The North Koreans apparently had seen quite a few of my films. I established a trust with them. It's very strange because you're accompanied by people who would look after what you were doing, who would politely tell you you cannot film this, or cannot film that, and at one point I filmed something which I was not allowed to do, so I wanted to have it edited or deleted. But since they are filming in 4K or 5K or so, very complicated data management, we were unable to delete it, and they wanted to take the entire memory hard drive. And I said, "But it contains two days worth of shooting, that would be terrible." So I said, "You know what, I can guarantee to you that I'm not going to use this material." And they said, "Guarantee, what do you mean by that?" I said, "Just look me in the eye, what I offer is my honor, my face, and my handshake." And they said "ok" and they trusted me. And of course I'm not going to use this moment of filming that I was not supposed to film.
Herzog grins as he takes a seat in a conference room at UCLA, which has been set up for an event later this evening. His eyes droop, but his skin is remarkably smooth, like the surface of a slightly underinflated balloon. And then there's that voice-silky, portentous-you can imagine it coming out of a GPS system giving driving directions to Valhalla. "I like to look back at the evolution of modern human beings," he says of his interest in the Internet. "Using fire or electricity was an enormous step for civilization, and this is one of those. And I think the poet must not avert his eyes."
What is interesting about Lo and Behold is that it's technically branded content. No, really:
It's a bonafide film that premiered at Sundance in January and has been generating lots of buzz heading toward its wider release. It also happens to be one giant ad, half in disguise, for POD New York client Netscout. The whole thing started out as an agency idea to produce short videos about the internet as part of a online Netscout campaign. But after they roped in Herzog, the vision for the project soon changed-for the better.
"I come from a digital background, and I've talked about the internet for my entire career. My first job was as the internet guy at DDB in Brazil," Pereira said. "When we hired Werner to do content about the internet, I felt like, OK, I know it's going to be awesome, but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to see. But actually, it's mind-blowing. We gave him the beginning of the idea and told him, 'This is where it starts.' He took it from there and owned it. It's a mind-blowing documentary."
I saw the film last week,1 and from what I remember, there's nothing about Netscout in the film. They financed the film but according to Tanz, Herzog had final cut:
Herzog retained final cut while granting McNiel veto power, a privilege McNiel used only once, to excise some of the more horrifying troll comments, a decision Herzog now says he agrees with.
It was interesting in spots, but I felt like splitting the narrative into 10 parts was not the right way to go. I would guess, however, the less you know about the technical aspects of technology, the more interesting Lo and Behold will be to you.↩
For you youngsters out there, it used to be that cartoon shows on TV were shown on Saturday mornings...and only on Saturday mornings (mostly). Evenings were for dramas and sitcoms, afternoons were for soaps and game shows, and Sundays were for news shows and religion. It was an Event...and the only time during the week when parents could sleep in knowing for sure where the kids would be and what they were doing. Oh and also, there were only four channels and the TV screen was about as large as a sheet of paper...in B&W. And the phone was on the wall and had a rotary dial! And at the store, they looked your credit card number up in a book to make sure the card was valid! And you had to hand-crank your car to start it! And when the flint started to go on your axe, you just chipped yourself a new one....↩
Keiichi Matsuda's Hyper-Reality "presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media". This is like a 5-minute episode of Black Mirror. Do not want. See also these previous videos about augmented reality overload, including an earlier video by Matsuda.
Is this for real? 43 people simultaneously tossed coins into jars while standing 15 feet away with only a single miss? Impressive.
If it is fake, how'd they do it? CG? Coins dropped from above each jar? It seems unlikely the broken jar near the beginning of the sequence was done in CG or resulted from a coin falling from above. The coins, jars, and tossing seems real. How about 43 motion-captured green-screened robotic arms accurately tossed the coins and the actors were added in later. Or was it magic?
Before the Reagans cranked up the War on Drugs in the early 80s due to the massive influx of cocaine from Latin America, advertisements offering all kinds of coke paraphernalia could be found in magazines. The World's Best Ever collected a bunch of ads offering spoons, mirrors, straws, knives, and the like for America's coke sniffers.
I am an episode and a half into Narcos on Netflix. Pretty good (but not great) so far.1 (via adfreak)
They should have found a way to do it without the voiceover. Too much telling and not enough showing. (I have a thing about voiceovers. My first exposure to Blade Runner was Ridley Scott's Director's Cut, which omitted Deckard's voiceover, and when I started watching the original version on TV a few months ago, I nearly threw the remote through the screen...so grating and entirely unnecessary.)↩
I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here's the trailer:
The trailer debuted during last night's series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers...] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.
Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don't know how much we'll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.
Update: Another trailer. This is looking like a strong film.
If you've bought a ticket to an event in the past, oh, 15-20 years, chances are you got it from Ticketmaster. Chances are also pretty good that you think Ticketmaster completely sucks, mostly because of the unavoidable and exorbitant convenience fee they charge. And that probably has you wondering: if everyone who uses the service hates Ticketmaster so much, how are they still in business? Because ticket buyers are not Ticketmaster's customers. Artists and venues are Ticketmaster's real customers and they provide plenty of value to them.
Ticketmaster sells more tickets than anybody else and they're the biggest company in the ticket selling game. That gives them certain financial resources that smaller companies don't have. TM has used this to their advantage by moving the industry toward very aggressive ticketing deals between ticketing companies and their venue clients. This comes in the form of giving more of the service charge per ticket back to the venue (rebates), and in cash to the venue in the form of a signing bonus or advance against future rebates. Venues are businesses too and, thus, they like "free" money in general (signing bonuses), as well as money now (advances) versus the same money later (rebates).
Read that whole Quora answer again...there's nothing in there about TM being helpful for ticket buyers. It turns out asking "who's the customer?" is a great way of thinking about when certain companies or industries do things that aren't aligned with good customer service or user experience.1
Take Apple and Google for instance. Apple sells software and hardware directly to people; that's where the majority of their revenue comes from. Apple's customers are the people who use Apple products. Google gets most of their revenue from putting advertising into the products & services they provide. The people who use Google's products and services are not Google's customers, the advertisers are Google's customers. Google does a better job than Ticketmaster at providing a good user experience, but the dissonance that results between who's paying and who's using gets the company in trouble sometimes. See also Facebook and Twitter, among many others.
Newspapers, magazines, and television networks have dealt with this same issue for decades now.2 They derive large portions of their revenue from advertisers and, in the case of the TV networks, from the cable companies who pay to carry their channels. That results in all sorts of user hostile behavior, from hiding a magazine's table of contents in 20 pages of ads to shrieking online advertising to commercials that are louder than the shows to clunky product placement to trimming scenes from syndicated shows to cram in more commercials. From ABC to Vogue to the New York Times, you're not the customer and it shows.
This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but "who's the customer?" got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they're located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that's a big problem for consumers.
Update: I somehow neglected to include the pithy business saying "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product", which originated in a slightly different phrasing on MetaFilter.
Update: One example of how maximizing shareholder value can work against good customer service comes from a paper by a trio of economists. In it, they argue that co-ownership of two or more airlines by the same investor results in higher prices.
In a new paper, Azar and co-authors Martin C. Schmalz and Isabel Tecu have uncovered a smoking gun. To test the hypothesis that institutional investors gain market power that results in higher prices, they examine airline routes. Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United's top five shareholders -- all institutional investors -- own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United's largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.
How exactly might this work? It may be that managers of institutional investors put pressure on the managers of the companies that they own, demanding that they don't try to undercut the prices of their competitors. If a mutual fund owns shares of United and Delta, and United and Delta are the only competitors on certain routes, then the mutual fund benefits if United and Delta refrain from price competition. The managers of United and Delta have no reason to resist such demands, as they, too, as shareholders of their own companies, benefit from the higher profits from price-squeezed passengers. Indeed, it is possible that managers of corporations don't need to be told explicitly to overcharge passengers because they already know that it's in their bosses' interest, and hence their own. Institutional investors can also get the outcomes they want by structuring the compensation of managers in subtle ways. For example, they can reward managers based on the stock price of their own firms -- rather than benchmarking pay against how well they perform compared with industry rivals -- which discourages managers from competing with the rivals.
BTW, asking who the customer is doesn't help in every situation where bad service and contempt for the customer rears its ugly head. See cable companies, mobile carriers, and airlines. Companies also have other conflicts of interest that interfere with good customer experience. Apple, for instance, does all kinds of things that aren't necessarily in the best interest of the people buying their products. And as the Ticketmaster example shows, determining a company's true customer isn't just a matter of where the revenue comes from. It's never simple.↩
This is a potential problem with kottke.org as well. Almost all of my revenue comes from advertising. My high regard for the reader keeps me pretty honest (I hope!), but it's difficult sometimes.↩
In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would've been accepted that the word would be "we" did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word "we" evaporated from George's vocabulary and it became "my."
