NewFronts: Digital Content Previewed at Annual Conference

The month of May is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for brands and ad agencies. During this time, media companies announce direction for the coming year. The digital NewFronts were recently created as a means for publishers to gain greater attention and steal share from the television industry, which still commands a majority of ad dollars spent.

Time Inc stageI was fortunate to attend a variety of the NewFront presentations and identified some key themes that emerged.

Yahoo focus
  • Digital video is where it’s at. Publishers are focused on creating new online video franchises to compete for TV ad dollars. Depending on the publisher, advertiser opportunities range from custom co-branded videos to product integrations to sponsorship to pre/mid-roll placements. Publishers are investing in talent and quality production to swoon advertisers.
    • Examples of new video franchises include:
      • Big Problems/Big Thinkers – Bloomberg (@BloombergTV): Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and journalist Terre Blair have paired up to create a series with major politicians and leaders to discuss major world problems and potential solutions.
      • Chance – Hulu (@hulu): Hugh Laurie (House) will star in a psychological thriller as a neuroscientist.
      • Time 100, The Influencers – Time: Through interviews of unique pairings, such as President Barack Obama and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, influencers react to the impacts of each other’s work and accomplishments.
Hulu Mindy project
  • Virtual reality is the next big thing. While details are scarce at this point, publishers are ready to tap into the immerse experience that VR can provide.
    • Key announcements include:
      • Hulu enters into a partnership with Live Nation (@LiveNation), where they will make select concert performances available to VR users.
      • Time Inc. (@TimeInc) will begin releasing VR content on behalf of its brands such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated…including the fan-favorite, SI Swimsuit franchise.
Lindsey seeing VR at Time Inc

 

  • Live streaming expands. Key announcements were made with regards to live streaming, either as a platform for TV content or general entertainment.
    • Hulu will offer a new platform for live sports, news and events in early 2017 (price point has yet to be announced).
    • Yahoo is focused on live streaming sports free, without authentication. They will stream 400+ events in the next year, including a focus on MLB and NHL.
    • In the case of Buzzfeed (@BuzzFeed), utilizing Facebook Live has finally reached TV-like viewing scale. As of late April, the rubber band/watermelon experiment saw 800k+ concurrent views and 10MM+ total views. Live streaming will invite hiccups though, as many witnessed with the Facebook Live event with President Barack Obama. Some technical glitch on Facebook cut the live-streaming interview short, but thankfully they were simultaneously streaming on YouTube, so all was not lost.Buzzfeed video franchisesHulu stage

Note, I attended presentations for Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, Hulu, Yahoo, Time Inc. & YouTube, so examples are drawn from those presentations. For a full recap of the highlights, please see Cynopsis Media’s wrap-up from May 16th (here).

 

Will Your Agency Survive in Modern Times?

I recently had the good fortune to attend and speak at the iMedia Agency Summit in Lost Pines, Texas. It was here in the vast back country land outside Austin that a few hundred agency executives and media sellers joined forces for four days of discussion centered on this question. The conference was billed as “The Modern Agency’s Survival Guide” with the topics centered on “who manages what” in the blurred landscape that is today’s ad industry.

pic1

Kicking things off Sunday morning was an agency-only, all-day session geared toward getting agency executives in a room to discuss current-day issues that we’re all facing. As part of this, we had a guest speaker from a large national drug store chain join us. Bringing both agencyside and clientside experience, he gave some straight talk on what clients are looking for. His talk focused on a few things:

  1. The three departments you need to keep happy are finance, legal and procurement.
  2. When it comes to social media for a brand, always think: would we, should we, could we.
  3. When pitching your agency, lay off the smoke and mirrors and bring more substance.
  4. Understand the business and category that you’re pitching.
  5. Independent agencies have a shot at large clients; just don’t fight the same battle as the holding companies. They have more offices, a larger global network and just as many big ideas. Instead, push your value proposition when it comes to billing − various models (commission, fee, hourly, project, etc.) − smaller markets plus cheaper rent/salaries equals more dollars for advertising.
  6. Data is important, but don’t die by Infobesity. Focus on what matters.

Next up was a chat on the always hot topic of training. It’s something that large and small agencies seem to struggle with. The main issues revolve around not having enough time to implement a structured training program, slim margins dictating overloaded employees, and who is going to do it. This one has always shocked me in that your agency is only as good as the employees, so why wouldn’t you take the time to train, either in-house or with seminars/conferences? I’m proud to say that the ownership at R&R Partners are firm believers in training and continued education. I shared a few examples of our rrMIT media classes and Superstar program and people were amazed, and I’d like to think envious of what we have built around this topic.

pic3
pic2

Day two started with a great panel discussion led by industry veteran John Durham @thedurham. He navigated a great talk with agency CMOs from SapientNitro, Rockfish and MRY. Lots of great thoughts emerged on the consulting companies like Accenture and Deloitte getting into the agency business over the last few years. These guys already have an established line of communication into the C-Suite and now they are buying agencies as if completing a checklist, offering a one-stop shop for clients. The next frontier in my opinion will be the move to start buying data companies and trading desks, effectively making advertising a commodity and devaluing good creative along the way.

