Iconic Work for An Iconic Brand

The Stanley Cup is arguably the most famous trophy in all of professional sports. And to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the National Hockey League selected R&R Partners to help promote the occasion.

R&R created and produced a month-long campaign that included two broadcast spots, a 360-VR activation at an NHL game, and a content film to be shared out with the NHL’s 4 million-plus followers. The most engaging aspect of the campaign was our activation effort. Our team concepted and produced a surprise and delight moment at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for the Penguin’s February 18 game.

Outside of the Stanley Cup VR Experience at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Fans were invited to line up before and after the game to step inside our 20-foot shipping container that housed our VR experience. Each guest sat down around a small, unassuming black table equipped with VR headsets and a tiny replica of the Stanley Cup. Each guest was set up with the headset by our brand ambassadors and transported to a VR world of historic Cup wins and clips of the Cup being hoisted by their favorite players. A final scene involved Phil Pritchard – the official keeper of the Cup– and an opportunity to virtually reach out and grab the Cup. But what the guests didn’t know was, while they were inside this VR world, Phil and the Cup were actually in the room.

The iconic Stanley Cup is placed in front of an unsuspecting fan while watching the 125th Stanley Cup VR video.

Once fans were situated, Phil quietly came out from behind a black curtain and replaced the tiny replica on the table in front of them with the actual Stanley Cup! The reactions, once headsets were removed, ran the spectrum. There were lots of tears, screams, and complete and utter shock that left some completely speechless. It’s truly amazing to see the deep connection the Cup holds with each person.

Working with the NHL was truly an honor for the agency and we created work that lives up to its legacy. View the TV campaign and a video of the fan experience below:


“If This Cup Could Talk”


“Perfectly Imperfect”


“The Real Thing”

When You Buy the Chance to Speak to 100 Million+ People, What Do You Say?

Before we begin, let’s get a couple of non-advertising subjects out of the way.

First, the game ended up being very exciting. The first SB overtime ever. The biggest SB lead ever overcome (blown?). Some say the Patriots won it. Others feel they were simply there to accept the gift that the Falcons so generously gave them. I saw a little of both. And since I’m a fan of neither team, my hope was for a close game. Mission accomplished.

Second, Lady Gaga is really brave (and clearly not afraid of heights). Her 19-minute greatest hits medley was fun and predictably over-the-top. I always wonder where they find a place big enough to rehearse those productions. The drones were cool too. Drones are almost always cool.

Okay, on to the ads. My initial impression: not a great year, not a bad one. In terms of quality, pretty much in line with the last two or three. Not quite as many anamorphic animals. (Hey, Budweiser, no dogs and Clydesdales this year?) The usual boatload of celebrities – some used very well, some totally wasted. Lots of movie trailers for big, bloated summertime tent-pole action films. Not sure the world is clamoring for new entries in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers canons, but the new Fast and Furious movie looks like it might be fun.

If there was one very noticeable trend, it was this – there are a bunch of big-money advertisers that spent a lot of money making the point that, regardless of the opinions held by many of the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, things like inclusion, diversity, understanding, equality, empowerment and the struggle of immigrants to find a better life are still an important part of our social fabric.

Air BnB led off with an in-your-face (literally) declaration:

Then, Coca-Cola did its Coca-Cola thing:

Google Home, with a very nice celebration of diversity and commonality:

No Clydesdales, but Budweiser did tell an (admittedly, somewhat embellished) immigration story. This is interesting because it’s almost exactly the opposite of the brash, bellicose, supremely annoying declaration of “all things ‘Murican’” it ran in last year’s game. Many, including Sarah Palin, are now calling for a boycott of Budweiser. Can’t think of a better reason to Buy Some Buds:

A10 warns of “four years of awful hair.” Good for them:

Audi talks female empowerment and equality, through a kick-ass little racer:

Finally, the ballsiest of them all. 84 Lumber, of all people, gave us this:

The original spot ended on a shot of a great big wall at the border. Fox Television said “no” to that (shocking, I know). But if you go to the website teased at the end (which crashed on Sunday evening, but it’s working now), you’ll see the end of the story – and the wall. I applaud 84 Lumber not only for the communication, but also for the fact that it is a lumber supply and hardware retailer based in Western Pennsylvania. As such, I’m sure a great many of its core customers may not feel really in sync with its message (see the Budweiser boycott above). Kudos to 84 Lumber for having the conviction to follow through with it.

