America, the beautiful (and angry)
I had, for a number of reasons, left out Coca-Cola’s “Beautiful” Super Bowl spot by W+K out of my ad picks of the year. The first reason being that it didn’t quite move me like my other options did. It was a spot that is worthy of the Wieden + Kennedy name: a larger than life message for a larger than life brand that was executed to a tee. Nevertheless, it didn’t elicit enough emotion in me to warrant a spot in my favorites. Maybe its because I’m not an American, or maybe its because I’m not a huge fan of soda; whatever the case, I saw it, appreciated it for the beautiful sentiment that it presented and moved on.
Now, the second reason I left it out was the obvious can of worms it presented. The moment the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” was sung in another language, I smiled. It changed to another, and another, and the spot culminated in a number of languages I hardly recognized. As previously stated, it was a beautiful sentiment and I admired both W+K and Coke for it. I was however, almost immediately fearful for the backlash it might bring upon itself and chose to avoid touching the subject. Call it cowardice, call it indifference, whatever - I left it alone.
That is of course until the following couple days. I hold my Facebook friends and other social media contacts in high esteem in the fact that I didn’t have to see too many negative reactions to the ad in any sort of agreeable fashion, and for that, kudos my friends: this post is for you.
So a little background for the unaware: Two iconic American companies, Coca-Cola and W+K, presented the nation with a message of tolerance and grace that is a direct reflection of the global world we live in today. Of course, the internet and its denizens reacted as one might suspect and you can find evidence of this on Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, their YouTube spot, and this nice compilation by Matt Binder on his blog: Public Shaming.
In one fell swoop, the consolidated vermin and scum in a country that preached racial equality and world peace came out of the woodwork. Bigots rose as one and cast their Cokes in protest, armchair politicians and closeted Klan members took to their keyboards and bullhorns; and so revealed are a nation’s worst.
I am, admittedly, not a political person and am for the most part content with confining my political views and outrages to close friends and family. However, something like this deserves a little more attention. The unfortunate lifeforms that took to the web are a sad reminder to the many nay-sayers out there that bigotry and racism are alive and well. Lest we forget, hate breeds hate and the clear heads that preach tolerance and understanding are few and far between. In my humble opinion, when you actively hate a culture and people so much as to express your hate in public - please stifle your surprise when they reciprocate.
I grew up in three different countries, I was shaped by two cultures not of my own, and I am more fluent in a language that is not my mother tongue. Such is the nature of a modern, global society. And yet, even in a country that proclaimed world dominance with the right to maintain a role as peacekeeper, such hate persists.
Every remark that condemns this ad is a reminder to all that we are indeed different.
Every can of Coke thrown in anger is a call to others to hate.
We often forget just how easily a little discrimination can lead to full blown war. And to react to a soda ad with such vigorous spite? I’d wager some money that these people also believe that the world is flat and that the sun is in motion around their sad pathetic lives.
To Wieden + Kennedy and Coca-Cola, rock on. No matter how you cut it, the commercial conveyed a message that is apparently ahead of its time. To you and the rest of us who saw the ad and didn’t immediately turn into a degenerate: take solace. For every bigot out there attempting a Coke boycott, the rest of us will go on towards a future that is quickly leaving them behind.
To those who have the urge to express anger towards a multilingual take on a song, please take a moment to consider this:
Your actual nation anthem - called The Star-Spangled Banner, by the way - has not actually been defiled in any way.
Your vision of an all white nation under an enforced language is a similar aspiration held by a one Adolf Hitler in the early half of the twentieth century.
Also, given all the effort put forth by both the ad agency and Coca-Cola to make this commercial a reality, it is safe to assume that countless hours have gone into studying any possible backlash and response from the ad. You, and your inbred bigoted kin have been considered and deemed to be in the minority (or a fantastic emotional pressure point to exploit).
Finally, to those who insist that you aren’t a racist with the argument that the English language is a sacred unifying factor in the United States, well consider this: If your language is the last and sole unifying thread for the country, then the country itself has some issues.
Love of country, regardless of who you are, is an intangible feeling that goes beyond language. It is a feeling that is borne out of familiarity, appreciation of everything your country has given you, and most importantly, the people that make up your country. Countries aren’t divided by language, to that point, why aren’t you the United States of America, Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa?
A country is an ideal, a feeling, a place, a home.
I’ve watched in envy as people call America “home” regardless of where they are from and regardless of the language they are most comfortable speaking. This is the ideal that made so many of us foreigners flock here, and whether or not we will ever be accepted, we look to this ideal as a beacon of what could be. America, the beautiful, will remain beautiful regardless of what’s being spoken on the street. And my country, Indonesia, will still be mine even after we’ve incorporated the English language into our education. Because at the end of the day, home isn’t defined by a language, a language is but a means to understand.
It’s just a crying ass shame that so much misunderstanding has to fall in between.