The discussion shifted to the disrupters who are making waves among the Fortune 500, companies like Uber and AirBnB who are new to the game and have a different business completely from the legacy models. The largest companies in the world will need to continue to evolve, constantly shed their old skin, and embrace the new landscape as Silicon Valley is not going anywhere.

pic5
pic4

After a few more sessions, it was time for the one-on-one meetings. Think speed dating for agencies and publishers. I had 10 sessions, each lasting 10 minutes, all back to back. Don’t be too jealous! My goal with these meetings was to focus the majority of them on companies that we have not worked with in the past, allowing for new opportunities to blossom. While you can’t get too in-depth, you can get a great understanding of their offering and know right away if it makes sense to continue the conversation once you’re back in the office. Lots of focus this year on the DSP/DMP (demand-side platform/data management platform) model, which screams a sea of sameness, although a few stood out, especially with ingesting real-time social data to bring better insights to your buys.

Day three started off with a great presentation from Susan Borst @susanborst with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Susan focused on native and ad blocking, both hot topics these days. It’s interesting to see the industry say native is the answer to ad blocking, and yet a few months later reverse course and say the opposite. Both are areas that are evolving before us, with a little help from the FTC who has issued guidelines, in addition to the IAB. With consumers seemingly wanting more content and brands willing to provide it, native opportunities will only continue to grow and blur the lines between advertisement and editorial. Susan boiled native down into three areas:

  1. Storytelling
  2. Story selling
  3. Just selling

Next up was Roy Spence, co-founder and partner of GSD&M. Roy gave a freewheeling, energetic, off-the-cuff speech titled “The Power of Purpose in Business and Life.” He drew on life experiences from starting his agency to current day. One of the better stories was the time he met with Sam Walton to pitch Walmart. Roy went alone to the pitch and when asked by Sam where the rest of his team was, he got nervous and just said, “One riot, one sheriff, what’s your problem.” Mr. Walton liked it so much, he hired him on the spot. While a great story, certainly not something that would happen today.

A few great quotes from Roy’s speech that stood out to me include:

  1. “We will never solve anything being on common ground, be on higher ground.”
  2. “Don’t spend another second being average at what you’re bad at; spend your time being great at what your good at.”
  3. “Marry the doers and the dreamers at work, great things will happen.”
  4. “We are uninvited guests in people’s lives; make it count.”

While a tough act to follow, the presentations shifted to mobile marketing with a focus on your intentions. Jeff Malmad @1od, head of mobile at Mindshare, along with Dan Brough @danielbrough, head of agency business at Waze, took us into this space. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the conversation around new demographics, with the question being, “Are content and intent the new demographics that we as an industry should be looking at? Does age really matter or should we be looking at behaviors?” While I would argue that it’s important to have a core demo, it’s becoming just as important to look beyond your core audience and find various niche targets that only social data can show you. Where else do your clients have opportunity to grow their business?

Wrapping up the large presentations was the CEO of Epsilon, Andy Frawley @AndyFrawleyCEO. Andy spoke about the industry having an identity crisis and what the agency model of the future is. Epsilon is considered a “new agency model,” or maybe better yet, a faux agency. Starting in data and email, it has added other disciplines, such as creative and media, by snatching up smaller shops as if they were on a grocery store checklist. Andy’s speech was highlighted by seven points.

  1. Get enterprise involvement from your clients; be OK with the c-suite and various department heads sitting in your marketing meetings.
  2. Operate as a solutions integrator, because if agencies can’t, consultants will.
  3. Stop with the hyperbole; clients hire us to produce outcomes, not buzzwords.
  4. Don’t separate advertising from the full customer experience. They need to inform each other.
  5. Know the consumer; insights without audiences are in-actionable.
  6. Hire nontraditional agency talent to breathe life into your organization.
  7. Learn how to build IP, but don’t destroy creativity.

After I moderated a panel on finding and retaining talent, it left me with one last round of 10 rep meetings to close things out. All in all, the conference was great for two reasons. First, it’s a gathering of truly smart people who are happy to discuss any industry topic. You can’t help but come away feeling energized and a lot smarter. Second, it really showed me that we at R&R Partners are moving in the right direction. From training, to culture to our work, we not only can compete with anyone, but we are often light-years ahead of other agencies when it comes to these areas, including the big guys.

Photo credit to Julian Haber Photography

So Uncool: How We Flipped the Script and Made Greenspun Junior High the Uncoolest School in Vegas

When I joined R&R Partners, I was thrilled to step into the glamorous world of advertising. I imagined myself a female Don Draper … working on exciting TV commercials, making creative pitches for clients, and collaborating with some of the best ad agency minds out there. And yes, the culture at R&R is part of what makes it one of the best places to work in Las Vegas. What I didn’t expect is how collaborating on our Flip the Script anti-bullying project would be one of the most fulfilling, impactful projects I’ve ever taken on in my career.