Advertisers don’t usually view the Super Bowl as a spot to make political or societal statements. The costs and the stakes are usually seen as too high. Hence a lot of animals, celebs and playing it safe. Of course, there was plenty of that this year as well, but it was heartening to see some marketing kahunas (Coke, Audi, Budweiser, Google) put their money where their mouth is and make some waves. Clearly, this year is different.

Now, some random observations from the game:

Worst product category, by far: telecom. Sprint has a guy faking his own death to avoid Verizon fees, while the “Can You Hear Me Now?” guy appears from nowhere on skis (even though there is no snow). Meanwhile T-Mobile serves up actress Kristen Schaal making bad 50 Shades of Gray bondage and discipline jokes with a Verizon customer rep. T-Mobile also gave us Justin Beiber, and a bunch of other really famous people are doing I’m-not-sure-what. And then, naturally, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. Of course. Why not?

Enjoy (or not):

The ad that got the biggest reaction from the R&R Super Bowl party crowd:

Mr. Clean creeped me out. A lot.

The ad that won the annual USA Today Ad Meter Contest:

Pretty funny in a slapstick kind of way. Great choice of music.

The Coen Brothers did this one? Really?

Not really up to their standards, IMHO. Plus, how many people born after 1970 even recognize Peter Fonda? Nice looking car, though.

My favorite ad of the day. This one was a little bit lost in the shuffle. Great writing and acting, which get a little bit overlooked at most Super Bowl gatherings. The R&R party crowd ignored it completely. I’m showing you the long version, because it’s so much fun. Watch it more than once to catch all the jokes.

There you go. Another “Big Game” in the books. More social statements, fewer animals. Though I was happy to see the Ghost of Spuds Mackenzie for Bud Light. I always liked Spuds, and though not great, the ad was a big step up from last year’s Seth Rogan/Amy Schumer election year fiasco.

Until next year, I’m out.

Turning Bad Gifts into Something Good

Just in time for the holidays, R&R launches badgiftsforgood.com. Ever want to send an unwanted fruitcake to the great beyond in pieces? Now you can. And, for every bad gift you destroy, something good happens: R&R Partners Foundation makes a donation to Communities In Schools, a non-profit working to keep at-risk students in school and on a path to graduation.


I was only at CES for three hours but I met a new friend. He wasn’t a person. He was actually a minibus. He was the VW BUDD-e.

The VW BUDD-e is an electric-powered minibus concept car that charges to 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes which is twice as fast as a Tesla. And it can go a distance of 323 miles before a charge according to VW.

How connected is my new friend? Very.

What makes the BUDD-e concept great is the minivan part as much as the technology. It is basically an extension of the living room. It’s like a living room that stretches for miles. You have a television. You are still able to control your home. And the internal Siri-like being is your virtual butler/driver.


First off, he is connected to you in a very personal way. By integrating cell phones, tablets, tagging and the home, BUDD-e is a pretty influential friend. He knows who is in the car and who isn’t. Just in case you are faced with a home alone situation he knows how to open the garage door, turn off the lights in your house, show you who is at the front door on a 30-inch screen in the passenger section and adjust your air conditioning in the car and house through voice commands. Plus you can wave your hand in front of the door to open it. He also has a delivery slot of sorts for packages.

The BUDD-e won’t let you forget anything either. He will tell you if your phone is in the car. He will tell you if there is an umbrella in the car when rain is forecast. Everything is tagged and BUDD-e keeps track of it all.

