Super Bowl Winners and Losers

So what were the best and worst of the Super Bowl ads? It’s always tough because for brands it is often a mixture of strategy, positioning, and where you are aiming in this great country of ours. If you are on the West or East Coast there is a different sensibility than in middle America. If you were to poll middle America, Muppets and Puppies will usually win the day. If you poll the East Coast you might have a win for Colbert and Pistachios. And if you were to poll ad agency peeps you would get a different reading altogether. Then there’s research and strategy people… they would have yet another opinion. But these are my opinions on both the ads and the opinions of America. So here we go.

Newcastle — They didn’t run a Super Bowl ad. What they ran was an ad about doing a Super Bowl ad before the Super Bowl. This was better than actually running a Super Bowl ad. The strategy was smart, taking advantage of the Super Bowl atmosphere for ads, mocking it a little, and basically ambushing the Big Game Advertisers. Best of all the ad and digital content were both great. Big win for Newcastle.

Radio Shack — This was fantastic. Anytime a brand admits an issue and plays it to get attention for fixing said issue, it tends to go well. The ’80s called and they want their store back. And the ’80s come to get it in the form of more ’80s icons than I expected in an ad. Everyone from Hulk Hogan to Mary Lou Retton. I am pretty sure I saw them take some CB Radios; 10-4 Radio Shack. Good times and a big win for them.

Bud Light Epic Night Out — Everyone I know was saying the stunt thing was played out. I don’t think so. Real people like to watch real people in ads. And people still love stunts and pranks. The Internet is filled with them. Not to mention it’s a great way to let the everyman touch the brand. The Bud Light stunt wasn’t great. The guy they picked was a demo conglomeration of the Bud Light customer. He was excited but cool, dressed neatly but casual, in good shape but not slim, well-groomed but not metrosexual. In other words, he was fake. Also it seemed pretty easy for the guy to go along. It lacked any edge to make it dangerous or at all a tough decision. in other words — NO TENSION. That left it to Arnold Schwarzenegger to save it. And he did. There is a magic to Arnold that rings true in almost everything you see him in, even though you can barely understand what he is saying. So a win for Bud Light but it was a close call.

Turbo Tax – They have done a great job this year by centering on what YOU can achieve in life. And at the end of the ad, getting back money on your taxes by doing them yourself is just one of those things. It’s a simple strategy that works well and is executed nicely in their Super Bowl ad and in others I have seen. On the other side of that is H&R Block which has been doing a decent job talking about the Billion Dollars taxpayers left behind. Looks like it is going to be a tough battle to get your tax-planning dollar for years to come. Big win this time for Turbo Tax.

Audi Doberhuahua – I want a Doberhuahua. I love dogs. I am not sure I want an Audi but the better the commercials get the closer I will get to driving one. And if they come with a Doberhuahua… I’m in. One more note — they released their ad before the Super Bowl which is what a lot of advertisers are doing these days. It’s smart. They got tons of play with the Sarah McLachlin teaser and they got me on board early.

Doritos Time Machine — Doritos has made a name for themselves by being the biggest brand to totally crowdsource their ads. The Time Machine ad was one of those silly things that makes me chuckle and not much more. I get the idea that kids will try and swindle you out of your Doritos but I get tired of all the snacks where everyone is trying to get the last one from you. And the tricks those kids play to get them are just dumb. I want that kid that developed the test for Pancreatic Cancer to come up with a way to get all the Doritos. Something real.. like killing us all so that he was the only person on earth who could eat the Doritos. Doritos are delicious but I would gladly give some to a kid. Hell, a kid can put a finger on my Butterfinger as long as I don’t have to eat it afterward. But they can’t have my fries. That is where I draw the line.

Microsoft – Was that Hawking or just some random Microsoft computer? Actually it was Steve Gleason typing with his eyes but it was hard to tell in the ad. Computers and technology in general have obviously helped people live better lives. And Microsoft has been a big part of that. I felt like the ad jumped around too much though. I think Steve’s story is enough. In other words, I like what they tried but the ad didn’t hit me as hard as I wanted it to. It felt like Microsoft was trying to say too much about too much technology instead of showing us how big they were in Steve’s eyes. Still, they got close.

Colbert for Nuts – You can’t miss with Colbert. The two ads together were incredible. Of course, I am a fan and there was a little inside baseball here for the ad community. But he hit it out of the park in my opinion. Big win for Pistachios.

Bud Puppies – This so reminded me of the Bud Frogs. Once Bud finds something that works they drive it into the ground. And you shouldn’t drive horses and puppies into the ground– well, especially puppies. This was a total copy of last year’s friendship ad with a puppy. Didn’t work for me but will work for middle America. Don’t they know that dogs are man’s best friend… not horse’s best friend. So big win for middle America, big loss for me and my ilk.

KIA’s The Truth — You can’t handle the truth about luxury. If you ever saw real luxury it would blow your mind. And once you see it you can never go back to your plastic, phony existence with your small cup holders and sad turning radius. I know KIA has a car with a lot of amenities for less money. So do a lot of cars. That’s why we buy brands. This made their brand look like an old movie. Big loss for KIA.

Hyundai — Wow, this was just plain bad. I hardly ever say that about Super Bowl ads because I know how much work goes into them. But this ad was tough to understand from the beginning and seemed to throw everything at the screen to talk about the different aspects of the car. But none of that came through. All that came through was — I think I am watching something but I am not sure what. And lastly — girls are really supposed to like your car — not try and destroy it and kill you. And what is a witch doing on the road anyway? Are all women witches? You can see the issues here. Big loss.

Jaguar — I so wanted to like this. I really did. But again, like a lot of ads this year, it felt flat again. I mean, you have villains. We expect a lot from villains these days. I know that people who do commercials watch HBO or even the Following. Villains are really evil. They are using mind control and stuff. These guys just drive around in helicopters and Jaguars. Big deal. They don’t even have lasers. Where’s the laser going at Bond’s privates? Where’s the laser aimed at the White House? Where’s the laser aimed at the Space Station? You see what I am saying.

Go Daddy — Best Go Daddy ad ever. I did not see the end coming when all those muscle bound maniacs rounded the corner. Of course, they could have been running for the GNC store but whatever, great ad for Go Daddy.

VW Wings — It was kinda funny and well done. Plus I liked the fact it was focused on reliability instead of safety. It ended up being a more interesting way to go. And the edgy joke at the end about rainbows coming out of your butt was great. it won’t play in Nebraska but who the hell cares. It’s a VW not a Ford F-150 or a Chevy Even Larger and More American than a Ford F-150.

T Mobile Contract – T Bow for T Mobile. I love the strategy for this. T Bow is looking for a contract and T-Mobile will help you out of your contract. So showing how T Bow is free to do what he wants because he doesn’t have a contract is great. However, the ads seemed flat to me. It felt like they were going through the motions on the situations. I didn’t laugh or cry. I didn’t care all that much either way. I just felt like T Bow made some decent money and I’m pretty sure there was a contract somewhere here.

Coke — I just heard on the news that Conservatives are upset that Coke ran an ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in foreign languages. I didn’t love the ad and thought that any time you use a patriotic song like that in an ad you are pandering. But now I like it more because I hate ignorance. This is simple. We are a very inclusive country. It’s called a melting pot not an assimilation pot. And the fact that people from other countries are singing “America the Beautiful” shows just how powerful our idea of Freedom really is. So this is a win for me.