The initiative began in 2011, centered on the idea of standing up against bullying by turning it on its head and “flipping the script.” Throughout the campaign’s history, which has even resulted in Nevada Senate Bill 276 (strong anti-bullying legislation), relevant messaging and thrilling events like USA Network’s Concert to Rock Out Bullying have put this important topic at the forefront of pop culture.

This year’s mission? We partnered with the Public Education Foundation to select three Clark County School District junior high schools as our clients for the next round of the initiative. Three teams of R&R employees signed up as volunteers for this project, and I was fortunate enough to be assigned team leader for Team Purple. We were comprised of several amazing people throughout many different disciplines − design, copywriting, media, research, leadership, PR, production, insight, brand − who pulled together to create a campaign that would meet our clients’ needs.

Speaking of our clients for this project, they were atypical. Namely, they were a group of leaders in sixth, seventh or eighth grade at Greenspun Junior High School, starting at age 11. Our clients were energetic, have been fluent in social media their entire lives, and shed extensive light on what bullying meant in their world. We welcomed these clients to R&R’s offices for two separate brainstorms − one to understand their (and their parents’) experience. The second session was to present our campaign concepts to them.

Resoundingly, one of our two options stood out to these students. The concept that they unanimously voted on was Uncool. Literally. If bullies are cool − think Regina George in Mean Girls or the students of Cobra Kai dojo in The Karate Kid − then our clients wanted to be uncool. If sitting next to a lone student at the cafeteria is uncool, these incredible students were all-in. If standing up for someone was uncool, these leaders were all about it.

greenspun1

After this direction was determined, the R&R teams burst into action; our team was lucky enough to have the talents of Kristen Hart, our creative lead, manifesting our Uncool design. Through her, and other team members’ tireless efforts, our campaign concept became a reality. We had T-shirts, posters, banners and other items designed for our launch event and an ongoing student store to reinforce the campaign. Sarah Catletti, R&R brand manager who moonlights as foundation co-manager, says, “It was important to the team to make sure that after our campaign launched, Greenspun could continue to be the Uncoolest school and maintain the program. In partnering with school administration and teachers, we were able to provide branded materials for the student store that kids who were caught being uncool could purchase with Uncool bucks as currency.”

greenspun2All of this hard work for our clients culminated in an Uncool assembly to kick off the program. The team tirelessly sought out local talent who were behind the mission to donate their time and skills and to join us at the event on February 26. And talent we got! The ladies from the UNLV Pom team kicked off the event with a high-energy routine, and JC fromMercedes in the Morning on Mix 94.1 FM was a dynamic emcee. He kicked off a program of entertaining vignettes, including the No. 1-ranked flyweight UFC fighter Joseph Benavidez, singer/songwriter Franky Perez, and Flamingo headliner and juggler Jeff Civillico.

Each performer touched on how being uncool was the new cool, and our clients themselves kicked off their program at their school. “I had some of our eighth-grade boys raving, saying it was the best assembly they’ve attended at Greenspun! Their favorite part? The pom girls! “There was something for everyone!” shares Greenspun’s leadership student council co-adviser Dana Martin. “…Your team knocked it out of the park!”

With happy clients and a top-notch event, Team Purple ended this week tired, yet knowing that we had made a difference in students’ lives. As I draft this, proud of the work we did as a team, I can’t help but smile and think that Greenspun was just one of the three schools this project has impacted. Similar campaigns and events are taking place at Becker and Fremont junior high schools. “The Flip the Script initiative and the ways that our employees volunteer to positively affect others is what the R&R Foundation is all about,” says Jim King, principal and leader of the R&R Foundation.

Welcome to the sexy, life-changing, exciting world of advertising. Don Draper would be proud.

Greenspun3

Net Metering Explained

First, we need to understand the grid. This is the system of lines, power plants, solar facilities, wind farms, dams, switches, transformers and other very expensive infrastructure the U.S. power industry uses to generate and deliver electricity to all of us, 24/7.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_1_TransmissionLines

Into the picture come homes and small businesses that install solar panels on their rooftops to generate their own electricity – independent of the grid. They don’t pay a utility company for it. It came from their roof. It’s theirs.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_2_RooftopSolar

But the sun doesn’t always shine. So these homes and businesses stay attached to the grid because they need electricity 24/7. Of course, they pay the utility for the power they use when the sun isn’t shining.

101600_01_RR_NetMeter_3_Wired

So far, pretty simple. But wait.

First, most of the homes and businesses with rooftop solar don’t use all of the power they generate. Where does it go? Since they can’t store it (at least not yet – a number of scientists and visionaries are working on technology to change that), it goes back to the grid, so the utility can deliver it to someone else.

And charge for it, though they didn’t generate it.

