Tag Archives: the escape pod

This blog is moving. This is my last post here. Gonna miss this place! SNIFF!!!

photo-6in line with our seemingly eternal website redesign, this blog’s address has to change.

the new web address is http://theescapepod.com/blog/ See you there.

RSS reader users should use this link to continue their intake of blog magic, or blogic if I may.
And just in case, here it is another way: http://theescapepod.com/blog/feed/

i know it’s a lot to take in all of sudden. have a drink. take it easy.

Same insightful thoughts and immaculate prose, great new location!

Sir Hegarty nails it again

Ever since he’s retired, John Hegarty has really been letting adland have it with both barrels and calling bullshit on an industry that is even more awash with bullshit than it ever has been. And that’s saying something.

Adland’s decade-long desire to appear like it “gets digital” has led to the most spectacular wastes of time and money. Desperate to appear cool and techy, advertising has wallowed in widgets and digital doodads for far too long now.

It’s been mostly a mirage. People care even less about advertising online. It just doesn’t belong there. Simple as that.

When will advertising people wake up and realize that we are in the business of moving people closer to purchasing the brands we advertise? It can’t come too soon. They should listen to Sir Hegarty. Got this from a Canadian marketing mag btw. They promise more Hegaliciousness soon.

What’s wrong with advertising today?

My theory about it is—and this is not just my opinion—there is empirical evidence from the audience we talked to that they feel the quality of what we are producing has declined. You can look back in history and you can see the same thing, when you have a significant piece of technology, a particular development like digital, what happens is there’s a sort of creative deficit as we deal with it. We’ve certainly had that for the last 10 or 12 years. I think we’re sort of getting out of that now.

Because nobody knows quite what to do with it, we become obsessed with the technology, so technologists rule the airwaves. And it isn’t until creative people begin to work it out and say ‘What you actually can do with it is this.’

Look at the Lumière brothers who invented cinema but didn’t know they had invented cinema; they invented a moving camera. It took another 15 or 20 years before somebody worked out you could write stories and film them. They, in fact, gave up on it. And Les Paul, the creator of the electric guitar, he didn’t make rock and roll. He was a technologist.

So the deficit in quality isn’t about a lack of talent?
Nobody is to blame; it’s just a reality, it’s what happens. I think we lose confidence in things, we lose confidence in other media because all of a sudden people go, ‘Well, television is dead and it’s all over’ and ‘Print is dead and posters don’t matter anymore’ and all that sort of rubbish. And the focus, the concentration goes into this new medium until we work out what it’s delivering.

Has the industry started to eliminate this deficit?
I do think there’s the beginning of the reality [where we are recognizing] what digital technology can and can’t deliver. But people rush into these technologies without really understanding what they’re delivering, how they’re delivering, because they think it’s the new cool thing to do and if you’re not doing it, you’re kind of dead and old fashioned. Rather than saying, ‘What is it delivering? Can we measure what it delivers? Do we have any understanding of what it delivers? Do we understand how it’s going to work for us?’ none of that comes into force. So you have this focus away from things that we know have value, to things that we don’t know how to value.

And one of the other problems I have today is people have retreated to the edges of advertising. You know, they’re happy to do some small little campaign somewhere or they’re doing something on the net that hardly anybody sees and they’re getting awards for it and everybody’s cheering. But they’re not changing the way people feel or think.


I started my career in advertising on the media side of things. I sold airtime on ITV (Independent Television) network in the UK . The commercial counterpoint to the BBC TV network.

And it gave me valuable insight into how the advertising business actually works in real life. If nobody sees your content it may as well not exist. Hollywood knows this all too well.

I quickly realized that two things seemed to matter in media placement: money and money.

If you had tons of cash you could literally buy the attention of the nation like magic. And to a large degree you still can.

What made TV such a great advertising medium is that people were sitting comfortably and looking to be entertained in the broadest sense. They are looking for escape and their minds have been slightly switched off. They are open to suggestion. Their guard is down.

And the best TV advertising went with this flow. The worst was a jarring reminder that what you were watching was ad supported. This hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest flaws with advertising on the internet is that advertising just doesn’t belong there.

The internet isn’t a media property owned by Rupert Murdoch. It’s not an advertising medium. It does not enjoy a symbiotic relationship with brands in the same way that other media did.

That was the genius of Google. They basically co-opted the whole of the internet and leaned into what the internet does best: wish fulfillment. Not demand creation.

Demand creation can only be achieved through what amounts to seduction and your brand acting like it’s a real person establishing a relationship. Let’s face it, most people don’t actually NEED most brands. Most brands aren’t the object of anyone’s desire and have to fight to get actively considered by purchasers.

The Internet didn’t change this reality. And the fact that it doesn’t lend itself to demand creation isn’t a flaw with the Internet itself. It’s the flaw of marketers who choose to squint at the Internet and only see the eyeballs of an audience to be exploited.

It’s telling that online media vendors frequently talked in terms of “eyeballs” they could deliver.

