Monthly Archives: August 2009

Video everywhere, all the time

Throughout my career i have tried really hard to create advertising that has a legitimate shot of being seen out of choice by consumers. And that legitimately competes with the very best of what’s vying for consumers’ attention at any given time.

That is hard. And has always been hard. It’s hard to create things that really interesting. The path from idea to finished execution can be a tricky one. Ask the Weinstein Brothers!

And there is always a ton of new content to compete with. BUT…the good news is that 99% of it will be uninteresting dreck. So really you’re only competing with 1% of the new content. (I’m making the numbers up obviously, but you get the picture).

And of course the Internet is simultaneously the best thing and worst thing to ever happen to someone who traffics in attention. Lots of new ways for you to engage people. Lots of new ways for them to tune you out.

So it’s kind of sobering to read these statistics… (The audience for online video reached new heights last month, as over 158 million Americans streamed a total of 21.4 billion videos in July according to comScore — both new records for the medium)

I remember ad agencies being vilified in the early years of this decade for trying too hard to use old tricks (video) in the new and interactive medium of the internet. Well, guess what. Turns out video is still the most compelling and fastest way to tell a story. you just have to compete with 21.4 billion other videos.

time to get yourself one of them sneezin’ pandas!

The night i inadvertently caused an Irish gypsy riot

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Irish gypsies are a mystery. Literally. Nobody’s quite sure where or when they came from. Some think they started roaming during the Famine days of the 1840s. I disagree with that. Others say they got their start during the wars of the 1600s. i disagree with that too.

Irish gypsies aren’t related the European gypsies (The Roma). Although they do tend to have darker black hair and kind of look a bit different. I can spot an irish gypsy a mile off. They even have their own language. or is it a dialect? either way they can be very hard to understand. i grew up in the part of Ireland with the biggest concentration of gypsies. i had childhood friends who were gypsies. one of my fondest early memories is being in a gypsy cart driven by a macho teenage irish gypsy who courageously stood up as he raced his shallow two-wheeled cart around my neighborhood.

BTW, Brad Pitt did an awesome job of impersonating an irish gypsy in the movie SNATCH. i was blown away by his dead-on accent. I know the accent well but would never attempt doing it. it’s too hard. and brad pitt, a southern boy from Columbia Missouri, nailed it.

So anyway. I was seventeen and working in a bar in Galway. And one day at lunchtime two gypsies came in. I gave them two pints of guinness. and then two more. and two more. the owner of the bar spotted them and was angry with me for serving them. he went over and explained that it was bar policy not to serve gypsies. blatant discrimination, in other words. but they were used to this. they did seem a bit surprised I served them. but i was kind of outraged at this policy. but i also knew the gypsies didn’t exactly help their image by getting pissed drunk daily in the town square. and fighting each other.

but i knew a few and so was sympathetic. but this bias against serving them in pubs was pretty widespread. so it wasn’t really a problem. they all drank together.

two years later i was working at the same bar in the afternoon in the midweek. my gypsy friend Sean Ward, who i had attended high school with, came in for a pint with his brother Eamon. it was about four in the afternoon. Sean was really a good boxer. his family had given up the road and so lived in permanent housing. Like in the movie Snatch, boxing is big in the gypsy community. But Sean boxed with gloves and in a ring and that. totally legit!

There was no way in hell i was telling Sean and Eamon they couldn’t have a pint because they were “travellers” as we daintily put it. i actually gave them a free pint each before my shift ended at six pm. my relief bartender was a very happy go lucky Gaelic speaker also named Sean. I bid all the Seans good night. As i left the bar i noticed that Sean and Eamonn’s cousins had joined them at the bar. This troubled me for some reason.

At this point, I should point out that the bar i worked in was very 1980s-modern lounge bar. lots of comfortable banquette style couches and carpet on the floor. and mirrors on all the walls. mirrors everywhere! this was no quaint irish pub. it was a booze dispensing machine.

Well when i came in the next day all the mirrors were broken. Apparently a long-simmering feud within the Ward clan had come to a head a couple of hours after I left the bar. with more and more members of the clan meeting at the bar. and we had these very durable, very heavy glass ash trays which had been deployed as missiles in the fracas that ensued. hence all the broken mirrors.

My boss was furious. what idiot had served these gypsies??? i just shook my head and tsk-tsked. who indeed!

We are number seven on Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart!

at least we are as of now. that’s cool. does this mean we’re a “digital” agency? Maybe we are!

Coming soon: purely theoretical beer!