If that sounds unfair, don’t worry. The utility credits the homes or businesses for the rooftop-generated electricity they have sold to someone else. That’s the basis of the term net metering. In theory, the home or business owner isn’t billed for the total, or “gross” energy consumption. Instead, the charge is for the “net” consumption – the amount you use less the amount you generate.

But what price do the utilities pay? Utilities would like to pay what it costs them to generate, buy and deliver electricity. Rooftop solar owners, on the other hand, would like a price closer to what the utility is charging other customers. To further complicate matters, in some jurisdictions, prices paid to rooftop solar owners were established years ago, when solar electricity was much more expensive. Not surprisingly, the utilities would like to see the prices updated to reflect current (lower) costs. Just as unsurprisingly, rooftop solar owners resist that notion.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_4_Compared

There is yet another point of contention. It’s our friend, the grid, which, as we discussed, is very expensive. For the most part, the costs of the grid are baked into the rates the utility charges. Those rates are rooted the idea that customers are connected to the grid and pulling power from it 24/7. The theory: Spread the costs of the grid evenly across the entire ratepayer base.

However, based on that thinking, if rooftop solar owners aren’t pulling power from the grid all the time, they aren’t paying their fair share.

How so? Though they are always connected to it, they aren’t always paying the rate that includes its costs. Meaning those customers without rooftop solar will end up paying a disproportionately high percentage of its cost. Put another way, if a non-solar user pays a certain price for electricity and a solar user – after rebates – pays half that amount, the non-solar user is paying twice as much for a grid whose cost to both customers is constant. Utilities believe this is unfair. To close the gap, some utilities have proposed a flat service charge to rooftop solar owners to make up the difference and keep the costs of the grid distributed evenly. This has happened in Nevada.

Many proponents of rooftop solar resist. The original idea was that rooftop solar owners would derive savings from producing, using and selling their own power. Over time, those savings would cover the cost of installation and maintenance. They say that a combination of unfairly low rates for credits and service charges make that impossible. Again, the utilities disagree.

So, who decides? As with virtually everything in the utility industry – regulators decide. In Nevada, it is the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC. In Arizona, it’s called the Arizona Corporation Commission, or ACC. These regulatory bodies conduct public hearings in which all affected parties – utilities, rooftop solar owners, the rooftop solar industry, the general public – state their case and make their proposals. They then decide what net metering rates will be enforced and what, if any, service charges will be adopted.

101600_01_RR_NetMeter_5_RegulatorsThose hearings create a fair amount of news. This is happening in Nevada right now.

Like many issues in the world of energy, net metering can seem esoteric and confusing. But if you live in a state with conditions conducive to creating solar energy, it’s an issue that will surface, if it hasn’t already. Hopefully we’ve been able to unravel the mystery enough to give you a basic understanding of an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.

R&R Employs Water Expertise at the National Rural Water Association’s Annual Conference

Nothing is more precious on this planet than water. It’s the one necessary ingredient to produce life as we know it.

Unfortunately, most people use water every day without thinking twice about it. Where does it come from? How much do we have left? Is it safe to drink?

This is where R&R Partners, the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and its state affiliates come in. On January 14 and 15, 2016, R&R worked with NRWA and its state affiliates to sponsor their annual water conference in Miami, Florida. The conference brought together like-minded individuals whose public health goals include water storage, safety and conservation.

So what exactly is NRWA and what does it do? NRWA and its members provide safe drinking water to thousands of communities across the country and help to protect America’s water resources. Together, they provide training and technical assistance to roughly 31,000 small and rural water and wastewater systems. In fact, NRWA comprises the largest utility membership organization in the U.S. It believes in empowering local groups through training and education so that they are able to safely manage any water issue that comes their way.

IMG_20160115_125613358_HDR[7]

Water issues are all too familiar to R&R Partners. Based in the drought-prone West, R&R first began working on water conservation efforts with the Southern Nevada Water Authority more than 20 years ago. Back then, residents in Nevada and across the West had many misconceptions on who was using water and how it could be saved. For example, most thought that huge hotels and golf courses were the biggest water consumers. The truth was, and still is, that the largest single user-group was homeowners. The vast majority of that usage is outside, keeping trees, shrubs − mostly lawns − alive in the West’s arid desert climate.

Over the years, R&R worked to educate the public on water conservation. Developing smart and sexy campaigns, we have saved billions of gallons of water every year with virtually no effect on the lives of the homeowners and business owners who conserve. Ordinary people continuing to do ordinary things, saving water, one gallon at a time. Today, the citizens of Southern Nevada are saving more than 42.5 million gallons of water every day. We have reduced our consumption of water from 248 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) in 2008 to 118 GPCD in 2014. We are saving water at a rate five times greater than the rate of our population growth.

Even with the good work done by R&R in Nevada, there is much more work to be done nationwide. Drought remains a top concern among many citizens, especially those who live in the West. In fact, a Colorado College Conservation in the West poll released last month revealed that this issue remains a top concern. In addition, scientists have predicted that the ongoing drought in the West will worsen in the coming decades. That is why it is more important than ever for R&R to continue working alongside important water groups like NRWA.