Of course, Koenig also claims to have invented thumb wrestling and to have popularized shrimp in America, so... (via @kevinmeyers)
For a Visa commercial, Errol Morris gathers a number of Nobel Peace Prize winners and nominees (including Lech Walesa) to talk about how important it is for their countries to beat the crap out of the other countries in the World Cup.
Two quotes in the video caught my ear:
Sport is a continuation of war by other means.
Look, football isn't life or death. It's much more important than that.
The first is a riff on Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz's aphorism "War is the continuation of Politik by other means". Clausewitz also devised the concept of "the fog of war", which Morris used for the title of a film. The second is a paraphrase of a quote by legendary football coach Bill Shankly:
Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.
While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it's hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch "capsule" cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey -- and that wasn't until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and "All Natural" (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?
Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)
Long before Sam went to extraordinary lengths to peddle discolored breakfast foods to obstinate citizens, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss, if you please) made his living as an advertising illustrator--and in retrospect, his work is unmistakable.
Seuss became the father of the modern day children's stories not solely through his inventive lexicon molded into clever syntax and anapestic meter, but also through vivid imaginary worlds and the charming characters within them. Take one look at his early creations for brands including GE, Ford, and NBC, and there's no denying the framework of his style that would later turn into the denizens of Whoville, Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks. And, according to the keepers of the Seuss collection at the UC San Diego Library, the enduring brilliance that is Seuss' legacy can be traced back to a very unlikely source: bug spray.
Why does McDonald's food look so much better in the ads than at the restaurant? Watch as the director of marketing for McDonald's Canada buys a Quarter Pounder at McDonald's and compares that to a burger prepared by a food stylist and retouched in post by an image editor.
Short answer: the burger at the restaurant is optimized for eating and the photo burger is optimized for looking delicious. (via ★interesting)
Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:
And this one gives new meaning to the phrase "banner blindness":
While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:
A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.
A week later, a friend posts a screen capture and tells me that my post has been showing up next to his news feed as a sponsored story, meaning Amazon is paying Facebook to highlight my link to a giant tub of personal lubricant.
Other people start reporting that they're seeing it, too. A fellow roller derby referee. A former employee of a magazine I still write for. My co-worker's wife. They're not seeing just once, but regularly. Said one friend: "It has shown up as one on mine every single time I log in."
Get used to this...promoted word of mouth is how a lot of advertising will work in the future.
As a Fertility Specialist for Pachyderms, this was exactly what we needed to help rebuild elephant populations all over sub-saharan africa. It's not all just Medications and IVF treatments. Some times you need a loudspeaker, a Barry White CD and a 55 Gallon drum of Lube.
By 1941, The advertising agency reported to [De Beers] that it had already achieved impressive results in its campaign. The sale of diamonds had increased by 55 percent in the United States since 1938, reversing the previous downward trend in retail sales. N. W. Ayer noted also that its campaign had required "the conception of a new form of advertising which has been widely imitated ever since. There was no direct sale to be made. There was no brand name to be impressed on the public mind. There was simply an idea -- the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond." It further claimed that "a new type of art was devised ... and a new color, diamond blue, was created and used in these campaigns.... "
In its 1947 strategy plan, the advertising agency strongly emphasized a psychological approach. "We are dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to ... strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring -- to make it a psychological necessity capable of competing successfully at the retail level with utility goods and services...." It defined as its target audience "some 70 million people 15 years and over whose opinion we hope to influence in support of our objectives." N. W. Ayer outlined a subtle program that included arranging for lecturers to visit high schools across the country. "All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions," the agency explained in a memorandum to De Beers. The agency had organized, in 1946, a weekly service called "Hollywood Personalities," which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds worn by movie stars. And it continued its efforts to encourage news coverage of celebrities displaying diamond rings as symbols of romantic involvement. In 1947, the agency commissioned a series of portraits of "engaged socialites." The idea was to create prestigious "role models" for the poorer middle-class wage-earners. The advertising agency explained, in its 1948 strategy paper, "We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer's wife and the mechanic's sweetheart say 'I wish I had what she has.'"
It's fascinating to watch the advertising beast change its tactics as the diamond monopoly's needs shift with new supply, new markets, and unexpected success.
But at the heart of the concept and the business of KidZania is corporate consumerism, re-staged for children whose parents pay for them to act the role of the mature consumer and employee. The rights to brand and help create activities at each franchise are sold off to real corporations, while KidZania's own marketing emphasizes the arguable educational benefits of the park.
