Thursday, July 31, 2008

Indian advertising: comedy at its best

After moving to Toronto two years ago, I never thought I’d say this, but I really miss Indian TV commercials. In my opinion, there are really two differences between the western and the eastern forms of advertising.

1. North America, the jingle is dead. Or at least kept far, far away from 'serious' products, like car batteries. In India, it's very much alive, even reincarnated!

2. Here in the West, there's an information overload. In India, we just want to know what it does, not how it does it. Tell me that it will make whatever I have go away. Actually, sing it to me!

...Ok, maybe it's not that great.

Sometimes the things you see on Indian television are just absurd, like this ad for Peugeot. A Rajisthani man uses an elephant to mold his old Ambassador into a more sporty and modern automobile.

It’s easy to be zany and come up with bawdy humor, but the agency that dreamed up this Heinz commercial is just brilliant:

Another unique quirk about Indian advertising is its universal appeal. The ability to generate mass appeal in a country where over twenty-nine languages are spoken by over a million people each should not be underestimated. In comparison to the West, commercials in India are really perceived as short films. Marketers use humour, emotion and patriotism to bring a country of over a billion people together, even if it is just for a thirty second spot. Check out this ad for Camlin:

While Western marketers might have moved on from the good old TV jingle to more tangible and interactive forms of marketing, Indian marketers show that sometimes, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unsexy celebrity causes

Celebrity causes are simultaneously fascinating and divisive. The ‘sexy’ causes: international adoption, youth political participation, animal rights, global warming, and marijuana have been taken up by such sizzling international megastars as Angelina Jolie, Puff Daddy, Pamela Anderson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Steve O, respectively.

But what about the B-level social issues – the important domestic and global causes that are perhaps a little under-exposed? Second-tier issues like sex addiction or hypermiling should be raised to the same level in our collective consciousness as clean water availability in the developing world and polar ice cap melting.

But who should speak for these causes? Who should be the unabashed cheerleaders to expose these issues and get them spoken about in the greater public?

Here are the top unsexy celebrity causes:


This is a critical issue, especially in the United States where prison populations are expected to balloon up by 13% from 2007 to 2011 to 1.7M. There must obviously be a preventative focus through greater community development and social welfare programs to stabilize volatile individuals and neighbourhoods, but there must also be a strong awareness of the need to prevent crimes by repeat offenders.

Appropriate spokesperson: Robert Downey Jr. Credible, yes, but too repentant.

Sizzling megastar spokesperson: Shia LaBeouf. Charges for reckless endangerment and driving under the influence aside, Shia LaBoeuf is the right spokesperson to connect with young people on criminal rehabilitation, an issue that they’ve perhaps not fully considered.

And as a bonus, he’s a great authority on what can result from what excessive binge drinking – snogging with Megan Fox in a blockbuster movie!


Eating locally is important not only to support local growers and businesses, but to decrease the food mileage of what we consume. Eating in-season and buying from farmer’s markets are two examples of how consumers can reduce their overall carbon footprint from what they eat.

Appropriate spokesperson:
Giada di Laurentis, she’s gorgeous and charismatic, but teens might view her as too intelligent.

Sizzling megastar spokesperson: High School Musical! Why? Because seeing pretty kids doing a well-choreographed, methed-up pop performance about a 100 mile diet is WAAAY more convincing than an acclaimed TV chef!

WHOA! Pass the shrooms!


What a mess the American public school, abstinence-based sex-ed program is. Teen pregnancies are now increasing after a 15 year slide, despite the concerted effort to provide greater awareness and knowledge to youth about pregnancy sex facts. The “just don’t have sex” approach to sex-ed failed because what could be more enticing than something explained as “only for grown-ups” and something you can “only do when you’re older!” Suddenly teen pregnancy is cool.

Appropriate spokesperson Jaime Lynn Spears, but she’d never go for it.

Sizzling megastar spokesperson: Miley Cyrus. Barring an actual informative, loving conversation between parents and their children (seen as too difficult and obvious a choice by many families), the sizzling international megastar choice to be the spokesperson for teenage pregnancy is Miley!