Preview Las Vegas 2016: Future. Forward.

“If we’re all here at Preview,” I joked to my colleague sitting next to me, “who is running Las Vegas?” A flippant remark turned into perfect fodder for a tweet, yet as I reflect back on the January 29th program, it certainly rings true. A veritable who’s who in community leaders in both the private and public sector in Las Vegas descended on the Thomas & Mack Center for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Preview 2016 event.

“Future. Forward.” was this year’s theme, and Chamber CEO and President Kristen McMillan led us through an action-packed agenda centered on Las Vegas as an exciting, ever-evolving city for visitors, businesses and citizens alike. Peppered throughout were prerecorded economic insights from Dr. Stephen Miller, director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research. From many statistics and charts, I took away that Nevada’s economic recovery was underway − Dr. Miller dubbed Nevada “one of the fastest growing states.”

After a Star Wars lightsaber introduction, Dr. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West, took the stage to share how Las Vegas is in the midst of a Metropolitan Revolution. He shared how proactive leaders led the city through the I11 initiative to UNLV’s Medical School to an economic environment attracting businesses like Faraday Future. Yet that was the past; in Dr. Lang’s opinion, the future stems on renegotiating tourist taxes to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center, build a light rail and construct a stadium.

“I think what struck me,” says R&R Partners’ Sara Macfarlane, “is the progress the business community has made of setting goals and achieving them − the payoff (I11, UNLV Medical School) has been good. And we get a front seat at R&R.”

Next up was a panel discussion hosted by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter on the topic of aviation trends, travel and security. Joined by Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, Roger Dow, president & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and Warren Eales, Port director, Customs and Border Protection, this portion of the program centered on trends in “internationalization” as an opportunity for Las Vegas as a destination, namely travelers from China.

Joe Martin, director of Strategy and Planning for R&R Partners, acknowledged that the time has come to invest in “destination internationalization.” “The LVCVA has done a tremendous job cultivating international demand and growing that segment of the visitation, the idea of creating a more welcoming experience for visitors from all over the globe not only makes sense, it has become imperative. For a destination as world-renowned and as reliant on tourism as Las Vegas, our goal as a community should be to enhance the visitor experience in everything we do.”

Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, warmly introduced Dag Reckhorn from Faraday Future. After the premiere of its concept car at CES and selecting North Las Vegas for a $1 billion plant investment, Future Faraday (FF − as its VP of global manufacturing shared with us) embodied the Future. Forward. theme of today. Additionally, Reckhorn pledged $6 million over six years to local K−12 schools, which roused the audience into a round of energetic applause. Future, indeed!

The final speaker of the morning was MGM Resorts International chairman Jim Murren, who stated that his comments would be a “celebration of Las Vegas.” He mentioned that few cities can host world-class events … at the same time like Las Vegas and challenged all sectors to unite around public education. He appealed to the audience about convention business, as well as the proposed light rail: “We need to provide multiple efficient points of travel.” Murren closed with calling Las Vegas a resilient, giving, sustainable city − the “Entertainment Capitol of the World.”

The Metro Chamber of Commerce gave us a preview into the future of our city, and as we’ve moved from economic recovery to economic development, I can see how we are indeed on a path to Future. Forward. In a city known for hospitality, service and dynamic energy, it is perhaps moving forward that we do best.

Super Bowl Ads

MY TOP 6 IN ORDER

Doritos Ultrasound − Really fun and baked with truth, although actual Doritos are not baked with truth. They are baked with a lot of stuff that really isn’t that good for you. I love everything about this ad though. The dad who gets to play with his kid while the kid is still in the womb. The fact that they probably eat a lot of Doritos so the kid has already had a taste because Doritos are in the blood, man. So, I really do believe he knows what he is going after when he reaches for the Doritos. Doritos are the motivation for life itself in this ad, which involves the great ending that I didn’t see coming. Big laughs all around and a simple concept that comes across even if you can barely hear it with all the people crying about how bad Cam looks.

T-Mobile Restricted Bling − I was not a Drake fan, but he’s wonderful in this ad. His enthusiasm for the insane changing to his cellphone video is fantastic. And the ad gets the message across about the benefits of signing with T-Mobile in the best way possible − by bagging on the other guys in a super fun way. This was one of my favorites because we all are very familiar with the song and with Drake. I love that they play him against the rapper cast as a total sell out here. And with a performer who has the street cred of Drake, this makes for really good times and it was very unexpected. That is how sad I am. I used the words street cred. YO!