I’m really lucky to be featured as guest writer on Hey Whipple, by my mentor Luke Sullivan!
Super Bowl 2014 Ad Picks - The Rant
While many Seahawks fans will tout Super Bowl 48 as fantastic game, Broncos fans and football aficionados alike will find the game lackluster at best; and even with the large point differential, neither team gave a performance worthy of a Super Bowl. Football aside, the half-time show gave me a much needed bathroom break and we can get on to the really important stuff: the extremely over-priced commercials. With my top four in hand, let’s start with the best and work our way down.
2014’s national and web favorite was Radio Shack’s “The Phone Call” by Austin based GSDM - and I for one, agree. The spot was a sober and honest commentary on the aged brand that was conveyed with just the right amount of humor and nostalgia. Whether or not it’s enough to turn the brand around is still up for debate, but this is definitely a solid step forward for the brand.
The 80s called, and made one hell of a Super Bowl appearance.
My remaining three picks I’ve categorized into a few sections: Class, Epic, and Emotion.
This category I’ve set aside for the few luxury brands that actually made an appearance at the Super Bowl and this year’s pickings were pretty slim with only Audi, Jaguar, and Maserati in the mix. Audi’s “Doberhuahua” spot, while charming in it’s own genetically mutated way, is targeted towards the lower end of the automotive marketplace and simply does not qualify. Leaving Jaguar and Maserati as the only two contenders in this category.
The evening’s choice came to me as effortlessly as a Seahawk touchdown. Maserati’s “Strike” spot, by the kings of car manifestos: Wieden + Kennedy was the obvious write-off as it was nothing more than a lazy effort using an overused template. Well shot, well written, and well trodden - the spot was another in a long line of manifesto styled spots that carmakers seem to rely on for the big game, and it was exactly as you’d expect: boring.
And so, the classiest spot goes to Jaguar. “Rendezvous,” by Spark 44 is a first big game entry for the luxury brand and it marks a resounding rebirth for the carmaker that has gone through an interesting facelift in the years following Tata’s purchase. The spot was everything you’d expect from the old British brand and their celebrity villains: Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Strong. Wit, snark, and class mingled well with power and money in this classiest of ads, and I long for the day that I might afford on these bad boys.
It’s good to be bad - and classy.
The word “epic” is one that, as of late, has lost as much meaning as the likes of “awesome” from overuse and is a rather difficult category to nail down. Of course, the obvious shoo-in for this category is Bud Light’s “Epic Night” spot by BBDO, but contrary to the majority of opinions out there, the ad didn’t quite cut it for me.
Call me old fashioned, but I expect a certain level of storytelling and scale in my “epics” and though Bud Light certainly delivered on scale, it leaves much to be desired in story. Some might counter: “But, Igor, the ad did show a story: you know, the man on an epic night.” And I will respectfully rebutt with: One man’s staged series of ridiculous events in the name of cheap beer marketing, does not an epic tale make.
My epic pick for the night goes to Axe’s “Make Love Not War.” Made by BBH, London - no strangers to “epic” - the ad had a powerful, sexually charged message and didn’t fall short on delivery. On point in both story and scale, the spot was incredibly well executed to send a message while keeping true to Axe’s young and sexy brand image.
War, love, and peace, an epic make.
As a writer and creative, emotion is a weapon to wield at the consuming masses. As a human being, emotion is ride you never actually get to disembark. As such, this is a category that is often deeply personal and my choice will likely differ to most.
So, which super ad played my heartstrings like a banjo in a hoedown and elicited a tear or two from this cynic? The usual suspects naturally come from Anomaly’s Budweiser work: “Puppy Love” and “Hero’s Welcome.” Puppies and homecomings are emotional WMDs in the hearts of many - and rightly so - but I am perhaps too jaded to be moved by beer commercials at this point. No matter how poignant the moment, there will always be an unavoidable disconnect between the emotion on-screen and the Budweiser logo.
“Dad’s Sixth Sense” actually, Hyundai’s emotional powerhouse spot from Innocean, is the only ad of the evening that made me feel a little twinge of emotion. The keyword for this emotional win is “relatability.” I couldn’t relate with a dog and horse just as I couldn’t relate to a car company telling me to believe in Detroit. I could, however, relate with a father’s love. The spot hit all the right notes: it was emotional without being overbearing, humorous without being distracting, and straightforward without overselling the message.
I love you dad.
To see all the ads you missed go to AdAge.com
Well, here’s an ad I hate enough to write about:
This blog has mostly celebrated the new, the brilliant, and the best in advertising and the arts, yet this year we start with a low note. As a self-proclaimed veteran of the internet and having run through the gauntlet of phalluses, Rick-Rolls and trolls our internet has to offer: I am rarely offended by the content I see. Nevertheless, the video shared below managed to push the right buttons in me to warrant a post.