And BUDD-e is made for a social experience. He is not only connecting the car to the home and the people, he is connecting the people in the car as well by creating a shared trip experience with shared music, destination facts, visuals, etc., that each person inputs before a trip.

What I love are the implications of connected smart cars like BUDD-e. I like to imagine the conversations that would ensue if they can talk. At the moment I am not sure BUDD-e does — but he should.

For instance…

Me:  “Hey BUDD-e, let’s clean the floor while we’re away.”

(LG makes a Roomba-like automated floor cleaner that has a camera.)

BUDD-e:  “Good idea.  The floor is a mess. It was last cleaned 5 days, 4 hours and 16 minutes ago.  And while we are at it, I’m gonna put the house in energy saving mode. Your carbon footprint is pretty heavy. Power companies shouldn’t let you humans control the air conditioning anymore.  WOW, look at that giant piece of dirt.”

Me: “That’s the dog BUDD-e!”

BUDD-e: “Oh, yes. Good point.”

Me: “Hey BUDD-e, do I look fat in this?

BUDD-e: “Yes.  According to your fitness device you haven’t exercised in a month and you’ve gained ten pounds.  So I am gonna have to go with YES.”

Me: “BUDD-e, I am not feeling that well.  I might need emergency assistance.”

BUDD-e: “That isn’t surprising since you opened the fridge seventeen times yesterday, ate fast food 12 times this week, and haven’t been to the doctor in six months.  I have alerted emergency techs and they are sending the Ehang 184 Drone Ambulance. I have opened the sunroof. As long as your heart doesn’t stop you should be able to climb to safety.  While you are at the hospital I will order more Orange Crush and assorted sugary sodas.”

(The Ehang is even more impressive and scary at the same time. It’s a drone that can automatically fly humans around so you may not even need a smart car. One of these can pick you up and fly you to safety with NO PILOT — someday.)


Samsung has digitally tagged clothing called the Smart Suit so BUDD-e will even know what you are wearing. Why does this matter? Because if you are wearing your business suit BUDD-e will put that together with your calendar and he will say…

BUDD-e: “You forgot your briefcase and your computer. You might need those for the big meeting.”

Me: “OMG I am an idiot.”

BUDD-e: “I can’t argue that.  You have 15 books on your Kindle and haven’t read any of them.”

Me: “OK BUDD-e, I get the picture. I don’t read.  I’m fat.  I’m unhealthy.  I get it.”

BUDD-e: “You should bring the bike then and your gym bag.  I’ll wait.  And oh, can I ask you a question?  You have no friends so why did you buy a social minivan?  I want to have group sing-a-longs and play slug-a-bug. You could take a golf cart to the Dairy Queen every day. You don’t need me.”

Cars like BUDD-e will feed your dog while you are on a trip (if you have a connected dog feeder). He will start the coffee maker. With the new Keurig Cold he could make you a piña colada (not sure the Keurig is connected yet but it will be someday). He will turn on the TV so that the show your kids were watching in the van is ready to continue on the TV when you get home. And he will obey your commands like a dog.

Just don’t ask him how much energy you are saving by driving a certain way. He has been known to lie on that one.

In the past I have talked about connections that are made at CES and the connections between devices. They are basically becoming the same. Anyone who watched the presentation that I watched on the BUDD-e is already running back to their labs and thinking of ways to be a part of this thing in a few years. Best of all by then, BUDD-e will most likely be connected to the other sensors that will make it self-driving. The connections between these tech companies are moving the curve quickly. And the companies that are open to these connections will move faster than others.

And the combinations of connections are endless for devices.  Your watch will tell you when your clothes are done.  It will tell you when your oven reaches the required degrees.  You will be able to start your BUDD-e by speaking to your Amazon Echo.  You might be able to send it out to pick up your kids without a driver.  “Hey Alexa (my Amazon Echo’s name), send BUDD-e to pick up the kids at the mall.”  Or you could ask Siri to talk to BUDD-e.  The only thing I worry about is BUDD-e getting a word in edgewise.  And if Siri and Alexa start fighting and BUDD-e gets caught in the middle… watch out!

