Monthly Archives: November 2009

The crazy world of stop-motion animation.

I just went to see THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, Wes Anderson’s excellent foray into the excruciating world of stop motion animation. Stop motion is where they make models of each character and painstakingly move them fractionally, shooting every single micro-action. As you can imagine, it takes bloody ages! No, even longer than that.

Stop motion animation is its own world. It is very nerdy and geeky. No human actors to contend with. It’s like playing with toys for a living.

This was my only venture into this arena. It was a holiday ad for OfficeMax from a few years back. We had a campaign featuring a charismatic African-American actor (later a star of My Name is Earl) who didn’t really say much in the ads. Actually he never said anything. So when it came time to do a holiday ad i suggested mimicking the classic Rankin Bass Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer style animation. We got BENT animation in Portland OR to go wild on the idea. and they did. I was impressed. If not exactly too involved in the actual process. they clearly had a lot of fun doing it.



Here at The Escape Pod we are very superficial. Because appearance really can be everything. Everyone judges books by their covers. How the hell else are they supposed to judge them? A great cover means your book stands a better chance of being picked up and perused in a crowded bookstore. And so stands a better chance of being purchased. So arguably the packaging – the book design, typeface etc—is more important than the substance: the ideas and writing in the book itself. You only find out later how good or bad the book really is. But only if you buy it first.

In a crowded supermarket the pickle jar with the nicer packaging will probably win out over the dull looking one. The orange juice that shows you the actual juice will win over the greasy cardboard box with a lame picture of an orange on it. You’re buying orange JUICE after all.

Years ago I worked on a mattress brand’s account. The campaign our agency was running was based on the premise that “nobody buys a mattress, they buy a good night’s sleep”. And the ads were all about dreams and such like. It was a classic advertising strategy. Looking at things a bit differently. You know, that “you don’t buy a drill bit you buy a hole” school of lateral ad thinking. It was also completely and 100% wrong. As I dug into the world of mattress sales one of the marketing department impressed on me the fact that in mattress sales 90% of the selling was done in the last “ten yards”. In other words it all happened in the store. but our campaign conveniently ignored this. mostly so we could do cool TV ads.

Another problem with mattresses is that the logo is always obscured by sheets. So you develop zero attachment to the brand. What brand of mattress do you sleep on every night? What brand of mattress do you spend a third of life snoring away on? Bet you don’t even know. Poor mattress!

You see, on average, people buy a new mattress every seven years. And then only because your old mattress has become noticeably uncomfortable. So off they trot to the local mattress emporium where there is ALWAYS a sale on. Mattresses and pianos are always on sale. Because they are purchased so infrequently. And everyone likes a deal.

And so they look at and touch all the mattresses (like they know what they’re doing!). And then, in a frantic effort to make a decision, they lie on a mattress. And it feels good! It feels real good!

Of course it feels good, compared to their crappy mattress at home, anything feels good. And then they lie on a competing mattress. And that one feels good too! And another. They all feel good! Problem: which mattress to choose? They all feel great! Answer: the one with the best point of purchase display. the one with the best packaging.

There was a competing mattress brand to ours that ran a very hard sell ad that showed bowling pins on a mattress. A bowling ball was dropped onto the mattress and not a single pin even stirred. It worked in a very visceral way. It was a single visceral image that stuck in your head. Whether or not it was good thing that none of the pins fell was immaterial. it looked good. It was an image that helped make up your mind BEFORE you went to the confusion of Mattress buying land. It was much better than our more esoteric strategy. Because it was rooted in the reality of the purchase decision. And when you went to the store there was a picture of the bowling ball bouncing on the mattress next to their display. The loop was closed. The advertising and packaging was a true competitive advantage. Ours wasn’t. Bastards!

The most insanely addictive thing I’ve seen in quite some time

its’ a Christian rap video trying to encourage a new behaviour among the youngsters. You see, apparently Jesus doesn’t like “front huggin'”, so they are trying to popularize a less sexual and more Christian “side hug”. File under: Only in America. Wow. Just wow.

