March 26, 2010

You like us! You really, really like us.

Sometimes, we totally fall in love with a project and are blessed enough to have the world (or at least the local ad industry) love them as well. Such was the case at this year's AAF-Orlando Awards, when we scored two ADDY's for projects that are especially near and dear to our hearts. The Moment Jars scooped up a Gold in the interactive category, and the late night dining poster from Emory Dining campaign picked up a Silver. Go, us!

February 09, 2010

Super Bored with Babies and Puppies

This hilarious Stop Babies and Puppies campaign from the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) comes just in time for the post-Super Bowl ad hangover. In it, they implore marketers to stop resorting to trite cliches in the name of pushing product. The site is packed full of goodies, including a Cliche Ad Machine that lets you create your own spot using stock footage of blankets-swaddled babies,  puppies frolicking in meadows and the like.

And make no mistake about it - while babies and puppies are singled out as the  scapegoat here, screaming zoo animals, frat boy beer humor and random hot chicks in bathtubs are just as guilty.  But let's switch gears and call out a few spots that didn't put me in the mood to break some bottles (your beer sucks anyway Budweiser), stomp a chicken (I wouldn't eat a Dennys Grand Slam even if they paid me) or boycott the sponsor once and for all (good thing you're so cheap, GoDaddy). 

Dodge Charger - good. Google - very good. But my favorite spot of all came from a most unlikely source, the video game Dante's Inferno. I saw nary a mention of this little gem in all the post-game coverage, but its surprising union of brilliant, fiery graphics with a soulful Bill Withers classic made it rise above all the clucking, roaring competition that surrounded it. Just like that 3rd quarter onside kick, it's an excellent example of how beautiful (and successful) an unexpected move can be.

January 19, 2010

New Year's Re-Resolutions

In preparing for our company's annual goals meeting, I noticed that my goals for 2010 bear a striking resemblance to my goals for 2009. On the one hand, it's a little disappointing to note that I'd made absolutely zero progress on a few initiatives that we started last year (such as Sweaty Thoughts, our just-for-kicks, fitness-focused blog...go ahead, click the link and you'll see for yourself how little progress we have really made). On the other, there was another item that seems to wind up on the list every year. And I'm starting to think that maybe it should:

Complete the Think Creative Brand Discovery

In a nutshell, Brand Discovery is a process that we complete for every single one of our clients. It involves:

  1. Taking a long, close look at who they are, what they do and what makes them different from everyone else 
  2. Developing a distinct brand promise and positioning statement
  3. Creating the tools needed to communicate that identity precisely and authentically.

Problem is, we've never really completed it for ourselves. A fact that we're constantly beating ourselves up over, but I'm starting to think that maybe it's really not such a bad thing. After all, with the advertising and marketing world changing as quickly as it is, can any agency really afford to set themselves in stone? Sure, we provide all the services you'd expect of us. But we also sell T-shirts. Write books. Launch websites asking people to share their deepest worries and their most special memories. Where would all that stuff fit in? Had we actually completed the process last year, we'd still be starting from scratch this time around. And should we finish it this year, we may still be starting all over again next year.

Maybe our own Brand Discovery keeps winding up in the recycling bin of big plans because it is, truly, an ongoing process. Because what it means to advertise, to market your company, and to serve clients who need that type of help changes every second. And because who we are as creative people is constantly in flux.

So here we are yet again, poised to launch into the new year without a clear and concrete definition of our brand. And guess what? That's okay. Then again, we wouldn't let our clients get away with that crap for a second. 

December 22, 2009

The Moment Jars

Every year, our team collaborates on a winter book. Mark writes the story, Lure Design designs the book, Kim Fox does the illustrations, and Drive New Media develops the website. This year's book, The Moment Jars, is about a man who captures the special moments in his life and places them in a jar. It's a wonderful story, probably my favorite one yet (though I seem to say that every year) and a beautiful book, but what really set this year apart from the others was the success and far-reaching impact of the website.

The Moment Jars is a pretty simple site, with a pretty simple idea: share your own special moment and add your virtual Moment Jar to the collection.