All in all not a great year for the Super Bowl advertisers. Nothing made me howl with laughter, tear up or give me chills. There were some sound strategies, interesting takes and things I definitely remember but not like in some past years. The Big Game ad landscape is changing. More and more advertisers are taking advantage of Super Bowl month instead of the game alone. Social gives advertisers the ability to shine around the game instead of in it. It is evening out the playing field so to speak. So good luck next year.

Fear and Loathing at CES

As I was walking around CES dodging the drones I was finding it really hard to find the really incredible stuff. Seems like they have so much stuff that it all kind of blends together … 200 curved televisions, 50 smart watches, more headphones than you can shake your head at, etc., etc. So I found someone at a BIG ELECTRONICS MAKER who will remain nameless so that I can protect his brand and asked him to show me the most incredible new things the NAMELESS BIG ELECTRONICS MAKER makes. Here is our incredibly embellished conversation.

BIG: That isn’t here. That is in the suite.

Me: Where is the suite?

BIG: If you are important to us, you already know where the suite is.

Me: What if you don’t know how important I am yet, or just missed me … maybe I didn’t get the invite … lost in the mail … misspelled my name … you know?

BIG: Doesn’t seem likely. We know who the important people are. They are the same important people who were here last year.

Me: Can you give me an idea of what is in the suite besides delicious refreshment (booze)?

BIG: The stuff of past tomorrow. We have some tomorrow stuff here, but the suite has the stuff that is past tomorrow. Say some of the stuff here is for a Tuesday in 2017. The stuff in the suite is for a Friday in 2022. You see what I am saying?

Me: But you can’t tell me what it is?

BIG: No. But that’s also where they hand out the good, free stuff. The stuff past key chains if you know what I mean.

With that, I started walking again … looking for anything interesting and trying to pick out the important people. Here is what I found.

Curved Televisions

Well, I finally saw one at CES. From the front, I couldn’t tell it was curved at all. So I am not sure what the curve of the screen really does for you. Michael Bay was supposed to tell the crowd at CES exactly what it meant to have such an innovation. But even he had trouble doing it. So much so that he left the stage and ran away.

I didn’t feel like running away. But I didn’t feel like spending a ton of money on one either. The best I can say is maybe it surrounds you more … makes you feel like you are inside the circle so to speak … or, as the guy at Canon said about a new camera they were pushing – IT GIVES YOU IMMERSIVE INTIMACY. Also, companies like Sony want to sell its super TVs so it might give you more money to make Curved Screen Movies in 8K.

Cleaning Robots

I saw a great many cleaning robots. I like the little saucers running around, scaring the dogs, and sweeping up the dirt and grime all day long. They even find their way back to the charger on their own. Good little robot slaves. I just worry that my house might be too dirty for them to clean. I worry they might get stuck on a really large piece of dirt or a 185 pound nicely dressed slug who just happens to be in their way. Are they durable enough to survive my family, dog poop, the occasional dead rat? I am a skeptic since I have had a hard time surviving there myself at times. And I am human – or remotely close.

Office Bots

I tried to talk to one of these people/things. It’s kind of a Segway with the screen that moves around so that someone from a field office can talk to you like they really exist in your world. Think of it as iChat on wheels. These were running around and yapping it up – probably from a room in the back and not really New Jersey. They can follow you down halls, into the restroom, the linen closet. There is really no escape from the Office Bot. But like I said – I TRIED TO TALK TO ONE. As you can see from the video, she was not interested. So, Office Bots are very much like most women I talk to, or at.

The World’s Only Sparkling Water Refrigerator

This excited me. I love sparkling water and drink it more than flat unexciting water. And the writing on the wall said you could pick from three different levels of fizz. I can tell you right now I enjoy the highest level of fizz. Take that fizz up to 11. I am a high-fizz man. What does that mean? I live life to the highest level of fizz. Do you?

Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass

I had no idea that the glass on my smartphone or tablet could fight germs. I don’t like the microbes. They are small, often angry and really nasty looking under the microscope. Turns out the silver ions in the Corning Gorilla Glass naturally kills a lot of the germs. This is one of the weird things you see at CES that makes you go, “Wow, I did not know that glass could kill germs or that silver ions kill germs or that anyone would think that glass could somehow kill germs and make it a sales point for GLASS.” Nice.

Smart TVs and Connected Homes

The Smartest TV I saw was the Life Screen from Panasonic. This thing is really incredible. It recognizes your face when you walk into a room and will throw up a channel you like to watch or give you messages about the weather. It will turn off when no one watches it – or pretend to be off. And you can talk to it like it’s a member of the family. And it probably is the member of the family you will pay most attention to … so in that respect, a healthy family member. Maybe the next generation of curved screens will be able to curve enough to hug me. That will bring our relationship to the next level. Lastly, it will connect to Panasonic’s Home Cloud system so that it can talk to the fridge, the washer, the dryer, etc. – i.e., The Connected Home.

The Connected Home was one of those things that was everywhere at CES. I felt like the most futuristic one was Haier’s Sm@art Home. And not just because of how they spelled Sm@art with the @ symbol. No, it was much more. A refrigerator that, with the push of a button, goes clear so you can see the food inside. Special sensors can detect when the molecular changes in the food say it is going bad. Your fridge will warn you by sending you a text that says – “Don’t eat the Mongolian Beef.” Well, maybe not that straightforward – YET. The washer will tell you when it is broken. You might already know from the mildew and the not quite washed clothing – but it will tell you anyway. There is also the automatic wine inventory cooler – it will probably tell you if that vintage is worthy of storing or you should just drink it immediately out of the bottle. Looks like they are trying to connect everything they possibly can to a home hub. Some fun stuff.

Ultra HD, 4K and 8K Televisions

These sets are razor sharp or as sharp as my old eyes can see how sharp they are. This is where the rub is though. How much longer will I be able to see well enough to know I am looking at a really great television? What is the ratio of APPRECIATION TO AGE TO PERFECTION? I feel like, once they get cheap enough and close to perfect, I will be too old to see their glory. So, they depress me a little. I’d like to be alive and able to see a 28K Ultra HD 3D 150 Inch Smart Life Ultra Curved and Flexible TV. A TV that sees more than the human eye can, curves to envelope my soul, is smart enough to know what I should and shouldn’t be watching, and makes me forget that I have to call the doctor and schedule that “test” I am supposed to get.

Smart Cars – Sorry “Intelligent Cars”

At CES, cars like to say they are intelligent instead of smart. I don’t know why this is. But intelligent driving is obviously better than smart driving. Audi was asking an interesting question … “can you predict traffic?” Well, the answer is “Yes.” Of course you can. And as cars get more intelligent and start to learn more and more from your driving habits – and communicate those habits to the grid, the cloud, the GPS-controlled universe, your car will be able to tell you plenty about how to get somewhere. And eventually, it will just do the driving for you. Audi was also sporting its own tablet that was connected to your car. I didn’t think this was the most “intelligent” move. I have two iPads and an iPhone. I don’t need an Audi tablet as well. Didn’t make much sense to me. These car companies should be looking at integrating your devices, not creating their own.

