Friday, December 24, 2010

santa brand guidelines

You'll never write brand standards with a straight face again. Read Santa Brand Guidelines here or, visual learners can watch the youtube version below. Gems include:
The first three letters represent South and North. We are headquartered in the North, but our reach is global.
Santa backwards is antas, which is Lithuanian for chimney.
A brand is like a sack on a sleigh of belief.
Crafted by the genies at Quietroom, a company that helps other companies talk as if they are human. Language-lubbers will geek out on their hilarious holiday card.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the digital story of christmas: a social media parable

You know how hard it is to sell social media to brand managers still living in 1.0. How to explain that creative is now as much about context as it is about content? This is the best way I've seen to show non-believers how social media works. It's a miracle what Galileeans managed to pull off 2000 analog years ago, isn't it?

A Christmas gift to us all from Garden Broad

Thursday, December 16, 2010

if there's a google doc in the house

maybe I won't have to learn Keynote after all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

i hope this gets to you

Sorry to have to miss Part Two of Boulder Digital Works conference today. But glad they're streaming it so I (and you) don't have to miss out on the percolations. Yesterday Michael Tabtabai (Saatchi, LA) screened a mesmerizing video I haven't been able to remove from my head. See his presentation including other fun artifacts here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

miracle on 29th street: adland gets digital

It was 8:30 am and I arrived to the Boulder Digital Works conference at the Art Director's Club on W 29th a bit bleary-eyed. But encountering a slide from organizer (uh, experience-architect) Edward Boches woke me right up: Coding is more prized than copywriting. This, in essence, encapsulates how the shift in the advertising business has affected me and legions of fellow creatives. Used to be copywriters and art directors felt our key-tapping, marker-wielding fingers held the power to instigate massive shifts in consumer behavior--but now that power is shared (lion-shared) by those who are conversant in a language that's binary.

Faris Yakob (MDC's eminent Digital Philosopher) opened his talk with a request for show of hands from anyone who knew how to code--few arms went up. Following was a collective groan of frustration from survivors in an industry that for decades was a haven for the liberal-arts-minded. If only, instead of that seminar on Virginia Woolf we'd had the foresight to take a class in the computer lab! No one told us that geeks would inherit the earth, or at least the most profitable part of it. (See entire preso/performance--complete with juggling--here.)

Making Digital Work is a two day conference for agency and client partners looking to learn from some of the smartest minds in the digital business--emphasis on business. You know how digital conferences can be full of hot air, with "ninjas" waxing eloquent on mindsets and theoreticals? This isn't just a think-tank, it's a practical approach to how digital is propelling viable business models. Matt Howell, President of Modernista, described how losing Cadillac sparked an agency reboot which enabled the shop to evolve from making messages to building platforms. Chloe Gottlieb, ECD R/GA shared their formula for success in new(ish) creative collaborations: visual designer + copywriter + interaction designer + creative technologist. Saatchi's Michael Tabtabai showed inspiring examples of "stuff that doesn't suck" and Tim Malbon, Founder of Made By Many, led us in attempt to make stuff ourselves.

However. "We're not in the business of making cool stuff," Faris reminds us. "We're in the business of making money by influencing behavior." Good wake up call for us creatives. A title that applies to anyone working at an agency still in business today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

evolution of Dove's Evolution

One piece I'm glad to see included in The One Show's "10 Best of the Digital Decade" is Dove's Evolution which some mistakenly believe was a TV spot that never aired. Actually, it's claimed to be the first branded viral video, posted on October 6, 2006. Within a month, it got 1.7 million views (big numbers in those days) and brought the highest-ever traffic spike to its website, three times more than Dove's Super Bowl spot and attendant publicity achieved, according to Ad Age. So I guess O+M Toronto is to blame for the ensuing onslaught of irksome client requests for a viral.

Years ago, I wondered if the creative team took inspiration from an old spot for Maybelline, but according to this interesting (if long-winded) discussion with Ogilvy folks about the campaign, it seems the concept evolved from an educational video the agency made in 2004 to expose students to the hype behind fashion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

unique gift idea: a retro trademark

Meister Brau. Handi-Wrap. Shower Mate. These and other gone-but-not-forgotten brand names can be yours if you show up at the Waldorf on Wed, December 8 where 150 classic trademarks are being auctioned off. Full list of brands on the block here include legendary publishing titles like Collier's and Saturday Review. Top bidder gets right to domain name, of course. Perfect for that special someone who has everything.

Monday, November 22, 2010

media went social 47 years ago today

On November 22, 1963 there were no cellphones, no Twitter, no Facebook, yet within hours the whole country knew that the president had been shot. If you're a Boomer, you'll never forget where you were when you heard. I learned it from my arithmetic teacher, a nun. I'd never seen a nun cry before. Schools closed early. Office workers streamed home. The next day was declared a national day of mourning. The country stayed riveted to screens and because there was only three channels, we all took in pretty much the same thing. Almost as shocking as the event itself was the fact that Walter Cronkite broke down while reporting it. (around 5:25 in the tape.) Two days later, we were traumatized en masse again when Lee Harvey Oswald was himself shot dead on live television.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

economy lesson for right-brain creatives

A college kid illustrates power of the demo.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mr. Peanut breaks 94-year silence today

In 1906, 19-year old Italian immigrant Amedo Obici started selling roasted peanuts in sealed packages to the residents of Wilkes-Barre, PA. Ten years later, he staged a contest for a company logo and the $5 prize went to a 14-year old boy who won for his drawing of a Peanut Man. Obici added spats, top hat and monocle in an attempt to expand the market for peanuts by making the snack seem more upscale. (At the time, peanuts were a nosh of the poor; on plantations, they'd been a staple reserved for slaves which is why "peanut gallery" came into the lexicon to refer to the cheapest seats in a theater.)