Each child receives a bank account, an ATM card, a wallet, and a check for 50 KidZos (the park's currency). At the park's bank, which is staffed by adult tellers, kids can withdraw or deposit money they've earned through completing activities -- and the account remains even when they go home at the end of the day. A lot of effort goes into making the children repeat visitors of this Lilliputian city-state.
A US outpost of KidZania is coming sometime in 2013.
Last November, Chipotle made the decision to go it alone and bring advertising in-house. After spending at least six months selecting Butler Shine from a group of 27 agencies, Mr. Crumpacker said it didn't make sense to take the time to pick another agency. "By the time we picked one and got them up to speed it would have been a year," he said. "The only reasonable thing to do was to do it ourselves."
The chain is shifting away from traditional advertising anyway, Mr. Crumpacker added, noting that advertising, generally, is becoming less important to Chipotle. Not to mention that Chipotle's co-CEO, Steve Ells, isn't exactly supportive of advertising. "For Chipotle, I guess I'd say [advertising] is not less important to our CEO, because he never thought it was that important," Mr. Crumpacker said. "He's asked me [whether] should we do advertising at all."
Facebook Advertising does not directly compete with the text advertisements of Google's AdWords and AdSense. Instead Facebook is siphoning from Madison Avenue TV ad spend dollars. Television advertising represented $60 billion in 2009, or roughly one out of every two dollars spent on advertising in the U.S.; the main challenge marketers have with the Internet till recently has been that there aren't too many places where they can reach almost everybody with one single ad spend. Facebook fixes that problem.
"Ads are just getting bigger and louder as attention online is getting so scarce," said Solve Media CEO and founder, Ari Jacoby. "So we're fishing where the fish are," he said, referring to this untapped space where users are forced to spend time.
That's brilliant. Evil brilliant, but still. (via @sippey)
One of the first things that Steve Jobs did after taking over as Apple's interim CEO in 1997 is to get Apple back on track with their branding. In this short presentation from '97, Jobs talks about branding & Apple's core values and introduces the Think Different campaign.
What's interesting is how the iPad and iPhone advertisements focus almost entirely on the product. Apple no longer has to imply that their products are the best by showing you pictures of Albert Einstein and Amelia Earhart...they just show you the products and you know. But I don't see Jobs doing a "fake it 'til you make it" branding presentation anytime soon. :)
No idea if this is an actual thing outside of advertising New Zealand energy drinks; this article indicates that a few circus folk dreamt it up (hello, red flag). Welcome to 2010, when you can't sort the ads from everything else. (thx, wade)
A bouncer in Birmingham hit me in the face with a crescent wrench five times and my wife's boyfriend broke my jaw with a fence post. So if you don't buy a trailer from me, it ain't gonna hurt my feelings. So come on down to Cullman Liquidation and get yourself a home. Or don't. I don't care.
We love these in our household. My wife was howling with laughter at the Shoe Dini commercial just last night...the "problem" was that if you bent over to put on your shoes, your shirt would get wrinkled. Oh, the humanity. (thx, mark)
Twitter announced their long-awaited advertising model last night: Promoted Tweets. Companies and people will be able to purchase tweets that will show up first in certain search results or right in people's tweet streams. Which, if you rewind the clock a few years, is exactly the sort of thing that used to get people all upset with search engine results...and is one of the (many) reasons that Google won the search wars: they kept their sponsored results and organic results separate. It will be interesting to see if the world has changed in that time.
If you read a site and care about its well being, then you should not block ads (or you subscribe to sites like Ars that offer ads-free versions of the site). If a site has advertising you don't agree with, don't go there. I think it is far better to vote with page views than to show up and consume resources without giving anything in return. I think in some ways the Internet and its vast anonymity feeds into a culture where many people do not think about the people, the families, the careers that go into producing a website. People talk about how annoying advertisments are, but I'll tell you what: it's a lot more annoying and frustrating to have to cut staff and cut benefits because a huge portion of readers block ads. Yet I've seen that happen at dozens of great sites over the last few years, Ars included.
They also ran an interesting little experiment: for those running ad blockers, they also blocked the content.
I was watching The Perfect Storm on The Weather Channel the other night and witnessed the worst cut to commercial in the history of television.
If you're not familiar with the film, this is *the* scene in the movie, the climax...when this huge wave overwhelms the Andrea Gail and all souls are lost at sea. Bravo, Weather Channel. Next time, have somebody view the movie before you chop it up randomly for ads.
Update:This one might be worse. With about two minutes remaining in extra time of a 0-0 match between Everton and Liverpool, ITV cut away to commercial and back just in time...to see the players celebrating the winning goal. I think "wankers!" is the appropriate response here.
