Action to Impact: thoughts from an inspired activist

“People are in love with the IDEA of activism, but not the WORK required.”

DeRay McKesson, Civil Rights Activist

“You’re a bleeding heart”, my dad always says to me. It’s true. Throughout my life, I’ve been plagued with this burning desire to change the world for the better. It’s something that I can never fully explain to others – but I have always felt that my greater purpose is to be the voice for those who need it most.

Lincoln and I hanging in Washington, DC for the ADL National Leadership Summit

Earlier this year, I had an epiphany. Though strong, my voice isn’t enough. I realized that I wanted to do more than say “I support” – I want to be a part of something greater that inspires ACTUAL change. But, as we know, change also takes physical work and it isn’t something that presents itself, wrapped up in a bow. While a march may set the tone, only the devoted can keep the pace to ensure change actually happens.

For this reason, I found myself enrolling in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Sturm Fellows Leadership Program. ADL’s Robert B. Sturm Mountain States Leadership Fellows Program was created to involve people who are committed to ADL’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” The Sturm Fellows Program, which runs from September-June, exposes participants to educational programming about the substantive issues of ADL’s agenda and gives them the opportunity to become ADL leaders in the community.

The highlight of the program was the opportunity to attend the ADL National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, which I attended earlier this month. I cannot explain the gratitude I felt to be in the presence of so many people who want to do good – and not only with words, but with action. The program included presentations from ADL leadership, community leaders and activists, and legislators including Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Sen. Al Franken (MN); representing that civil rights will never be a partisan issue, but a human issue.

One of the speakers, former FBI Director James B. Comey, had powerful words for our group that revolved around unity. One story he referenced was his visit to Orlando immediately following the shooting that occurred at Pulse Night Club in 2016, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded. He reminisced speaking to an individual who helped those at the scene after the shooting had occurred. He relayed to our group the words of this individual, who said to Mr. Comey:

“I heard the gun shots, and I started running toward where I heard them. I didn’t care what religion the victims practiced. I didn’t care who the victims loved. I didn’t care about the race of the victims. I knew they needed help and that was the bottom line.”


It seems that today, more than ever, I have friends/family/colleagues say to me, “I want to do something to help, but I don’t know what. I feel paralyzed. I don’t know where to start.” With so much at stake, I too at times feel overwhelmed. However, I recognize that as one person, I cannot do everything at once. Though still fresh in my activism career, I have learned some helpful tips from those around me:

1. Follow your passion(s): what particular issues are you passionate about? Start there. Have many, like myself? Start         with one to get your feet wet to determine what kind of time you have to commit.

2. Reach out: what organizations align with your passion? Reach out to them and ask what type of help they need most.

3. Determine your commitment: can’t afford to give financially? Volunteering is just as impactful. The organization you reach out to should have a list of opportunities that are available and ways you can help.

4. Local politics ARE important: reach out to your local representatives and talk to them about the matters which concern you most. Participate in City Council meetings. Stay engaged in the local elections and local issues that directly impact your community.

As for how I’ll change the world and the legacy I may leave behind, I’m not quite sure of that yet. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by many other like-minded individuals who also wish to change the world, and trailblazers who provide inspiration for us daily in how to accomplish that.

To all the other bleeding hearts that I’m fortunate to know, work with, or be in the presence of – don’t stop and keep the dream alive for a better tomorrow. I am with you.

Winning a Win-Win

In a city constantly reinventing itself, the stakes were never higher for community leaders, an unlikely mix of hotel executives, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and thousands of local football fans. The future of two major construction projects was on the line, which would forever change Las Vegas’ skyline for the better. But this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move Southern Nevada to the next level faced heavy opposition. So they turned to R&R Partners for help.

Branded the Win-Win Nevada Coalition by R&R’s team, we would head up one of the toughest challenges in recent Nevada history in convincing 63 state legislators of the need to support a change in legislation that would benefit our city: passing new room taxes to help fund the renovation and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center to keep our convention business competitive, and to help fund a new professional 65,000-seat, domed sport stadium.