Many car companies are integrating with Android and iOS devices. Mercedes was even teaming up with the Pebble Smartwatch and Google Glass. The watch idea is pretty cool. You can see if the car is locked, how much fuel you have, lock and unlock doors, etc.

Murata Boy

I don’t really know what Murata makes and I really didn’t want to look into it. I just wanted to watch Murata Boy Robot ride his bike. It’s a guilty pleasure watching a robot balance himself and ride a bike using his internal gyroscope and his tiny robot arms and legs. Makes you think that Murata can make anything. It makes you think that there is magic. That someday, robots will kill us all. And they will do it on robot motorcycles. The future is here. Murata Boy, we love you.

The Smartwatch That Doesn’t Need a Phone

… because it is a phone. It’s just a nice looking watch that is a Bluetooth phone. It has a SIM card inside. This is different than most of the watches that need to be close to your smartphone to work. I found this interesting. I wouldn’t want to take my SIM card in and out, but it would be nice to just forget the phone and still have a phone … even if it just had a SIM card for emergency calls when your phone runs out of power, or if you lose your phone or break it. Then, Dick Tracy comes in handy.

Obviously, CES is setting the standard in the Next Big Things to come. One of these days, I will get into the suite and discover that stuff that is PAST TOMORROW. Good times.

The Connected You (or, How I learned to stop worrying and get a DRONE.)

The term “connected home” used to be the buzz-worthy phrase that experts threw around. Then there was the “Internet of things.” The interesting thing is that these two phrases have come together to form the Connected You. And it all centers on WEARABLES. Whether it’s a FuelBand, an Up, an iWatch doesn’t really matter. You’re now connected 24/7 to the home and the Internet of things. Think about it. The WEARABLE knows when you’re awake, asleep, just exercised or sitting around on the couch rotting away. It knows when you have walked into a room. It knows when you leave the room. It could conceivably know whether you are happy, sad or having a massive heart attack. And the things it can trigger to happen are vast and complex. Here is a typical day for the new Connected You.

You wake up – your WEARABLE knows you are awake – your phone says, “good morning” and starts to go over the day’s appointments. The shades automatically open. The WEARABLE notifies the thermostat that you are soon to be blanketless and turns up the heat … and when you leave the house, it will turn it down. Coffee starts brewing in your connected pot. Your virtual Starbucks barista says “Good Morning,” with way too much pep, which makes you need the coffee even more. The television in your bedroom will turn on and go to the station you always watch at that hour. It is smart. … It will know. You will need to be quick and get up before the wife or the TV will be confused and go to her morning show … and we don’t want that. It’s OK though, because your TV will simply put up a message that says, “The downstairs TV is available for CNN,” or whatever you watch.

Of course your TV will have a great deal of messages for you like, “Hey, there’s a new Netflix series. If you can watch the entire season today, we’ll send you a free bottle of Tide or five Bitcoins. Get 50 of your friends to like us and get a free On Demand movie.”

If you happen to be wearing an MYO on your wrist, you’ll be able to wave at the TV and change the channel, turn it off, or shoot down the volume so you don’t have to hear the girls from The View. If there were still newspapers, your DRONE would have delivered it by now – but there aren’t, so your computer (which, of course, knows you’re awake) has turned itself on and put up whatever news site you look at first, unless you don’t live with anyone – then it will put up some “other” site.

Remember Star Trek, when the doors would open by themselves all the time? If you have your WEARABLE on and you’re an early adopter, this is possible now. There are any number of things that can trigger actions for the connected you. I have what is called a Smart Things Hub, which is working toward all of this. Right now, I have a presence detector on my key ring that alerts my home when I arrive and can trigger things like lights going on and off, alarms, appliances, doors unlocking – really anything with electric power. It also notifies me if any of my WINE cooling units goes above a certain temperature or when someone opens the door to get any of my WINE from the cooling unit. Anyone reaching for my WINE triggers an alarm and a DRONE strike.

As you leave the house, your WEARABLE is tracking your steps, location, how vigorously you’re walking, running, driving or crawling to wherever you are headed. Of course, you might not be driving – they say cars will be able to drive you by 2020. That way you can watch even more YouTube cat videos because you’ll be able to do it while driving. Of course, your Louboutins could have sensors in them as well. They might tell you, “You have walked too far in your Louboutins. The red is wearing off. Stop and look sexy before all is lost.”

Most likely you will at least have two devices on you that are communicating with everything else in the universe – your phone and your WEARABLE. With the right chip in your WEARABLE, you won’t need a credit card. You can just wave your wrist at the person or robot at the counter. Window-shopping will get really weird, though, because the window will change to stuff that is right only for you. Which probably means an overweight window display. And you will be able to wave at the window and a DRONE will show up wherever you are in the street and drop the thing you just purchased directly on your head. The skies will be filled with DRONES carrying big-screen TVs and washers/dryers, ugh. And, oh – DRONE PETS. That’s a drone that basically follows you everywhere you go, which could lead to DRONE LOVE, which is two DRONES that join up and dance to the music you like and other weird crap.

How many things can you be connected to with your phone and your WEARABLE? It boggles the mind really. Everything from your home and every electronic device in it, to your car to billboards, to streetlights, to your DRONE, to the iPad menu in the restaurant, to the shelves and products in the grocery story, to your clothes, shoes, hats, whatever. And with the kind of profiles you can put in phones and WEARABLES, you don’t really have to do much. Devices will take from your profile and even learn your habits. Once the device communicates with your device, it will trigger things to happen. Once your cereal on the shelf is screaming, “They’re GRRRRReat,” when you get close, you’ll be sick of all that.

Parties – say you go to one. Your phone will alert you to the other WEARABLES and what is going on with them. For instance, there might be a beautiful woman or man who has a higher heart rate around you. Your phone will send you an alert and your WEARABLE camera pin will mark that moment in the constant video of your life being recorded. Then, you can go home later and print a reasonable facsimile of her/him/it with your 3D printer. This isn’t really that far off – you can 3D print your penis as a sex toy today if you like. Someone may be practicing making out with your 3D printed head right now – in his/her basement (feel free to use that as a movie idea).

But that’s really just the beginning of creating things yourself. The Smart Things Hub I spoke of earlier is a crowdfunded product from Kickstarter. Another product is littleBits. With littleBits, you can take your 3D printed head and easily ad electronics to it and make the eyes light up for a more realistic experience or make the mouth move when someone comes close.

Then there’s MIND CONTROL. That’s right, MIND CONTROL. There may come a day when you can actually control all of these devices, limbs, even people, with your mind. Think about it. On second thought … DON’T THINK ABOUT IT.

And, of course, there will be the RETROS. Those are the people who will not be connected. They are keeping it real. They are taking Polaroids, reading actual books, wearing regular glasses instead of Google Glasses. They have a dog instead of a smart home. They have real friends. They are 3D printing with clay – using their hands. And we hate them. My phone will eventually alert me when they are around and I will send them special hate messages using my MIND CONTROL.

In the end, the future is really about connections. Not just how you are connected to the world via your WEARABLE and your smartphone. But how you and others begin to connect the innovations and innovators that appear every day. The ability to connect DRONES, WEARABLES, apps, littleBits, Home Automation, Foursquare, Facebook, MeCams, Learning Computers and yes, even, MIND CONTROL, is creating a new future where innovation is everywhere just looking for another collaborator.