Yes, that’s what you offer. We also need hearts and minds unfortunately.

Mobile advertising = annoying people on their phone

Common sense tells us that annoying people with advertising on their phones is a bad idea.

Your mobile phone is a treasured private space.

Remember how despised telemarketers were and are?

They were despised because they were violating personal time and space.

They were uninvited. They were unwanted. They just didn’t belong.

Spam phone calls were the tool of bottom feeders and shady types.

Some tactics are just abhorrent and counter-productive.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Marketers would be well advised to remember this.

UPDATE: tangentially related topic. Big data. The latest tiresome topic of the bullshit/marketing axis of tedium. The legendary John Hegarty weighs in. Great read. Read it here.

Once again, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

What a big idea is. What a big idea does.

I read this online and it annoyed the crap out of me.

I’ve heard this notion promulgated a few times before and it’s always bandied about by the exact same person: a digital advertising exec who has never had a big idea in his/her life. But has nonetheless decided that big ideas are a bad thing (never met a marketing person who shares this opinion btw) and that instead “something digital” is clearly the way forward at all times. Oh and TV is old. And taglines too.

Aside from the fact that this was basically a poorly written press release for R/GA, it displays a singular and embarrassing ignorance of what a big idea is and what it does.

I think the author of this is the new biz guy there, so you have to expect a certain amount of hyperbole, but this guy clearly hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about. But that doesn’t stop him does it? Oh no.

I learned big thinking from a guy who thought very big indeed. And I have been fortunate enough to be involved with and around big advertising ideas.

Big ideas make everybody happy. That’s what they do.

Consumers are happy, clients are happy, agency folks are happy.

Big ideas have energy. They go everywhere. Everybody wants a piece of them.

Big ideas have real value. They are an actual asset.

Big ideas are the result of big thinking. Ambitious thinking. Occasionally big ideas are the product of luck, but usually not.

Big thinking is a pain in the arse. This is why you see so little of it.

It’s not so much that very few people can have big ideas, it’s just that the amount of effort and energy and focus it takes to conceive and execute them (and maintain them) is frankly wearying.

There’s a reason big thinkers tend to be very energetic people.

The Escape Pod conquers new space

The Escape Pod recently moved to the most modern space we could find in Chicago.

Chicago has truly great architecture but really only offers a few types of office space: your classic glass and steel skyscraper, older exposed- brick-and-wooden-beam lofts, and something in the middle of those two.

Unlike most buildings in Chicago this space was built just a few years ago.

And to warm up the place we’re throwing a party on December 6th.

You might recognize the guy narrating our little architectural film/party invite.

But in case you don’t.

New work for client TOYS R US. 2012 Christmas campaign.

The Escape Pod couldn’t be happier to announce the launch of the new 2012 Toys R Us holiday campaign.

This was a lot of fun to do. If you can’t have fun with toys, something is wrong with you.

It’s like being appointed Santa’s agent.

It’s a big responsibility.

Our thinking was this: to a kid (and to a lesser extent parents) the new toys are the biggest news of the year.

So let’s treat it like that. And let’s not expend an ounce of energy reminding people that it’s Christmas, or explaining what Toys R Us does. Everybody already knows all this. And the one thing we can be sure of is the airwaves will be filled with Santas and Reindeer selling everything from cars to soft drinks.

Also, the demand for what we’re selling is pent up. We just need channel it our way.

So let’s get on with the show, was our thinking.

The amazing director Jon Watts once again decided to spend time with us on this one.

This was the third time we have worked with Jon. He is a great problem spotter and a great problem solver. That’s very rare. I strongly suspect that his film career will shortly put him beyond our reach. Use him while you still can!

And a shout out to our compadres at ZOIC studio for helping us mold what was a very intricate mix of animation and performance and graphics and music.

We shot more than 70 spots in English and in Spanish over 5 shoot days.

We got really lucky with the casting, as you have to. And we did.

American readers over the age of 30 will be ultra-familiar with the famous Toys R Us jingle from the 80s. it was a real earworm, insanely hooky and memorable.

Well guess who has never heard of this jingle? This generation’s 10-12 year old kids.

None of the hundreds of kids we auditioned for these spots had heard of it. But all their parents know it by heart.

So we shot this video to rectify this abomination and bring the generations closer together. United by the Toys R Us jingle.

A :60 version of this will run later on TV.

(the suggestion to ask the kids to sing the jingle in casting came from our client btw)

The most dramatic and suspenseful lunchbox opening ever! (new work for client Lunchables)

Some brands are iconic. They own their category. They are it.

Lunchables is one of those rare brands.

It’s the cool lunch to pull out when you’re a kid in the school lunchroom.

It’s full of fun.

Part game, part lunch. What’s not to like?

They should really call them Funchables. Sorry, I’ll leave quietly ;-)

So we thought simply presenting the idea of Lunchables in a really dramatic way would be a good idea.

Kids don’t have a lot going on in their lives when you think about it. So what they get for lunch is a big deal every day at school. It can make or break the day.