LifeStyles Condoms actually approached her to represent the brand and “
get the message of safe sex out to teens across America”, what I think was brilliant move on the part of their CMO. Miley Cyrus’ is influential and relevant to teens, particularly girls. Promotion of anything by Miley Cyrus goes a long way.

Furthermore, what a great way to strike back at the Jonas Brothers and their bullshit ‘promise ring’ approach to sex!


Canada is a diverse, multicultural nation and perceptions about race are somewhat muted here when compared to the States. Thoughtful discussions about race are still obviously of huge importance in the American social discourse, as evidenced by the intense scrutiny on American Muslims following 9/11 or Barack Obama having to answer questions about his authenticity as a representative of African-Americans.

Appropriate spokesperson: Some mashup between Justin Timberlake and Kayne West. But although they're both youth-oriented and hip, they do not provoke the necessary honesty needed to truly resolve latent racial tensions.

Sizzling megastar spokesperson: Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Her ineptitude and stubborn position, highlighted in this hilarious clip makes her absolutely the right choice to begin the healing!

Props to Lucy for suggestions on tonight’s topic.

Awful vehicle wrapping

I'll post later today, but this just irked me so much that I had to blog about it.

Vehicle wrapping - putting big decals on the body panels of cars as a form of mobile advertising - is not a particularly innovative or interesting marketing technique. It's ubiquitous in downtown cores so unless it's particularly eye-catching, the message can fade into the white noise of other out-of-home mediums.

But today at Yonge and King, a 2008 Jaguar XK coupe turned in front of me. Ordinarily it should look like this:

...but it was wrapped with the branding for some firm 'Portilly' or 'Portally' firm and the car looked like this:

Barf. Wrapping has its place, but not on gorgeous cars like a Jaguar. It's like putting a supermodel in flats or a famous painting in a garish frame. Why not take just a pickaxe and strike a few speedholes in the hood while they're at it.

Why is this bad? Because it's offensive. It's offensive to good taste and good judgment. Leave vehicle wrapping for hideous rides like PT Cruisers, Beetles, and Priuses.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

'Things', not brands

Ana recommended that I check out, a site all about peoples’ relationships with brands. But Lovemarks isn’t about brands you like and brands you dislike, it’s about sharing stories of your experience with things, brands included.

Things is a very important word here. It underscores that you can have a deep affinity for not just a consumer brand, but also for people, places, concepts, even foods.

The central premise of Lovemarks I think is to allow people a forum to share their intimate interactions with a
thing and learn about others’ shared experience with that same thing. This is a mark of something you love…a lovemark.

Strange, I know. Frankly, I cannot distinguish between a lovemark and a really great brand which develops positive meaningful relationships with its customers. For example, is Apple a brand or a lovemark? Is Obama a brand or a lovemark?

I can only speculate as to the strategic purpose of, owned and operated by Saatchi & Saatchi. Does this prove the global agency’s global orientation to global brands serving global consumers? Does it establish a massive forum for them to real, in very rich detail, the psychographic reasons behind brand affinity by consumers? Yes to both, because broadly, allows S&S to distinguish itself from other agencies which say that they can do trend evaluation, but unlike Saatchi, have not internalized this as a significant part of their organizational DNA.

Here are a few lovemarks on the site which made me laugh:


“On a cold day, when snow is approaching, Starbucks is the place. It’s right next to my highschool so it’s easy to get to at any time of day. For me, Starbucks is that warm beacon on the horizon when you’re suffering through a hard day.”

“The first sip of a Starbucks Italian french press sends a chill up my spine. It's like being kissed on the back of my neck!”

“They line up like zombies for less than average coffee served and made by those young enough to work for minimum wage. What awful coffee, what an awful concept. Head for a real cafe where coffee is an art not a cost centre. Support your local barista not a college kid under the Seattle thumb.”

Brunello di Montalcino

“It's one of the most famous wines in Italy. It's a symbol...with his great color red as passion and with an inimitable taste. It's grown in a place that looks like paradise...and it's also the most sexy thing I ever meet!”

Vin Diesel

“I love Vin. I think he's a great actor, and I'm sick of people saying he's gay, I heard that he as a girlfriend who's a model and has a baby with.”