In marketing, we’ve been doing this for a long time – trying to connect people and technology with our brands.  But now, the open nature of the Internet and the ease at which connections are made is driving innovation and breaking down the barriers to just about everything. Enjoy – you may see that flying-car future any day now and it will probably fly itself.

Art vs. Commerce

There is a new film – Wonderland – that features commercial directors talking about the difference between true creativity/art and commercial work. Bottom line from the film is that they find commercial work to be anything but artistic.

I have worked with a number of directors on commercials. Many of them went on to do feature films. Others were doing feature films when I started to work with them. From my experience, the best of these directors treat commercial film the same way they would treat an artistic film. The ones who didn’t did boring, lifeless commercial work. The ones who treated it as a piece of them and gave the endeavor their artistic soul always made better work.

Is a commercial work purely creative? NO, of course not. Many times in Wonderland they talk about the restrictions that clients and agency people put on the work. They talk about the money behind the work and how that affects it. Basically, they talk about how they can’t do whatever they want and how that differs greatly from artistic work where they decide what the subject and tone of the work is.

Having read both Coppola’s biography and numerous stories about Orson Wells and other film directors – I can tell you that projects with complete creative control do not always come out better than those where studios dictate a number of the decisions. Directors such as Woody Allen and Spielberg tend to have more control than other directors – and their films do feel more like art than some other films. But I am not convinced that having less control – they won’t make great work. They are great directors. They made great work when they had less control … they just didn’t like it as much. It is harder. It is frustrating. But if they didn’t make great work in the first place with studio collaboration, they would have never had the control the have now. So what comes first – the chicken or the egg?

It is easy to say that when it’s someone else’s idea, there is no art in it. Art comes from the heart and experience. It’s something that garners emotion from the viewer. Commercial work is not that different. … Commercial work comes from a brand heart. The experience is that of the brand and the creatives, while the emotion is felt by the consumer. And make no mistake – creating an emotional tie to a piece of work is extremely important for a brand. Without the emotion, there is no relationship with the brand. And that is basically what a brand is – the relationship with the consumer.

There is a reason why creative directors hire film directors to work on their commercial endeavors. They want art infused into their commercial piece. This is no easy task. The voice of the brand and the client are always repeating rules and strategies even in the most creative creative directors. There is no way around it. But when you add that voice of the artist to the project, you get a voice more concerned with the emotion than the voices in their heads. The best film directors will fight with the creative director to make that art. And the best creative directors will let go of some things and fight for others that he/she knows are necessary for the communication. In the end, the project will become a commerce/art collaboration.

Sometimes the balance goes more toward commerce and sometimes more toward art. Sometimes, the emotion that comes from the art transfers to the brand and sometimes the brand overshadows the emotion created by the art. The best of these collaborations gives you both a brand communication and emotion.

If you look at the two ads below, you will see both art and commerce in them. “Stiff Upper Lip” is as close to some modern art as you will ever get in a television ad. It is mysterious, weird, and definitely pulls different emotions from the viewer like any modern art piece. There are those who don’t understand it, those who love it and many who hate it … but they can’t stop looking at it. And I would say the commercial is art until the commerce ending. I would say the same for the POM Wonderful spot. If you turned off the sound and cut off the product at the end, it’s a very artful piece of film. The composition, beauty, interest and emotion are all there with a product at the end or not.

Also, the digital landscape has opened up the creative avenues tenfold. Think about it. … Now there are brand films where artists are asked to interpret the brand. They are given more freedom because the cost of such films is less and a certain freedom is expected on the Web that isn’t expected as much on television. And, of course, Web films need an authenticity to be shared – and that authenticity means more art than commerce.

Then there is the whole definition of what art is in the first place and how it came to be. Art from the beginning was not always meant to be art. As a form of expression, it has changed with the times. And often, great art was commissioned from great artists. How is getting a portrait of yourself painted different from having a commercial done for your brand? There are obviously rules for both subjects. The artist can’t paint a portrait of someone else when you paid for a portrait of YOU … although a portrait from Picasso might look like someone else – depending on your perspective. The beginnings of art come from telling a story, almost a journal, of early man’s adventures during hunting season 30,000 years ago. These early paintings on caves could well have been advertisements. “Check out Mogu. … He is best at finding meat. He has big weapons. He has a cool cave. Wild animals and women fall at his feet.” Painted by Gred. Gred lives outside Mogu’s cave on a rock. But he paints a mean story about Mogu.

The first artists lived by a set of rules as to how they painted subjects. When they broke those rules, then the needle of art moved. And along the timeline, more rules were broken and art moved again. This is very close to the commercial world, where the rules are continually broken and changing – especially with the advent of a digital landscape that continues to evolve commerce and art as well.

This excerpt says it all. …

“… the lessons of Egyptian art had not simply been discarded and thrown overboard. Greek artists still tried to make their figures as clear in outline as possible, and to include as much of their knowledge of the human body as would go into the picture without doing violence to its appearance. They still loved firm outlines and balanced design. They were far from trying to copy any casual glimpse of nature as they saw it. The old formula, the type of human form as it had developed in all these centuries, was still their starting point. Only they no longer considered it sacred in every detail.” – E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art

That is what a great director does for a piece of commerce. They don’t regard a brand’s rules as sacred in every detail. They are still working from the strategy. They are still trying to get across the right message for the brand. … But the things you hold onto as sacred about your brand … are not in the mind of that director. If he’s good, he’ll try and get you to break some sacred cow that sits in your mind, grazing away at the grey matter. Once that happens – anything is possible. …

 

Politics and marketing make strange bedfellows

If you talk to any good creative they will tell you politics and good marketing don’t go together. They will tell you that there are too many formulas for political advertising … and that it is tough to be really creative. I have seen both sides. Some really creative political work; lots of formula work; and some really bad work (especially in the last election). And in my career, I have done all three. In the new movie NO, a desperate situation leads to creative marketing with almost a Pepsi-like political campaign. When Chile is faced with the daunting task of ousting its longtime leader, the powers that be decide they have to take risks. So, they do. And, surprise, it works. By taking risks, I mean treating the candidate or party like an agency would treat an actual brand. It doesn’t happen very often. Political marketing people think they are building a brand but, for the most part, they are just using formulas, like putting him or her with the family, showing them with the right peeps and reacting to what the other candidate or party does. And, of course, counting the lies. That is pretty much a proven route to at least a reasonably close campaign.

Obama did it right in his first election by creating the CHANGE brand. His platform was as intriguing as he was. The second time around, his brand was basically, I AM NOT ROMNEY. Which worked also because he was on the right side and he had very sophisticated polling methods. Sometimes that’s all you need. Well, that and a talking horse. You really can’t go wrong with a wealthy talking horse ad.

Ad So what about when brands pick sides? We just did a piece for our client (the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) that played off of the NSA controversy. The ad is featured here and did pretty well, garnering more than 10 times its cost in earned media. That is media earned from the publicity – not from paying to have something placed in media. Afterward, I listened to an interview with Stuart Elliott from The New York Times where he intimated that as long as it’s a one-time thing and Las Vegas doesn’t pick sides … it’s cute and fun. I may be putting words in his mouth, but he seemed to be saying that brands like Vegas can have fun with current events but not become an active part in them – at least a brand like Vegas.