Audi, The Commander − First off, I am a Bowie fan and the song “Starman” is a favorite. It was sad to see him go. His song is used perfectly here with nostalgic images that evoke the excitement of the first space flight of our sad former astronaut. There is a great truth here for any young man who gets into the cockpit of a car. Most of us can’t fly planes or rocket ships, but we can drive. And our imaginations run wild. When we are behind the wheel of the right car, we are rock stars, jet pilots, secret agents − heck − we are gods for one small moment. The Audi ad portrays this perfectly and takes us all back to that time when we got behind the wheel for our first drive. In our sad astronaut’s case, he is remembering his first mission. Same thing. And it pulls him out of his funk. The only thing missing was the landing on the planet with the Amazon Women. Another thing men like; cool cars for speed − and women. Maybe that’s next year.

Mt. Dew PuppyMonkeyBaby − Say it three times. It might be the most talked about spot in the Big Game. Weird? YES! A little gross? YES! But simple, great and fun. You will not quickly forget Puppy Monkey Baby and you will want to try the product if you are in the demo. And if you are in this demo, the combination of insanity in this surely sugary nightmare of a drink will hit the spot at least once. And I guarantee when someone asks what it is, you will say, “PuppyMonkeyBaby.” It rolls off the tongue.

Jeep, 75 Years − Pretty nice anthem ad for Jeep. It talks about the heritage and the cultural significance of Jeep, but also makes you think that Jeep is for those who really live life’s adventure. Who doesn’t want to live life’s adventure to the fullest? And, of course, it’s got Steve McQueen in it. So there’s that.

Heinz Wieners − I LOVE WIENER DOGS. I have two miniature wiener dogs, although one has plumped from overfeeding. So I could watch thing this thing over and over. Some people said to me, “What? Are they going to eat the dogs?” I don’t like to think of my little doggies covered in catsup, ready to be eaten, but that isn’t the message here. The message is, Heinz condiments go great with hot dogs. So great, that even the hot dogs come a running for it. And it is done in a way that I could watch over and over and over and over. Job well done.

THE ONE I HATED −

LG’s Man from the Future − Liam was so great last year. So great. What was he doing this year? The ad wasn’t funny and it wasn’t good. They got my expectations up and then squashed them with Liam throwing cards at a screen and the card stops and his younger self gets in the card and then people start chasing him and he gets on a motorcycle and then Liam is talking about the Oled TV. Is the Oled TV some kind of technology that the Russians are after? I thought we were against ISIS now? I am really confused by this whole thing. I’ll tell you this. I am not getting that Oled TV. For one, it looks really expensive. It had to pay for some future Tron world and Liam’s cool suit and the flying playing card. And oh, I never liked Tron. So, no Oled TV for me. Thanks for the disappointing time, Liam. Even Taken 7 will be better than this LG commercial.

SOME I JUST NEED TO TALK ABOUT —

Snickers Marilyn − I read an article that skewered this ad because of the transgender rights movement. That seems really silly to me. These Snickers ads have been doing this bit for a while now and men have turned to women and women have turned to men. This isn’t the best one. It used a great iconic moment in film, but could have been funnier. The tone just wasn’t right. Dafoe, as a comic actor, always plays the serious scary guy. It’s funny in movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel, but not so great in a commercial where he needs to bring off a different tone. So, tone-wise, it was a tad off − Snickers shouldn’t be that scary and neither should Marilyn. However, it got the brand message across and was talked about, before the Super Bowl and after, so it did the trick. I am talking about it because I hate when the political correctness game is played against a silly ad like this.

Kia Walken Closet − I was not a big fan of this one. The Kia reminds me of the beige socks. So I don’t really understand the strategy here. Walken is always good. The writing is even good. But do I want to buy a Kia after seeing it? NO. Do I want to go and look at a Kia after seeing it? NO. Also, they take the joke too far when he goes to show him the car and then he is in the car. I feel like he is going to be in the office as well, having the guy sign the papers, talking to the loan officers, eating donuts. I will say this − there is some truth to it. There are some super-creepy salesmen at car dealerships. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Christopher Walken strutted out to show me a Kia. It actually might be a better commercial as well.

Budweiser #GiveADamn – Didn’t get this at all. It’s Bud. Why are you having a British person tell Bud drinkers to be responsible? Seems like they would drink more in defiance and drive as fast as possible under the influence. Is this knowing your audience? Is Helen Mirren the human manifestation of a Clydesdale? Do Bud drinkers even know who she is? Again, human manifestations of Clydesdales might make a nice campaign. Pay me, Bud.

Shocktop After Super Bowl Ad − http://creativity-online.com/work/shock-top-tj-miller-ad-review/45399

TJ Miller and the Shocktop Beer Tap take on the Big Game ads with their funny commentary. Great idea and a great extension of a Super Bowl ad.

Check out another perspective on the Super Bowl commercials from R&R’s Chief Strategic Officer/Principal, Randy Snow, here: http://www.rrpartnersblog.com/2016/02/08/a-safe-day-at-the-super-bowl/ 

A Safe Day at the Super Bowl

OK. Another Super Bowl (the 50th!) has come and gone. The Denver Broncos once again upheld one of the oldest, hoariest clichés in sports: Defense wins championships.

