Sweeping Away Trash Talk

Swiffer Screenshot
Cleaning made easy thanks to a gift from Swiffer.

The future of media may be a time warp to the 1950s. 

It’s been 36 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., 58 years since the bus incident with Rosa Parks and 150 years since Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. Yet, it’s only been 6 months since Cheerios proved that racism still stands strong today.

Since Cheerios opened that unintended firestorm and controversy, Swiffer disables comments from the beginning to avoid mass insults and mob mentality. And whether strategic to pull at heartstrings or as a distractor to color, Publicis Kaplan Thaler takes things to another level by including an amputee.

Unlike the Cheerio’s spot using actors, PKT uses a real family in a documentary-style video. Zach Rukavina, the husband and father in the spot, lost his arm to cancer and his amputation is key to the story of the commercial – and he cracks a couple jokes about how he’s still a better cleaner than his wife. Though the commercial pulls so many levers at the same time, which may leave itself vulnerable to cynicism, the spot’s realism may be more of a deterrent to criticism. However, realism didn’t help this black dad and his interracial kids.

I applaud Swiffer. They risk their brand in part of a larger movement. Polarizing statements may cause great support from one side and an equal amount of heat from the other. JCPenney had pulled a similar stunt with Ellen DeGeneres. Unfortunately though, after rehiring former CEO, Mike Ullman, JCPenney may step away from their support. But that’s an entirely different story.

Advertisements are a reflection of today’s culture. So it only makes sense that more and more interracial couples are shown in today’s media. Since more non-traditional couples are featured in ads, hopefully the shock of seeing mixed couples, same-gendered, reversed gender-roles, couples with wide age gaps or even a combination of the above can become more desensitized.

Where things go from here is yet to be determined, but we can hope that progress continues to be ahead of us.                        


Predictable. Easy. Bravo.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 4.54.53 PM

Judging by books and blogs of ads around the world, it may seem that the best ads are the most well designed or with interesting wordplay. But great ads start with an idea. If you have a strong idea and no matter how predictable it is, it’s still a strong idea.

As an advertiser, our goal is to communicate the brand message in a way that our audience would want to listen. One of the stronger techniques is to create a relatable scenario that we can picture ourselves in. This is called a “lifestyle piece.”

This technique can easily be done lazily. And when it’s done lazily, you can easily tell. Almost anything that tries to tell audiences who they are by saying lines like, “You’re a busy woman,” or “You’re a hardworking man,” is trying too hard and showing too much strategy. When you tell people that you know exactly who they are, they’ll try hard to prove that you’re completely wrong.

Strangely, being told exactly who you are is a multi-billion dollar operation in creating rehashed self-improvement books that feed off insecurities. So if you prefer writing work that says, “You’re a busy woman,” or “You’re a hardworking man,” then write a book, not an ad.

Have you ever walked up to someone at a party and said, “You’re tall, you like hot women, drink whiskey on the rocks  – no chaser – and you like to party. I’m just like you. Let’s be friends?”

No. And if you have, you may need to rethink your social skills. Stop trying to be cool and just be cool.

This hallmark ad by ACD/Copywriter Dave Derrick of Leo Burnett Chicago is an example of really bringing home the idea of relating to consumers.

A realistic scenario. A person we can empathize with, if not sympathize. And a realistic ending that shows the product as the hero.

The best compliment you can pay a creative is to tell them you could’ve come up with that. Just shows you how relatable the idea is.

**Side note. Like any creative guidelines, there are great ads that break the mold.

Great writers drink good whiskey. Must be why these are written so well.


Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, they all had one thing in common. They were all fantastic writers drunks. Alcohol was the lowest common denominator for their inspirations. These men weren’t just thinking of stories while inebriated, they were putting pen to paper.

Remember the last time you wrote drunk? Back in the days of having one six-pack too many study beers. Back in school, a more common exercise was to create an ad campaign about things that we’re passionate about. In the ad industry, we’re passionate about alcohol.