What advertising can do

The former account director on Budweiser when i worked on the brand at DDB, Marty Kohr, put this on youtube recently. It’s a highlight reel that demonstrates the impact our work had on the culture. This was the bit that fascinated me most. Winning awards is nice but it’s really just the icing on the cake. it’s not enough.

our campaign was explosively popular. I’d never seen anything like it. it was kind of scary really at times. but just really exhilarating most of the time.

As ADWEEK recently did its crowdsourced best-stuff-of-the-2000s thing, i proffer this as proof that we should win that contest. By virtue of its sheer popularity alone.


Oi! UK advertising, hire David Fitzsimons innit.

Recently I got an email from a talented young art director living in London. His name is David Fitzsimons. He wanted me to look at his work etc. And I did. And he’s really good.

Since graduating from college two years ago he has spent a year working at McLaren in Toronto and the past year doing the strange almost medieval “placement” thing at a variety of London agencies including BMB, M&C Saatchi. So clearly his work has appeal to his target market. He just needs to find the place where his face fits.

David is resourceful and dedicated and clearly can think. What more could you possibly want of an extremely well priced and energetic talent? OK, being hot can help too. winking smiley face.

But seriously, give David’s work a look a butchers and if you know of any jobs going in London (or anywhere really, internets!) send him an email ( Thanks.

You can see the rest of david’s work here.

Best ads of the 2000s

Adweek is hosting a “crowd-sourced” competition to find the best ads etc of the past decade. I’m happy to report that my Budweiser wassup! work is nominated twice (three times if you count Goodby’s shameless bandwagon-jumping parody). So get over there and vote in both “best superbowl ad of the decade” and “best campaign of the decade”. Look sharpish now! click here. thanks.


A couple of years back we were pitching SMART CAR USA. So in order to get familiar with the brand we bought a SMART car. Which i subsequently drove around Chicago. I recently got rid of it in favor of a bitching Scion xB.

The radio in the SMART car was weird. It would only pick up one radio station clearly. 90.1 WMBI, an evangelical Christian radio station based here in Chicago. So consequently i ended up listening to something I would never ordinarily hear. It was fascinating to me to eavesdrop on this culture. Much like my idea of heaven is to overhear strangers’ conversations on trains and planes. The more mundane the better. I just love it.

Here’s what I learned about the evangelical Christians.

They are motivated and organized. They do not believe in separation of church and state. they feel it is their duty to represent and push for Christian teachings in the “public square” as they put it. They really believe the story of Genesis and it bothers them that evolution is taught in schools.

They are hardcore social conservatives. They believe homosexuality is a choice and a sin. They bitterly oppose abortion.

They believe the bible to be literally true. And that it is the word of god. As a Roman catholic i found it fascinating to hear them constantly analyzing the scriptures for meaning and guidance.

They like the idea that Christianity is “under attack” and the culture is hopelessly polluted by sin. What i mean is they, or at least this radio station anyway, would constantly cite random loony court cases and events as incontrovertible evidence that Christianity in the USA is on its last legs and the whole thing is about to go to hell in the proverbial handbasket. And only they can save it! This was a recurring theme.

Which perhaps is a result of their belief that the end is coming just as the book of Revelations predicted. And only those that have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will be assumed unto heaven in “the rapture”.

They are well funded. Evangelicals are generous towards their churches.

Their preachers all have “Dr.” in front of their name. And they sort of play the role of Jesus when preaching. Which I found kind of disturbing. They could be very dogmatic and stern. One of their biggest stars is a Scottish hellfire and brimstone preacher with a booming voice who i found very entertaining and compelling. Evangelical preachers put on quite a show.

All in all i found them to be a well-meaning and sincere bunch. And i’ve noticed that i find myself tuning in occasionally still. Maybe Jesus really does want me for a sunbeam.