94 years later, Mr. Peanut acquires a gray flannel suit and a voice. (The voice of Robert Downey, Jr.) He speaks for the first time today in a spot debuting on his Facebook page where you can follow Planters' evolution through the century, including a handsomely illustrated 1920's poster that touts it as "The Nickel Lunch." Creative by Being, NY-- a spin-off from TBWA Worldwide to avoid conflict with another snack foods client, Mars.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

honk if you're human

I've been a huge fan of stop-motion animation ever since Sundays with Davey and Goliath. If you are too, you'll love this in-camera, in-sequence, insanely awesome spot for BBC. Written, ironically, by Three Monkeys. On-set tales of production here.

Client: BBC Worldwide
Agency: Three Drunk Monkeys, Sydney, Australia
Production Company: Grandchildren
(Thanks Dear Personal Grocer for the find)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

you've come a long way, Barbie

I was on the launch team of the first Take Our Daughters to Work Day in 1993, conspiring with Nell Merlino and Ms. Foundation for Women to help girls see themselves (and be seen) in roles they may not have imagined. One role we never imagined back then is sponsorship from the makers of Barbie, who'd just been convinced to stop programming her to say "Math is tough!" You've come a long way, Barbie. From fashion model with "purse and gloves and hats and all the gadgets gals adore" to role-model for 125 careers, a transformation artfully portrayed in latest commercial cleverly aimed at Barbie gatekeepers--Moms. Here's a link. Now if only we could evolve those pinup proportions.
(Found this gem on Metal Potential)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

fake campaign airs real issues

And speaking of fake political ads, AARP goes further by running a faux campaign for a fictional candidate. Why? To refocus voters on actual issues and promote a nifty voter guide on its website which identifies candidate stands on matters important to seniors, allowing voters to print out ballots they can take to the polls.

AARP mocks the ludicrousness of extreme-attack ads with one of their own so real you might not realize at first that Jack Phillips isn't actually running for Congress. Video opens with talking-head slurs that in other election seasons might sound preposterous: "She wants to repeal the Declaration of Independence!" and "Even her own mother won't vote for her!" In present climate, however, claims come off as par for the Congressional course, so it's only when candidate walks off the set, taking banner ad with him (a la Tipp-Ex reveal) that you know for sure the ad is a fake. Of course, nowadays even fake candidates have presence on Facebook and Twitter. No doubt clever campaigners at agency M + R Strategic Services are seeking account verification.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

if only real political ads were this engaging

Nice break from barrage of cookie-cutter political plugs, this Gilbert & Sullivan parody will make you LOL no matter what your affiliation. Created, directed and produced by LA based actor and filmmaker Ron Butler. And speaking of political creative, NYT's ad columnist Stuart Elliot just wondered on twitter if it's true that Rand Paul Senate campaign is using a jingle "Oh, there's something about an Aqua Buddha man."

spoof scoop thanks to Deep Throat DearPersonalGrocer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gatz takes new approach to form as old as the Parthenon

Sometimes it's good to be humbled by the reminder that no matter how creative we are, what we're creating isn't art, even if it's anointed by discerning Google Labs curators. But art can be key to rejiggering our brains when we're striving for creative that hasn't been done before.

Last night, I saw Gatz at the Public Theater, a production by the unassumingly-named Elevator Repair Service company. It's a transforming, truly mind-blowing experience, though its outright description might give you pause. It's a 6 hour stage production in which the only dialogue is the reading word-for-word of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. What makes the play genius is-- it's not a retelling of the classic, it's an enactment of it.

The setting is an office as dated and shabby as Dunder Mifflin. A worker wanders in, sits down at his desk, turns on his vintage hulk of a computer. It won't work. And suddenly, he doesn't know what to do with himself. In the clutter on his desk, he finds an old copy of The Great Gatsby. Out of boredom, he starts to read it aloud. At first, his coworkers hardly notice, then as time and pages go by, they do notice and are transformed by and into the characters, delivering lines while seemingly going about their business. (What business that is, is happily never made clear.)

The experience resonates on many levels--it's the soothing enjoyment of being read to, combined with the drama of talented actors bringing to life text on a stage, combined with entertainment of improv--the props actors use are office objects at hand, which adds to the ingenuity of the production. "Daisy" brushes her hair with a burnisher, Tom's lover's dog is an old ragdoll--no attempt is made to produce objects that align with book references. The setting is a character in itself, a screamingly pre-millennial showcase of artifacts from our recent, yet almost forgotten workplace past: enormous green-screen monitors, calculators, motivational posters including a guide to secretarial posture.

The play's title comes from Gatsby's "real" name which was James Gatz, the reading employee (and we) discover on page six. A ticket buys you about 6 hours of performance, mercifully (for all concerned) interrupted by a dinner break and two short intermissions. (The show is sold out, but there are wait lists.) The entire experience lasts about 8 hours, the most rewarding day you'll ever spend at an office.

It's a great reminder that old media can be new again, even a form that's been around since the Parthenon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

the twepisode: what TV can't show, takes place on twitter

If you're a Mad Men fan, you may have been disappointed to realize we weren't going to see Don take Sally to the Beatles. It was a pretty sure bet that even Matt Weiner couldn't have resurrected Shea Stadium or put the call out for 55,000 extras. So for fun and education, we took it to the twitterverse this weekend. We created a hashtag #mmbeatles to make tweets easy to follow. And linked tweets to vintage photos and footage to provide a visual dimension. We set up an account for Shea (@Shea1965) to be the spokes-stadium. Momentum was added by other tweeters who got into the act, including Mad Men on Twitter new to this season, like, um, Don's liver. It's the first time a historical event was live-tweeted by fictional characters.