At R&R, we pride ourselves on Building and Protecting the brands we work for. And there are no other agencies in the country that have a marketing arm and a political arm that are both successful in what they do to the level we are. But even around here, it’s an interesting argument. Can a brand pick a side on a public issue and ride with it … or is politics too serious and a brand like Vegas too fun? Will some of that serious issue taint the brand or will the issue turn and the brand suffer? Or are big issues just to negative and a brand like Vegas too positive? It usually makes for a really long meeting.

It’s a tough one. The truth of the Vegas brand is Adult Freedom. That is what led to What happens here, stays here® and most of what happens with the brand. That puts Vegas clearly on the side of privacy and all the freedoms that allows. Vegas is a place where you can do and be what you can’t at home – and no one will judge you. Seems pretty clear that Vegas is on the side against the NSA, whether it’s done in a fun way or a more serious way. Of course, the NSA has its own WHHSH aspects. I recently read a piece where a man tries to get a record of the information the NSA has on him through the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. The NSA responded by telling him that they can’t send him that information because they can’t reveal that they have it. That would be a risk to national security. Vegas is kind of the same way … if you tell on one person, everyone is in danger.

Comedians don’t stop until it’s not funny anymore. I use The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as a measure of what still has play and what doesn’t. But you could really use any late night talk show. Or you could just do a Google search, watch the chatter on Twitter. There are a million ways to see if something is still a story. Later this month, the head of the NSA is speaking here … so really the story is just building and building. So there is still play in the NSA.

whathapOne of the tweets I continue to see on Twitter is “What happens in Vegas, stays in an NSA database.” This is being passed around continually. It might actually be gaining momentum as a tweet meme. And some would argue a tweet like that is dangerous to the LVCVA brand. Whether you like it or not, social media erodes What happens here, stays here. That’s why we came up with the #knowthecode campaign in the first place. With so much being shared online, the whole WHHSH claim seems suspect. Las Vegas has to protect that … R&R has to protect that. But is there a cost to going too far in the real world versus the marketing world? Or is there any difference anymore? Has the social media world brought the two so close together that there are fewer lines between them? And is there a danger of a brand looking like it is taking itself too seriously

This isn’t really new. We have done this sort of thing before. When Biden said something he shouldn’t have, we commented. When Obama said something detrimental about Vegas, we shot back. We defended Prince Harry. But we didn’t go too far. We stayed in the brand’s voice and made it a short blast and not a continued effort. And we aren’t the only people doing it. A lingerie brand played off the NSA thing with a message to Snowden … again, pretty much a one-time shot. And a number of brands are defending the LGBT issues in this country … Oreo has done a fantastic job of this.

And in Brazil, protesters are picking and choosing brands to use against the government by their slogans. “Come to the street,” a Fiat slogan used to celebrate the Confederations Cup soccer championship, and “The Giant woke up,” a slogan for Johnnie Walker in Brazil, have both been seen on signs and on Twitter.

What if we do go too far? I guess there is always the danger of going so far that we are all arrested and put in a very dark cell where no one will ever find us. It would be hard to put the whole city of Vegas in such a cell, but certain R&R folk could disappear and no one would be the wiser. I am always looking over my shoulder. Then there is the danger of Vegas seeming un-American. What is more American than total self-gratification for a weekend? Nothing. I know this from personal experience as an American who does a lot of selfing. And there is the risk of losing U.S. government conventions and meetings that are held here. Nah … politicians enjoy selfing way too much.

I would love your opinion on this. Are brands separate from the issues of the people? Is there a responsibility to become part of the conversation? Is it dangerous for a brand to speak too loudly on an issue even if it fits the truth of that brand? Let me know … I am listening.

This message was brought to you by THE COMMITTEE FOR A FREE LAS VEGAS.

The Season

Powerful ads during the Big Game were remembered by some, but just a little more than a week after the game, most of us have forgotten most of the ads. Even with the power of social media and the YouTube Ad Blitz after the game, some brands scored bigger than others. Which poses the question: Is the game a platform for brands to kick off a campaign or a platform for one-offs.

The most forgotten spot is Audi’s Prom. It’s also one of the most conceptually sound spots in the Big Game. Who hasn’t thought back to that prom or dance where they did or didn’t grab that moment? The brand that lost its way was Coke. Coke is supposed to bring happiness to everyone. Making happiness a dog-eat-showgirl competition is not their brand. The best ads were Mercedes Benz Soul and Miracle Stain. They both had everything I need for a great commercial … a great epic story line, fantastic performances, and a communication at the end that seals an emotional tie to the message and the brand. Still, with all that money and talent, a tweet got the most play.

One note … even the worst advertisers during the Super Bowl reap the benefits. For many brands, awareness is a win-win, even if the ad is being touted as a disaster. Century 21 gets talked about for two weeks before the game and gets Web and customer traffic to make just being in the broadcast worth it even though the ads end up at the bottom of most lists. There are many other brands that feel the same way. Look at Audi. They had a pretty good ad and believe that a TV buy in the Super Bowl is the best way to go year after year … because it works.

It seems that, unlike the game itself, for most brands, the Super Bowl ad competition doesn’t end at the final whistle. Brands are clearly hopeful that their campaign kickoffs lead to long returns with their consumers.

Super Bowl Ads for 2012 – Poop-less Baby Time Machine Edition

THE WINNERS

Chrysler “It’s Halftime, America”

OK, I have to start with Clint. I mean, he is Clint after all. First off, he is walking around in some really dark places in Detroit, or was he at the game? Looked kind of like Detroit. I know he could probably go all Dirty Harry on any trouble, but still I worried about him in that tunnel. Equating Detroit with the rest of America makes sense since the rest of America bailed out Detroit. And I do believe it is halftime in America. One of the most TRUE things Clint says is, “All that matters now is what’s ahead.” And that is very TRUE at halftime. One of the weirdest things he says is, “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.” One punch? One punch really puts a false spin on years of greed; mismanagement by those very car companies; and the very real budget, unemployment and housing issues this country still faces. But I guess America is a lot like Clint – faced with adversity, we always seem to have one last bullet. “So you’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

VW “The Dog Strikes Back”

As soon as I saw this fat dog, I was in. Come on. Everyone has a fat dog. I have a fat dog and I love him. And America is fat. And it’s halftime, America. Get off your asses and get in shape. Then chase a VW into the future where there’s a Star Wars’ bar and Darth Vader. OK, that’s where I got a little lost. So I went right back to thinking about the fat dog trying to get through the dog door and I laughed.

Camry “Reinvented”

This is the kind of concept spot I have always liked. They don’t show a thing that has been reinvented for the Camry, but you get the feeling that they’re always looking for innovation. And innovation is full of lofty dreams like poop-less babies and rain that makes you thin. Hopefully, Toyota will back it up with some cool stuff like heated cup holders or cars that run on baby poop.

Chevy “Mayan Apocalypse”

This ad looks fantastic. If you’re going to do the end of the world, you should spend the coin to do it right. And the song is great. But poor Dave. He drove a Ford. You always take a chance when you go straight at a competitor. Especially a competitor that has the money to come back at you like Ford, but I think in this case it was worth it. And even if Ford does retaliate with Dave ruling the Tunnel People in his Ford X-150 or whatever, a Twinkie will make it all better.