Tour an ad agency freely and I assure you that you’ll find bottles of liquor in desks, solo cups in the trash and remnants of the Christmas party in the toilet. And there’s good reason too. A recent study has shown that alcohol is better than caffeine at bringing out creativity. More reason to make Honey Nut Whiskey-O’s a more socially acceptable breakfast.

That’s why, regardless to Don Draper claiming that SCDP finally made it when they won their first car account, an ad agency really makes it when they win their first alcohol account. Some of the best ads out there today are for some form of adult beverage: Budlight, Budweiser, Dos Equis, Corona, Miller High-Life, Southern Comfort.

Even the ones I like making fun of most are for alcohol: Redd’s, 1800, Citroen, Wild Turkey, Big Hurt’s Beer.

And then there are these. Jameson really knocked this one out of the park. They must have been really paying attention to Money Ball because this home run came from one incredibly low budget.

If you open up a CA, a one-show, archive and so on, you begin to get the impression that the best ads come from incredible art direction, big budgets and screenplay writers who write copy on their free time. And if you’re a young writer, you may believe that you need to work at an agency with large accounts that are willing to shell out extra shekels for a big idea.

But this just goes to show you that you can entertain on a small budget. The economist has been doing this for years. And even as you get older, you can’t escape the small budget clients. Not everything you work on will be the fun stuff. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make an ad better than it has to be. That’s the beauty of our industry.

And coming up with one of these ads is way more impressive in your book than a mediocre, fully produced TV commercial. The world today is all about making things as simple as possible. So if you can get your message across on a magazine half sheet with a budget where your agency is getting paid in food stamps, and still get the message across clearly while being entertaining, then you are well on your way.

So once you work on your first alcohol account, feel free to sit back, crack open a bottle and get drunk write a great alcohol ad.


Das Werbung


A father who throws a baseball with improper technique!? Crucify him! One thing I love more than creating advertisements, is seeing how people react differently to ads. No, I’m not a fan of focus groups, but I do take comments – just with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila. This is target demographics at its finest. Volkswagen obviously did not aim for these following people:


Volkswagen Responses


But I have to admit, that last one is pretty funny. Unfortunately, some of these people lead marketing teams. So explaining the concept of not-pleasing-everyone and to consider-your-target-demographic is as successful as arguing which religion is right (comments related to religion will be deleted). This incongruity births ‘safe’ ideas and ‘safe’ commercials. And eventually you have people who claim they can be in advertising because they disagree with the position. But these people also make fantastic presidents, politicians, CEOs and so on. Take this guy for example:


Volkswagen Pro


Cool story bro, but Volkswagen has a history of some of the greatest ads ever. So armchair leaders and legends, a little understanding of history and branding goes a long way in this business. Though some agencies find a way to rob the grave of someone else’s successful campaign (Visit www.adsoftheworld.com for dozens of people to call you a hack and that your ideas are decades old), Volkswagen has a long history of elite level advertising. So guy, Volkswagen may not need your expertise.

Volkswagen Ad
Volkswagen Ad


Make the decision yourself. Is Deutsch, L.A. deserving of fame or lame? But Deutsch pulled all the right stops where they set up a familiar scene, a relatable situation and added a little bit of a twist. So next time you watch a commercial intended to be funny, see a comedian live or even read comments on YouTube, remember to loosen up. We’re not always a serious business.

The Big Morally-Ambiguous Wolf

Years of english, literature, theology and philosophy couldn’t prepare me for this. Typical upbringing, or years of jedi training, teaches us to look at things objectively. To not let the beliefs and stories of others influence our own judgment. In short, to take emotion out of the equation.

But there’s something about wolves. Little red riding hood. Peter and the wolf. Even Star Fox’s rival. Wolves are inherently evil. Sorry Balto.