Here's a moviola of excerpts, with linked images and video. Check out the full stream while it's still up at #mmbeatles. Thanks to twitter Maddicts who participated, whose improv talent made it happen.

I launched this crazy experiment not only because I'm a Mad Men fan addict, but because I'm fascinated by the current proliferation of new ways and places to extend and dimensionalize story. Perhaps there's potential for television shows to increase viewer involvment by "staging" unfilmed scenes on twitter. Could we have stumbled upon a new form of entertainment? In which what television can't show is played out on twitter? The twepisode. Stay twuned.

Monday, October 4, 2010

the first 20,000 years of advertising

I was sorry to miss Ad Week hoopla in New York but was honored by an invitation to go down to Durham and talk advertising to students at Duke. The class I infiltrated is one of the most popular on campus, taught by Professor George Grody, who teaches kids by treating them like mentees, using skills he developed as a longtime exec at Procter and Gamble. As evidenced by off-the-chart scores in the appalling but indispensable Rate My Professor his approach seems to be working.

The class (with its own foursquare location, of course) was an impressive gathering of savvy, articulate students who made me feel better about our industry's future. Here's a little presentation I gave on advertising, past and present. In researching it, I discovered a fun fact: Shakespeare started out as a copywriter writing jingles for his father's glove shop. In those days, guys sent gloves to ladies they were courting and tucked a personal message inside. John Shakespeare's shop was distinguished by having an in-house writer who would, free of charge, ghost a message. One of them survives: "The gift is small. The will is all. Alexander Aspinall." Copywriters, take heart. That banner copy could be just the beginning.

Friday, October 1, 2010

museum of advertising history

Hey, today is Follow a Library day on twitter (who knew?) The library I'm following is no ordinary library. It's a little-known treasure trove within Duke University's Rare Books Library, home to the largest collection of ad artifacts in the world.

The Center's director Jacqueline Reid kindly led Ad Age podcaster Bob "Beancast" Knorpp and me on a tour this week and we were both amazed by breadth and depth of the collection. (Bob was so impressed, he did an impromptu podcast, available here with a timelier post of his thoughts.)

The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History contains 2 miles of shelving on which are stored reels for nearly 8800 commercials dating back to the 50s, print ads, billboards, radio tapes and even the paper trails leading up to their production: call reports, strategy statements, research, even media plans. Artifacts aren't only saved, they're preserved: indexed and organized so they're easily retrievable, a far better system than keeping agency materials in storage houses. The Center began when JWT donated its archives in 1992. Since then other agencies have followed and the Center still accepts materials from ad agencies seeking the best way to preserve their collections.

We were treated to an incredible array of adifacts redolent of 60s culture and values, including a 1968 billboard "Beautify America, Get a Haircut", a print ad for Topper Toys which promised that your daughter won't turn into a hippie if you'll buy her an Easy Bake Oven and a newspaper article announcing LBJ's decision to employ the "new glamor girl of the ad industry", "pretty" Mary Wells to polish his image.

Equally fascinating were ad-related items like a DeBeers memo dated 1961 titled "Sportswear and Its Effect on the Precious Jewelry Market" in which a researcher deplored the cultural shift to more casual fashions: Women don't wear diamonds with tweeds! Diamond Industry in a Panic!

Focus group materials for Ballantine beer: Among posters portraying a woman wearing a hat, which do you prefer: women wearing large hats, or women wearing small hats?

A 1963 in-house pamphlet from JWT titled, "Advertising, A Career for Women" encouraged women to become copywriters, after putting in time as a secretary, of course. Could Mad Men's representation of Peggy Olson as lone copywriter be skewed? The Center's director thinks so. She claims, "The role of women in advertising agencies historically has been stronger than has been shown in Mad Men." She offers photo proof in this video. See what you think.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

are we getting dumber?

Imagine a brand using a literary critic as spokesperson today in a world where consumers are told to get stupid. This hilarious 1998 Yellow Pages campaign was launched by Richmond-based Martin Agency which opened an office in Denver to work on the newly-won $33 million business. Concept: Yellow Pages as epic work encompassing the culture and begetting inspiration. Campaign was multi-platformance, including not only TV and radio but video with SNL's John Lovitz as "the man who wrote the Yellow Pages." It might have gone viral if youtube had existed in the era of Nintendo. Kinda makes me wish Google hadn't come along. Thanks to Slap!media for the find.

Friday, September 24, 2010

have traditional ad creatives exceeded their sell-by dates?

Ana Andjelic wrote a provocative post this week on a topic that's got Adland's knickers in a twist, a piece so provocative, she's incited no less than seven comments from one irate Mad Man. Her thesis is that traditional advertising creativity is being marginalized.
"The 'kick-ass' creative director and what he/she does is no longer culturally relevant as it used to be. Today's creativity is way more collective, iterative, and yes, humble. To deliver it, creatives got to move away from "I have an idea, and it's brilliant" MO: the artistry today is in creating environments where collective creativity can flourish."
Ana postulates that the trend of traditional ad creatives leaving motherships to start up new enterprises has nothing to do with producing new agency models, everything to do with renegades from BDAs (hi George) setting out to replicate old models that let them continue to do what made them a success in the first place.