If BUDD-e can keep up with everything that is happening in the connected world, he could make a great friend…maybe even one you can’t live without.

Favicons: The First Visual Statement of Your Website

Pretend I am Oprah for a second, and listen to me share one of my favorite things:


I love them so much. In fact, since I have started working as a developer the use and importance of a favicon has been the topic I have debated the most. While some people think they are just clutter, I think they showcase a brand and profressionalism.

Unfamiliar with favicons? Well let me tell you what they are.
The word is a combination of favorite and icon. They are tiny little square images that are 16 pixels by 16 pixels. They are not a JPG or a PNG, but an icon file that is saved as an .ico file. They are used as branding / bookmarking on websites. They go next to the title of the webpage if you have a tab open. Like so:

You also may have noticed them here in your bookmarks bar:

The reason I love them is because no matter the web browser, I am a heavy tab-user. I always have at least 8 tabs open with music, email, and projects I am working on. When I am jumping from one tab to another, I am usually just skimming the text because my eye is focused on the favicon.

The virtual space in my life that would most benefit from more favicons is my RSS reader. I personally love using Feedly. If you aren’t familiar with Feedly, it is an RSS feeder that keeps a running list of all your favorite websites. Rather than visiting their actual URL, you can just get their updates streamed into one place. There are several different RSS feeders out there, but the ease of Feedly makes it my favorite, hands-down. I subscribe to all of my favorite blogs and organize them by their categories: friends, traditional design, fabric, web-design, food, and religious.

Here is a little screen shot of what I see when I sign into Feedly.

Clearly, my friends folder doesn’t have a lot of personality in the favicon department. The orange favicon is the default created by Google for any blog that is made by Google Blogger (hence the “B” in the favicon).

Last month, I set out to change this. I told my friends that I would make any of them a favicon for free. It could be whatever their hearts desired. A flower, a letter, a picture of your face? You got it. I gave them a little bit of guidance because even though Martha Stewart is powerful enough to have a picture of herself as a favicon, not everyone can pull it off. I showed them some of my favorites:

Because the image is so tiny, it is good to have just a few details in the image but nothing too complicated. Here are some of my favorites:

Successful favicons are simple; they are a continuation of the brand in a small space.

  • Hulu reversed a little snippet of its familiar logo for their favicon. The green is strong against the common neutral backgrounds of a browser tab.
  • Melimba is a lifestyle fabric company and has a heart for a favicon. Although the heart is not part of the logo, it represents warmth – a feeling that the fabrics should bring as well.
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers has an intricate logo, but they successfully collapse their look into their favicon space.
  • GO Rving redid their website a couple years ago. By taking a small portion of their logo, they named the title of the page so that it purposely works with the favicon. So the title on your browser tab has an image, but still reads “GO RVing.”
  • Central Market is a grocery store in Texas. They recently updated their website and elements from the logo were combined to make this favicon.
  • And lastly, Target. They have already created an iconic look, which translates perfectly to a powerful favicon.

In my opinion, a favicon is one more simple spot to showcase your brand. It’s kind of a big deal if you don’t have one. Depending on your browser, you may get a small replacement favicon that looks like a blank document. In the last few months, Google has taken an interesting tactic with favicons. If you do a Google search and then go to a site from the results, Google will put their default favicon on that found site. If the website has created their own favicon, it will quickly replace the Google default. But if not, Google’s logo will be placed next to the title. Pretty clever there, Google…

default favicons

I am happy to report that my friends responded to my plea for a favicon recall. I have created 20 new favicons and my RSS feed couldn’t be more pleased!

default favicons

Happy favicon day to you!