“I admire a self-made man who can make it using his creative ingenuity, intelligence, and charming persona. Have fun with your developing video games. Can’t wait for the next Riddick installment.”

HAHAHA – what?? Creative ingenuity?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Scariest scenarios in marketing

So what if tomorrow the tried and true marketing techniques no longer applied…what if today’s harbingers of consumer marketing disaster materialized tomorrow in Zarathustrian proportions (shit hits the fan)?

A lot of these what-if scenarios are actually here, in practice among us, being tested on us, becoming marginally more effective as we go about our mundane lives.


So as the PSA bunnies tell me, I need to keep myself aware of what’s going on so that I can Stay Alert, Stay Safe.

Here are the ten scariest scenarios in marketing:

10. Workplace advertising

Imagine, your Outlook calendar reminder pops up and announces the status update with your boss in 15 minutes. It also announces that “this meeting is sponsored by Fanta. Don’t you want a Fanta Fanta…” It’s a very real possibility that marketing will break through one of the final bastions of consumer invisibility, the office. Marketing in the office will not be subtle like before and you’ll be forced to confront brand logos, taglines, and jingles in company emails, in the lunchroom, and at corporate events.
Freakiness factor: 7
Likelihood to happen: 1
Total: 8

9. Continuing to pay more for green products

Imagine, sustainable consumer practices never really grip a majority of household buyers and prices for items like green toilet paper, organic cereal, and biodegradable dishwashing detergent remain much higher than for conventional, less eco-friendly products. The danger of this is that without a price incentive to buy green, consumers will never make environmentally sustainable buying decisions.
Freakiness factor: 6
Likelihood to happen: 3
Total: 9

8. A brand purchases your street and city block

My address? It’s 60 Starbucks Street East, Suite 500.’

If Dubai is selling naming rights to its Metro stations, what’s preventing cash-strapped cities like Toronto from letting companies name streets and subdivisions in new urban developments?
Freakiness factor: 9
Likelihood to happen: 3
Total: 12

7. Guerrilla marketers become brand terrorists

The year: 2020. The place: Toronto’s gritty downtown core.

Guerrilla marketers, cast aside as communications channel rejects have become an Orc-like subspecies, ascending from the sewers to intimidate and scare unsuspecting consumers with messages designed to associate fear with a certain brand. Companies employ these nefarious techniques as smear-campaigns against their competitors and to maintain their competitive advantage by attacking another brand through psychological warfare.
Freakiness factor: 9
Likelihood to happen: 4
Total: 13

6. Google sells or loses your data – for real!

Imagine all those Google searches you do for disgusting key terms. Imagine all those emails you wrote. Imagine all those addresses you looked up. All gone, or worse, sold to some third party. Google apparently does a very good job of maintaining data security and their mantra ‘don’t be evil’ is something quite tangible in the organization. But just think how much trust we’ve put into Google with our personal details over the years…
Freakiness factor: 10
Likelihood to happen: 4
Total: 14
5. Tiered payment model for online content

Rogers and Bell Sympatico have decimated the other players in the broadband internet access market and it’s a literal oligopoly. They now implement a tiered payment model in which consumers must pay more to engage in perceived ‘high-value’ online activities such as streaming, music downloading, or....gasp, blogging! Content can be payment-based too as the ISPs are able to actually see what sites you visit.
Freakiness factor: 6
Likelihood to happen: 9
Total: 15

4. The death of the newspaper and television

The last page is turned, the last word is read. The last commercial is watched, the last remote control button is pressed.

Televisions are finally turned off and newspaper presses no longer roll. This seems like an inevitable possibility considering the immense growth and democracy of online content creation and distribution. But what about editorial, journalistic, and professional standards? Is the demise of printed and televised media the death knell for these things too?
Freakiness factor: 7
Likelihood to happen: 9
Total: 16

3. Ads on your iPod

So music players are getting considerably less expensive because of smaller and faster processors and greater memory capacity. But suddenly you find that the reason you only paid $50 for your new 200GB iPod is because before you can watch the Sopranos episode you transferred over, you are forced to watch a sponsored ad from HBO. Before you listen to Hilary Duff's 'Wake up', you are forced to listen to a 10 second promo for downloadable ringtunes from Rogers Wireless.
Freakiness factor: 10
Likelihood to happen: 7
Total: 17