I agree with Ana that traditional advertising is itself being marginalized. (Oh, for the days that Harry Crane enjoyed, when all a brand had to do was buy 60 seconds on 3 networks to hit a stationary target of 85% of the country's consumers.)

But the creativity behind traditional advertising? Here to stay, I hope. Because non-linear marketing brains capable of producing great TV and print can be essential contributors to greatness in a multi-platform arena. At least three examples of recent digital goodness--Old Spice, Tipp-Ex and Pepsi Refresh--are products of creatives at traditional ad agencies.

True, breakthrough creative isn't a headline anymore. (Headline: just the sound of the word in your mouth feels ancient, doesn't it?) And creating content for old media and new(ish) media require different ways of thinking. To do a great print ad, you don't have to know how the ad is printed, but you can't do great digital without understanding at least some of the technology behind it. To their credit, plenty of traditional ad types have taken time to explore the space and find that creative (and collaborative) skills they've relied on for years are valuable in coming up with new content, complete with moving parts.

Perhaps some of the problem lies in traditional Adland's limited use of the label "creative". The longheld convention of titling one department "creative", implying that those in other departments aren't, has understandably pissed off "non-creatives" for years. Post-millennial shops like Big Spaceship have done away with the nomenclature entirely, eliminating creative from all titles because "everyone is."

Of course, creative thinking is essential to campaign success no matter which part of a campaign you're contributing to. And as Ana points out, there's artistry in creating environments where collective creativity can flourish. But it's not the same skill as coming up with concepts for brands year after year, noise-making ideas that are on strategy, on deadline and executable within budget. So, Ana, please don't toss out all of us traditional creatives just yet!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

wacky idea in toy marketing: dysfunctional stuffed animals

Speaking of brand fiction via plush toys, a German toy company has created a fictional asylum where animals go to work out their issues. A mentally ill plush patient can be yours for $38, complete with medical history, referral letter and treatment plan. (Healthcare plan not included.) Choose from an entire line of mental ailments. There's Dub the Turtle who's depressed by the fast life. Delusional Dolly, a sheep who cross-dresses in wolf's clothing. Kroko the paranoid crocodile. And more! The company's founder says: "It started as a bit of a joke with my girlfriend, who has lots of soft toys, and then we thought there could be something in the idea. Children and grownups like their vulnerability and find something in them that gives them a great sense of comfort in helping to heal them." Guess it worked for Eeyore. Heard about this from cwazy wabbits at Adfreak.

Monday, September 20, 2010

imagineering brand fiction

A few years ago, with no special promotion, a simple plush bear began selling out at Tokyo DisneySea. Disney saw opportunity to push sales further. They gave the bear a name: Duffy. They gave him a backstory: Minnie sewed the bear for Mickey to keep him company on a trip. They introduced a line of accessories and made him a walk-about mascot and soon Duffy was accounting for 40 percent of the resort's merchandise sales.

"Doing the reverse, where a character comes from a piece of merchandise and then becomes a piece of entertainment, is truly a first for us," said Disney's Manager of (kid you not) Merchandise Synergy.

Now the bear is coming to California. But will a stuffed animal with a Mickey Mouse silhouette birthmark on his back be the hit in the US that it is in Japan?

According to the NYTimes, Duffy's success in in Tokyo is due in large part to fandom among "Japan's office ladies, the unmarried 20 and 30-somethings who helped turn Hello Kitty into a pop culture staple." Disney may find this fandom a phenomenon unique to Japanese culture, as did Re-ment, the miniatures-purveyor that, based on enormous popularity for their merch in Japan, opened up a now-shuttered office in California.

Still, smart move by clever imagineers to move a brand by inventing a story for it. Maybe Sprint should come up with backstory for the Palm Pre.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

RIP Gene Case who started an agency the Mad Men way

Mourning original Mad Man Gene Case, a founder of Jordan McGrath Case & Partners where I did a stint on Bounty paper towels aeons ago. Little known fact (at least to me): The shop was launched originally as Case and Krone. Gene Case's launch partner was art director legend Helmut Krone, who in 1969, was already a name on Madison Avenue, celebrated for Volkswagen's Think Small and other campaigns Don Draper envies.

Case met Krone at Doyle, Dane Bernbach where Case, a copywriter, was assigned to LBJ's campaign against Senator Goldwater. There, Case worked on the famous Daisy commercial , still considered the most effective political spot that ever ran on TV. He left DDB to join Jack Tinker & Partners, a noble experiment in creativity established by Interpublic under Marion Harper--its sole function was creative exploration and development. (Mary Wells was another DDB writer turned Tinkerer.) But Case stayed in touch with Krone and their frequent lunches tipped off rumors they were starting an agency.

When Case teamed up with Krone, he was just 31, one of the youngest founders of a start-up then. Because it was 1969, Ad Age made it a point of record that he was also one with the longest hair. No Don Draperly Brilcreem look for Gene Case. But, a la Mad Men, he and Krone set up shop in a hotel, taking a 7th floor suite at the Plaza. A week later, they brought in Pat McGrath, an account man from Benton & Bowles, who figured out the business end of things: McGrath put up $5,000 and loaned Case an additional $5,000, bringing the start-up capital total to $15,000. (This was when $5000 meant something: the average house cost $4600) The partners agreed to take $2,500 a month each, though no one took anything for the first five months.

After a month, the new agency moved across the street to 4 West 58th St where its modest $2 million of business included Carey Limousine, Cybernetics Inc. and Nestle Decaf coffee. After a lean couple of years, they won Mennen Skin Bracer, an $1.8 million account from J. Walter Thompson and created the series of commercials Case became most famous for: "Thanks. I needed that" a mnemonic that went viral before there was viral: men would be slapped across the face or slap themselves, as demonstrated by a still-slim John Goodman in the best (sorry) copy of this spot from the 70s I could find, posted below.