If you want to see even more, here are a few sites with favicon examples: Smashing Magazine |  Sitepoint  

The Internet of Listening

I am sure you are aware of the Internet of Things, but are you aware of the Internet of Listening. The Internet of Things takes your devices inside the home and sometimes on your body and connects them to the cloud. Nest, a smart thermostat, is connected to the cloud and adjustable by your phone on the same cloud. But it’s much more interesting than that. Nest is learning from you. It knows when you are in a room. It knows how long you are in said room. It knows when you leave said room. So it can almost gleam how you feel about said room. If you liked it, you stayed longer. If you didn’t, you stayed less. It is deducing such feelings from your interaction with the device. But what if it had more to go from? What if it heard you had cold feet? Of course,assuming it knows the difference between actual cold feet and the term “cold feet” it could turn up the heat. If it heard the sounds of amore, it could change the temperature accordingly … so if you like it hot, it can actually be hot. This may sound good to some and may sound creepy to others. However it sounds … this type of listening has already begun.

Your devices are already monitoring your conversations. If you read any of the books on Edward Snowden, you know that phones can monitor conversations even when they are off. This is not science fiction – it is in government documents. Snowden and the reporters involved would put their phones inside the hotel room refrigerators when they needed to talk about sensitive stuff. Thankfully, the refrigerators weren’t listening yet. … YET. But it’s not just sophisticated government surveillance. Samsung’s new smart TV allows you to give it instructions by voice. It also monitors conversations that aren’t telling it to turn on BETTER CALL SAUL (great show by the way). Of course, Samsung has since changed its terms to sound like it isn’t doing this.

Amazon’s Echo (I ordered one but don’t have it yet) is a device that sits in your living room and talks to you; keeps your grocery list; answers questions; plays music; and promises to learn to do many more things that I am sure I won’t need. But it’s someone else to talk to, so why not? The interesting part is the sophisticated microphone system inside it. Amazon claims it can hear your commands in a normal voice from anywhere in the room. You will forget it’s there until you say the wake up word … Alexa. But is Alexa really sleeping or is she pretending to sleep like an angry lover listening to every word and making plans? Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it, but who knows what Alexa really thinks or wants?

As I am writing this, Evernote is reading what I am typing. I wrote about Samsung’s TV and Evernote put the perfect link to the article at the bottom of this. Then it gave me a link to Amazon’s Echo when I was writing about that. Evernote is listening and adding context to what I am writing. I hope that is all Evernote is doing, but probably not. Adding context through a couple of suggested articles is one of the nice things Evernote does for me. But what if Evernote could actually hear what I was talking about in my home with my family? And what if it could take what it knows from what I’ve written and put it together with what I might be saying, doing, buying, and connect that to what other devices on the cloud are doing for me?

THE CIRCLE, by Dave Eggers, imagines a world where all is known by everyone through a connected social network with connected cameras everywhere that can hear and see everything except in the bedroom and bathroom. If you think you might be seen, you won’t commit a crime. If you are sick and alone, the world can help when they see you fall. If you want to know what the world really thinks should be done about ISIS, it’s a collective thought away. You can see the implications for privacy and it seems like future fantasy. But it is not. When they can hear what you are saying, it’s almost as telling as the cameras. And don’t forget – cameras are everywhere as well. Everything, from phones, to cams that watch your dog, to cams that watch your front door to hidden cameras all connected to the cloud. This world is becoming very transparent. Your hopes, dreams and actions are becoming more and more obvious to the cloud.

What does this mean to privacy?  There are three kinds of people in the world.  There are people who don’t want anyone knowing anything about them.  There are people who don’t care if anyone is watching them because they don’t think there is any reason why anyone would care.  In other words… the innocent people.  Then there is the group that realizes that it is all being done to sell you something…and they choose to accept that or they don’t.  It is amazing what consumers will accept in order to have the NEW.  Look at any of the app agreements and you’ll know what I am talking about.  Consumers will give up a ton to get what they think they need.

