Thursday, June 20, 2013

64: never apologize for selfies


Also from Tumblr. At the risk of hitting you over the head with this stuff, I'm just going to point out (briefly) why I love this whole post:
  • Understanding the culture of selfies (if you don't get it... sigh)
  • Rationalizing that culture from a hilarious art history angle
  • Connecting past & present and tying us all together
(via staff)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

63: paint what matters

This is kind of an unintentionally silly ad by the Martin Agency (and Brad Pitt!) for Benjamin Moore paint. It hearkens back to the Dodge Chrysler Detroit story – same sentimental American voice (hey, Brad Pitt, why are you doing voiceovers for commercials now?), same push for Americana, same attempt at bringing a sense of heritage into the picture.

The kids over at mediabistro hate it, clearly. I find one comment particularly interesting though: "Shame to ruin the awesome style of those buildings with a fresh paint job." I tend to agree and wonder if corporations like Benjamin Moore give thought to things like that.

I mean... they're trying so hard to evoke a sense of timelessness, history, "the American way," and yet? In painting over the walls, aren't they erasing that timelessness, that history, that reminder of what it was like "back in the old days"? The concept is great: Hey, let's assert ourselves as a company that cares about America and Americans and community!

But does the execution really make sense?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

62: tumblr cult(ure)

Tumblr Tumblr Tumblr. Up until recently, it was the biggest thing you've never heard of – an odd thing to say, given that President Obama has his own account (and might I say, it's pretty darn great), not to mention countless other individuals that are huge in their own spheres: John Green, Wil Wheaton, Neil Gaiman, Queen Bey, Marina and the DiamondsZooey Deschanel... I'm lazy so I'll stop here.

Anyway, I bring this up because Tumblr is clearly a huge thing. Yet it's surprising how many people don't get it. Tumblr is constantly overlooked, with social media "experts" and "strategists" still hyper-focused on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest instead. (I've attended workshops and online seminars where the speakers don't even know what Tumblr is!)

So many of these agencies have underestimated the intensity of Tumblr users, and it's their loss, really. From my own experiences with Tumblr, a bulk of its users are actively involved with multiple fandoms, social causes, etc. and are proud of it. (Isn't this every brand's dream? To have the Engaged Target Customer?)

After Yahoo(!) bought out Tumblr a few weeks ago (cue sad violins), there was a flurry of activity surrounding the deal – i.e., lots of Tumblr users seriously concerned that Marissa Meyer was going to kill off their favorite website. Hank Green had some really great thoughts on the buy-out, so I won't go into detail there. What I do want to think about is the importance of maintaining your brand in the face of a big change like this.

David Karp wrote a letter to the Tumblr community, noting that:
Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn’t changing... As always, everything that Tumblr is, we owe to this unbelievable community. We won’t let you down.
Fuck yeah,
(Emphasis mine.)

Like many others, I find it really important to highlight his sign-off because it is a reminder that although this sacred website has signed a deal with a huge corporate dinosaur, it doesn't mean that Tumblr will turn into something else. It's David Karp's way of acknowledging the Tumblr community's concerns. It's his way of almost drawing a line in the sand and showing us that he knows what Tumblr users are like – that he himself is one of them – and that he's on our side.

Wow, this got real sappy real fast.

I'm not saying that David thought through and calculated every word he was writing (I mean, maybe he was – who knows?). But my point is that there are ways for brands to assert their identities, to create a camaraderie between brand and user without it feeling forced. For Tumblr, it's about staying relevant and understanding the culture (think about all the Fuck Yeah! blogs that exist), as well as subtly affirming a sense of loyalty and therefore assuaging user concerns. Or trying to, at least.

So... cheers to that. May other brands learn from Tumblr along the way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

61: street art for sex workers

Been thinking less about "good ads" lately and more about (1) effective forms of communication and (2) effective ways of asserting your brand. The first, I'd like to touch on today.

These "ads"/street pieces for AMMAR, Argentina's association for sex workers, have been making the rounds on Tumblr for several weeks now. The thought behind it: "86% of sex workers are mothers. We need a law to regulate our work."

I like this particularly because it doesn't feel like an advertisement. It feels (and looks) like street art, which has been historically and traditionally – though that's another topic altogether – used to promote non-corporate interests. In other words, the interests of the people.

It's attention-grabbing and it's clever and it's honest. These pieces make you think about a controversial issue in a new way. It forces you to acknowledge that, like you, sex workers have families that they need to support and that, like you, sex workers deserve basic human rights.

AMMAR's goal is for sex work to be regulated by law, so that sex workers can be safe and protected from things like police brutality, sex trafficking, and other forms of violence. I don't care whether or not you agree that government should decriminalize sex work. I do hope, however, that you can recognize that strand of humanity that must necessarily connect us all, regardless of our choice of work. I am all for meaningful creative endeavors that play on empathy and compassion for people, and I think Ogilvy & Mather (Bs As) did a really great job here.

(via catsandgraffitis and Ads of the World)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

60: politics in advertising

My poor neglected blog. You deserve an overhaul.

In the past few years, my perspective on design, marketing, politics – and life, in general – have changed dramatically. Experience does that to you. Instead of evaluating programs and campaigns from a psychological perspective or a “digital” perspective (whatever that really means), I've been appraising them from more of a sociological standpoint.

