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.