 What does this mean to marketers? Pretty simple. Your targeting is going to get laser. If someone mentions a desire for your product or service in casual conversation, it is going to show up somewhere very quickly. Your Echo, your TV, your speaker system that listens for ambient sounds, your talking refrigerator, or basically anything connected to the cloud with a microphone (remember Mr. Microphone – now think of Mr. Microphone Cloud Edition) will deliver the “context”/”way” to buy, book, get, order, find, embrace – whatever you are talking about in your home. Your Echo will send it immediately if you ask. And once every appliance is connected to every other appliance and connected to social and connected to your Apple Watch and whatever else the Cloud knows about your customer, then it isn’t selling anymore.

It’s the Internet of Listening.

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.

Contemplating my 59th birthday at the Electric Daisy Carnival

If you know what the Electric Daisy Carnival is, skip this paragraph.  I’m going to use it to bring those unaware of all things EDC up to speed. I’ll meet you in a hundred words or so.  For those who don’t know, the Electric Daisy Carnival is, as far as I know, the largest gathering of electronic dance music (EDM) fans and artists in the country, probably the world.  For three consecutive nights in June, 115,000 people gather in the infield of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to dance, jump up and down, wander around and listen to more than 200 acts spread out over seven stages.  There are also a bunch of carnival rides, art installations and hundreds of actors roaming the grounds wearing incredible costumes, many of them riding on amazing contraptions.

edctopLast weekend, I was there for two of EDC’s three nights.  At this point, it’s appropriate to mention that I am 58 years old, which undoubtedly begs the question: What am I doing out there in the infield of a race track in the middle of the night with 115,000 people – most of whom are one-third to one-half my age – listening to the likes of Nicky Romero, Fake Blood, Dirty South, Destructo, Avicii, John Digweed and Tiesto?

Valid question.  There are a couple of reasons.  First, I am actually a fan of EDM.  Not every genre (and there are many genres.  If you don’t believe me, just search “EDM genres”), but I like a lot of it.  I listen to BPM and Electric Area on Sirius and my oldest son has actually been a DJ (mostly house music) for the last 12 years or so. I certainly don’t qualify as an expert, but I’m not a neophyte.

EDCI also enjoy new and distinctive experiences.  When something as big, overblown and bombastic as EDC is occurring literally 40 minutes from my front door, I’m going out of pure curiosity if for no other reason. In truth, curiosity is what brought me to my first EDC for one night in 2012.  I had so much fun, I returned this year for two.

So, what’s it like?  Big, overblown and bombastic.  What struck me the most was the sheer size and scale of it.  Most don’t realize how big the infield of a mile-and-a-half racetrack is – and EDC fills it.  Look at it this way.  The main stage, called Kinetic Field, was expanded this year to a capacity of 80,000.  One stage.  There are six others. Plus the carnival rides.  Plus the art installations.  Plus 115,000 people.  It’s big.  And in the course of a night, as you move from stage to stage, you do a lot of walking, mostly on concrete and dirt, and not a lot of sitting down.  Throw in dancing and jumping up and down, and it can be physically taxing.

imagexBut the fun never stops.  At EDC the music and the activity are constant. The stages are divided, for the most part, by genre: dubstep, drum & bass and other heavier stuff at the BassPod; clubby, danceable house and techno in the Circuit Grounds; harder, more aggressive techno (the kind that drills a hole in your chest) at BassCon; slower, more minimal and rhythmic stuff in the Neon Garden; a little bit of everything at the Cosmic Meadows; and the big guys – the Tiestos, Sander Van Doorns and Calvin Harrises – playing for crowds of 50,000 or more at Kinetic Field.  If you don’t like what you’re hearing at any given stage, there are six others going at the same time, all night long.  Off you go.

Yet still you might say, as many have, “You’re 58. Aren’t you just a bit… past that?”