So it all began – like many such stories – with a shared link on social media. Titled: “People Ignored This Blind And Homeless Man’s Sign Until A Stranger Changed It For Him :),” perhaps I should have noticed the warning signs. For the next two eternal minutes I watched a poorly staged, acted, shot, and edited video that laments on the suffering of a blind beggar before the heroic actions of a stranger. The “stranger” – as established in the drawn out shot of a woman in black walking towards the camera –proceeds to rewrite the sign with something that right away inspired a torrent of coins to rain down on the blind man. After the filmmakers had felt that enough tension was built, they revealed the sign to say: “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.”
Fade to black.
Cue: Purple title cards for “purplefeather: online content specialists”
Oh yes. I see what they did there.
It was probably a very nice true story at some point, or maybe someone actually saw that as a sign on a street. Whatever the case, someone at this “online content specialist” place thought it might be a wonderful idea to shoot a low-fi “viral-styled” video iteration of this story.
This video is nothing more than a shameless marketing attempt that didn’t even have the decency to be well executed. It took a rather clever sentiment about saying the right words, and presented in a manner ill-fitting of the story and idea.
To the many who believed or felt inspired by the intended story, only to be confronted with a shoddy tag-line and company logo: it’s okay, I fell clicked on the damn link too.
To those who want to see this video: click on your own volition.
How does Superman shave?
With Man of Steel coming up to its big screen debut, many attentive fans have noticed a slight wrinkle in the movie plot from what has been revealed in the trailers so far. The trailers show quite clearly a heavily bearded Clark Kent on a journey of self-discover (or something…) that quickly gave way to a clean shaven cape-and-tights wearing Superman doing his thing.
Given Superman’s inherent inability to be damaged by earthly materials, the questions stands: How does Superman shave?
Typical filmmaker oversight I’m sure. But this is a question that goes quite well as an advertising campaign for Gillete.
Partnering with the movie’s launch, Concept One launched this clever campaign for Gillete by asking “experts” and fans this hair-raising question. Fans have taken to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to debate this question while the campaign itself launched with the four theories from Bill Nye (the Science Guy), The Mythbusters (who have taken a break from blowing things up), Kevin Smith (film director and all around super geek), and Mayim Bialik (actress from Big Bang Theory with an actual PhD).
The theories are interesting and witty, and overall this is shaping up to be a fun campaign.
Personally, I’d like to think that Superman has the ability to extend and retract his hair at will. It sure beats putting on a pair of glasses to hide his “secret” identity.
Or… maybe they’re right. They do have experience with facial hair:
Superbowl Ad Picks
Well its that time of year again. The biggest day for TV advertising and football fans - at least Ravens and Niner fans. As usual we’ve got the fan made Doritos commercials filled with the usual sort of ridiculousness we’ve come to expect but nothing particularly special. Nevertheless this year’s Superbowl entries do not disappoint. My top three picks for the year are from M&Ms, Dodge, and Axe.
Good Clean Fun: M&Ms “Love Ballad”
Inspirational: Dodge Ram “Farmer”
Axe being Axe: Axe “Lifeguard”
Bond for 70 seconds.
Coca-cola has been at the center of some fantastic alternative advertising in recent years. From Google’s Project Re: Brief to their Happiness Machines, Coke is just one of those brands that can go anywhere. Their most recent foray into the exciting realm of alternative advertising is a partnership between Coke Zero and the upcoming Bond film: Skyfall.
The masterwork of communications agency: Duval Guilaume Modem; this ridiculously interactive experience gives everyday Coke Zero drinkers a chance to fall in line with the likes of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig for seventy intense seconds.
Starting with a Coke Zero vending machine, commuters in the Antwerp Central station who want a chance at free Skyfall tickets are prompted to make their way across the station to collect their prize. As the countdown clock starts, nearby street performers break into a well timed performance on the iconic Bond theme music and the race is on for the unsuspecting commuter. The mad dash through the station is naturally riddled with the usual Bond inspired obstacles before finally ending at another Coke Zero vending machine - and of course the tickets.
This wholly interactive experience is perhaps one of the most exciting alternative advertising effort this writer has seen to date. From the street inspired rendition of the classic theme song, to the well timed and choreographed performing obstacles. You’d be hard pressed to top this experience with anything short of giving away forty carat diamonds on the street.
As you might have already guessed, the first hand exposure to this experience is limited to only the handful of participants and intrigued passersby that were there. As is often the case for alternative advertising tactics success lies in media exposure. Within twenty hour fours of the video’s posting on YouTube, some 53,000 views and nearly seven thousand likes have been earned. Ideas like these don’t often have the chance to come to fruition as marketing objectives tend favor more traditional approaches. However, given the right brand, the right time, and the right idea, every now and then, something truly exhilarating can come along.
In stark contrast to experience depicted above, below is a TV spot done in France for Coke Zero on the same premise of Unlocking The 007 In You.
Cool, but not quite the same.