Honda “Matthew’s Day Off”

There was a lot of chatter among ad folks that this ad sucked. I liked it. One of the main things ads do is to capture an emotion that can be attributed to your product. Revisiting Ferris Bueller brings back a host of emotions if you’re a fan of the film. Even though the ad didn’t live up to the movie, I still felt like taking the day off and finding some crazy stuff to do instead. If an ad can infuse a sense of whimsy and freedom to your product – you win even if it is a mini-SUV with a somewhat stunted personality.

Doritos “Man’s Best Friend”

I thought the ad was fun but not really great. However, I did enjoy the edge of it. Dogs whacking cats works for me and obviously for America. And it seems it is worth $1 million from Doritos. So that makes it good. Doritos has found a great identity for their Super Bowl spots and has really grabbed the attention away from BEERS.

Seinfeld “Acura Transactions”

Seinfeld is funny, but it’s very inside funny. If you love the show, you probably loved the ad. But I don’t love Leno and I’m not really digging the premise of the spot. So others worked better for me. Still, the ad got a ton of play before the Super Bowl so it probably worked.

THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

Samsung’s “Thing Called Love” seems like a phone with a pen. At least they are trying and the ad was kind of fun.

Bridgestone’s “Performance Ads” were interesting, but I feel like they have done better. I want one of those tire footballs though.

“Happy Grad” for Chevy was a funny performance, but I have to agree with a friend of mine who said, “The client could have directed that. They love it when someone in the ad is screaming for their product.” It looks like crowd sourcing is really helping clients get the ads that appeal to them that they may not be getting from agencies.

KIA “Dream Car” was a pretty good ad. It was fun to watch and I will remember the girl waving the flag. But sometimes, ads are just missing something. I felt this last year with KIA. But this year was better.

M&M’s “Naked” was a big fan favorite. It was good, but I wasn’t thinking of it as much of a Super Bowl spot. It just lacked import. It was funny, but just a good ad.

Bud’s “Wego” was a fun dog-gets-us-beer spot again. I feel like I have seen a lot of dog-getting-us-beers spots. But the dog was fantastic.

Pepsi and Elton. It just didn’t live up to my expectations for Elton.

THE LOSERS

Century 21. I am biased here but I think they really blew it. I see the point they are trying to make with their agents, but they did it in a way that couldn’t be more phony. People are still in a tough spot with their homes in America. Sure, they are looking for superheroes to help them. But instead of looking like superheroes, the agents tended to look like cartoons, especially when helping Trump and Sanders. Also, the way the ads are shot is just way too slick. There isn’t a home in America that can live up to the color alone in those ads much less anything else. The tone of the ads is all wrong. It’s matter of fact and carefree when consumers are still anything but. They don’t take the Century 21 brand seriously, so why should we.

E*TRADE has been a winner for years in the Super Bowl. They have a rich history of bringing home the bacon in the big game. This year was their worst performance ever in my opinion. It would have been better if they had skipped the competition. They lost face.

Bud’s “Prohibition” was a nice idea but it was so boring. History lessons are not good commercials unless someone gets killed Boardwalk Empire style. They should have whacked the Coors guy trying to move in on their territory from Denver.

COMMERCIALS WITH SEXY WOMEN AND MEN

Go Daddy. Wow, they just get more and more idiotic as time passes. But it seems to work in the big game. The ads are not good though. It’s hard to tell what they’re even communicating other than – please come to the website. I love beautiful women but have never been to the website – ever.

Teleflora’s “Give and Receive.” I hate to tell them this, but she is going to need far more than flowers. She looks really high-maintenance. Flowers and a car may do it. Flowers and a summer home. Flowers and a 20-carat diamond. You get the picture. Still, the ad was memorable for obvious reasons.

H&M’s “David Beckham.” Women watch the game too. And this would be the part they actually watched. So good job David Peckham, I mean Beckham.

USA TODAY’S AD METER WINNER

“Baby Sling” was shown to me by the director in a sound-editing suite along with some other ads he was entering. There was another ad I thought was much better called “Dog Heist.” I still like it better although it looks like “Baby Sling” has a great chance to win the USA TODAY AD METER and a prize of 1 million bucks. I don’t know why though. I could see that baby coming from a mile away. He would never get my Doritos.

PARTING THOUGHT

There are those who didn’t like the fact that Super Bowl ads were put out early on YouTube and corporate Web pages. The companies that do this are smart. The ads need time to get press and social momentum. With the price of a Super Bowl spot and the money it takes to produce one, buy rights to songs, pay celebrities and put together any other parts of a program that may be needed, it’s important to get as much play as you possibly can. The day of the game and the three days after are not near enough.

10 Things That Should Matter More in 2012 and Things I Was Semi-Right About Mattering More in 2011

Back in the beginning of January 2011, I made some predictions about things I thought would be important in that year.

Well, that year is over. Let’s see how it went.

I talked about the power of the personal brands. If you look at last year, the Personal Brand was in full force. From the Kardashians to Steve Jobs, to Zuckerberg to you. Yes, you. Due to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs, you are out there as a brand whether you like it or not. Everything you do is being looked at and scrutinized, to a degree, by others. You are, in essence, forming a relationship with the world. Individuals are looked at as much as their companies are. Even with mass movements – individuals and their tweets and status updates stand out. YouTube has given millions the ability to become brands with nothing more than a video camera. And these brands are making money … lots of it. Take Randall and Honey Badger for instance. I happen to know he has an agent and a brand.

Another was the Power of the iPad. OK, so the iPad was an easy guess. But just how much of a game changer is it? Well, it’s now replacing airline flight manuals. It’s used in hospitals, restaurants and offices everywhere. It’s the new children’s book. It’s the new art gallery. It’s the new canvas. It’s every presentation. But more important, it’s what the next generation will grow up on and that is the real game changer. iPad kids will have a whole different perspective on what mobile is and will be in the future.

One of the things that will play this year as well is Real-time Interactive experiences that went past the computer and into the real world. Take a look at these wonderful examples of that. This year, the HYBRID of real and digital will continue to grow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/sunday-review/the-internet-gets-physical.html

Then there was Crowdsourcing. It’s not just for advertising anymore. It is now helping us discover new products and help get them on the market. It’s also helping to publish books. But, best of all, it’s working toward discoveries in health care and science.

http://unbound.co.uk/

http://www.kickstarter.com/

I talked about how digital still wasn’t getting what TV has mastered. And that is still the case in my book.

Digital hasn’t figured out how to showcase its great content. And, in many ways, still isn’t providing great content to showcase. Digital needs to look at TV and learn some things. TV spends the money on content. TV promotes content. TV makes content an event even with TIVO. And TV still has more resources. But most of all, too many digital agencies spend their time talking about usability, wireframes, click-through metrics and half a dozen other digital buzzwords. That’s all well and good, but I am going to spend two minutes on your Web page if you are lucky. Meanwhile, I will spend more than four hours watching TV. Stop bullshitting me and put more on the Web that I need to see as much as I need to see the season finale of Homeland.

