May 25, 2011

Wonderfully bad: Acura LT

Acura currently runs both of these, and as much as they are beautifully shot - filming, sound, edits etc. - they are both terribly bad in their conceptual approach.

What exactly is the analogy here? I have no idea. So let's dissect the message.

"It works with people. It works with cars."

What exactly works with people? They don't tell us.
What exactly works with cars? They don't tell us either.

Instead they show us two athletes, first dressed in their sweaty, dirty sports gear, then being re-dressed in fancy outfits. So what does that mean? What are they trying to convey? What's the message transfer to Acura?

A) If you take a used, dirty Acura, and clean it up, and put fresh paint on it, you can sell it as a new Acura?

B) If you take a used, dirty Acura, and clean it up, and polish it, it looks much nicer?

C) In every Acura, there is exactly the same old stuff under the hood, and the chassis, and they simply throw on a different shell and throw in a few extras, and then sell it as new?

D) Acura doesn't really invent cars, they just dress them differently? So every Acura they sell is really an old Acura dressed in a contemporary outfit?

I don't get this one at all. I don't get the message. I don't get the analogy. I don't get "it", that "works with people and cars".

Having worked years in this industry, I assume this is what happened that makes this such an awful commercial (a beautifully shot, but conceptually awful one):

1) Agencies these days squeeze their creative staff too much. Too many ideas in too little time. Not enough thought is given to analyzing the concept chosen.

2) Internal hierarchies. Whether the seasoned CD liked this idea, and the junior AD just kept his mouth shut, or the junior AD kept pushing, and the seasoned CD didn't care - all possible scenarios how this got out of the creative lounge.

3) A team that has no car experience. Or a creative team that doesn't drive cars. Or a creative team that doesn't get cars.

4) A creative team that would rather do fashion advertising than car advertising.

5) Ideas like these get passed the client, because the ad people explain them five million times, until the main client says: "Ah, I get it." Then everyone else nods, they shake hands, and a gazillion dollars is spent on celebrities, staff, production, and media. Wow!

Problem is: Average Joe Smith out there does have anyone explaining this to him. Neither have all the other million of people in front of their TV's. They might all be shaking their heads.

Or I am overanalyzing. Or I am loosing it... and it's time for me to start scouting retirement homes.


Message -1 / Creative +1 / Context: +1 / Impact: -1 / Intangibles: 0. What a shame. So much money spent on such a poor concept.

May 24, 2011

Preposterous: HTC's 'Every idea we have...'

How ridiculous is this commercial? As we are now in 'Year Three of the iPhone',  HTC seriously wants to tell us that "every idea we have begins with you"? That is absolutely preposterous. It's not a shame to come late to the party, but making such a claim to carve out your point of differentiation? Seriously?

Let's make that: "Every idea we have beings with Apple." Period. That's what I'm getting from all this. Big screen smart phone? Idea taken from Apple. Flip / touch screen? Idea taken from Apple. And the list goes on.

Besides that, there are a few scenarios in this short film - or 'vignettes' they created - that make absolutely no sense. Watch for example:

0:07 (he taps her on the shoulder): "the way you connect..."
// This is how we connect? What? Certainly not. If man approaches woman in such a way, he freaks her out. We pretty much learn that in high-school. This is a little bit too far-fetched.

0:10 (turns a page in a magazine): "how you browse..."
// What? I just tried this 'one finger magic with GQ magazine, and it didn't work. Again, why do they create these ridiculous vignettes?

0:16 (flips down the kick stand): "and how you interact with the world around you..."
// WTF? Someone please tell me what I'm communicating and whom I'm communicating with when flipping down the kick stand. That doesn't make any sense at all.

0:22 (windshield wipers): "down to the last detail..."
// "... you inspire everything". This is so stupid. Great, someone at HTC came up with a gimmick the iPhone didn't have - windshield wipers - but the benefit of having it is about as valuable to the individual user as these silly beerglass / naked girl apps.