Moment Jars web

The response has been amazing. First, we shared it with friends and family, who were great about adding their own moments and memories. But it was the mention in Swiss Miss (recently named one of the world's most influential design blogs) that really gave us our big break. Soon there were moments rolling in from all over the world. We had Italian moments. Spanish moments. Even one from all the way in Japan. There were moments about having kids, and moments and about being a kid. Moments about leaving home for the first time and moments about finding home in unexpected places. There were many, many moments about falling in love. Almost as many about falling out of it. At last count, there were over 500 moments in all. Most were short and sweet, though one was too long to leave in a jar. As one blogger pointed out (in a very sweet post which I can't seem to find again), not a single one was about money, possessions, or any other material thing. A great reminder, especially at this time of year, that life's most precious gifts aren't anything you pick up at a store.

Now here's the funny thing. While the website proves that people all over the world want to capture the moments of their life in a tangible way, the story the book tells makes you question that desire. How? You'll just have to read it to find out.

Share your moment, and purchase The Moment Jars book here.

September 21, 2009

New Work: Emory University Dining

When we were called by Emory University in 2008, their objective was clear: create a brand that helps establish Emory Dining as one of the top five dining programs in the country. So we met with their team in Atlanta, feasted on hand cut potato chips and learned a lot about what really defined Emory Dining: quality, diversity, freshness, a firm commitment to sustainability. It was a great program that needed a great brand, and we think that's what they got.

EM801 TAO.Mission

EM801 TAO.Posters.P1

EM801 TAO.Posters.P2

EM801 TAO.Posters.P3

July 30, 2009

I've Gone Mad

Well, I went and Mad Men'd myself. Shameless Draper-hag that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to inhabit that whiskey-soaked world, if only virtually. Alas, it wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. They do a good enough job referencing the show and the period: the background music, costume choices and Dyna Moe's now famous illustrations are dead on. But for the time it takes to complete the process, I wish that my martini-swilling avatar got to have a little more fun. I was hoping for a Jib-Jab style vignette, starring Mad Me tearing up the town with Joan, horseback riding with Betty, climbing corporate ladders with Peggy then pantsing smug little Pete in front of the whole S-C crew...right before riding off into the sunset, smoking cigarettes from the shotgun seat of Don's big Cadillac.  

Alas, what I got was this downloadable image (you get the choice of this full body shot, a headshot only or a wallpaper featuring you in the scene of your choice), and even she looks a bit perplexed by the whole thing. 


Oh well. All in all, the site is just one part of a robust social media push for Mad Men and 8 o'clock coffee. I applaud the breadth of the campaign, and look forward to taking the "Which Mad Men Character Are You?" quiz when that releases...I fancy myself a Joan but suspect reality will peg me as a Peggy.

July 01, 2009

We hold these jeans to be still relevant...

Just in time for the fourth of July, Levi's introduces the brilliant Go Forth campaign, tapping into the youth of America's timeless pursuit of life, liberty, and reasonably priced denim.
The website encourages visitors to write their own declaration of independence, share their stories and photos of a "new" America and even listen to a recording of Walt Whitman reading his 1888 poem, America. The poignant headlines work on many levels - reflecting the current state of these recessionary times while heralding the emergence of an optimistic spirit and even invoking nostalgia for a time that the target audience never actually experienced. All in all, a job very well done. But will it make kids care about good old 501's again? I sure hope so. 

June 12, 2009

Holy #####!

Speaking of new iPhones, here's a great little campaign that could just score you one. For those of you still wondering if there are any smart, powerful and transparent ways to use Twitter to drive business awareness, here's your answer. Bravo, Squarespace.

June 05, 2009

The agency is thy shepherd.

Now that Current TV is inviting viewers to create commercials (VCAMS) for big name brand partners, Ad Week has called for traditional agencies to rethink their role: “from serving as creative drivers to brokers and brand shepherds.” In a sense, this is what we do already. Agencies don’t simply churn out creative in a vacuum. We work in partnership with the client to develop campaigns that define, promote and protect the brand. What’s changed is the number of different platforms on which to execute these campaigns.

With sophisticated creative and production tools now readily available to anyone who wants it, agencies aren’t the only ones putting material out there anymore. We’re not even the only ones putting out good material. The winning VCAMS look 100% professional and polished—and they cost peanuts compared to typical agency fees.