We were all wrong about Foursquare. I don’t use Foursquare much anymore and I don’t do a lot of checking in. I have also tired of watching my friends check in from different dive bars. So, from my perspective, I have lost interest in Foursquare discounts and I don’t want to be an imaginary mayor. Plus, my coffee place went to a frequency card.

It looks like Foursquare only figured out consumers and it didn’t even figure them out that well. It left companies to figure out the business portion.

And since the economy is getting better, the companies decided they don’t care about Foursquare as much either.

The consolidation battle between Facebook and Google rages on and on and on. Who will win your soul? Google. No, Facebook. No, Google. It’s hard to decide. Consumers seem locked in to Facebook. However, Google keeps throwing stuff against the wall hoping it will stick. Maybe something that helps individuals stand out more will be the key for Google along with all the customizable friend and privacy settings.

But the best prediction of last year was the Power of the Disenfranchised. The Occupy Wall Street set and whole countries decided they didn’t like the way things were going for them and moved on it. Social media was a conduit for these movements. This has empowered a great many to think they can cause the CHANGE that politicians have been inept at bringing. And if these movements get more organized with stronger leaders and missions, the sky is the limit. This may be the new system in 10 years. It’s pretty obvious the current political party system DOES NOT WORK (see Herman Cain and a host of Republican contenders).

However, the banks will never change. Greed wins over common sense the majority of the time.

All in all, not a bad year. So, what about 2012? Here are some thoughts on what will be more important in the coming year. (Not in any particular order.)

1. The Need for Privacy

Simply put, we don’t have any. Facebook, Google, your iPhone and the nation’s security issues have taken most of it away. With Facebook’s suicide button, you can report a friend who seems too depressed. How far away is that from reporting a person who seems like they might commit a crime? With Facebook’s Timeline, you can look into the history of friends and coworkers. You can look at a relationship status. You can stalk. It’s a window that is always open. With Foursquare, everyone knows you are out while your valuables are home alone. Your iPhone is tracking your movements. Cameras are everywhere. Phones can take a picture and post it to numerous social networks in seconds, tagging you forever. What happens when local cameras are automatically linked to phones? Watch out, terrorists. And what about the social index that can map when large groups are happy, sad, hungry, etc., from their social interactions? Can’t the same be done searching the key words used by individuals? Maybe I want to be sad ALONE.

It seems nothing is sacred anymore. We recently put a campaign together within Vegas asking people to Protect their What Happens Here, Stays Here moments by tweeting and posting discretely when on vacation here. It’s just the beginning. In the next couple of years, the privacy issue will provide a host of apps and a ton of conversation.

2. Transcending YouTube

YouTube celebrities have been showing up in the mainstream for a long time. Someone gets a ton of hits and you see them on a talk show or they get a TV deal. This year, however, brands will hook on to them like fine cheese at the wine tasting. Because the sheer number of fans is so appetizing. From Randall for Emerald Nuts to DJ Dave for Hyundai, the brands are taking notice of the number of hits on their videos.

As well they should. The tie in to Web videos for the brand should be easier since that is the original home of the celebrities in the first place. And if you think there are only a few of them getting the really big numbers of viewers, think again. For instance, try Nice Peter’s Epic Rap Battles – millions and millions of views. Just one of the many.

3. Putting a Brand Worth on Friends/Followers

What are those 600,000 Facebook friends really worth? What kind of ROI can I put to them? How can I spur them into action? How can I turn then into Brand Ambassadors, Brand Evangelists and, eventually, Brand Instigators? Because, as we all know, the key is not those people, but the people they will eventually influence. As more companies start building these groups, they’ll want to know what they’re really getting for the money. They can look at sales, do surveys or follow an online promotion setup for that very measurement, but this is really a small part of the picture. A lot of this is on the “come” as they say. Your Brand Instigators could have already influenced someone to use your product or service – someone who will never become your brand’s friend or tell you how they were influenced on a survey. That’s the nature of social and why it is so successful. Social still feels like an authentic suggestion from a trusted friend. How often is that happening and converting to sales? It’s a big question that will be on more companies’ minds than ever before.

4. The Online Content vs. Risk Dilemma

As more companies get a digital knowledge base, they will take less risk online. The Web is becoming less new and ambitious and more usability and content-driven. This has been happening for the last few years. That isn’t to say there aren’t wonderful sites to see. There are. They just happen to look and feel like what already works. The new mentality is that we will work on original content instead of originality. This is not a bad thing as long as the content is great. If it isn’t, then you just have another site. What does this mean for next year and beyond? Two things: 1. Content is going to get more and more competitive. 2. True originality will stand out like a sore thumb for better or worse.

The bottom line is that originality moves things forward while content makes what is working watchable and engaging. Originality will take a back seat this year on the digital front.

5. Screen Integration

Putting the TV screen, iPad screen and smartphone screen together will be paramount this year. Apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow listen for the audio signature of the show you are watching on television and provide you a unique second-screen experience to go with it. Well, a somewhat unique experience. In other words, the experience could use more content. Content is the key again here.

First off, the app is 100 percent accurate when it listens to identify what you are watching. Better than Shazam by a mile. And if you like to watch TV in a social manner, nothing will beat this. You can discuss with others who are watching the show, watch tweets connected with the show, get information about the episode and season, even buy the show ION iTunes. It’s all on one screen. If you are watching a sporting event, the stats are right there along with a lot of other great information.

What the app lacks is extra original content from the network. However, this will come in the near future. Think of the extras that can be made available to someone watching a show like LOST.

And that’s just the beginning of shared-screen experience. There’s already an app where you can paint over what you’re seeing on your iPad’s camera screen. It’s called Composite.

Couple that with augmented reality and who knows what will happen when you hold your iPad up to a television someday. Hidden characters? Hidden clues? Where to buy the outfits they’re wearing? Alternate endings? What’s to the right of picture where the screen ends? Games? Think of the possibilities.

6. The End of Talking to Anyone But Siri

Talking is out. It is a lost art. Texting allows you to interrupt at any moment. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to do it (well, driving, finally – you have to stop driving – or you should stop driving). It allows you to put something out there with less risk of rejection. It’s casual even when it’s serious. It’s immediate. There are no awkward silences. When you text, you can attribute those silences to anything. Maybe they got hit by a bus or their phone went dead or they’re in a meeting on a bus that hit someone. No one ever has to believe that they are the reason for the silence. And, most of all, it’s just easier than talking.

Siri is perfect for the texting age. Siri is also immediate. Now you don’t even have to type. You can teach Siri to text someone. You can teach Siri who your wife is or who your best friend is.

And Siri is easy to talk to. She basically just does what you say. The only awkward silences are attributed to Siri not working. Which has happened to me a couple of times.

As Siri learns more and more apps learn to work with Siri, the dream of never having to talk to anyone real may become a reality. I look forward to the day when Siri starts to want stuff from me. Then I will know she is really learning.

7. Backstories

For those on the constant search for authenticity, this will be the year of backstories. In the world of art, the backstory is everything. The “provenance,” as it is called, should be able to trace the past of any great painting or sculpture. Companies and their products will start telling these stories more and more to today’s untrusting consumer. You will see the Web filled with videos showing how boots are made by hand; inspiration that led to that craft-brewed beer you like; the history of your jacket, and the individuals behind it all. It’s the year of pulling back the curtain. Even bankers will give it a shot, but who will believe?