I'm not saying this is a bad phone. It might be very good. Perhaps even brilliant. After all, HTC's tag line "quietly brilliant" pretty much implicates as much.

So why don't they take the 'brilliant' part and develop it into an idea? Not by showing the phone's features - Apple's done that already - and everyone else just looks like a copycat. But by creating a series of films about "brilliant" people and the "brilliant" things they do with their HTC instead?


Just because the mobile revolution cannot be stopped, and selling a half-way decent smart phone in times like these is about as difficult as marketing gasoline to Americans.

May 12, 2011

A winner: Budweiser's 'Coming Home'

There is not much else to say about this other than: "Dear Budweiser folks, I wish you would put as much dedication and love into your beer-like substance as your advertising people put into the creative concepts."

This is real. This is happening. All across the country. "Proudly serving those who serve" also is a great way to take a step back, be humble, and put someone else into the spotlight. This is how you build a brand beyond the product. Fantastic!

Real people. Real scenarios. Not too fancy. No models. No super star athletes. These are the people next door. The hero - we all see him every time we board a plane. The brother. The sister (?). The mom. The dad. There is even a tear on the girl's face at 0:51. A wonderful story. Captivating. Moving. Brilliant.


Just extremely well executed on all levels. If only the beer were as good.

May 11, 2011

Too cocky: BlackBerry Playbook

What is it with the consumer electronics makers of the world these days? First Apple started to play an arrogant tune in its "If you don't have an iPhone commercials", now BlackBerry kind of does the same.

"Amateur Hour is over", is what they told us in a ginormous banner ad on the New York Times online on May 6th. Are they serious? First, they are late to the party, as pretty much every other tablet maker putting out its me-too-product these days (Motorola, Dell, Samsung...), and then BBerry pees in the pool and complains that the water is dirty? What?

Because here is basically what they are saying: "Up until now (and by that they refer to Apples iPad, because all other tablet clones out there are late comers as well), everyone was playing in kinder-garden. Nothing serious has happened. Until now of course. Until we - BlackBerry, the makers of the mobile communication device for professionals - came up with our version of the tablet pc. The one for Professionals."

Which is kind of a joke if you look at the name they gave its product. They called it PLAYBOOK. That is f...... hilarous! I don't think they get the irony, the contradiction of their own message. Unless this is the PLAYbook for professional (not amateur) players? Nah... i don't think so.

Anyway, here is what I think they intended to do. They wanted to carry over the credibility they had gained in the professional business area with the BBerry into tablet pc territory. They just ended up choosing the wrong message. Something along the lines of GMC's 'We are professional grade' would have made much more sense. Why?

Apple's iPad was the first to the party, and pretty much owns the category. Their war chest with ad dollars is too much to overcome. You can't outspend them. Their communication is all centered around play, and a little work. They own that territory in the consumer's mind. What's left? The 'Pro' area of course!

"Watch out. The Pro's are coming", or something along those lines would make much more sense, and I haven't even really thought this through yet. Apple = play. BBerry = Pro. Everyone else? Look at their advertising. They are trying to communicate the same advantages as Apple. Doomed to fail if you ask me.

Now BBerry of course would have to rename the product. I doubt they will though.


Great media buy. Wrong message. Wrong product name. Who approved all this?

May 10, 2011

Big time loser: Taco Bell's 'Winner'

I am running out of words these days. If anyone can find a better alternative for "annoying", please email it to me. Because I am pretty damn sure I am not alone on this one... this guy is just so (insert word here) - I want to punch him in the face every time this commercial airs.

Besides the good, the bad and the ugly, there is another criteria category that hasn't been fully explored yet - I'd call it 'Repeat Watch-ability', meaning how does a commercial resonate with the audience after multiple runs?

I bet there are some - like Heineken's The Entrance- that you enjoy watching over and over again, and then there are those that make you jump up from the couch, reach frantically after the remote and switch the channel, because they are so damn (insert word here again), such as the latest McD commercial for example.

This "I got a winner" concept is one of those that you, as an advertiser, can run for about a week, before the newness wears off and the powers of advertising turn over to the dark side, and consequently turn the audience against you. Why?