2. Selling commercial time in your voicemail

The mobile phone companies have finally figured out how to give you free and unlimited phone service. All you do is buy the phone you want and you’re set. Unfortunately, it means that your phone becomes a vibrating advertising tool from Hell. You’re subjected to radio commercials while you wait for someone to answer the line and you’re stuck listening to ad spots while calling your voicemail.
Freakiness factor: 9
Likelihood to happen: 9
Total: 18

1. Cell phones that passively track your whereabouts and proximity to RFIDs

This one is actually well on its way to full scale market rollout in some places in Europe and certainly in Japan. Your cellphone becomes a transponder and broadcasts a signal to the network letting service providers and marketers know where you are and what billboards you’re close to. As you walk by a digital panel on the street, proximity sensors activate and display an ad that is deemed to be relevant to you. You’re watched and marketed to wherever you go.
Freakiness factor: 10
Likelihood to happen: 9
Total: 19

So these are a few of my favourite fears. Some of them I actually think consumers might warm to (e.g.cellphone RFID), if marketers can figure out how to implement them unintrusively. Otherwise, be on your toes!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The weekend links

Let's start things off classy. Here's a hilarious underwear ad, I think from the UK. So tell me again, why couldn't this be shown here?

Keeping boundaries on out-of-home advertising is important. Check out IllegalSigns for municipal marketing infractions in Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador are advertising in town. Their innovative billboard blew Marketing Mag away.

Advertising Age gets burned in the comments for writing about why Gen Ys no longer are attracted to marketing agency jobs.

The other day I read on Facebook that George, one of our new B!G Associates who is on a humanitarian mission in Ghana, West Africa, has contracted malaria. "George malaria sucks &!?@# i'm dying!" was actually his Facebook status update...Web 2.0 can be so strange sometimes. Anyway, George, we are hoping you're pulling through and are getting the medicine you need.

So Facebook is now a strange and legitimate part of our social lives. Aside from being a mega douchebag, Joshua Lipton- arrested for drunk-driving - just doesn't understand how Facebook is character building (or debilitating).

My indecipherable watch is so cool. Here are some more confusing digital watches:

Remember Surge, Orbitz, and Crystal Pepsi? No, neither do I. Check out the graveyard of forgotten soft drinks.

IT's called "drive to search" and it's a powerful new call to action that marketers in Japan have latched on to as a way to simplify brand interactions. Effectively, you see a billboard for a product/service, but it has no other information other than the image of a search field with the product name typed into it and a "Search" button. Check out Kevin Ryan's album of awesome ads in Japan to see a few examples (you'll have to log in).

Search Engine Watch also wrote about the online marketing drive to search trend here and in this great article about why the Japanese search but we don't.

Freaky art from Europe. Imagine how terrifying this looks at night if you aren't already aware that it's a big public art installation!

Television is dying? God, I hope not. Although I am watching less of traditional tv (sitting for hours mindlessly surfing), I'm watching a lot more of good tv series (Dexter, Weeds, John Adams, Sopranos). Unfortunately streaming has meant that I watch most of these through my laptop...hmm, maybe tv really is dying.

Speaking of dying, check out Exit Mundi for every possible end of the world scenario, including infinite sleep, the Nemesis planet, and the Borg! It's actually a really interesting site.

And finally, Matt McDonald is a Gen Y with a lot to say about what works in marketing. Check him out.

and btw, if you haven't tried, do so now so you're not one of the losers still using

Saturday, July 26, 2008

If the Rolling Stones were a form of marketing...

This is a post I've been writing for the last few days and it's taken some thought and reflection to get this right...I hope! I've been wanting to talk more about different marketing channels and begin to develop a holistic interpretation of how each marketing medium operates in a comprehensive portfolio of communication options.

But then I got really into the Stones again. Every time '
Wild Horses' or 'Sweet Virginia' comes on my iPod I crank up the volume and wail along with Mick.

So let's mash things up (e.g. Kelly Clarkson vs. The Eagles). Ask yourselves, '
if each of the main members of the Rolling Stones was a marketing channel, what would they be?'