8. The Gospel of Jobs and the Spread of Apple Innovation

The Steve Jobs love affair is just beginning. Pretty much everyone has read the Steve Jobs book (not me yet, but I have it on my iPad at the ready). They have seen his rules for innovation. They have felt his world-changing power. Now they all want to be a part of it. They like spreading the gospel of Jobs. They want to be Steve Jobs. For all the people who say there will never be another Steve Jobs, there are millions of inspired people and companies that will be trying to become the next Steve Jobs. And that will lead to Apple innovation and simplicity in a host of new and exciting products that cover a wide spectrum of our lives. Like the one below.

http://www.nest.com/blog/

I think there will be a number of Steve Jobs in our future. If not, at least some products he would be proud of.

9. Newsjacking

http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/newsjacking-turns-you-into-the-expert/

It’s not new, but it will become a bigger story this year. With search engines, blogs and the ability to target consumers like never before, the ability to make your brand part of breaking stories is easier than ever. Ad campaigns will follow closer to trends and often be built around them. In a world where “there’s an app for that,” marketers will have to move fast. These days, consumers have a thought and they want it taken care of. They want things that make sense for the times because they live current and interconnected. The river of information is in constant flow. It can’t hurt to jump on one of the big logs so that someone might notice you before the falls.

10. The Clouds

Consumers will discover the cloud this year. If you asked most of them last year, they would say, “What is that?” or “You mean the fluffy thing in the sky?” Most consumers look at the cloud as one, main place. This year, they’ll understand the cloud is Amazon, Dropbox, Facebook, Evernote, iCloud, Google and many more. The cloud is about as fragmented as it can be. As more consumers start to understand the cloud and what it means, they will look for ways to consolidate their information. This is the big hope of Google. Google has a place for all your stuff in the cloud under one account. Right now, it may be the easiest, but Apple is close behind with iCloud. And then there’s the personal cloud where you own the memory and the location of your personal server and access your information from there (R&R client Western Digital plug here).

If you’re using the cloud, get ready. Because the cloud wars are just heating up.

I hope some of this has been interesting to you. I certainly don’t know everything, but I would like to. So if you want to tell me what I’ve missed, argue one of these points or just call me an idiot, feel free. I am @arnied on Twitter.

Have a great 2012.

Ad Jazz

 

I was listening to the jazz channel on XM radio and I thought about how much jazz is like marketing. They were playing “Someday My Prince Will Come,” by Dave Brubeck (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSGm2x7DEB8). Of course, this is the jazz version of the song from Snow White (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0niwn2pOEno). The original is really a signature of the Disney brand. It has been done in different styles by a number of jazz and popular musicians because of the incredibly strong melody written by Frank Churchill. I like to think of it as a strong musical brand of sorts.   


Dave Brubeck’s version of “Someday My Prince Will Come.”


The Snow White rendition.

The Brubeck version is especially fascinating. The signature melody begins the song with a simple piano. This is the melody we all easily recognize – the core melody. It’s the familiar emotional territory we have lived with since we were kids. It takes us back to all the good feelings we had with Snow White and Disney and the youthful nature of our imagination. It makes me feel young and at the beginning of life, even though I am a little past the middle. Then the horns come in and it is the beginning of a journey. It leaps along that familiar melody jumping forward while dancing around the core ever so lightly, touching outside of it and coming back. It’s teasing us as to what is to come. It’s getting us ready for something. It’s telling us that this is not your childhood melody anymore. It’s alive. It’s free. And that freedom becomes more pronounced as it starts to keep smaller and smaller portions of the core until we are moving along and dancing with something familiar and also something brand new. They are living together as one. The core is still there, inside, but the new free-form world built around it takes us to new places emotionally. Eventually the piano comes back in to take us full circle where we hear more of that familiar core. And we think we are going to come all the way back to that same familiar melody. And for a second we do. But it’s not the same. And it shouldn’t be. It’s alive and changing. And it’s reflecting not only the changes in our lives, but the changes brought by those that interpret it.

A strong brand is very much like this. It has core values that make it what it is. Fans of strong brands are emotionally attached to that brand by the way it talks and feels to them. They recognize the core of a brand just like they would recognize the core of a song. And brands often need to reach people on different levels and in different places. Whether that is on a social level through Facebook or Twitter, or a new strategy that needs to be addressed within the brand structure, the core should always come through. Building and protecting a brand requires strengthening the core of a brand, while giving it the flexibility to stretch. And that is what jazz is like. 

Here is what someone reviewing the Miles Davis version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBq87dbKyHQ) said. … “This is what jazz is all about, it takes you out there and brings you back, nothing goes astray, everything is tight without feeling controlled, and is loose enough to slide the top down and find some back roads to roll through … or better yet, a back road where you can pull off to the side and turn up the volume as the afternoon sun sinks low, giving way to the purple skies of evening.”


Miles Davis’ version of “Someday My Prince Will Come.”

Miles Davis puts it this way … “Oh, you have some kind of form. You have to start somewhere. I mean, otherwise we’d all be living outdoors. You have walls and stuff, but you still come in a room and act kinda free. There’s a framework, but it’s just – we don’t want to overdo it, you know. It’s hard to balance. Sometimes you don’t even know if people like it or not.” That is what branding people do every day. They play with a strategy but make it feel free. And they find out if people like it by the results but sometimes not right when they are doing it.

Of course, he’s got creativity in spades. And he uses the same language when he talks about creating that advertising/marketing creatives do when he says, “That isn’t comfortable, either. I mean, the beat might be here, and he might be playing way up on top of it. You have to fix yourself sort of a point of balance – anywhere. That’s what I mean by not being comfortable. You should never be comfortable, man. Being comfortable fouled up a lot of musicians.”

Brands are complicated. They have life. They have ups and downs. They touch different people in different ways. They are affected by the things that happen around them and the passing of time. A brand that can stay timeless and still stay with the times is a great brand. Building a brand and protecting a brand is very much like jazz. You have to have a great strategic framework and put some incredible musicians to work on performing the daylights out of it.

Sounds easy, right? …

But if you want to know the one thing that makes brands most like jazz – it’s a quote from Louis Armstrong. When asked what jazz was he said, “If you don’t know, don’t mess with it.”

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Gaga of CES 2011

The Bad – Pads

 The iPad has caused the rest of the world to make pads. Big pads, small pads, cheap copycat pads, pads with keyboards, pads that are also laptops, pads that work with other stuff and pads that defy description. From what I can tell, none of them are any better than the iPad, but a lot of them are just plain bad pads. This Dell spins the pad part around to become a laptop. That would be fine if it didn’t make it so fat. There were two Italian gentlemen looking at this Dell and I’m pretty sure they kept saying whatever “fat” is in Italian. 

And the Galaxy tablet from Samsung is only slightly bigger than the iPhone. It’s amazing how many people say to me, “Isn’t the iPad just a bigger version of the iPhone?” And I guess I would answer back, “At least it’s bigger.” My advice to anyone looking to buy a tablet is to buy an iPad. And to anyone looking to get a keyboard for their iPad, buy a 15-inch Mac Air. Getting a keyboard for your iPad just makes you look like you can’t afford a real computer.  Continue reading