ONE: You, as the advertiser, are announcing some new version of the ever the same fast food fare, just packaged differently. Taco Bell is Taco Bell. It is what it is. Weather or not it will be a winner the consumer will decide. So don't lean out of the window too far, you might come down hard. And yes, we got the message. A winner. Thank you. Now stop it.

TWO: If this version airs too often, the audience will eventually notice how dumb this concept is. Who on earth serves Taco Bell at their party? Seriously?

THREE: There is something strangely sexual about one girl saying to the other "He thinks he's got a winning taco". Again, this happens only if this airs too often. In any case, I am pretty sure the guy went home alone after the filming was done.

FOUR: Can you imagine a guy like this at your summer party? You would punch him, wouldn't you? You'd think he's on drugs, no? Either way, you'd pretty much hate him, right?

FIVE: It shows that this is one of the mass-market-ad-concepts coming out of a mass-market-ad-manufactury, where quantity is chosen over quality. No one thinks it through very much. It just comes out of the advertising machine one after another. No love involved.

SIX: Look at the expression on the extras' faces in the background (at 0:27 for example) - they all feel strangely uncomfortable in the presence of this guy. The poor guys and girls who had to endure multiple takes of this highly annoying dude - I feel so sorry for them.


A shorter media buy would have gotten a +2 score, but the annoyance factor is just way too much.

May 9, 2011

I am dreaming: Corona's 'Find your beach'

Here is a brand that clearly owns a territory in every consumer's mind - the beach. They have owned it for years, and if they don't screw it up, they will own it for as long as they wish. Cramer-Krasselt was the agency that originated the beach-concept, and Corona should be paying them dividends for as long as this concept airs.

The above version is a slight deviation from any previous iterations of the beach concept. It seems the Corona folks are trying to expand their brand territory, leaving the beach, and move into new territories. A smart decision? I don't think so. I hope it's only a one-off, and they stick to the beach.

I get the 'Find your beach' idea. I am just not sure if I am looking for it in the mountains. The color of the Corona beverage in my mind doesn't fit together with snow-covered mountains, or a lake in what appears to be Michigan or Washington. Corona equals beach. A tropical beach that is.

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant commercial, very well executed on every level. The soundtrack is perfect - it takes you on a 0:30 second vacation to various places. Why am I sitting in an office tower in Manhattan again? And after all, they tie it back to the beach in the end.

On a side note: whoever came up with the idea to film the actors/models from behind should be paid 1/10th of all the money Corona saved in not having to pay full usage rights for the rest of his life - it must have been hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.


Although the above version in my opinion only scores a +4 - due to the fact that they are leaving the beach temporarily - the overall Corona beach concept deserves a +5, and should included as a case study in any text book on advertising.

May 7, 2011

Absolutely wonderful: J. Crew banner on

The final frame of the video, linking to the J. Crew website

They seem to get everything right these days, the people at J. Crew. Ever since Mickey Drexler took over the helm a few years ago, many good things have happened. They put out great new product, they revamped the in-store experience, and they simply create wonderful communication materials. Everything is connected. There is a cohesive visual thread, and it's all very professionally done.

Take the above for example. I noticed it this morning, browsing the New York times online. Its placement is rather modest. It doesn't try to jump into your face like so many expandable rich media banners that stretch your entire browser window to almost twice its size, leaving you angry and annoyed. No, this one sits modestly on the lower right hand side on your screen, with the sound turned off, waiting to be discovered.

What caught my attention was the charmingly done creative execution, making me curious, so I turned the sound on. I ended up watching the flash video five times, before I realized I had to share this. And please click on the link below and check out the J. Crew landing page - they brilliantly continue the "tapping" theme. Love it! Perfectly done!


Because it gets people's attention. It's beyond cute - girls will love it. And they will buy tons of these flats. Oh, and expect the song on your friends' iPods shortly - it's quite a catchy tune and super cute. I just downloaded it.

