Author: Arnie DiGeorge, Executive Creative Director

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 »

10 Things I Think Will Be Even More Important in 2011

1. Personal Brands – People now understand the importance of the Personal Brand. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook have alerted everyone to the importance of their Personal Brand. What kind of relationship does the rest of the world have with them – even if the rest of the world includes their close personal friends and no one else. Everyone on the planet sees what they do and is on the Web. Not all of them care about doing anything with it, but they have the awareness. And in 2011, there will be more and more ways for it to manifest itself. The future of you may not be who you believe you are, but who you want people to believe you are. Especially when it comes to getting a job.

There is no barier to the iPad. It's a game-changer.

2. The iPad – I have an iPad. My friend Mike has a Galaxy Pad. I feel bad for him, but I’m sure he’ll survive. When the iPad first came out, everyone viewed it as a big iPhone. Big mistake. I realized the iPad was much more when the owner of my company was carrying one around. He is not a tech person. But he is living on his iPad. That alone makes it a game changer. It’s something a computer couldn’t do. It couldn’t even level the playing field for someone like him. The iPad does. There’s no barrier to iPad. The iPad is for everyone. It’s just simple great. And simple great will take over the world.

3. Real-Time Interactive – It’s one thing to offer a website that allows you interaction. But how does that interaction change the real world? This will become more and more important as individuals start to look for a world outside the computer. They won’t let go of the computer, but they will want more real-world connections because of it. They will want to control or affect things that live in real time. They will want to be a part of more things that live in real time. Putting the Web world and real-time world together will be an even bigger deal than it was in 2010.

4. The Consolidation Battle – Facebook wants you to spend the majority of your time on Facebook, including your e-mail time. Foursquare wants you to check in on Foursquare and talk about things on Foursquare. Google wants you to turn into some sort of Google creature that can’t function without Google. Meanwhile, there are multitudes of other check-in sites including Foodspotting, Get Glue, Philo, etc. Many of these sites/apps are linked and many are not. The battle for the majority of your time is ongoing and well, pretty insane. Who will win? Will anyone? I don’t know but I know it will be a fight to the death.

5. Crowdsourcing – Using the Cloud to do all the work is in vogue. Although it’s not necessarily new, the execution of it has gotten far more sophisticated. Agencies like Victors and Spoils have taken it to a new level.  They have legitimized it to big advertisers like Harley-Davidson, WD-40 and others. Doritos and Converse have been doing it with their TV and Web films for years now. The trend will continue until it isn’t fascinating to advertisers anymore. That could happen soon or keep on indefinitely as more and more advertisers try it. It’s such a cost-effective way to go, that the trend is very appetizing and could remain so.

Foursquare checks in at No. 6 on our list -- as rewards and discounts for people who use it become more a prevalent business practice.

6. Coupon Gaming – Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp and a host of others are or will be rewarding people for checking in at their establishments with discounts and freebies. When I was at my coffee place (Sambalatte in Vegas), the Foursquare mayor was asking the owner why he wasn’t giving him a discount for being the mayor of Sambalatte. When the early adopters start demanding it, the regular folks will follow. It will be fun to watch the developments once everyone is in the game. And you thought seniors got all the discounts.

7. The Power of the Disenfranchised – Yes, they have power. And they are the multitudes. I’m not including myself because I have a job and can pay my bills. But I probably should add myself to the list. Why? Because I think there are a great many Americans who are figuring out that they are one bad Friday away from being disenfranchised. And that’s a frightening prospect that’s motivating people like never before. It’s also one of the reasons a Palin could become the Republican nominee for president. I didn’t say the disenfranchised made wise decisions. But they do have power. And that power will manifest itself outside the world of politics as they realize just how much they can effect. When roving mobs with pitchforks and torches come back, I will tweet about it.

8. New-Fangled Television Advertising – This is going to sound crazy, but I’ll say it. Television advertising is still important. The drive to spend more money online is hurting television advertising budgets and leveling out the mix but not making television obsolete. With Hulu, Netflix, Hi-Def DVRs, 3-D television, Google TV and about a zillion Web videos, you will need a good mix to have a chance at reaching anyone. Right now most digital shops don’t get the magic of television. They don’t understand what Web videos can be. They treat them more like content and not the branding vehicles they should be. When it’s done right, what you see on the computer is a perfect complement to what you see on television. I sit and watch television with my computer on my lap. I have learned to watch whichever one has the best stuff on it that particular minute. Try it.

