaves did they try to smoke before realizing only a few made them happy. Oak? Maple? Poison ivy? But the history of the world is loaded with one person’s dumb idea that took the world by storm.

Don't blame the ad genius; he’s just trying to make a living. And you can’t blame the guy who had the bad idea: 1) Taste is subjective, and you should know if something is in bad taste, even if someone tells you it isn’t. I’m looking at you, Calvin Klein and your man thongs. 2) Everyone has had bad ideas that they didn’t realize were bad ideas at the time. But not all of those bad ideas launch a national or worldwide trend.

So I place the blame squarely on the public who said, Yes, I do want to look like a genie.

Unlike genie pants and the pet rock, refried beans were probably more of a result of minimal agricultural options for particular geographic regions - without which entire populations might have starved. Then again, that doesn’t explain why refried beans are still popular today when we have food options like bread and...gum. So like I always do in situations like these, I place the blame squarely on aliens.

I think I’ve made my point.

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

From Refried Beans to Billy RaySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

08 September, 2008

That Soft, Subtle Baseball Bat to the Kneecaps

I've been sitting on this for a while, waiting for the baseball season to really hit full stride before I broke it out.   But with my favorite team currently water-proofing the basement of the American League East, what's it matter anymore?  

To hell with it:

I stumbled onto a series of "instructional" baseball videos, Hardball Made Easy, sponsored by Easton and hosted by career minor leaguer "Scrappy" Ron Stilanovich.  Scrappy Ron shares his nuanced approach to teaching the game, from blocking the plate to fighting off a hobo ambush, while pro ball players stop by to teach painful lessons like learning how to lean in to a 95 mph fastball.  

At the end of each video, viewers get a quick glimpse of Easton's new HitMatrix bat in action as major leaguers turn home plate into a veritable launch pad.  While it's an aluminum hitgasm for any kind of serious baseball player, the lackluster view count may underscore the waning popularity of our national past time.   The most popular episode had about 45K views--not that impressive considering a couple hundred of those views were me, thoroughly soused after company softball games, clicking and laughing to myself before everything went dark.

The videos are entertaining and on point; the writing is big and dumb, right up the alley of teenage players. But the marketing folks at Easton dropped the ball on this one.  They failed to drive traffic to the videos, dooming them to the fate of most would-be virals.  Where's the point of purchase tie-in?  The targeted media buys during the Little League World Series?  The only collateral I could find was a text link to the videos buried in the bowels of their website.   It's a shame, really: a nice little project that no one will ever see and probably won't amount to much.

Kind of like playing for the Kansas City Royals. 

That Soft, Subtle Baseball Bat to the KneecapsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

02 September, 2008

Mad Men's Twittergate

I got to thinking recently. For the good of mankind, this doesn't happen often.

It was about AMC's short-lived (and short-sighted) temper tantrum over the Twitter accounts that popped up featuring characters from Mad Men. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, stop reading now and click on this video of a guy falling off a ladder; you'll enjoy it more.

So, I was thinking. This could be one of the first bonafide shots across the bow of that recently launched little sailboat we like to call social media. While no one can honestly say where it's headed, we can be sure it'll sink a lot of brands if they continue to approach it like a guy playing the piano wearing catcher's mitts.

Don't get me wrong. Twitter isn't the Second Coming. Hell, 90% of the people I've spoken to have never heard of it. But it's an important piece of brand conversation, and more importantly, it's a perfect platform for consumer evangelism. With Mad Men, you've got fans so rabid for the franchise that they're willing to spend time talking about it, immersing themselves in it. So naturally, you do the logical thing: sic the lawyers on 'em (well, on Twitter anyway).

It's sad and absurd. So many brands still can't grasp the notion that, to bring in the ever-evolving consumer, they have to let the consumer take over the conversation now and then. Let out the trot line a little. Take a risk.

Part of forging any lasting relationship is conceding some control.

It's about trust. It's about caring as much about a customer's satisfaction as they do about their money. And it's what will separate their business model from that of prostitutes and pyramid schemes. Because, you know, they have business models, too.

Speaking of Mad Men: The Real (Lame-o) Sterling-Cooper; Don Draper gets me hot and bothered; Mad, black, and not gonna take it anymore.

Mad Men's TwittergateSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

01 September, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Agency Holidays

I suppose we could have simply called this post "holidays", but who are we kidding? Agency folk are notoriously solipsistic and self-consumed, whether with the interests of their clients or themselves. So it's always going to be "agency ________" (insert your own Madlib verb, adjective, or noun--"poop" is my go-to).

Besides, we just seem to do holidays so much bigger. Longer. Harder.

Friday Ad Haiku.
On a Monday. Who cares? We've

been soused since Thursday.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Dumb Luck

Friday Ad Haiku: Agency HolidaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
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