The first challenge for the coalition was to secure support from two-thirds of 63 legislators to enable the governor to call a special session. The next hurdle would be securing passage of two intertwined bills that would change how room tax revenues would fund the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, and help in the construction of a new NFL-ready stadium to lure a professional football team to relocate to Las Vegas. This was no either/or proposition – we all got what we wanted, or we all went down in flames.

We started with only 22 votes out of the 63 legislators. We needed 42.

So how did we do it?

With the collaboration of every single discipline at R&R, we launched a targeted campaign that flipped the negative sentiment on its head. Our message was powerful: a vote for the stadium was a vote for 40,000 construction jobs, an injection of $1.5 billion into the local economy, and an additional $32 million in education dollars annually. And a vote for expanding and remodeling our convention center was a vote for keeping our lead as the No. 1 convention destination in the business.

In three very short weeks, we created a tagline, a logo to match, a website, out-of-home media, collateral and a social media campaign. We arranged for speeches, testimonials, a video … the list goes on. And it turned the tide. We created enough momentum for the governor to call a special session. We secured the votes needed, and we won. We even capped it off with a press conference to detail the negotiated workforce benefits for minority communities in Las Vegas, and a bill-signing ceremony with the governor. Our social, online and earned media numbers were off the charts, too – $69 million in PR value and 4.7 million online impressions, to name just a couple.

The bottom line: Our campaign wasn’t just about impressive metrics on a page. It was about winning triumphantly or losing completely. And with one of the most integrated, wide-ranging, kick-ass teams ever assembled at R&R, we declared victory.


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.

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.

What’s Next for the Opportunistic Bowl?

The Game is not the thing anymore. … It’s the game around the Game that matters. It’s filled with opportunities to engage, hijack and win long before the Game starts.

We all know how brands have been showcasing their Super Bowl commercials in the weeks leading up to the Game. And, of course, there are brands like Newcastle that play around the Game. But this year, more and more brands and others looked for ways outside the official broadcast to play not just with the broadcast itself, but with other brands. What’s next year’s big thing around the Big Game? Start thinking now. It will start sooner than you think.

Newcastle’s Band of Brands

Newcastle couldn’t advertise in the network broadcast of the Super Bowl because Budweiser is the event’s official beer. However, for this latest effort, it used cost as an excuse. So, they, along with Droga5, put together the first crowdfunded Big Game ad.

“Not only did we create the world’s first crowdfunded Big Game ad, but I’m pretty sure we just made the cheapest Big Game ad ever,” Priscilla Flores Dohnert, brand director for Newcastle Brown Ale, said in a statement. “By asking other brands to team up with our brand, we are making a statement that Big Game advertising should be accessible to everyone, whether they can afford it or not.”

R&R’s client, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, was one of those 37 brands. The Las Vegas logo was featured twice in the ad. Las Vegas is another brand not allowed in the broadcast because of the strict gambling rules of the NFL. We considered a ton of ideas to get into the game. Then Band of Brands came along and we were in.

This isn’t the first time we’ve used not being allowed in the Game to our advantage. Years ago, the exclusion got us national news coverage of the ban on Vegas and great play for the brand (because hey, it’s a little hypocritical).

Doritos Gets Hijacked

Newcastle also hacked into Doritos’ ad contest with its own Newcastle-laced version of a Doritos ad entry. Here, Newcastle took advantage of an established Super Bowl brand, Doritos, and used it to their advantage. They weren’t the only ones. There was also an entry that was not as favorable to the corn-chip franchise.

Bud was also big into the hacking game. Just because they have that cute dog doesn’t mean they can’t be evil. They showed up a lot on searches for other brands to keep the conversation about the biggest advertiser in the game – super smart.