But the success of Mennen couldn't heal a growing rift between Case and Krone who displayed not only creative differences, but disparities in work habits. According to a 1994 Ad Age interview with McGrath, Krone would arrive mid-morning, have coffee, read the papers, have lunch and by the time "his furnaces were fully stoked, Case, whose day began promptly at 9 a.m, would be getting ready to go home." In 1972, Krone high-tailed it back to Doyle, Dane, Bernbach where he stayed until retiring in 1988.

Case's agency thrived due to packaged goods clients, but his heart was always in politics. He did a print campaign that helped Nelson Rockefeller win a third term as governor. And in 2002, at the age of 65, he founded a shop called The Avenging Angels, an advocacy ad agency to create campaigns for liberal causes.

Like Don Draper, he was always the consummate pitchman. "He was without a doubt the best presenter of advertising who ever lived," McGrath is quoted in today's Times. "Clients were sometimes unhappy because the ads weren't as good as the presentation." Um. Like this one?:

Monday, September 13, 2010

sorry for hiatus. writing for food.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SXSW panel shopping? 13, er, 14 items in my cart

If you're like me, you're inundated with tweets, emails, Facebook messages and spamblasts soliciting your vote on proposed SXSW panels. No wonder. Public "thumbs-up" and comments count for 30 percent of the decision-making process. (Sort of like hinging a college admission on the dubious qualifier of how many letters of recommendation a candidate drums up.) Over 2300 panels were proposed this year. Your two cents counts in deciding which ones are chosen. How to shop through them if you're not a bot? You could start with the ones I'm buying, listed in no particular order:

1. Tweeting On Weekends: Are We Becoming Socially Anti-Social?
As technology allows us to share every moment instantaneously online, are we missing out on what is right in front of us? Posing this question (and presumably answering it) is Ogilvy's Rohit Bhargava, author of the new marketing book, Personality Not Included and writer of Influential Marketing blog.
Recommended For: anyone who's ever been grappled with the question of text-iquette or gotten the stink-eye for tweeting under the table

Vote and/or comment here.
2. Ad Agencies Need a New Mindset to Survive
Will the ad agency survive now that the reins of media have transferred from a few professionals to 2 billion individuals? If so, it will have to revamp its entire way of thinking. How? Find out from Edward Boches, CCO, Mullen who's organizing a panel including Rob Schwartz, CCO, TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, John Winsor, Founder & CEO of Victors & Spoils and Ben Malbon, co-founder of BBH Labs.
Recommended For: marketers, branders, anybody with a job in adland, or looking for one. Great networking possibilities.
Vote and/or comment here.
3. Ladies Claim Digital Strategy is the New Creativity
What makes this panel interesting to me isn't only its topic (what the heck constitutes creativity now?) but the fact that the panelists are all of the female persuasion. Which may be a first at this testosteroned geekfest. Organizer is Ana Andjelic, i [love] marketing blogger and contributor to AdAge. Panelists include former BBH Chairman Cindy Gallop known for her irreverance onstage and off, who I once saw flabbergast into silence a (mostly male) audience by holding up⎯and explaining⎯ a new kind of dildo.
Recommended For: creatives, strategists, planners, social media pundits. With ovaries and without.
Vote and/or comment here.