Bill Wyman - lead bassist, 1962 - 1993

I initially forgot Bill Wyman in this post, but was reminded that he should be included. Well, Wyman is not exactly top of mind among the Stones. Maybe it's his comparatively tame persona and characteristic level-headedness for the period during which he played with the band.

So i'm thinking that Bill Wyman should represent out-of-home advertising. Billboards, transit displays, and other forms of outdoor signage. Like Bill, out-of-home marketing is the oldest form of marketing. Although impactful, it's significance has waned in years as other, more tangible and interactive communication channels have captured a greater share of the consumer's attention.

While out-of-home ads can sometimes blend into the visual white noise of an urban landscape, highly eye-catching displays, usually in unconventional places, maintain the effectiveness of this communications channel at increasing brand awareness and driving customers. Think about urinal ads (NewAd) and the viewer's capivity. Or think about tunnel advertising in subways. Simple medium, with an innovative application.

Bill Wyman's contribution to the Stones was not overly perceptible, but his presence throughout the seminal years of their career gave a gravity and depth to the band's music. Like Bill Wyman, out-of-home advertising is always there, just sometimes you don't know it.

Keith Richards – lead guitarist, 1962 – present

Keith Richards is
experiential marketing.

This is also known as P2P (person to person) marketing because of its demonstrative and interactive potential. It's meant to establish a deep and tangible connection between a consumer and a brand. It's useful to communicate product launches where testing and usage is important as well as to refresh consumers with the brand.

Keith Richards is experiential marketing because without him, the Stones – the brand – would likely not have the appeal to fans that they do. His charisma and drug-addled charm is undeniable and fables about his character, including snorting his father's ashes cut with coke, only serve to deepen the relationship between you and the brand!

A highly visible frontman for highly tactile marketing. Keith rocks.

Charlie Watts – drummer, 1962 – present

Poor Charlie Watts. Sometimes he looks like death warmed up. Other times he looks quite stately and refined. He's got a real stoicism though which makes Charlie Watts like
print marketing.

Print. The printed word.

There's a timelessness to it that Charlie kinda embodies. It's tried and tested, dependable, and a good converter of consumers. Additionally, if your message cannot be easily explained on paper, then how can you explain it in a video commercial?

So what does this mean for Charlie Watts? Print, like the drummer who keeps the beat for the band, acts as the basic foundation of any campaign. The message is not embodied in the medium or the market. The message is the written values, the DNA of the ad.

Brian Jones – guitarist, 1962 – 1967

Brian Jones was influential and not without controversy. So it's only appropriate that he's
guerrilla marketing, the black sheep of the marketing family.

Brian Jones actually started the band with pianist Ian Stewart in 1962 and brought in Jagger and Richards. He strongly influenced the Stones early years and played on songs including Paint It Black, Under my Thumb, and Street Fighting Man. With Keith Richards, Jones developed the technique of guitar weaving with both guitarists playing simultaneous lead and rhythm roles. He was identifiable and outspoken, with a Carnaby Street style that so closely tied the Stones to the 60's British Invasion. But Jones burned himself out and died before his time, becoming a founding member of the 27 Club. In addition to Jones, this macabre tragedy has so far claimed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin,
Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, among others. I'm guessing Amy is next.

Jones was sloppy and innovative and experimented with different musical instruments and styles. It's appropriate to compare him to guerrilla marketing because despite the depth that he added to the Stones' sound, Jones wasn't essential. Guerrilla marketing is thought-provoking and highly visible, but it is also contentious and a somewhat unsustainable marketing medium.

The core of the Stones was the Jagger-Richards duocracy. Other members merely orbited this binary star.

Mick Taylor – guitarist, 1969 – 1974

Mick Taylor was a guitarist from 69-74, regarded as the Stones' most destructive and creative years. Great albums like Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. attest to the musical juice running through the band at this time. Taylor was a highly skilled guitarist and brought a unique melodic sound to the Stones, influenced by his blues, latin, and jazz based musical schooling.

So reflecting on his short years with the band,
radio advertising seems to be an appropriate marketing medium to describe Taylor.