In other words, I’ve been thinking about how they interact with Western values, traditional gender roles, inclusiveness, racism… It’s hard not to acknowledge these things, given the recent rise of more female-oriented media:
  1. Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl, which – despite the unfounded complaints of her naysayers – was perfect for so many reasons and which I should recap at some point, even though it’s already been a few months… but here’s an overview: empowerment, strength, and not a single man on stage
  2. That one guy (I can’t remember his name… Sam? Seth? Something – oh well, it’s not important) who gave an incredibly sexist spiel at the Oscars and rationalized it essentially by saying, “It’s just a joke”
  3. Lena Dunham’s Girls – critics have been hailing it as ground-breaking feminist work (I disagree; feminism means equality for all women and not just girls who are white)
  4. The Steubenville rape case and how every single mainstream media source framed as, “Oh, those poor boys/rapists… such a bright future ahead of them…”
I’m rambling, I know. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg!

My point is that “political” issues have a heavy influence on the way people perceive advertising and media in general. Something that seems okay in theory may turn out to be totally freaking taboo in execution. I’m thinking specifically of JWT India and their disgusting Ford Figo ad, which was entered as a fake ad into India’s top awards show.

Clearly, a bunch of dudes in upper management had no issue with this blatantly misogynistic ad. Sure, it was meant to be a gag, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? We look at these voluptuous women who are bound and gagged and wearing bikinis, and we’re meant to laugh it off. And that’s just so wrong on so many accounts. For one thing, it’s not funny, period. We should never take that kind of thing as a joke, especially since it happens all the time. That’s not something you make light of – it’s a spit in the face.

Fortunately, we are at a point in time (at least, I think we are) where feminist discourse is a prevalent and ongoing part of our culture – where violence towards women is not tolerated (not as much, at least) and where men as an institution* are put in their place.

*I know there will always be men crying “MISANDRY!!! MAN-HATER!!! REVERSE SEXISM!!!” so here’s my unnecessary disclaimer and a quick and dirty lesson: Reverse sexism, by definition, does not exist. Obviously, not all men are eeeeviiiil. But men as an institution (“the patriarchy”) are oppressive and threatening, particularly to women and people of color. Recognize your privilege and instead of complaining to women about it, start changing the male-dominated culture.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

59: bon iver on grammys spot

Bon Iver "We Are Music" Grammy Spot from stereogum on Vimeo.

This is a neat little spot for the 54th Grammy Awards from TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. It's a little bit bizarre seeing Justin Vernon featured in a commercial... for the very mainstream Grammys, no less... but it's kind of nice and surprising and not something I would expect for an awards ceremony.

Actually, this Grammys spot is slightly reminiscent of the old 2008 commercials for Valspar (which I blogged about two-and-a-half years ago) and Whirlpool (I can't find the exact video I'm thinking of, but there's a lady with a bright flowing gown and a floating washing machine and there's soft, inspiring music playing in the background...? Oh, never mind. This sounds so ridiculous).

Anyway, my point is that all of these commercials are sort of earthy and flowy and surreal. It just goes to show you that advertising can be a form of art and a thing of beauty. More lovely videos below...

Valspar 2008 from Olivia on Vimeo.

"Climber" Valspar from SunTimes on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

58: the last 'oops' and rethinking the oreo

My last post was a semi-apology, a semi-update, and a semi-promise-to-post-new-content all wrapped up in one. I wrote it in July 2011, and now it's nearing the end of January 2012.

Oops. Again.

But this time I completely promise that this post will feature my last "oops, sorry I forgot to update" because there's lots going on in the world of brand, marketing, advertising, user experience, creative, digital, and more (look at all those buzz words!), and I want you to hear about it and to marvel with me.

So there's that.

Now that I'm done with announcements for the time being, I want to leave you with a story recently featured on NPR's Planet Money. It's called "Rethinking The Oreo For Chinese Consumers," and it's a prime example of rewiring a household brand and snack/cookie/treat (depending on what kind of consumer you are!) to fit another culture's usage behaviors and eating habits.

If there's one thing I've learned from: (1) my travels abroad in Taiwan, China, the UK, and Europe; (2) as an Information Science minor interested in the art and science of user experience; and (3) through my prior research experience at the Communication Department at Cornell... it's that you can't just "transliterate" words or ideas or products from one culture to another. Meanings get lost -- remember that urban legend about the Chevy Nova and how it no va ("doesn't go")? -- and tastes get confused. In an increasingly connected world, you really do need a deep understanding of the cultural and business environment in which you are going to operate.

In Kraft's case, the Oreo team in China had to reconsider what the Oreo cookie really is. Is the Oreo cookie all about the flavor? (Chinese consumers found it too sweet and too bitter.) Is it about the round circular shape? The black and white color? The Oreo team essentially had to identify the classic features of the Oreo cookie and figure out whether they even matter when considering international markets.

From the American standpoint, the Oreo cookie is a nostalgic, emotional experience. You have the ritual: "Twist, lick, and dunk." And it resonates with us. But it's kind of a weird thing. I mean, scraping off the cream with your teeth? Um... ew. (And yum at the same time! I can haz all teh Oreos plz?) How do you sell this quirky American thing to Chinese consumers?

According to the Oreo team, you use emotional advertising, apparently. With the help of Draftfcb, you get cute Chinese kids partaking in this weird American thing, and next thing you know, you've got sales skyrocketing and a very happy Kraft Foods.

Ah, the intersection of consumer behavior, market research, culture, branding, and marketing. Don't you love it?!

Next time: Some thoughts on Yum! Brands and KFC and their perfect egg custard tarts. Le swoon.

(via NPR and Kraft Foods)