But, who cares? We’re here to talk about the ads. Very soon, I’ll tell you about some of the ads I liked, some I didn’t and one I’m still not sure about.

But first, a few general observations:

Animals, babies and celebrities: All year long, we in the ad business talk about risk-taking, disruption, establishing new paradigms and performing “outside the box.” And every year, in the biggest advertising showcase of them all, we get … animals, babies and celebrities. You can set your watch by it. Anthropomorphic animals, incredibly advanced infants and celebrities by the boatload − commercial break after commercial break. When I first got into this business, I never thought that a flock of sheep singing a Queen song, or a Doritos-loving fetus launching itself from the womb, would be considered safe. But here we are. And at $5,000,000 for each half minute, I guess I can’t blame the advertisers (or their agencies) for sticking to the tried and true. That’s a lot of money to risk on disruption.

Dead people sell: Being dead certainly didn’t prevent you from appearing in a Super Bowl ad yesterday. We saw Marilyn Monroe on the screen and heard David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Harry Nilsson on various soundtracks.

Bodily functions: I freely admit that pharmaceutical companies have as much right as any advertiser to spend millions in the Super Bowl. But, as I was sitting at the R&R’s Super Bowl party, enjoying seasoned popcorn, hot dogs, chicken wings, mac & cheese, cookies, cake and all other manner of deliciously unhealthy food, the last messages I wanted to be confronted with were those for opioid-induced constipation or the severe diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome. And the less said about toenail fungus, the better. The animated intestines were cute though.

Finally, I was happy to learn that Hollywood is unleashing sequels to Cloverfield and Independence Day. That’s cool.

On to the ads:

Liked:

Mountain Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby: Lots of people liked this. A lot of people didn’t. But a lot of people are talking about it, which is one of the points. I thought the ad did two things really well. First, it took a not-so-subtle jab at the tendency of Super Bowl advertisers to fall back on animals and babies. They created a memorable character that was both. Good for you, Mountain Dew. And second, their puppymonkeybaby actually helped sell the main idea: three great things in one package. A Super Bowl ad that actually sells its product’s main benefit. Well done.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql7uY36-LwA&feature=youtu.be

No More Text Talk: Many years ago, at a creative conference of some sort, when asked to explain his agency’s penchant for quieter, more thoughtful ads, the late Hal Riney replied, “When everyone else is shouting, perhaps it’s a good idea to whisper.” Yeah. So, when almost everyone else was trying to make us laugh with animals, babies and celebrities, this one drew you in with a quiet, effective, scary presentation of a really serious subject. Followed by a call to action that came directly from the production technique they used. Nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy6gjkICKfk&feature=youtu.be

Audi R8 Commander: Yes, this is theoretically selling a car that goes 205 mph and probably costs close to $200,000. How many of us can actually buy it? But I think the ad is more about the kind of company that will build such a car than the car itself. Liked the ad for a number of reasons. First, it features an old guy. I’m an old guy. We’re under-represented in Super Bowl ads. Second, it told a great story (two of them, actually). And third … Bowie’s “Starman.” Would have been perfect under any circumstances. Absolutely perfect this year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diU_09jb4bI&feature=youtu.be

NFL Super Bowl Babies: Who knew? Apparently, there’s a phenomenon of babies being born to parents who are fans of the winning team nine months after the Super Bowl. Unexpected idea, executed really well. Kudos to whomever came up with this concept and even more to the team who actually found all of the born-nine-months-after-the-Super-Bowl adults and kids. The teasers and the 30-second spot were good, but if you get a chance, watch the three-and-a-half minute video. Here it is.

http://heavy.com/social/2016/02/watch-super-bowl-babies-nfl-commercial-for-superbowl-50-seal-kiss-from-a-rose/

Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space: It’s a familiar trope. Pick a setting deep into the future and watch people marvel at how ridiculous our current lives were – or are. But this one was very current and very smart. And it had a few little nuggets for extra smiles: “And they had Chia pets, just like we do.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ndPEQCoSzk

Didn’t Like:

Budweiser Not Backing Down: If Donald Trump were a beer ad, this is the beer ad he’d be: loud, obnoxious, boastful, egotistical and more than a little bit xenophobic. Taken together with Helen Mirren scolding Americans for drunk driving (fairly effectively, I thought), it was clear that in Super Bowl 2016, Budweiser wanted to get all up in our collective faces.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF711XAtrVg

Bud Light Bud Light Party – I really like Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. I think they’re both really funny. They’re just not very funny in this. Not one, not two, but three – count ’em, three – big caucus jokes. Really? Opportunity wasted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JohgwbpQuy8&feature=youtu.be

Snickers Marilyn: First, I really like Snickers’ You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry campaign. Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi playing Marcia and Jan Brady was probably my favorite ad in last year’s game. But Willem Dafoe in drag as the late Marilyn Monroe is just a little creepy for me. And Eugene Levy: Why is he in it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhfntLl6xx0&feature=youtu.be