4. I'm So Productive, I Never Get Anything Done
Hoping that, for my own state of productivity, this one makes it. David Carr, digiculture columnist for New York Times, promises to shed light on a question that hobbles more of us every day: how to get things done when you're busy doing myriad other things. Like, um, writing blog posts. He produced a book. So maybe he knows.
Recommended For: anybody with a to-do list and easy access to interwebs
Vote and/or comment here.
5. Why Doesn't This TV Have a Pause Button?
Kids are growing up in a world where connectivity is as taken for granted as air. How will this affect the future of media? Spatial relationships? Multi-tasking? Panel features experts on this topic⎯kids. Moderated by Alan Wolk of KickApps, writer of acclaimed blog ToadStool⎯and dad.
Recommended For: Anyone who plans to be around in the future.
Vote and/or comment here.
6. Genius Steals: Remix Culture IS Culture
According to Faris Yakob, MDC Partners, the only way to achieve new is to remix the old. In fact, he says, recombinant processes are the only source of novelty, from sexual reproduction to idea creation to technology. Faris is a thoughtful and riveting presenter, more fun than you'd think a guy with a doctorate from Oxford would be, and I look forward to the originality with which he's sure to support his assertion that Originality is a Myth.
Recommended For: writers, strategists, creatives, thinkers, content creators
Vote and/or comment here.
7. Community Thunderdome--Branded vs Unbranded, You Decide
This panel was given last year and I was going to blow it off. It was on the last day I was there, it was early and I was exhausted. But it turned out to be one of the best I attended. Ostensibly, its subject is serious: how can brands harness crowds and collaborate with communities to find meaning within culture and market products? But more compellingly⎯it's a lot of fun. Sitting back and watching fantastic collection of entertainments compiled by Bud Caddell (creator of Bucket Brigade publishing project) and Mike Arauz (Undercurrent) provides much needed respite from talking heads.
Recommended For: anyone afloat in the information-overload that is SXSWi
Vote and/or comment here.
8. Keds. The Original Sneaker, Relaunched
What's great about SXSW is how many ideas are discussed, how many assumptions challenged. But sometimes you need a break from the headiness, to sink your teeth into a meaty case study. Darren Paul tells the story of how his interactive shop Night Agency succeeded in making a century-old brand relavent again. The tale isn't just about creativity. It's about strategies for aligning the forces of three brands with seemingly little in common⎯Bloomingdales, Keds and the Whitney Museum.
Recommended For: marketers, branders, advertisers, anybody with something to sell
Vote and/or comment here.
9. Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the 3six5 Project
One of the most innovative crowd-fueled ideas I know: diary of a year as told from 365 points of view. Imagine having to rally, coach, edit and proofread a different writer every day. (Disclosure: I am honored to be one of those writers.) Take a peek into amazing collective consciousness created so far. I look forward to hearing behind-the-scenes stories and learning from the3six5 creators Len Kendall and Daniel Honigman as they talk about mistakes and revelations.
Recommended For: content creators, nonfiction writers, publishers, digital strategists, rabble-rousers
Vote and/or comment here.
10. Futureproof Publishing: Interactivity, Magazines, Journalism and Augmented Reality
Does the internet need to kill journalism and quality publishing or might it be what saves the industry by creating a new kind of interactive magazine? As an industry that survives on marketing dollars, how can interactivity make the publishing industry more attractive to marketers? These and other questions impacting the future of publishing will be explored in a panel moderated by Benjamin Palmer, co-founder of The Barbarian Group which has recently made interesting forays into futureproofing corporate communication.
Recommended For: writers, publishers, journalists, digital strategists, content creators, storymakers
Vote and/or comment here.
11. Interactive Narratives: Creating the Future of Literature
Oh, yea. The emerging field of creating new narratives is a topic in which I am very interested. Razorfish's Andrew Lewellen is putting together a panel of experts to explore how technologies like augmented reality, transmedia storytelling and interactive stories offer new ways for narratives to be created and experienced. What's more, he promises insights into how writers and developers can work together to go so far as to create new forms of literature.
Recommended For: writers, AR creatives, transmedia tellers, content creators, creative technologists, readers of all persuasions
Vote and/or comment here
12. Transmedia Artists Guild: New Media Needs New Representation
And who'll represent the interest of players emerging onto this new field? At SXSW last year, a group of transmedia, ARG and net-native story designers formed a new advocacy organization, representing individual producers and artists working in this still-hazily-defined world: the Transmedia Artists Guild. TAG seeks to fulfill needs that are currently overlooked by established creative guilds and advocacy organizations. What is it and how can it transform your career? Panel organized by Jay Bushman, with whom I shared a fun panel at Digital Hollywood, so I can vouch for his entertainment skills.
Recommended For: writers and creators of fictional worlds that spin off from the page or screen where they first combusted
Vote and/or comment here
13. Saying It Short: Writing Workshop with @BettyDraper
Yup, this is my own session. (If you can't sell yourself, how can you hope to sell anything else?) It's on a topic I hope interests others as much as it does me: how our definition of good writing is evolving in an age ruled by search engines and character counts. I'll take what I've learned winning writing awards in three areas (advertising, social media, litworld), pull out teaching chops (one student went on to become Lady Gaga) and, with the help of like-minded others (you!), put on a show that's interactive, informative, learning-based entertainment.
Recommended For: anyone writing today, which is to say pretty much everyone
Vote and/or comment here.
Let me know if I've missed any unadvertised specials. Shopping ends Friday, 11:59 CDT, geektime. Your two cents matters even if you can't be at the conference. SXSW releases podcasts of presentations, so you don't have to miss them even if you don't make the digipalooza in person.

UPDATE: How, in my original post, did I omit the timely Is Facebook Skynet? which explores the all-too-real possibility that as in Terminator (remember?) the platform is growing progressively smart enough to annhiliate the whole human race. (Already, it's terminated life as we knew it.) Panel led by Ian Schafer, CEO of Mad Men agency Deep Focus, who is touting it with Draperly genius: a trailer.
Recommended For: 500 million Facebook players and marketers who love them

Vote and/or comment here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

does writing still matter?

In this age of character counts and SEO metrics, are keywords now more important than words? Should writers write to captivate people or search engines? But as Copyblogger points out, "It’s people who use search engines--not some other life form." In fact, the latest SEO strategies aren't about keywords, they're about creating content so compelling others want to share it. And it's hard to make content compelling without knowing how to write well.

What's losing relevance is the way you learned how to write in third grade. The grammar that worked for Proust "dznt always matter, unless u r anal," observes Ann Handley of Marketing Profs. (She goes on to make the case for general use of good grammar, however, because "as a business leader, colleague and boss, it’s important for you to communicate clearly.")

Of course, writing for screen has its own rules of grammar which you must abide by or come off sounding stupid or pompous or careless or clueless. Remember Oprah's first tweet in all-caps?

New media is expanding our definition of good writing and putting new value on the mastery of saying it short. Brevity is becoming a key to success not only in the world of commerce. Poems are being created on twitter. Novelists are publishing stories in six words. (Longed for him. Got him. Shit.Margaret Atwood) Literary gatekeepers are finally giving the nod to flash fiction writers like Lydia Davis.

This new emphasis on short-form has implications for writers of all persuasions, in both new and old media. It's a topic that fascinates me, and one I hope to explore in a session I've proposed for the upcoming SXSW conference: Saying It Short: Writing Workshop with @BettyDraper. Check it out here. I'd vastly appreciate your comment and/or thumbs up whether or not you can come to the conference. Tx. I mean Thanks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

home sweet homepage

I'm baaaaaaaack to the blogosphere after weeks of gadding about China, but as you know if you were kind enough to keep up with me in abstentia, I didn't disconnect altogether but remained helplessly tethered to email and twitter and facebook and tumblr.