So, agencies can feel threatened by the loss of control or get excited by the opportunities it presents.

This creative explosion is less about Joe Public usurping the role of professional agencies and more about, as the folks at Digg put it,  “teaching brands to borrow from the grammar of the experience.” (Case in point: Digg's new advertising model will allow viewers to Digg up ads, thus controlling impressions and CPC the same way they determine news readership.)

On a network built around viewer generated content like Current TV, why wouldn't advertisers  communicate via viewer generated commercials? But whatever “grammar” you’re using, everyone must still speak the language of the brand. And that’s where an agency comes in. Someone still needs to write the language. But instead of doing all the talking ourselves we have to find ways to teach the language to others. And get them excited about speaking it. And in the end, be open to all of their translations.

Of course, the other alternative is to invent the platform. That way, you're guaranteed control of the creative that lives on it. At least until it catches on. 

April 21, 2009

Social Media Mania

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Blogging. Clients often ask what role social media should play in their marketing programs. Some ask the question with skepticism and doubt. Others with the anticipation that this is the magic bullet they’ve been looking for. Both are wrong. Social media is as important to a business’ marketing plan as any other media might be. That is to say, if it reaches the right audience, if it allows you to communicate a message in a clear and engaging way, if it fits with your brand and mission, then…what are you waiting for?

But be aware, unlike more traditional media, there are some new concerns with this new media:

  1. You can’t necessarily market in the social media space the same way you do in traditional advertising. As a marketer, you probably see opportunity. Here are groups of self-defined, like-minded people. Communities with similar interests all congregating in one space. Smells like prime real estate for focused, targeted marketing, right? Think again. Social media mavens are savvy and outspoken. They see these as community-building tools. Opportunities to connect with folks who share their interests. These are social applications, not commercial. Breech their trust and you won’t be forgiven easily. Be inauthentic and you will be excommunicated quickly.
  2. If you think that it’s free to join these social media communities, that this is free advertising, think again. Marketing in the social media realm is more similar to a public relations program than a paid advertising campaign, and likewise, it would benefit you tremendously to use professional marketers to help you navigate the media, explore the opportunities and craft an appropriate strategy. Then, it’s up to you or someone in your organization to continue to make the investment in posting, tweeting, blogging or responding. Go dormant and your audience will go away…with a bad impression of you and your organization. So don’t jump on the social media bandwagon just because you think it’s a cheap way to advertise. Jump on because it’s right for you and you’re willing to make the appropriate investment of time and budget.
  3. One thing that I caution everyone about is that in the social media world, there is a fine line between the professional and the personal. And often, I believe there is no line at all. With the accessibility of information on the Internet in general, it is getting harder and harder to market your company without prospective clients or customers getting to know an awful lot about you personally. In the social media space, this is even more of an issue. If you twitter everyday and your goal is to promote your professionalism and credibility as a businessperson, keep your tweats from venturing into the personal. If you’re going to have a presence on Facebook, it will be hard to separate your professional from your personal, hard not to intermingle the two. The bottom line is that if you’re into social media, people want to hear from you as a person, not your company or organization, so there has to be personalization, but know where to draw the line and be careful not to step over it.

Here’s what I do think social media is great for:

-       Letting people hear your unique voice

-       Opening the lines of communication so you can hear directly from your customers, clients and constituents

-       Showcasing your point-of-view and your in-depth knowledge of your industry

-       Allowing people to get to know you before they work with you

-       Generating name awareness and broadening your referral network

-       Demonstrating your willingness to share your “gifts,” your knowledge and insight for the benefit of anyone willing to tune in

-       Showing that you and your organization are in tune with how people communicate and congregate these days. That reflects positively on your progressiveness as an organization

-       Getting in front of prospective employees

So, what are the next steps? Start playing. Check out all the different social media opportunities. See what your colleagues and competitors are doing, talk to professionals. (Diane is a great person to call!) And then, like with any marketing effort, formulate a plan and follow through. Also, remember, in most cases social media doesn’t replace other marketing vehicles it supplements them. Just be sure to maintain a connection and continuity within your plan and between the various media, and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for.