Related links:
Download the song here (J. Crew website)

May 6, 2011

Fast and Furious: Liquid Plumber

This is a fantastic commercial. It's simple as one-two-three, and the message sticks.

ONE. Track & field arena. 100meter dash. A guy in a blue work suit? Question.

TWO. Super fast. Totally over the top. Totally funny. Haha.

THREE. Tying it back to 'Liquid plumber'. Got the message. Thank you. Question resolved.

One message. Very well executed. Not trying to do too much. Right on target. This is neither the 'environmentally friendly' product, nor the 'smells like spring' liquid. No, this is fast. Super fast. Love it!


There is a newer version in a different edit that works even better. That one gets a +4 score.

May 5, 2011

Really huge: NBA's 'Bigger' Playoff commercials

These commercials are simply fantastic. Granted, the client and the subject matter make it a little bit easier for a creative mind to come up with something 'cool'. They actually make it almost impossible for you to screw up. Unless you put a couple in the stands, and she calls him "Mr. Snuggles", and he refers to her as "Sweat-Tea-Pie", because he got the McDonalds combo from the concession stands.

Back to the NBA. I love this one. It is over the top, and brilliantly so. NBA stars think of themselves as larger than life. And bigger they are, not just in size, but also in terms of their paycheck. So why not turn this truth into an obvious one?

Sound, rhythm, editing, message... everything here is right on target. Plus, it's fun to watch.


Only because a +5 has to be really, really outstanding and knock your socks off. And as I said, it's hard to screw up an NBA commercial, unless...

May 4, 2011

In-genious: In-finity's 'In-Crowd'

Sometimes I am not so sure whether I live in The capital of the world or just a (global) village. I mean, everyday we are surrounded by the biggest, and the best, and the most expensive companies, products, and subsequently advertising placements in the world.

So you would expect for things to constantly get better, for marketing and advertising folks to learn from past mistakes, to strive for perfection, no? Well, life would be boring if everything would simply be perfect, wouldn't it?

Thank God there is In-finity of Manhattan. They are to the automotive industry what the infamous 'Dr. Z' is to the medical profession - an icon of bizarre advertising. After having disappeared for a while, his subway car ads are now back, and his smile is brighter than ever.

But back to In-finity of Manhattan. I still don't know whether I should laugh or cry every time this commercial airs in the New York area. It is just so ... weird. Why?

ONE. The bizarre mix of various 'VIP-style' scenarios and homemade VHS quality.

TWO. The in-geniously absurd copywriting, putting the 'in'-sanity almost to the maximum stress test. Seriously, how many 'in'-this or 'in'-that do they think it takes for the average 'in'-habitant of the U.S. of A. to get the idea?

THREE. The soundtrack. It's 2011, yet the sound seems to come from a 1980ies porn movie spoof of Magnum meets Lethal Weapon.

FOUR. All the hilariously funny, weird moments in this thing: watch the woman spin her head around at 0:13 sec (in sync with the sound!), the odd couple (straight out of a Sopranos episode) exiting the restaurant / club at 0:21 sec, or the grand musical finale at the end. Ta-taa!

I am crying so hard. I just don't know why.

Because I simply cannot say whether this is in-genious or in-sane.

May 3, 2011

So annoying: The latest McDonald's commercial

What the hell is going on in the McDonald's marketing department? What on earth is going on in the creative department of McD's ad agency? What the f have they been smoking?

I had hoped they had gotten enough complaints to stop that nonsense after their previous couple commercial - the one with the guy who's got no balls. Remember it? It hurt so bad watching the guy make a fool of himself.

And now this? It makes me cringe so badly inside - I am at a loss for words. The good thing is that there is consistency in the creative execution as both have obviously been developed of the same creative brief. So what on earth were the account planners on this thinking?

Are they trying to educate us men, trying to turn us into sissies? Are they trying to target the female population? What's the deal here? Their food obviously sucks, so they can't turn that into a story, but this? Turning McD into a 'couple's destination'? A dating spot? This is so ridiculous, I am going to throw up.