Like Taylor's role in the band, radio is often cast as a second-rate communications tool in favour of flashier, more high impact mediums. But radio is great for a local market, it's affordable, and it continues to be a competitive marketing medium even with the rise of newer technologies and alternative information sources.

Ronnie Wood – guitarist, 1975 – present

So, go with me on this one….Ronnie Wood is
online marketing (web and email).

Online. It's taken a while for online marketing to come into its own and shed its initial hype. Today, online represents a highly effective medium to target the right customers. Online ads are now standardized and have the opportunity to be more relevant to the consumer, while email has found a niche within the repertoire of other marketing mediums as a 'must–do' of any CRM program worth it's salt.

Ronnie Wood joined the Stones in 1975 from the Faces. He's grown considerably since and is now an integral member of the band. So like Ron Wood, let online marketing represent the timbre of good marketing meant to develop deeper relationships with consumers. The bass sets the tone of the song and online sets the tone for marketing with a brand's best consumers.

Mick Jagger – lead vocals, 1962 – present

What else could Mick Jagger possibly be aside from
television marketing?

Like tv, Mick is big, loud, and expensive. Like Mick, tv is mass, screaming, and ubiquitous. Just look at him, he's certainly not got an attractive face, but maybe it's the caricature of Mick that's so appealing. He really was made for television.

His on stage persona is obnoxious yet captivating and he's got tremendous energy for a sexagenarian (old guy). Superbowl commercials are a lot like Mick Jagger because they've got sizzle and are clever and get everyone talking.

For the perfect orgasm of Mick Jagger + Television, watch the Stones perform during the 2006 Superbowl Halftime Show. Go ahead and try not getting into it, it's impossible!

BTW, happy birthday Mick!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Want to keep me off drugs? Make me laugh or make me scream! - Part II

(To set the record straight, this blogger only uses one drug, Aspirin, and does not drink or smoke anything. However, she does not mind if others do responsibly. Which is why she's writing this.)

In the previous post, I looked at the not-so-memorable and definitely not so persuasive drug ads. DARE was big in the 90s, and yet the kids donning those t-shirts are the ones harvesting mary jane in their dorm closets. Something didn't work.

There's really no way to judge whether a campaign is effective or not, because its rather impossible to track which would-be user has watched what program/worn which t-shirt. But there are definitely some ads that make you think, or gasp, or say "WOW." Recently, I think we've had some memorable ads. Both of these ads aim to stun, whether making the viewer laugh or gasp in horror. And you don't stun with words. In any film school, you are told that good film making is about showing, not telling. What we have found are two North American ads that quickly show the dangers of drug use in ways that will be remembered by the viewers later on.

This one comes from MTV. Although the network has long abandoned music and opted to be a start-up vehicle for Southern California teens turned celebrities, they have come up with this masterpiece.

When I showed this in my marketing class, I had more fun watching the faces of my classmates. They were calm, then gasped in disgust and proceeded to laugh at the mumbled punch line. The message came very quickly afterwards. Marijuana is regarded as being a "light drug" with numerous researchers arguing that it's less toxic than alcohol and that the main reason it hasn't been legalized is the difficulty of related taxation. The key here was not to get you to stop using it, but to avoid operating heavy machinery, illustrating by the severe lack of judgment displayed by the two gentlemen in the front row seats. They didn't talk about the possibility of car crashes, severe bodily harm or incestuous lip locks. They showed. Wouldn't you remember this one? Wait until you see the next.

The folks who made this have really thought it through. I can really appreciate the horror movie feel, reminiscent of the shower scene in Psycho and The Grudge. The contrast of the light bathroom, the girl-next-door and her future self, battered and crying on the shower floor, pleading for her to alter her future, actually had me saying "Holy crap!" Again, show, don't tell. She doesn't talk about the life of an addict, her images on wounds on her previously flawless face speak volumes of the dangers of meth addiction and how quickly that stage is reached.

When producing these sorts of advertisements aimed at a young audience, I think it's vital to understand the maximum power of your message and adjust accordingly. We are creatures of "do whatever we want" so telling us what to do won't help. We need information! Being condescending with ridiculous preppy afterschool specials never worked. Speaking of which, here's an example...