9. Things That Have Nothing to Do with Technology – The wired world has already hit a kind of critical mass. Hipsters are looking for ways to let go of technology. That same need will get past the cool hunters and become a need for the rest of us this year. Like I mentioned above – computers are too entrenched for us to lose them completely. But we will start to look for things that can give us a well-needed break. But not exercise. That’s where I draw the line.

10. More and More Ways to Make You Part of the Entertainment You Watch Every Night – If you watch The Colbert Report, you know that he had an art episode with Steve Martin where he had Shepard Fairey and others work on a picture of him to make it collectable. Then he continued that online where you could participate and change the picture as well. Then those pictures that you created end up on the show. Conan has taken to involving the audience in making films for his show that live on the Web and on air. This is what the smarter shows will do – make you feel like a part of them.

Monday Inspiration

Here is some interesting stuff from last week that will make you laugh, cry, scream, and think. Enjoy.

Inception inspired ad for Shaun White Skateboarding.  Really well done.

GE’s incredible interactive program centers on hospitals first then more.  This is what other brands should shoot for.

If Adidas made a camera this should be it.

Some great outdoor work.  And fun too.

Little Melting Men make a point about global warming.

Frank Miller goes Gucci.

Groupon kills it with Gap.  Is this the new way?  For now it seems, it is.

Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop is genius.  Here is some of his work, also genius.

This seems like a waste of money to me.  Lady Java.  Not a ton of imagination.

Flash mobs want you to boycott Target.  I didn’t think Target could do any wrong.  But they can.

Zubi.  A site that you must see.

I think Joaquin Phoenix’s movie will be great.  Or at least different.  

Puma glorifies the lifestyle athlete.

Chat Roulette is scary anyways.  Now even more scary.  

A great website to explore.  Watch out for oil.

Rolling Stone thanks the big fat record execs.  Long live rock and roll.

Avoiding the idea generation trap.  Good advice.

My interview on whohub.  It doesn’t make me special — you can have one too.  Let me know.  I will read it.

See you next time.

A Big Rat’s Dream

Recently, a rat chewed through a couple of wires behind my television set. I lost my sound to the receiver. I was able to catch that rat and get my revenge, but it reminded me of how much I hate the wires. We get closer every day to the end of wires, dishes, cables, television tethers that keep us pulling out the set and figuring out the inputs and outputs. It is not fun.

Today, I felt like the end was really in site with the new Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus is the subscription service of formerly free Hulu. With the new wireless television sets, Hulu Plus, Roku, Netflix and a host of others will allow us to watch TV without much more than a plug. We can rent movies, watch television shows, buy movies, listen to books and cruise the net all at the same time. Not only that, I can also watch Hulu on my computer, iPhone or iPad.

Right now, I’m paying for cable, which is more than $150 a month. Hulu Plus and Roku together would run $20 a month unless you want to rent Amazon movies, which are $4 to $5 each. Eventually, everyone will figure out that it’s better to turn on a TV and have everything you need as long as you have a wireless connection. It’s cheaper, cooler, easier and just plain smarter. And someday, the channels you now get with DIRECTV or Cable will come without a DIRECTV guy or cable guy. It will all be in the TV and available through your wireless connection. Add wireless stereo receivers and speakers all in one big bundle and you never have to worry about wires again.

Maybe some of us will still keep paying for cable and satellite. We’ll just add Hulu Plus, Roku, Sony’s system and anything else that will give us enough options to make our couch time roll by in pixilated bliss. And we’ll watch a giant split-screen with a Netflix movie on one side, football on the other and a Hulu’d Office episode in the middle. If we’re lucky, we’ll see about five minutes of each since we’ll be trying to watch YouTube videos from the computers on our laps and make FaceTime calls from our iPhones at the same time.

If a hundred channels weren’t enough, why would 2,000 channels do it? It’s like the Gillette 5 Blade Razor. Three blades were good. Four blades were great. But if I only had one more blade, then I could be sure I was getting the best shave. Well, until they have six blades, that is. And seven, if I had seven blades.

If that’s the way it’s going to be, it’s just more for the rats to chew on. I long for the day when they have nothing but the plug and that small piece of cheese I leave on the sticky trap to gnaw at.