The banners, measuring just a few centimetres across, seem to be causing the beleaguered flies a bit of piloting trouble. The weight keeps the flies at a lower altitude and forces them to rest more often, which is a stroke of genius on the part of the marketing creatives: the flies end up at about eye level, and whenever a fly is forced to land and recover, the banner is clearly visible. What's more, the zig-zagging of the fly naturally attracts the attention because of its rapid movement.
One marketing creative's stroke of genius is another person's animal cruelty.
Update: The audio clip used in that commercial might not be Whitman after all. From the inbox:
The Walt Whitman recording that is being used by the Levi's commercial that you posted on the 28th is actually not Whitman, and is now considered by most audio archivists to be a hoax.
More information about this most interesting recording can be found in Vol. X, No. 3 of Allen Koenigsberg's Antique Phonograph Monthly magazine from 1992, pages 9-11.
Among things pointed out, one is that the speech on the soundtrack ends with the quote, "Freedom Law and Love," whereas the original printed version of the poem ends with "Chair'd in the adamant of Time."
Koenigsberg also points out that Whitman's last years were chronicled on a daily basis by his personal secretary, and being wheelchair-bound, such a visit for Whitman would have been difficult, unprecedented, and undoubtedly noted.
On the other hand, a casual study of the NYC subway map reveals the following brand names already in use:
Museum of Natural History
World Trade Center
But, without exception, station names are derived from nearby landmarks: streets, airports, schools, stadiums, squares, parks, etc.
Usually when you belong to some kind of ad network, you're eventually asked to pester your readers with some sort of survey that attempts to gauge what sorts of eyeballs are reading your site. The Deck has never asked me to do this and still hasn't...but I ran across The Deck Ad Network Readership Survey on SimpleBits this morning and if I were you, I completely wouldn't mind taking it. The survey questions include:
7. If you were to become romantically involved with a typeface, which one would it be? 15. Where are you, emotionally speaking? 24. What would you say is your greatest weakness?
How to look at billboards, a commentary on outdoor advertising by advertising man Howard Gossage from Harpers magazine in 1960. Gossage thought of billboards as an invasion of people's privacy.
Outdoor advertising is peddling a commodity it does not own and without the owner's permission: your field of vision. Possibly you have never thought to consider your rights in the matter. Nations put the utmost importance on unintentional violations of their air space. The individual's air space is intentionally violated by billboards every day of the year.
Eno is an antacid produced by GlaxoSmithKline. It's globally distributed, mainly across South America, India, and the Middle East, and it's available as sachets and tablets in both Lemon and an ambiguous "Regular" flavor.
In sponsoring the feed, you get the chance to promote your company or product in a short post that will appear in the feed. A sponsor "thank you" note will also be posted to the front page of the site. Your message will reach an estimated 110,000+ RSS subscribers.
One of the oldest jokes in the business is that when a studio head takes over he's given three envelopes, the first of which contains the advice "Fire the head of marketing." Nowadays, though, former marketers, such as Oren Aviv, at Disney, and Marc Shmuger, at Universal, often run the studios. "Studios now are pimples on the ass of giant conglomerates," one studio's president of production says. "So at green-light meetings it's a bunch of marketing and sales guys giving you educated guesses about what a property might gross. No one is saying, 'This director was born to make this movie.'"
I've seen similar articles in the past and the thing that always strikes me about the people who make movies is a) how much they love movies and b) how little they care about actually making good movies that people will love. So cynical.
All humans are 99.9% genetically identical, so don't even think of ending any potential relationship begun here with 'I just don't think we have enough in common'. Science has long since proven that I am the man for you (41, likes to be referred to as 'Wing Commander' in the bedroom).
Come to think of it, it's amazing that nobody's made a major documentary about the advertising business before. Are some phenomena just so powerful and ubiquitous we stop thinking about them? Now acclaimed doc-maker Doug Pray goes inside the ever-revolutionary world of post-'60s advertising, profiling such legendary figures as [Dan] Wieden ("Just do it"), Hal Riney ("It's morning in America") and Cliff Freeman ("Where's the beef?") and inquiring where the boundaries lie between art, salesmanship and brainwashing.
Somewhat related to that is The September Issue, which follows the creation of Vogue magazine's September issue. You know, the one packed with hundreds of pages of advertising.
You-are-there documentarian R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," etc.) takes us inside the creation of Vogue's annual and enormous September issue, which possesses quasi-biblical status in the fashion world. Granted full access to editorial meetings, photo shoots and Fashion Week events by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Cutler spent nine months at Vogue, documenting a monumental process that more closely resembles a political campaign or a sports team's season than the publication of a single magazine.
