Saturday, February 28, 2009

Texas Monthly Talks

"...There are people who say, 'in a bad economy, that's the best time to build.'"
Check out Texas Monthly's interview with native Texas ad-man Roy Spence of GSD&M. Spence makes some good points, most notably distilling any business down to its raison d'etre: to fulfill a need.

Friday, February 27, 2009

EA Adapts Great!Lit for the Gaming Screen

It certainly took them long enough. Can EA really be the first to have the idea of turning the Divine Comedy into a video game? Nine circles of Hell with Satan as the final adversary? Three-headed dogs, zombies and religious symbolism? It practically begs to be adapted! And EA seems to have done a creative job. The literature student in me cheered when the announcement trailer began with the first lines of Dante's Inferno, but the pseudo-female Virgil was a departure from the text ( I suppose they felt it was not that much a change to insert a guardian angel in the place of one of the greatest classical poets?) and Cerberus looks bizarrely cartoon-ish. The trailer progresses with what looks like a rollicking good time. The ad has great visuals--they owe quite a bit to the pioneering visual style of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I guess everyone does these days)--but I wonder how they interpret some of the more, shall we say, contested sins? I can imagine quite a dinner-table conversation sparked by little Johnnie inquiring why the homosexuals are doomed to wander a burning desert in the seventh circle of Hell for all eternity. Anyway, it looks like agency G-Net has done right by EA, at least in terms of eye-popping presentation. Maybe Dante's Inferno will one day rate a sequel, but I'm not holding my breath for a game staged in the nine circles of the Paradiso.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

...and now for something Completely Different.

Two differing opinions of advertising.

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill pail." Thank you, George Orwell (for more of this sentiment go here.)

"Advertising is a career for the strong of mind and spirit, and for those who think winning should occur swiftly and without great ceremony."
That's from Jo Muse, courtesy of

Cadbury FTW

In 2007 Fallon London attracted attention with their creation of a Cadbury chocolates ad that featured a gorilla drumming to Phil Collins' "Air Tonight", and which left some people scratching their heads. What, audiences asked, does a primate rocking out on a drum-set have to do with chocolate? I think the ad is unarguably striking and really more effective than one might initially think. The purple walls behind the gorilla exactly match the purple of Cadbury's packaging, and the entire feeling of the spot (the music, gorilla's expression) definitely correspond to the final tagline "A glass and a half full of joy". The commercial was undoubtedly successful, spawning spoofs and a Facebook page as well as winning awards and upping chocolate sales. All was right with the world.

Fallon has done it again with their new ad for Cadbury, posted above. The ad world is all a-twitter (in every sense of the world) with speculation as to whether this one will prove as popular as the ubiquitous gorilla. Fallon definitely seems to have mastered the genre of ads that are effective entertainment but do not necessarily relate to the product except in the most abstract way. I am a definite fan of the new spot (even if the kids' performance lacks some of the gorilla's spontaneity) and will be interested to see what Fallon's Juan Cabral tries his hand at next.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diversity Marketing

I recently discovered an interesting article by Jo Muse (posted on titled "How to Win the Diversity Battle". I was pleased at the refreshing perspective the article presented: Muse structured his advice on the importance of recruiting effective minorities and the ways in which CEOs can incorporate diversity into their companies every day. Too often I think employers recruit minorities out of guilt or obligation, so it was pleasant to hear the author denounce this practice.
"The quest for qualified talent is not about race, ethnicity or being a minority. It's about talent, pure and simple. Not only are qualified people of color out there, they are available and looking for opportunities to excel in the advertising business."
Hiring minorities doesn't have to come at the expense of the company, but very often I hear the view expressed that a difference in skin color will magically bring something innovative and necessary to the table. I agree with Muse that in an ad agency (and in any company/industry where competition is an influence) talent should be king. Company leaders are doing no one any favors by hiring unqualified minorities to the detriment of the company and its product, when there are so many qualified, diverse candidates in the market searching for opportunities. It just takes a little bit of courage and energy to find them!
In other new, I recently discovered CreativityOnline, a great resource for the Frustrated Creative in You. I am a particular fan of their "Top 5" feature, in which they compile a list of the top five creative things that have occurred in the last week. Top 5 introduced me to David
Fincher, who directed the fabulous Nike spot "Fate" (and was nominated for an Oscar for his direction of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), as well as the digital magic of Ray Tintorini. Check it out!