She calling him "Mr. Snuggles". He - because he is really smart (he chose McDonalds!) - calls her "Sweat-Tea-Pie"?! She in return calling him "Chipmunk"?! Someone please punch someone for this. Very hard.

There is something so innately animalistic in sinking your teeth into a juicy burger. This is male territory. It's embedded in our genetic code. It takes us back to a time when we were still living in caves, guarding the fire, like the millions of men barbecuing in the summer, proudly flipping those char-grilled patties in their backyards. It's millions of light years away from this disaster. This is one that makes me really, really mad.

I couldn't find a link to the commercial yet - if you do, please email me and I will update the post.

Because it makes me not want to eat McDonald's anymore, and makes me angry. Seriously.

Update 8/5: Finally found the video. Click here to view.

May 2, 2011

Introducing: Mad Ad Scores

I've been thinking about assigning each ad being reviewed some kind of score for quite some time now, and after evaluating various options, I have landed at a simple solution.

The first option contemplated was a 1 to 10 point scale, with 10 being the maximum and 1 the minimum score. Something didn't feel right about it though. Another option was the U.S. five letter grading system that most of us know from high-school or college, with the A+ being the top score, and the F the bottom score.

While both options were pretty similar, both would assign scores on the positive side of the spectrum. While I think this is fine in high-school and college, where you can be lazy and pass each school-year with a 'below-your-capabilities-performance', without any fear of retribution, and the opportunity to make up for it by going full throttle in your senior year, chasing those straight A's, you can't do that as a professional.

Once you're out of school, and you're in the big leagues of advertising, you need to be: professional. Competition is tough, keeping an account is not a given, there is constant pressure from shareholders (if you're publicly listed like IPG), or stakeholders, clients, society, consumers... you name it. The stakes are simply too high to fail, to put out bad work. Yet it happens so often.

Seeing so much bad advertising out there, I've come to realize that a simple 'D minus' or an 'F' doesn't do it justice. The range needs to be spun wider as bad advertising hurts your organization, not just financially, as the money spent on it is gone (think: sunken cost), but much more so economically in a wider sense.

Once the message is out there, it is unclear what kind of damage it can do to your brand. What you think it will do is not always what it is going to do. The consumer is a mysterious species, and the 'homo economicus' simply an illusion.

So here it is: Introducing 'THE MAD AD SCORE', or for matters of simplification, 'THE MAD SCORES':

-5 / Minus Five = The Worst. So bad it hurts.
-4 / Minus Four = Second to worst. Close to imperfection.
-3 / Minus Three = Medium bad. No reason to be proud.
-2 / Minus Two = Bad, but not as bad as it can be.
-1 / Minus One = Causing just a little damage.
0 / Zero = The neutral zone. You'll go unnoticed.
+1 / Plus One = You must have done something right..
+2 / Plus Two = Batting .269 while you think you're a .300 hitter.
+3 / Plus Three = Not many make it here. Big leagues. Clearly.
+4 / Plus Four = You can pat yourself on the shoulder. Great job.
+5 / Plus Five = The few. The proud. The Wizards of Ads. Bravo!

When assigning scores to ads, the following criteria are taken into consideration:

Is it clear? Is it concise? Is it contextual? Is it fresh? Or does it confuse? Is it too complicated perhaps? Is it trying too much?

This includes aesthetics, casting of characters, use of celebrity endorsement, use of voice over, symbols, icons, logos, colors, camera movement, on-screen-display etc.

Is the medium well chosen? Is it wise to put ads for certain products on public garbage cans or in public restrooms? Are $3M spent on :30 sec during the Superbowl well spent?

Does it help the brand? Does it positively or negatively impact sales? Is it merely neutral?

That certain something that cannot be foreseen in a creative brief. The great idea, the one ingredient that sets you apart. Like Sealy's line 'Whatever you do in Bed - Sealy's supports it'.

Each of these five criteria gets a score of either -1 / 0 / or +1. They are being added up, and all combined make up the MAD SCORE.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...