The New York Times did an article recently about five scientists who took to the wilderness to escape the relentless bombardment of digital stimulation; in other words, to think. “There’s a real mental freedom in knowing no one or nothing can interrupt you,” observed one.

I thought China might provide that same opportunity; I'd heard twitter, blogs, gmail, facebook were firewalled. But vaulting the wall turned out to be as easy as logging into WiTopia. And once over the wall, I found myself powerless to resist partaking in virtual pleasures.

Ironically, the daughter I was travelling with is digital-averse⎯suitably agile on email and facebook, but she dislikes having to use them, preferring to communicate face to face or via printed-on-actual-dimensional paper. Which made for recurrence of an improbable late-night scenario: baby boomer hunched over a desktop, tap-tap-tapping on keyboard while millennial, engrossed in pages of hand-held literary tome, looks up now and then, asking when she'll desist.

Monday, August 2, 2010

welcome to china

Rate your customs inspector at PVG airport: Greatly Satisified? Satisfied? Basically satisfied? or Not Satisfied? Imagine if TSA instituted this.

I'm blogging long distance for a couple of weeks from Shanghai. So posts might be even more sporadic than usual.

Sinophile friends can follow me on my tumblr.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jantzen was right--Don's creative was lame

[OK, I think I've waited long enough to post after Sunday's season premiere of AMC's Mad Men so this won't be a spoiler.]

As you may know, I'm a huge Mad Men fan, but. Am I the only one who found Don's creative pitch to Jantzen as lame as a one-legged reporter? "So well built, we can't show you the second floor" Really? They're turning Don into a Catskills routine? C'mon folks! It's 1964! It's a creative revolution on Madison Ave! Down the street from Time/Life, DDB was winning awards for Alka Seltzer spots with Gene Wilder, running politically incorrect (even then) print ads for Jewish Rye and coming up with auto ads so inspired that an ugly little excuse for a car from enemy territory (consigned by Hitler himself!) started flying out the doors of factories in Germany. In November 1964, a man was elected president due in part to the TV creative of a copywriter (Tony Schwartz) whose spot ran only once, but remains one of the most controversial (and persuasive) political commercials ever made.

Given opportunities for creative cross-pollination with leading madmen of his era, wouldn't a hotshot lauded for talent come up with something more intriguing than a raunchy oneliner? I know show writers meant it to be metaphor for the new agency, but the concept should also have worked as an ad. Marty Puris was willing to do an intersticial for BMW; why didn't they ask him to help brainstorm on Jantzen. He could have told them that no shop in the history of start-ups has pitched a new prospect with a single, one-page print ad. Then again, given that the mustachioed gun-toter pictured right was the actual print ad Jantzen was running in 1963, perhaps writers can't be blamed for assuming anything they came up with would be an improvement.

can writers save publishing?

One of the best panels I attended at SXSW last year was on the future of publishing where I was happy to hear that yes, there is one⎯ if old models give way to new, creative approaches. Recently I've come into contact with three authors taking unconventional approaches to the age-old business of transforming dead trees into handheld content. Interestingly, all concepts involve crowd sourcing, that model antithetical to revered image of lone writer scratching away in a garret.

Crowdsourcing Cover Art. Crowdsourcing content isn't a new concept, actually. The book that's been a bible of sorts for getting into the ad business has been crowdsourced from creatives since the 80s. (Proud to say recent update includes an essay from AdBroad.) The author/curator is Maxine Paetro, who was manager of creative talent at some of the best agencies in New York before she segued into writing bestselling thrillers. But crowdsourcing cover art? For recently edited update now available for pre-order, her publisher offered three design choices , none of which Paetro felt was quite right. So she dreamed up a contest and sent out word to art and design schools, offering a bit of cash and the chance to be published. She received hundreds of Flickr entries from around the world, so many of which were good, she had a hard time deciding which she liked best.

Crowdsourcing an Advance, a Title, an Editorial Board. Strategy Director Bud Caddell recently launched a project on Kickstarter, to develop and publish a book that is an evaluation of how everything in the attention economy actually works, and how to profit by it. The genius of his idea was this: instead of circulating a proposal among agents, waiting for interest, then waiting for an agent to strongarm a publisher into shelling out an advance, Bud approached book writing as if he were setting up a nonprofit: he sent out word to people passionate about the same subject he was and wrote them a proposal, promising them an opportunity to help make a difference. Within a month, he enlisted not only 103 board members (including, full disclosure, myself) but over $18K which allows him, five weeks from the day he put out the book concept, to be travelling around the country doing interviews for it. Further brilliance of writing a book this way? You've got a built-in community of amenable readers, editors and fact-checkers, which relieves friends and loved ones of these onerous duties.

The Dickensian Approach: Blogging Installments Euro RSCG Chicago Chairman/CCO Steffan Postaer, discouraged by the bleak house that publishing is these days, is releasing his third novel a la Dickens whose books were first published serially in magazines. Postaer is blogging a romantic comedy chapter by chapter via blog posts, an approach that gives him the benefit of further dimensionalizing the story world with visuals. He's also staging a contest for cover art. Ironically, the winner will receive what many in publishing are fiercely resisting: an ipad.

Hopefully, many more writers are transforming old world publishing models out there. Aren't they?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

you knew it was coming⎯product placement in Farmville

Next week, for the first time, you can plant a real crop on your pretend farm. According to the NYTimes, Cascadian Farm, a subsidiary of General Mills, is offering Farmville players a branded blueberry crop that can be "harvested faster" and "bring a bigger cash return." Marketers are hoping to incent real-world buying of Cascadian Farm's 75 organic products by seeding awareness of the brand in FarmVille’s audience: of 20 million who farm daily, 60% are female, 20-40 yrs. old.