Friday, February 6, 2009


Seth Godin recently posted an article on his blog entitled "What would a professional do?". I was particularly struck by Seth's point that so many people merely pretend to be professionals--at the cost of everyone else.
Coincidentally, "who is a professional?" was the question explored in a recent Business Ethics class. So I pose the question: what makes a professional? Does it mean you are a member of a society that has dues and a biannual journal? Must you have a certificate of authenticity? Additionally, what constitutes professionalism? Does it merely refer to the state of being a professional? Perhaps we are back where we started.

The painting featured above is "Lineman" by the incomparable Norman Rockwell.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The GOOD Life

Today I revisited a site I always turn to when in need of some educational entertainment. That sounds horrible, but is anything but bad. The video section in particular is endlessly entertaining; recent updates include an interview with RuPaul "the world's greatest drag queen" (currently promoting his reality show RuPaul's Drag Race), a video documenting unusual--and hilarious--recession indicators and a review of the new movie with Liam Neeson, Taken. Their videos also make constant and good use of kinetic typography, which I have blogged about previously and which is now being used ad nauseum by mainstream marketing.
There is little in this world that I find more exciting than well-designed and visually stimulating packaging. I recently discovered a fabulous little site dedicated to collecting examples of just this thing: features examples of innovative packaging created around the world. The site even indexes them by subject (recreation, sports etc.) so if you are curious about what confectionery packaging they have deemed particularly note-worthy, for example, you can browse with maximum efficiency.
Above I have included a photograph of the svelte Mamont Vodka bottle designed by STRANGER AND STRANGER. Check out their website; they do some fabulous work ...

Monday, February 2, 2009

43rd Game

This year the Superbowl commercials and half-time show were largely mediocre (while the game was surprisingly interesting). A few commercials were worth remembering, however. The commercial was particularly entertaining. I have noticed that the most entertaining commercials have running punch-lines, rather than a single one at the very end: featured a long, building sequence of examples of unacceptable employment situations that provoked a laugh at every stage. Coca-Cola also employed this technique in a non-humorous way in their "Bug's Life" commercial. The ad featured (filmed in a haze of yellow summer light) a sleepy picnic-goer whose Coke is stolen through the combined efforts of ingenious insects. Doesn't sound like much? You should have heard the audience's exclamations of delight when a tower of butterflies masquerading as the missing Coke shattered before the sleeper's groping hand, or the audience's speculation on how the bugs might open the bottle. The ad kept the roomful of college students riveted to the TV with constant stimulation and a progression of development.


There was a segment aired recently on Austin's local public radio station about a new photography exhibition of the work of depression-era photographer John Vachon (you can listen to the audio here). The above photograph that KUT showcases is very well done. Photography is not my area of expertise, but even I can see that Vachon has captured an exceptional range of tones, from very white at the bottom right hand corner to very black on the trunk of the tree. Foreground, middle-ground and background are well-represented ... I think this photograph shows an unusual depth of field. There is eye-catching texture, and the child provides a very nice focal point, balanced as he is between the building on the right and left. Even if the technical composition of the piece is disregarded, the photograph is an undeniably poignant historical document. Bravo, Vachon.

Carpe Diem

I have recently been given a great opportunity: it is my responsibility to compile an integrated marketing campaign for one of the business for which I work in the Dallas area! The initiatives that I determine are necessary to insure the increased success of the company should keep assorted freelancers and myself busy for the next three months. I have already redone the a large amount of the company's print promotional material (business card, stationary, etc.) and am in the process of overhauling the website. Where do I go from here? I would really love to showcase some of the product in retail location around the Metroplex, in addition to being featured in local magazines. I also hope to gain management experience by delegating to freelance designers. In any event, it is an opportunity for growth.