Sea Orchestra is a nice animated commercial for United Airlines done by Shy the Sea. As lovely as it is, the "making of" video -- which reveals reference materials, initial sketches, and storyboards -- might be even better. (thx, dave)
And then there's the self-created interview ad that is a product of recent advances in technology. Camcorders that can be taken anywhere. We've seen self-reporting from the Iraq War and video diaries created by soldiers. The photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib are part of this phenomenon. Ultimately, video-blogging and self-reporting finds its expression in campaigns like the "Joe the Plumber." As I understand it, the McCain campaign has posted on its Web pages a request for people to film themselves and discuss why they are Joe the Plumber or Hank the Laminator or Frank the Painter. The intention is to collect these testimonials and then cut them together for a tax revolt television ad.
Hear ye! I'm trying something new on kottke.org. Sponsorships of kottke.org's RSS feed are now available on a weekly basis. Sponsorships are exclusive and begin next week. If you're interested, check out the sponsorship page for details and get in touch.
P.S. The feed sponsorship idea was borrowed from John Gruber's Daring Fireball. I'd urge you to head on over to check out his sponsorship opportunities, but the DF feed is fully booked through the end of the year. (!!)
P.S.2. Advertising on the site proper continues to be handled expertly by The Deck. If you'd like to advertise on the site, read up on your options there.
After a couple of teasers starring Jerry Seinfeld, Microsoft is airingsome new ads that take Apple's "I'm a PC" out into the real world. So instead of John Hodgman's dorky PC character (who is parodied in one of the new ads), they've got all sorts of people -- basketball players, actresses, scientists, fashion designers, etc. -- proudly declaring "I'm a PC". As Michael Sippey mentions, the ads do communicate a "message of joy and abundance and widespread use of Personal Computing", but they're not "great".
I briefly worked for a design firm in the late 90s that did a lot of advertising work. One of the hard and fast rules in the office -- which was taken from a book written by a successful ad man whose name I cannot recall -- was that if a company was #1 in a certain space, their advertising should never ever mention the competition, not even in an oblique fashion. And even if a company was #2, they should do the same and act as if they were #1.
That's the problem with Microsoft's ads. They're still #1 and the bigger company, but by referencing Apple's successful ad campaign, they're acting like Apple is #1. (John Gruber made this same point the other day.) The ads fail because they serve to remind people that Apple comes up with good ideas that Microsoft then takes and shapes into something that so-called "normal people" can use or understand. Except that this isn't 1993. With the iPod, iPhone, iMac, OS X, the Apple Stores, and the iTunes Store, Apple has their finger firmly on the pulse of what normal people want and Microsoft's recent attempts (the Zune, Vista) to keep up by emulating Apple have failed. If MS had created the "I'm a PC" message on their own, the ads would be great, but these copy-and-paste ads lack soul and are merely "eh".
What's interesting is that with the I'm a Mac/I'm a PC ads, Apple mentions Microsoft explicitly, over and over, proving the old adage that rules are made to be broken. What works in Apple's favor is that they are the #2 company and were clever about how they attacked #1. Microsoft's hamfisted ads are almost saying to Apple, "nuh-uh, my mom thinks I'm cool" while the image of Hodgman's frumpy PC is hard to shake and makes Windows seem lame without being overly insulting about it.
But perhaps most rare for fashion photography, Teller's pictures are absolutely never retouched. "I'm interested in the person I photograph," he says. "The world is so beautiful as it is, there's so much going on which is sort of interesting. It's just so crazy, so why do I have to put some retouching on it? It's just pointless to me."
And then there's this anecdote. After a bad encounter with a subject who didn't like how old she looked in Teller's photographs, he went to see his friend Charlotte Rampling.
Despondent, Teller called his friend Rampling, who offered to cook him dinner. They talked about how it feels to be photographed, and how it feels to age. "I just thought, Fuck this, I'm going to photograph myself," he says. And then there the two of them were, in the Louis XV suite of the Hotel de Crillon, with Teller way too fat to fit into any of the Marc Jacobs samples save one terribly shiny pair of silver shorts.
"I thought, Fuck," Teller says, "I don't even fucking fit into these clothes. I'm really fucking stuck now."
