Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Escape Pod’s ad for a presidential candidate

Lewis Lazare, the Chicago Sun-Times ad columnist, asked The Escape Pod to participate in an interesting competition. It was this. He asked us, along with several other Chicago ad agencies, to create a print ad for a presidential candidate. The kicker being that we would be randomly assigned the candidate we would promote. We had to agree to take part first. So we agreed. And we were ready to promote either candidate. We’re in advertising. We sell whatever we’re assigned to sell. That’s part of the fun.

We drew Barack Obama.

And we created the above ad. Our rationale was the following: people really vote against something rather than for something. And the Republican administration (both Bush and Mccain are Republicans) has been an undeniable disaster on several fronts. The economy being the most recent disaster. So we figured that’s something we should leverage. Encourage people to vote against a third Republican administration.

Just as we would have leveraged John McCain’s experience, war heroism, and guy-you’d-like-to-have-a-beer-with-ism had we drawn the assignment to sell his candidacy. And we would have railed against Obama’s lack of experience.

The more money a candidate has to buy media space the better. And a lot of Americans could do with a little catharsis after eight years of Bush. So we had the idea to create and sell something fun that reminds voters of the failures of the Republican administration. Kill two birds with one stone as it were. We are actually producing 125 of these plates that people can actually purchase from us. Via this website:

Mr. Lazare’s idea is to put the ads online and have the Chicago ad community vote on which one they think is the most effective.

Now urging you to vote for our entry would be wrong from an ethical perspective.

But we are in Chicago. The city that invented creative voting. So…

The World’s Slowest Viral Idea?

Two years ago several Pod people were involved in creating the TUL pens website. TUL (pronounced “TOOL”) pens were (and are) a cool new line of pens developed by client OfficeMax. They are sleekly designed and have great pen feel, if such a term exists. They feel good. You’ll like em!

Our idea was to do a humorous handwriting analysis. We would use the principles of graphology and give it a humorous twist. We promoted the site by inserting postage free inserts – pictured above -into cool magazines and soliciting actual handwriting samples from the public (they had to write the phrase: I TRULY NEED A NEW PEN) which we would analyze and then email them a customized handwriting analysis. well it looked and felt customized. the whole undertaking was insane! looking back on it. we hired interns to scan the thousands of handwriting sample postcards that readers mailed in to us.

we got really lucky in the guy we cast as our graphologist. Andy Bobrow. He was a writer on Malcolm in The Middle. He created this little gem o’ brilliance. Which is how we found him. He carried the whole thing and helped with the writing of it. We’ve worked with a lot of actors and Andy easily had the most stamina of anyone. He literally went all day.

So, all the stars seemed aligned for a huge viral success. But it didn’t work out that way. Last time I checked we were closing in on a million handwriting analyses. After two years.

Now you can look at that two ways. Failure or Success. And if you were to judge against OfficeMax’s it would clearly lose in terms of the conventional definition of viral success. Last year 123 million people elfed themselves.

But is a bit of an acquired taste. It’s sophisticated humor. It’s dry as a bone. And it takes a few minutes of active interactivity. Elfyourself does too but in that case it’s obvious from the outset what the outcome will be and that it will be funny and you’ll like it. Not so with

Also, is also an immersive brand experience. and a hell of a lot of those that try the site rave about it. we’ve followed its progress, and lack of it, online over the past two years, trying to draw lessons from it. it’s clearly a cult hit.

And we recently noticed an uptick in traffic and blog mentions and stumbleupon positive reviews. Young women seem to like it a lot. And we can see why. Taking tests about yourself was always a classic Cosmo staple.

Try it. Now!!!!

A note from Bill Kurtis

Fellow escapologist Matt recently ordered some steaks from Tall Grass Beef. Tall Grass steaks are harvested from specially bred cattle that are fed only on grass. Free range organic beef in other words. Apparently they are yummy beyond belief.

The requested victuals recently arrived along with a note from the owner of Tall Grass Beef: TV’s Bill Kurtis. That’s right, our fellow Chicagoan with a propensity for reminding viewers that he, and no one else, is Bill Kurtis. A great branding device btw.

It was a personalized handwritten note on a little Thank You card with a pic of BK inside it. Matt thought enough of it to remark upon it and show it to us. So now Bill Kurtis has established a Tall Grass beachhead here in our office. I want some Tall Grass steaks now.

And don’t you worry Bill Kurtis, i’ll be analyzing the handwriting on my thank you note to make sure it matches Matt’s.

Nagi Noda RIP

the late nagi noda

the late nagi noda

]ust found out that the incredibly gifted Japanese director Nagi Noda tragically passed away at the age of 33. We at The Escape Pod came very close to working with her a year ago on a TV commercial that would have been a great use of her talents. She was truly a unique individual with an incredible imagination. It’s sad.

Where is Google headed?

Google just released a new browser. Chrome, it’s called. We’re sure it is an improvement on all previous browsers. That’s kind of what Google does: make things noticeably better than they were before. Chrome attained one per cent of the browser market the first day it was introduced.

And the Android phone, also from Google, is coming. The iPhone will finally have some competition. Trust me on this one.

It’s almost like they have an unassailable competitive edge now. or edges. Their success in search alone is almost monopolistic. So they have the confidence to seemingly take on everyone and everything. and attempt the impossible. and succeed.

Cuil’s feeble challenge search engine seems completely quixotic now, doesn’t it. It was the Sinclair C5* of its day by comparison. Not cool.

*The Sinclair C5 (pictured above) was an electric, um, vehicle. It was the brainchild of Sir Clive Sinclair, an early PC innovator. Its debut in the mid-80s in the UK was much-anticipated and was the subject of lots of hoopla and media scrutiny. Then people finally saw the Sinclair C5. And they just laughed. And laughed. And then laughed some more.