So we pass quick judgment on our childhood bedtime stories to create a clear definition of what’s right and what’s wrong. We never stopped to ask about the big bad wolf’s motivation. These were pigs who could construct houses, surely a wolf in this world could purchase bacon from the local Pick ‘N Save. Unless of course bacon is off the menu seeing that pigs are intelligent enough to rule the world over people. But banning bacon should be a crime in and of itself. But I digress.

Jeanie Cagiano, Leo Burnett mastermind behind the Allstate ‘Mayhem’ campaign, uses an interesting storytelling element in her advertisements. Stories have a good guy and a bad guy, but “a good villain is a lovely thing.” 

So looking at the three little pigs, we ask, “Who is the villain?” And rather than blindly believe the first story we’re told, we can ask questions. Exactly like the Open Journalism of the UK’s The Guardian (www.theguardian.co.uk). Of course with more questions, come more ambiguity. And we now ask ourselves, “who’s fault is it?”

Unfortunately for these once-respected heroes, they cried wolf and the world called their bluff.

A face for Facebook.

The target demographic is anyone who uses or doesn’t use Facebook. Everyone. Wieden + Kennedy, known for great dramatic pieces had their hands full when working with Facebook’s very first ad campaign. Of course there have been fantastic ads out there for online giants. But how do you create a brand ad for a social networking site? W+K uses chairs.

Putting together a branding campaign is important. It creates a scope of how the brand should be viewed. It identifies a touchstone that users from varying demographics can connect to. Of course this isn’t always how the brand is viewed; it’s not always to be taken for face value. But that’s what PR is for.

If you remember Google’s Parisian Love ad — see “online giants” above for a reminder — they created an emotional connection through use of the product. Something people can relate to.

In contrast, Facebook’s Things that connect us doesn’t use what Facebook does — which isn’t a bad thing; unless you live under a rock — it instead compares Facebook to items in real life that connects people.

I believe W+K missed here. It’s hard for an MLB homerun hitter to strike it big the first at bat against a softball. The story was told pretty slow, and very abstract. This might work as an introduction to the sequel of the social network, but it was largely boring and vague. The video to introduce Facebook’s timeline was actually much more interesting.


Can iz haz thumb?

Cats are evil. They’re murderous assassins who are constantly seeking destruction. They run between your legs as you walk by. They sit on your keyboard to cut off your communication resources. Some even have laser powers.

Cat’s have been an internet phenomenon since Al Gore created the internet.Wieden+Kennedy took the craze and ran with it to create the #CatsWithThumbs campaign for Cravendale milk in 2011.

The campaign uses the idea of why we should be fearful of cats, and it all boils down to them wanting our Cravendale milk.

This was the most recent ad.

If you’re unfamiliar with the campaign – here’s the original.

W+K extended this campaign into a variety of different media. The hashtag is a call to action for people to collect their thoughts about the ads on social media.

Creating this personality is cool, but I don’t see Bertrum the Thumbcat featured in any other media. I’m not sure if they created this personality specifically for the facebook page, but by creating a personality, they open up the door for much more.


Bertrum the Thumbcat is a digital mastermind that answers questions to what a thumbcat can do. It’s safe to say, if a cat had a thumb – s/he may be more interesting than the most interesting man. They even went as far as creating their own “ask the oracle” page.

Thanks to Neil Christi from W+K. 

Your cat can even join Bertrum’s army.

Also in the digital realm is the new mini-page.

Unfortunately, I believe the mini-page is half-baked. They’re are a lot of cool things, but there isn’t much that you can play around with. You can watch the most recent commercial, but the only thing interactive with this page is the ability to turn and off the light. Though that’s cool, they missed some opportunities where the change of the light may actually add more dimension. Another shot that could have been fired is making all the other fun looking things interactive, especially with such a playful campaign.

Overall, I love how they jumped on an already popular train and rode it into multiple different media outlets. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they brought it all the way home in digital realm. Considering that the internet started the long running cat jokes.