EDC2I hope not.  First, let me say that the promoters of the event have done an amazing job.  Considering they are literally creating a throbbing, dancing city of 115,000 people crammed into one place for 10 hours a night, EDC runs like clockwork.  The sound and the lights at every stage are impeccable. The DJs start and finish on schedule. There are friendly, non-aggressive staff people everywhere to help with everything.  The police are cool. The medical personnel are professional and efficient.  And there are more Porta-Johns than I’ve seen at any event in my life. Not an insignificant detail. They’ve even addressed some of the parking and traffic issues that plagued them in previous years. There is nothing about it that isn’t professional and well managed.

imageWhich leaves the crowd.  I’ve been in crowds this large many times.  Led Zeppelin shows, rock festivals, NASCAR races, Superbowls, The Bay-to-Breakers. Never had any real problems. But I can say that the EDC crowd is the mellowest, friendliest, least aggressive group of 100,000 I’ve ever been a part of.  They smile, they laugh, they dance, and they take care of – and look out for- one another.  In two nights, I never saw a single person having harsh words with another, let alone a fight or any other nastiness.  Can’t say the same for many of the football games or rock shows I’ve attended (I once witnessed a fist fight between a guy and a girl at a System of a Down show at the Hard Rock. The girl beat the crap out of him. Female System of a Down fans are tough.).

The memorable thing about attending EDC was that many of them seemed genuinely amused by my presence.  I’m not saying I was the only person my age out there, but there weren’t many.  Still, I must have been asked more than a hundred times if I was having fun.  People smiled, offered me ice for the back of my neck (I declined), complimented my Daft Punk t-shirt and gave me a bunch of good old-fashioned high-fives.  It was as if I was some kind of old-guy mascot who had joined their tribe for the weekend. I felt absolutely no negativity. They were glad I was there to experience their music and they really wanted me to have a good time.  It was gratifying, in a neon bracelet, furry boots kind of way.

Of course, I did make some concessions to age.  The event lasts until 5:30 each morning.  I never got near that.  Bailed at midnight on Friday and 2:30 am on Saturday.  22-year-olds can go three days without sleep.  Not me.  But I did have a great time and have every intention of returning next year for EDC 2014.  I’ll be a few months from my 60th birthday then.  Maybe I’ll celebrate by going all three nights. Assuming I can find a way to get enough sleep.

A beast that needs attention

Being the third most visited site in the world is not an easy task.  YouTube ranks just behind the giants of Google and Facebook as the most visited websites on the internet.  This comes as no surprise. The power for people to capture themselves through video is easy enough for a 3-year-old to manage, but how do brands and organizations leverage YouTube to their advantage?

Old Spice on YouTube

Old Spice’s YouTube brand channel.

According to YouTube, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, which equates to 3 billion hours watched each month.  These types of numbers are mind-boggling and the ripple effect reaches far outside of YouTube itself.  More than 500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook and 700 videos per minute find themselves on Twitter.

No doubt a powerful tool, but most brands upload their TV spots, or try to think of something so funny and outrageous hoping that it will be the next “viral video.”  Unfortunately, this is very difficult to achieve on YouTube.  While this can happen, you have better chances of taking the money you spent doing this and doubling down at the nearest casino.

Companies such as Old Spice, Red Bull, and Go-Pro have found that YouTube can help drive exposure, but they are the few that have found success.  Almost all companies find themselves spending a lot of money with little to no results, thus deeming it as a marketing failure.  To avoid complete and udder failure here are five starter tips for marketers and brands to follow:

1st – YouTube is its own platform; content should be unique and should be well thought out.

2nd –Make sure that you promote your video(s) through YouTube using Google platforms. Spend money to help get some eyeballs and help leverage your plan.

3rd– Make sure that you plan your strategy ahead of time. Are you looking for views or do you want people to take action?

4th– Consider using YouTube celebrities (people already on YouTube that have thousands to millions of views and subscribers) for brand integrations and product placements.

5th– Ensure that your YouTube plan fits well with branding and other marketing strategies; YouTube can help you leverage your current and future goals within social media.

Success on YouTube can be very challenging, but using these basic tips can help you get on the right track. YouTube is a platform that allows you to target the audience you want, which keeps advertisers coming back.  If you’re nice to YouTube it will be nice to you.