I snapped these this morning. I remember when A-B introduced Michelob Ultra Light a few years back. it was the first ultra-light beer. they wisely chose Michelob instead of Bud to do this line extension. We at the agency used to refer to it as “wet air”. it was spectacularly lacking in substance. I wasn’t a fan of the taste. but it was surprisingly successful. especially among the over 40 crowd. it started a trend. or rather continued an existing trend.

the trend among american beer drinkers has been towards ever lighter beers (lagers) since the early 1980s. the revival of craft brewing here being perhaps a reaction to this. Samuel Adams certainly made hay by being the anti-big brewery. I won’t even go into their, ahem, questionable brewing practices. That train has sailed baby!

now i know there are those out there (European visitors especially!) who make fun of American beer. And some of that is justified. But tastes are what they are. You can’t fight that.

Although, at a certain point, it’s no longer beer anymore. it’s beer flavored water. And you certainly could argue that we may have reached that point. Like now!

(we’re the least beer you can drink!)
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(no, we are!)
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Uncle Seth is right.

Huge fan of The Seth Godin. Read his blog daily. He’s an idea machine. I also love thinking about media and society. and the interplay between the two. he likes thinking about that too.

As he points out in this post, ye olde post-TV cognitive surplus is a bear that has been roused from its slumber. it’s a powerful beast whose behavior is still developing. and one that hasn’t been kind to the post-war forged-by-TV-ads brands whose enjoyed a very symbiotic relationship with the TV and Cable Networks. The Green Giant ain’t so jolly about the internet.

TV really was like a mild sedative on the masses. The hippies were right in that respect! But it wasn’t a grand conspiracy. it was just a unique opportunity to create the biggest audience ever. And profit from the creation of it. TV was where it was at for a very long time. and old habits die hard.

the internet is a very different kettle of fish. it is resoundingly not dependent on advertising for its existence. and in fact it is kind of allergic to advertising. advertising doesn’t really belong there. we have to force our way in.

most brands aren’t cool. they’re functional. nobody cares about them. nobody talks about them. and quite often they come from cultures who may be stuck in the past organizationally too. in a sense the whole operation is predicated upon carpet-bombing their brand into the public consciousness via TV ads. these are the ones that are most adversely affected by the diversion of consumers’ attention away from the TV screen. they’re in a bit of a bind. their cultures quite often militate against doing the right thing in the current media landscape. they are bound by what worked in the very different recent past. but that’s OK! everyone over the age of 15 is in transition mode to some extent. the rate of change has been crazy. let’s not forget that.

Like we have pointed out, the internet is great for selling Irish bagpipes. Seth similarly uses the example of the Best Made Axe company. ultra-niche brands who can now talk to the whole world. they win online. meanwhile nobody cares a fig about the poor not so Jolly Green Giant online. he was a TV creation.

i have worked in the media/ad biz for 20 years now. and i’ve been lucky enough to have been in the eye of the storm for a lot of those years. i worked on big brands with big media budgets. and i got the opportunity to innovate. and i like to think that i took chances whenever i could.

and here’s what it all feels like to me. it feels like i was floating down the mississippi for years and suddenly the river started to get narrower and narrower. and narrower. how many people will read this? maybe 300 in one day. that’s about 80 million less than watches the superbowl. advertising is only as good as the audience that sees it.

I have no media bias except this one. The bigger the audience the better i like it. This post was brought to you by OfficeMax who urge you to check out their great back-to-school deals and unequalled product selection. Thank you!

Confusing Newcastle Brown Ale ad of the day

I saw another one today.

so as far as i can gather, the ad campaign for Newcastle Brown Ale in the USA – biggest beer market in the world btw – consists of an enormous pint of beer “standing” in front of a white brick wall (or the bricks are really tiny and the pint is normal size. whatever) and adding robotic sounding almost communistic propoganda slogans. this couldn’t possibly be any more devoid of humanity. very strange.

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Confusing beer ad of the day. Numero Tre

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It would appear Chicago is beset by an attack of enigmatic and baffling and let’s face it, boring beer ads. Perhaps it’s a stealth move by the spirits industry to create a state of stultification among beer drinkers and curb demand for beer. who knows.

today’s entrant is for Peroni, a very pleasant light lager from Italy that is gaining traction over here. In Chicago at least. It appears to be riding Stella Artois’ coat tails to an extent. the future looks bright for this beer IMHO. so what the hell is going on in this ad? a wee ribbon on the label is spun out so it collides/melds with a dominatrix-looking stiletto heeled boot. i have seen other iterations of this campaign. where the wee ribbon attaches itself to vaguely italian things. on the upside it’s more graphic than the previous perplexers. but it’s very far from exciting the viewer into a froth of thirst.

as i’ve previously posted, selling beer is about creating the right vibe. and furthermore with booze, it’s all in your head! so how about creating advertising that has a chance of getting into beer drinker’s heads?