Monthly Archives: July 2008

The reviews are in!

We posted our latest OfficeMax work to youtube last week and already we’ve gotten quite a reaction from both the media and the public. 800,000 hits on youtube thus far (We did a one-day youtube roadblock yesterday and are doing another tomorrow). And we got also got a bunch of positive reviews. Some were solicited by us and/or OfficeMax. Happily, most weren’t.

Lewis Lazare, ad columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, laughed hard at our efforts. In a good way!

The notoriously snarky and hard-to-please guys at were effusive in their praise.

And the cool and funky cats at Contagious magazine wrote a piece on the campaign. I believe they’re putting our work on their next dvd. (Memo to self: subscribe to Contagious).

But, for me anyway, one of the coolest reactions has been from the commenters on youtube. youtube can be a double-edged sword. it’s a big audience but it’s a very tough and vocal crowd. and not one that’s not typically hospitable towards advertising. And our stuff is very obviously advertising. There’s no mystery. No complex experiential game involving plastic gnomes with GPS in their hats. It’s retail advertising.

amazingly, there have been several instances of youtubers attacking negative comments about our ads. It usually goes something like this:

COMMENTER 1: WAKE UP PEOPLE. These are not pranks, these are COMMERCIALS. Lame, lame, lame commercials.

COMMENTER2: stfu bitch you say that in everyoone of these vids, noone cares just stfu and go get laid for the first time


Those are actual comments btw. It’s almost touching in its own uniquely youtubian way.


A couple of weeks ago we tersely posted that we’d been on a very “very intense” shoot. And that we’d show the resulting filmic promotions as soon as we could. Well, we’re finally done. And we are very proud of how they turned out. You can see them all here.

Background: to promote client OfficeMax’ back-to-school penny deals, we (ie, actor and comedian Matt McCarthy) went around New York City trying to buy things with pennies, secretly filming the (mostly hostile) reactions of the unfortunate merchants. We tried to buy everything from a can of soup to a $4000 engagement ring to a used car in Queens.

This is the third year in succession that we have shot a hidden-camera campaign for OfficeMax’ back to school effort. Previously we produced TV shows that aired on ABC Family and the CW network. Both times we shot with Oscar-nominated Smuggler Films director Henry-Alex Rubin. This year we worked with Henry-Alex again. Shooting hidden-camera is nerve-racking to say the least. You have no idea what footage you’re going to end up with and have very little control over the situation. So it’s a big gamble every time. But it’s also a lot of fun. Shooting regular “contrived” commercials can only be a bit boring by comparison.

I’m glad we shot in New York, the uniquely New York characters we filmed really added flavor. It was like shooting characters from Seinfeld. They did not disappoint. Kudos to Matt and Christina at The Whitehouse/Chicago for doing a brilliant job of editing.


Seth Godin, please stop ripping off our blog!

It’s exciting really. (And no, we don’t really think The Great Domed One reads this blog, much less rips it off. we’re not that delusional) But, in his latest post on his blog, Seth (as we’d like to call him) makes the point that nobody owns the internet and that it doesn’t depend on advertising for its existence. So consequently, marketers can’t just bend it to their will. A point we made on this very blog just months ago. It was one of our first posts.

Good to know we’re not alone in our thinking. Great minds think alike etc.

You know what this means, don’t you? It means our blog is just as good as Seth’s, if not better, and that his readership should all just migrate here en masse.

The King and We

A couple of us here at The Escape Pod worked on the Budweiser and Bud Light advertising accounts for years. Very happy and productive years. Anheuser-Busch were a great client who really understood their industry. And our industry. They “get it” as we adfolks say. And they really get the best out of everyone who works with them.

So forgive us if we’re a little sad to see control of the company ceded to outsiders.

An unforeseen side effect of Anheuser-Busch consistently buying great advertising for their brands was that it led to a perception among some that A-B were really just great marketers and not great brewers. And nothing could be further from the truth. The Busch family are unbelievably passionate about their beers. And the A-B culture is a very strong one. They’re beer guys. They’re A-B guys (and gals). And that really means something.

So this must be an emotional time in St. Louis.

I hope InBev realizes the value of what they just bought. And that A-B are a killer organization. It aint broke is all we’re sayin’.

We’d love nothing better than for InBev to be the best thing that ever happened to Bud.

Recession. It’s here and we know it.

i was at a an event recently and there was a Chrysler display that guaranteed buyers of new cars gas for just $2.99 a gallon for two years. How desperate is that?

Will it work? Hell yeah!

America is in official economic recession penny-counting mode. I’m guessing a lot of the high-falutin’ talk about “markets as conversations” and “swarm theory” etc will go right out the window now that hard times is loomin’ on the horizon.

The hard sell is back!

What is a viral video?

[the following was distributed to the ad students of our previously mentioned viral video class]

As the name suggests, a viral video is one that is impossible to resist for some reason: it’s breathtakingly funny, weird, amazing, sad, joyous. It’s a virus. It infects your mind. And if it’s impossible for you not to like a particular video (for whatever reason) it makes it more likely that those in your inner circle of friends will have similar feelings about it. So you’ll share it with those friends you know will also get a kick out of it. If there’s any doubt, the video doesn’t get passed along. It’s that simple. Nobody wants to look bad in the eyes of their friends. And everyone wants to be the friend who’s first to send the cool video.

The thing about viral videos is that you don’t just like them, you LOVE them. They arouse stronger-than-average feelings and they have an executional X factor that distinguishes them from the herd. If they’re funny, they have to be funny in an adventurous way that seems different from all the other allegedly funny videos out there. They have to be worth talking about. And they have to be endlessly watchable for some reason. There has to be something compelling about them.

Great advertising tries to be honest and truthful and human. Great advertising tries to be “sensible”. To get the viewer nodding in agreement and maybe chuckle or other emotional reaction.

Successful virals go right for the jugular. They may contain a truth about the product they’re associated with. Or not. They don’t necessarily have to make “sense” in the traditional advertising meaning of the word.

Traditional advertising has always been a parasite on something more interesting than itself, a newspaper, TV show, magazine etc. Consequently, advertisers (and agencies) knew in their hearts that they didn’t really have to be interesting. Someone else had done the heavy lifting of creating the audience for them. They just had to make a token effort at being interesting. And so they did just that. They were somewhat interesting.

Virals have to earn their own audience. Virals are programming. Not ads. Virals are competing with everything going on in the world and on the internet for your attention. Therefore they have to be brilliant.

That’s all ;-)

Branding tricks not for kids apparently

So last night i’m at the grocery store with my seven year old son. I tell him he can have anything he wants for dessert. He makes a beeline for the ice cream fridges. He wants ice cream sandwiches. He excitedly reaches for the (cheaper) store-brand 12-pack of ice cream sandwiches. Without even thinking i take his perfectly good selection and replace it with a 12-pack of of a well known ice cream/dairy band. He didn’t care. He hasn’t been “tainted” by branding. He’s pure.

The power of branding. (Hey, I never said this would be an inspirational or uplifting tale, did I)