So he pulled on the shorts in the bathroom. "I came out and I had my socks on and I had these shorts on and no top, and I just said, 'Ta-da!' And she said, 'Oh my God. What are we going to do?' And I said, 'Well, I don't know. But really, honestly'-and I could hardly bring it out of my mouth-I said, 'I just want to kiss you and fondle your breasts.' And she didn't say a word. She just leaned back in her armchair and went into her handbag and got a cigarillo out and lit it and the air was thick and I was mortified. And then she sort of dragged on her cigarette and said, 'Okay. Let's start. I'll tell you when to stop.'"
We're going to begin this project with a look at the country's golden age of book advertisements, which ran from roughly 1962-73. Why those dates? The books - and the ads for them - were terrific: fresh, pushy, serious and wry, often all at the same time. There was a new sense of electricity in the culture and in the book world.
The authors featured include Alice Walker, Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Susan Sontag.
Then the CEO [of Krystal Restaurants] turns to me, ignoring everyone else, and asks me to take out my wallet. He asks me how much money I have. I count about $150, and tell him so. He smiles, looks me squarely in the eye, and asks: "Would you spend your last $150 on this shit?"
The rest of the story involves me telling him to take out his own wallet and me swearing I'd spend not only my money but all of his. And we did. We spent all of Krystal's money, millions of dollars. We made second-rate advertising, and they had second-rate stores with really second-rate hamburgers. We deserved each other.
Jesus God in heaven! Not until I know I'm not wasting my time! From the minute Don launched his this-meeting-is-over bluff, I was on the edge of my seat, and my lovely wife Dorothy will tell you that I literally clapped my hands at that line. For me, this sequence is as close to pornography as I ever get to see on basic cable.
Alright, uncle, I give, I give. I will try and find some time in my schedule to watch this show.
Last night I was watching a rerun of Family Guy on TBS and right before the show went to commercial, this happened:
See what they did there? They paused the TV show, ran a little mini-commercial for some show that no one cares about, and then returned to the last two seconds of the segment before going to commercial. Jesus Christ. I realize that Time Warner doesn't actually care about the people who watch their shows and that television programs are just the networks' way of getting people to watch advertising, but this is too much. Do these things actually work or just piss people off in droves? Is there some marketing hot dog at Time Warner who thinks that Family Guy viewers want to watch the blue collar comedy stylings of Bill Engvall? I'm sorry that the DVR is ruining your business model, but can you kick the bucket a little more gracefully? (Digg this?)
In commercials for Domino's Pizza, the chain's employees wage a never ending battle against the Noid, a gremlin who delays deliveries and carries a gun that can turn a pizza ice cold. Many viewers are amused by the Noid, Domino's says, but one of them took the advertising campaign personally. Last week Kenneth Noid, 22, walked into a Domino's Pizza shop in Chamblee, Ga., with a .357 Magnum revolver and took two employees hostage. When police arrived, he demanded $100,000 in cash, a getaway car and a copy of The Widow's Son, a 1985 novel about secret societies in an 18th century Parisian prison.
All Noid got was the pizza he ordered. After a five-hour siege, the two employees slipped away and Noid gave himself up. According to police, Noid has "psychological problems" and believes that he has an "ongoing dispute with Tom Monaghan," the head of the Detroit-based Domino's chain.
In the March issue of Vogue Dangin tweaked a hundred and forty-four images: a hundred and seven advertisements (Estée Lauder, Gucci, Dior, etc.), thirty-six fashion pictures, and the cover, featuring Drew Barrymore. To keep track of his clients, he assigns three-letter rubrics, like airport codes. Click on the current-jobs menu on his computer: AFR (Air France), AMX (American Express), BAL (Balenciaga), DSN (Disney), LUV (Louis Vuitton), TFY (Tiffany & Co.), VIC (Victoria's Secret).
The uncanny valley comes into play here, which we usually think of in terms of robots, cartoon characters, and other pseudo anthropomorphic characters attempting and failing to look sufficiently human and therefore appearing creepy and scary. With an increasing amount of photo retouching, postproduction in film, plastic surgery, and increasingly effective makeup & skin care products, we're being bombarded with a growing amount of imagery featuring people who don't appear naturally human. People who appear often in media (film & tv stars, models, cable news anchors & reporters, miscellaneous celebrities, etc.) are creeping down into the uncanny valley to meet up with characters from The Polar Express. I don't know about you but a middle-aged Madonna made to look 24 gives me the heebie-jeebies. Perhaps the familar uncanny valley graph needs revision:
The Deck is a smallish ad network that handles the advertising for kottke.org, which consists of an unobtrusive high-quality advertisement in the sidebar of each page of the site. The Deck recently moved to a spiffy new domain and is no longer so smallish; the network now includes 29 sites.