The Marshawn Lynch Game

Marshawn turned the Game into his own little brand builder. It’s almost as if he planned it all. … By never talking to the press, he put the talking Marshawn in demand. And the talking Marshawn came out in the week before the Big Game. I personally know that they reached out to many brands in a last-second attempt to make a fast and furious buck off the Marshawn mystique. Because the social channels are being watched as closely as they are putting something together quickly is possible. Skittles, Progressive, and Mortal Combat were three of the brands that answered the Marshawn call to great success.

Totino’s Early Super Bowl

Totino’s tweeted the entire Game a day early. Most of the world thought it was a mistake (until they thought about it). I hate to say it, but Totino’s was ahead of its time on this one. They almost did something that people didn’t get because it was such genius. What better way to stand out during the Big Game than to have all your tweets about the Big Game happen the day before? Big win for Totino’s.

So What’s Next?

More Brands Will Team Up

Band of Brands was just the beginning. Next year, look for more brands to join with other brands to get attention. There are some brands that just go together well, like Doritos and Newcastle. But they aren’t the only ones. And watch out for brands that don’t look like brands but they are. Marshawn was always a brand in waiting. He and some others knew it. Who will next year’s be? I’m kind of surprised that the Chevy Guy didn’t get an ad this year – the nervous everyman would have been a great spokesman for the right Big Game social play.

Someone Will Start Their Super Bowl Program a Year Before the Game

The planning has already started for next year. Brands will be looking to play further and further out. Like Totino’s knows – the Big Game is big enough for brands to start some ripples that will grow to waves as the Game approaches. OK, while I was writing this it already happened. And, of course, it was Newcastle. They are already teasing next year.

You Will Also See More Brands Attacking Other Brands During the Game  

This is my favorite from @RealAvocadoFact.








From bidding on search words like Bud did, to using other brand’s platforms, to hacking into other brands’ hacking, brands will look more and more to get any advantage. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there – even for that cute Bud dog.

More Just Plain, Unexpected Weirdness Will Happen from People You Wouldn’t Expect with Lower Budgets

The element of surprise works incredibly well during the Big Game. Look at Loctite. Who would even expect that brand to be in the Game? And no one expected them to be considered a winner in the Game. Next time you’re looking for glue, that surprise should pay off.  Even advertisers who wouldn’t be considered big brands can play if they come at it right. Jamie Casino, a lawyer in Georgia, spent $100,000 to do an ad that looks like it belongs in the Big Game. He ran it in one market during Sunday’s broadcast (he ran a similar piece last year). It went viral and now he is not only the talk of Law Game in Georgia – he is a sought-after player in social. Look for more insanity in single markets. Newcastle’s Band of Brands only ran in Palm Springs. If it’s an interesting enough play in a local market, it will get social play nationally.

Expect a Brand to Try and Own the Meme Bowl Next Year

Twitter memes are probably the most fun part of the Game. Check out the Katy Sharks, specifically #LEFTSHARK. Doritos did for commercials what your brand may be able to do with memes. It’s tons of great content and a true winner the entire week after the Game.

More Ads Will Try to Spur Serious Conversation

Because the real game is the social game around the Game, more brands will try and spur conversation using their ads. In the past, it was all about being a great ad that people talked about. Now it will be more about a great ad that starts people talking about something. Just because there were missteps this year with ads that didn’t hit the right tone and weren’t great ads doesn’t mean they didn’t work to some degree in social. And like the guy who owns this joint (Billy Vassiliadis of R&R Partners) says, “If you have a parity brand and you want to reach the millennials, teaming up with a great cause may get them to your website.” Nationwide’s ad stood out and started some talk (just not enough to drown out the dislike of the ad). Nationwide and some others in this year’s Game forgot the biggest rule – if you’re gonna make someone cry – make them CRY HAPPY. Imagine a great ad that spurs a continuing conversation after the Game about a cause close to a brand. Maybe something great could really be accomplished in this wonderful world. That would be an opportunity for a smart, caring brand to show the world what it’s all about.

Bottom Line – It isn’t about buying the spot anymore. It’s about playing the field in the Opportunistic Bowl … and the field is wide.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.