One I’m Not Sure About

Apartments.com Movin’ On Up: First, it is my belief that the presence of Jeff Goldblum makes any ad a good ad. He’s great here too. But I have questions. Will the younger, Millennial audience this ad is clearly aiming for, who will know Lil Wayne when they see him, have any recollection at all of a TV show that was cancelled 31 years ago? Secondly, will those in the audience who do remember The Jeffersons recognize Lil Wayne? Will they know one of his nicknames is Weezy? Seems like an odd mash-up of cultural references. But, maybe I’m wrong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6OmHbZ2vHs

Check out another perspective on the Super Bowl commercials from R&R’s Executive Creative Director, Arnie DiGeorge, here: http://www.rrpartnersblog.com/2016/02/08/super-bowl-ads/

THE NEW EXTREMELY CONNECTED FRIEND I MET AT CES

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.

volkswagen-BUDD-e-concept-CES-2016-designboom-01-818x431

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.)

volkswagen-BUDD-e-concept-CES-2016-designboom-03-818x431

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.

R&R Partners Foundation: 2015 Year in Review

It’s one thing to have values. It’s another to LIVE them.

Far from the apothegm “Do as we say, not what we do,” R&R Partners is a committed community partner that strives to live its values every day. As an in-demand, internationally recognized marketing communications and government affairs firm, it would be easy to toss about corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an empty business word du jour or something that we plan to eventually address. However, there’s nothing that R&R likes more than to brush past easy and set new standards for ourselves, inspiring others to do likewise.

Call it tenacity. Call it generosity. Call it a sound business strategy. We call it the good fight, and 2015 was another knockout. Here’s a look at our 2015 R&R Partners Foundation efforts.

IN-KIND DONATION OF SERVICES

Regarding the philanthropic pillar of our CSR endeavors, the Foundation continued to aid nonprofit organizations in all nine of our markets. Work completed on behalf of the Animal Foundation to increase pet adoptions received national recognition. Our employees, at all levels, provided in-kind donations of services roughly equal to $950,000. Coupled with direct donations of nearly $150,000, the R&R Partners Foundation is proud to have another year of million-dollar giving.Giving-Infographic2015

FLIP THE SCRIPT ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVE

R&R’s internally driven Flip the Script Anti-Bullying Initiative also falls under the Foundation’s pro bono hours. In 2015, the Foundation completed an in-depth needs assessment process, which included primary research with more than 40 stakeholders across three states representing sectors such as business, corporate philanthropy, nonprofit, K−12, higher education and state government. While multifaceted, the issue of bullying in schools can be addressed to a significant degree by evidence-based programs.

Often, these programs face hurdles ranging from the program’s costs to adult and student buy-in. Given the enormous success in reaching students with the Flip the Script anti-bullying message in previous phases of the initiative, the Foundation knew that its greatest impact would be achieved through increasing student buy in for the evidence-based programs in their schools. We launched our current phase of Flip the Script in three Las Vegas valley middle schools, focusing on helping students drive campaigns of their own creation. In partnership with the Clark County Public Education Foundation’s Operation Respect/Welcoming Schools program and the Clark County School District’s Equity and Diversity Education, the campaigns of the middle school students at Becker, Fremont and Greenspun are well under way with launch dates set for 2016.

GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS

Working closely with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and his team over the course of the 2015 legislative session, R&R Partners’ government and public affairs team tirelessly advocated for a group of bills that have impacted, and will continue to dramatically impact the climate of our schools, increasing the safety of our students while protecting their opportunities for achievement.

ORGANIZATIONAL HAPPENINGS

Never afraid to try something new in order to benefit our employees, the R&R Partners Foundation moved away from the traditional executive director role in favor a new organizational structure that would allow more employees the opportunity to interact with, and make decisions for, the Foundation. This new structure includes a group of co-managers assigned to the Foundation’s three programmatic areas and an empowered employee board. While the co-managers have been active in their roles for months, the employee board recently completed its orientation and held its first meeting in December.

The R&R Partners Foundation’s board of directors also expanded by welcoming SVP for media and measurement and group managing director, Fletcher Whitwell, in the third quarter.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

Board development will continue into the new year, as the board of directors will be expanding again to include more members from outside of the agency. Chairman Jim King expects to further engage the board in strategic planning activities as well.

With a roster of four new pro bono clients joining those we have supported in the past, the Foundation expects a busy year of contributing to several worthwhile organizations. Perhaps no teams will be busier than those of Flip the Script, as the aforementioned launches and campaign activations will be in full swing beginning in January. All of us are eager to see the results of the Operation Respect/Welcoming Schools evaluations for the middle schools with which we have partnered. Future phases of Flip the Script will also progress in 2016.

As in years past, the R&R Partners Foundation expects a certain amount of the unexpected in 2016. However, with a sincere commitment across our agency to our core values, and with “doing well by doing good” as our core objective, there is never a doubt that we will collectively rise to any task in order to serve our communities.