The idea for SA is to move beyond an increasingly commoditized blog publishing software business, and into adding advertising, design, implementation, development and site optimization services to bloggers and companies.
At my grocery store I could only find three examples: Land O'Lakes Butter, Morton Salt and Cracker Jacks. These packages each include a picture of the package itself and are often cited by writers discussing such pop-math-arcana as recursion, strange loops, self-similarity, and fractals. This particular phenomenon, known as the "Droste effect," is named after a 1904 package of Droste brand cocoa. The mathematical interest in these packaging illustrations is their implied infinity. If the resolution of the printing process -- (and the determination and eyesight of the illustrator) -- were not limiting factors, it would go on forever. A package with in a package within a package... Like Russian dolls.
At first, the idea was to shoot on different mediums -- camera phone, 8-millimeter, 16-millimeter (the eventual choice), security footage. My idea was the city was watching me. The genesis was a lot of people film me or take a picture of me in the city on cellphones. If it's such an appetite to see me do normal things, it was an idea to do something people like.
The NY Times launches TimesMachine, an alternate look into their vast online archive. It's basically an interface into every single page of the newspaper from Sep 18, 1851 to Dec 30, 1922. The advertising on these old pages is fascinating.
Update: For whatever reason, the Times has taken TimesMachine offline.
I'm not sure that the graphic design community as a whole is paying any attention to this. I don't see very many speakers from the advertising community invited to speak at design conferences (except for the very few who lead branding groups at agencies and in some circles they are still considered the enemy). I don't read about it on design blogs, and I'm not seeing books published about it. I'm not seeing advertising, in any form, turn up in any design museum exhibitions, not at the Modern, not at the Cooper-Hewitt. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has an annual designer award category for Communication Design and I've never seen an advertising person nominated since the award's inception.
"If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one--and if it isn't, then almost no one can," Watts concludes. To succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood. Sure, there'll always be a first mover in a trend. But since she generally stumbles into that role by chance, she is, in Watts's terminology, an "accidental Influential."
Perhaps the problem with viral marketing is that the disease metaphor is misleading. Watts thinks trends are more like forest fires: There are thousands a year, but only a few become roaring monsters. That's because in those rare situations, the landscape was ripe: sparse rain, dry woods, badly equipped fire departments. If these conditions exist, any old match will do. "And nobody," Watts says wryly, "will go around talking about the exceptional properties of the spark that started the fire."
Gelf Magazine, curators of always-entertaining Blurb Racket, list their picks for the worst blurbs used by movie advertisements in 2007. For instance, in reference to Live Free or Die Hard, film critic Jack Mathews actually said "the action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon" but was quoted by 20th Century Fox as saying that the movie was "hysterically ... entertaining".
Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information. There's little point in saying something until the time is right, then you just have to say it once, and the idea takes over and does all the work.
That sounds overly optimistic to me but there's definitely something of substance there.
Remember Dove's Evolution video of a fashion model going from drab to fabulous with the help of makeup and Photoshop? They've got a new video out called Onslaught in which we see the barrage of images that are directed at young girls each day. BTW, Dove's parent company makes all sorts of products that may contibute to the problem that Dove is attacking here. (via debbie millman)
No more Times Select. The NY Times finally admits what everyone else knew two years ago and stops charging for their content. Additionally, all content from 1987 to the present and from 1851 to 1922 will be offered free of charge.
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com.
How did that change not happen for the Times when it happened to the entire rest of the web 3-4 years ago?
Digg policies from Lifehacker and Gizmodo, which state that the only Digg-worthy posts of theirs are those with "original content, new reporting, treatment, or photos" because "it's not fair when we get the Digg for someone else's work." This seems inconsistent on the part of Gawker Media. One of their main innovations (if you'd like to call it that) regarding the blog format was the idea of linking to things in such a way that readers don't need to actually leave the site to get the full (or nearly full) story. Why let all those readers (and the associated ad revenue) go to some other site to read the story...they might never return. Due in part to Gawker's influence as first mover in the pro blog space, this practice is unfortunately standard procedure for most similar blogs.
Big-seed marketing. Instead of relying purely on viral marketing or mass media marketing alone, big-seed marketing combines the two approaches so that a large initial audience spreads the marketing message to a secondary audience, yielding more overall interest than either approach would have by itself, even if the message isn't that contagious. "Because big-seed marketing harnesses the power of large numbers of ordinary people, its success does not depend on influentials or on any other special individuals; thus, managers can dispense with the probably fruitless exercise of predicting how, or through whom, contagious ideas will spread."