The spot is set at that moment of truth when a kid finds out exactly his mom put in his lunchbox.

Is it a bomb? Or is it a hit? That moment of truth.

How can an advertising agency be considered “strategically strong” if its creative output sucks?

I was reading in the trades today about an agency whose creative product is considered weak but its strategic thinking is by, way of contrast, considered “strong”.

That’s a bit like saying that a really ugly fashion model has a great gait.

It doesn’t really matter because all we ever see is her face. That’s what she’s judged on. That’s really all that matters. It’s why ugly models don’t really make it.

It’s a cruel and superficial world. Or it should be!

So it both bothered and perplexed me to see this in print and not questioned.

Like having a sound strategy in a boring idea is a strategically good move.

That somehow, if your strategic thinking is great, viewers will look past your stiff and awkward execution and get high on your agency’s strategic thinking.

I am a huge fan of strategic thinking. I love doing it. It’s my favorite part of my job.

And i can tell you right now I see very little of it of in advertising. It’s always in short supply. What passes for insight in advertising is called the bleeding obvious in real life. And what passes for genius in advertising is considered mere common sense in real life.

But it’s a lot easier and much less effort to sell something that sounds vaguely amusing than something that is an expression of a genuine insight.

You’ll notice that the same agencies that get the execution part (the really tricky part) right that also get the strategic part (the tricky part) right.

The two are indivisible.

New work for Lunchables

(NOTE: best when played full screen and with the speakers turned up)

We recently shot this :90 film epic to promote a Lunchables promotion that we created with client Lunchables.

Hang on, that doesn’t sound nearly impressive enough. Let’s have another go at this.

Just so we’re clear: we (the escape pod) first came up with the idea for the “never be bored again” promotion for Lunchables (let’s call that stage one) with Lunchables (our client). And then we (the escape pod) conceived and executed this epic cinematic film (that will run in cinemas) to promote the promotion (called “never be bored again”) that we (the escape pod) created (let’s call that stage two) with our client (Lunchables).

That’s much easier to remember.

Well, as part of this “never be bored again” promotion, we are giving away the stuff every kid would love to have. such as an amazing customized tree house designed by America’s preeminent tree house designer. And tons of Nerf blasters and a lot of other great stuff. You know, stuff kids really, actually want. Not what we adults want them to want. Or what it’s PC to think that they want.

Hat’s off to Hasbro by the way for being cool enough to partner on this.

And hat’s back on, briefly, and then back off again to commend the Lunchables team at The Escape Pod for pulling all this together. Lots of people needed this one to turn out good. That’s always tricky!

We’re breathlessly excited about this because it was such a dream thing to shoot: pure childish joy.

To achieve this, we retained the services of a director whose work I’d seen and admired years ago. And coincidentally the ad that he’d shot featured a treehouse, as subject matter. I would like to point out that this was NOT the reason we hired him. We’re not that literal! We swear! That would be sad.

His name is Ray Dillman and he’s housed at the venerable MJZ in LA, a great production house that has never let us down.

Ray is a true artist and a gentleman and he was great fun to shoot with. He even got Irish breakfast on the craft services menu on the second day of the shoot. It was really good too. Except for the baked beans. I’m kidding Ray!

Ray, and Eric Treml,his Austrian DP, had a lot of fun shooting this one. It was fun just to watch them have fun shooting it. We just basically were along for a very pleasant ride. Everyone was in complete agreement about everything. Getting hot English tea (with milk and sugar) delivered to camera one was our biggest hiccup of the day.

And we got our compadre from the Budweiser glory days, ace editor Mike Coletta from Redcar Chicago, to cut this one. And he really did a great job. I still find it exciting to watch and I’ve seen it a million times. I think that’s the test of a great edit. Thank you Mike.

The music kicks ass doesn’t it? That was rather deftly handled by Lorne Balfe. You may know his work. Little thing called Pirates of the The Caribbean. Heard of it? That was him and Mr. Eric Zimmer.

Radar Studios in Chicago stepped in at the last minute to do a very tricky job exactly right. Thank you Radar guys for creating the crucial ‘here’s what this is all about’ portion of our epic. It is seamless and epic and completely in tune with the body of our spot. No easy task. You saved our bottoms!

Sound design, which was really tricky on this one (it’s going into cinemas only remember. great sound only please!) was excellently noodled by Drew Weir at Vagabond Audio.

Color, another tricky one, again coz it’s cinema, was handled by Mike Matusek of Nolo Digital Film here in Chicago. Home of the best chicken Tikka Masala in Chicago.

And a shout out to our cast of amazing kids. There are some bona fide stars in this one. And it was a very physically demanding shoot. Lots of running and gunning over two hot summer days in the woods of Ventura county. Thank you Emma Nelson at ocean park casting in LA.

Finally, and most importantly, a big thanks to our wonderful clients the Lunchables brand team. Thank you Boyd Tubbs,Thomas Bick, Reed Damon, Kelly Herbert and Joe Fragnito.

We all had a blast doing this one. You can tell.

Fun is good!