It's the company's first venture into social media. More evidence of ad dollars trending social: before this campaign, the company relied mainly on promoting via print ads in lifestyle magazines like Real Simple and sampling at community events like 5K races.

Cascadian isn't the first General Mills brand to partner with Zynga, growers of Farmvillle. In May, Green Giant Fresh subsidiary placed a coded sticker on broccoli, celery and other fresh (really?) products sold at 4,000 Target stores across the country. Each sticker was redeemable at for five free “farm cash” units, the currency players use for FarmVille projects. In five weeks, $100,000 worth of the units were redeemed online by customers, who cashed in an average of two coupons each.

The Cascadian Farm promo is scheduled to run for only a week. Future direction will be determined after assessing FarmVille results, which will be measured by not only Web activity like hits to its blog but by call-ins to a real-world 800 number.

My guess is, faux farmers will soon be greening their acres with Deere tractors, Sears harvesters and Monsanto weed wranglers as Farmville enters its Second Life.

adland redeems itself with campaign you wish your campaign could smell like

For readers who aren't twitterholics like me, you may have missed the latest extension of the brilliant Old Spice campaign. I'm not talking about Man on Horse now swandiving off a waterfall, but about his masterful rocking of the social mediasphere. Sure, lots of brands use social media to engage with consumers, but Old Spice made major waves this week by delivering personalized messages to individual fans via youtube.

In a move that seems destined to reshape the way brands interact with consumers, W + K creatives (CD Jason Bagley, digital strategist Josh Millrod, interactive producer Ann-Marie Harbour) holed up in a studio with spokehunk Isaiah Mustafa, writing, recording, editing and producing video responses to tweets and comments in quick succession, posting almost 200 "commercials" in the course of 2 days. What makes the work genius isn't only the concept but executions: spot-on writing and Mustafah's flawless deliveries ensure the spots are entertainment even if they're not directed at you.

Some of the first videos were addressed to Twitter magillas including Ashton Kutcher, Biz Stone, Ellen Degeneres and George Stephaopolous-- Mustafah answers his question about how Obama can attract women voters.

But plenty of responses went out to non-celebs; one of the most memorable was to a tweeter who asked Mustafah to propose to his girlfriend.

Apparently, it worked. @JSBeal's twitter profile is now "Happily Engaged." Then, the campaign extended even to voicemail.

As of this writing, creative content on the Old Spice channel has elicited over 61 million uploads and almost 16,000 comments. (Recent response videos viewed over 11 million times, stats graphed by interested party here.) Will sm success translate into Old Spice sales? Yet to see. Just because it's digital doesn't mean it's direct response. As with any branding campaign, time is required to assess true impact. But I trust an effort that breaks through doldrums of summer to jazz so many consumers and press. (Although I agree with writer for UK Telegraph--sales numbers might be better if scent was a bit less, um, potent than its marketing.)

What most impresses me are two things:

1. Viral campaign wasn't "crowdsourced", but curated and crafted by those who knew not only how to elicit feedback from irascible internet audience, but how to ensure feedback was mostly positive (and civil)---not always the case when brands venture into social media. (Hi, Nestle!)

2. The campaign that is being hailed as groundbreaking use of digital was created by a traditional ad agency. Ironically, launch coincides with the revival of MadMen. Who says all Adland is Lost in last century?

Thanks, W+K for giving pundits on social media circuits something to deconstruct besides Subservient Chicken.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

greetings from writers camp

Posting this from New York State Summer Writers Institute in Saratoga where I come every summer to work on my writing that isn't for sale. (Or more accurately, my writing for which buyers aren't clamoring.) It's a gathering of writers from all over the world, started in the 80s by William Kennedy (Ironweed) and now run by editors of legendary litmag Salmagundi. Every day there are classes and seminars with writers I admire. Every night, writers take turns sharing their work, much of which is new and not yet in publication. A few years ago, I had the breathtaking experience of hearing Marilynne Robinson read the opening chapter of her then forthcoming novel, Gilead. (Readings are open to all, check out impressive lineup if you're in the area.)

Last night was a double-header by Allan Gurganus (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All) and by one of my favorite poets: Franz Wright. Here is Franz (left) (ha) at the after-party, with another of my favorite poets: Frank Bidart. If you don't know their work, treat yourself to the pleasure. Even people who aren't poetry fans are taken in by Bidart's "Old Man at the Wheel". (If you like it, you'll love the rest of the book.) Wright has garnished many distinctions, including the distinction of publishing the first dot com poem, at the turn of the century when most people thinking about dot coms weren't poets.

Address Search

And you will find me
any night
now, try
at the motherless sky.

How dare you

I'm sorry
I was ever

No doubt
you can always find
me any
time, any

in the damned world

--Franz Wright
The New Yorker, June 5, 2000

Sunday, July 4, 2010

happy fourth

Sunday, June 20, 2010

father's day

It may be a Hallmark creation, but it's also an opportunity and reminder to say thanks to a man who did so much for your thankless, earlier self. So, thanks to my dad who, when he wasn't building computers the size of a house, took time to teach us fun things like Morse Code and imbue countless skills that have proved mighty useful later in life. Here he is talking man-to-man with my brother (now a father of four) who is nattily attired for church in his Eton suit. Whatever happened to shoe stirrups that keep kids' pant legs from riding up? Oh, those sixties. What a dapper decade to be a dad in.