You can't prevent drug use or drug abuse, as some would argue, or purchases. The key is to make sure you embed these images in young minds and connect them to messages that you want to reappear when your audience is making certain decisions, be they drug use or buying t-shirts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

“Just don’t do it, ok?” – Part I

(To set the record straight, this blogger only uses one drug, Aspirin, and does not drink or smoke anything. However, she does not mind if others do responsibly. Which is why she's writing this.)

I went to Yuk Yuks only one time and, to be honest, only enjoyed one comic. I can't recall his name but the main issue of his act was the US hostility towards Canadian decriminalization of marijuana. He was mainly pissed off that he had to carry his passport to cross the border. His issue was the vilification of marijuana use. The stand-up ganja lover went on to ridicule the US government's notion that by using marijuana, you are "supporting terrorism." He laughed it off. "Terrorism? When I get high the only folks I'm supporting are Rastafarians and single mothers."

Nancy Botwin isn't hurting anyone on Weeds. She's just trying to feed two kids.

The notion of supporting terrorism every time you light up is another in a series of poorly planned and ineffective anti-drug government campaigns, usually issued in releases only picked up by newspapers not read by the crowd they're targeting. Couldn't they come up with anything better? Clearly not.

I remember when we were in grade school, the DARE program was a huge deal. Everyone used those t-shirts they gave out as PJs or smocks for paint class. Regardless of the style choices, DARE seemed useless. For starters, no one knew what it stood for. Most of us still don't. I still think that the goal of the program was to just give you a t-shirt. Maybe I'm just upset that I never got a DARE t-shirt. Who knows, if I went to that school a little longer without a DARE t-shirt, I would feel like an outcast, isolated from my peers, and turn to drugs.

The DARE lion didn't need drugs, because he had this t-shirt and blended in with his friends. Yes to being an individual!

We were well out of the age of the after-school specials and mascots, and the campaign, complete with preppy videos and dancing was just so Zach Morris, the generation couldn't stand it, much less remember its message.

What do you think Zach was doing after school? And wait a minute, how could he afford that phone? Hmm....

Then there was the clip of Rachel Leigh Cook smashing an egg with a frying pan, staring square into the camera and screaming "This is your brain on drugs."

The path to any teenager's heart, as any high school teacher will tell you, is not a lecture. Although the speaker is very attractive, mere talking doesn't seem to be incredibly innovative or effective, regardless of the number of smashed eggs. That quickly became a favourite of sketch shows and the late night talk circuit. There were also campaigns to keep kids off drugs and promoting sports programs instead. But the no-drugs rule expires once you hit the major leagues, where drug use is pretty much the norm... until you get caught. It's hard to chase the dragon.

The issue with all these campaigns was that they were telling the audience what to do. It’s hard to argue that teenagers are the smartest crowd, but it’s unreasonable to assume that they are completely incapable of thinking for themselves. They just need extra persuasion and a clever way to deliver the message. Young people are going to make their own decision – we’re just stubborn like that – and there is a need for information, not a dictator. This does not only apply to drugs, but anti-drug campaigns make for a great study of appealing to teenagers and altering their behaviour patterns. Stay tuned for Part II and the discussion of significantly better anti-drug ads.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The best Nike commercial ever

I’m an emotional guy and I like my share of sad movies, but it’s not very often that a commercial gets me weepy and gives me the chills.

It’s the 20th anniversary of Nike’s ‘Just do it’ campaign and their AOR, Portland’s Wieden + Kennedy, developed this 60 sec spot:

Chills. Watch it again.

More chills.

The perfect syncopation of the tenor of the images to the rhythm of ‘All these things that I’ve done’ by the Killers, the raw emotion immortalized in the footage of international Olympians and athletes, and the simplicity of the message really converge in a perfect storm.

How about the fact that with the exception of the campaign url,, there is no voiceover and only nine words of text appear throughout the entire sixty seconds?

How about that in a series of probably 200 images, no Nike logo, shoe, or apparel item is conspicuously displayed? The logo flashes on some athletes but only for a few milliseconds each time.

Advertising Age has done a terrific job of explaining the strategy behind Nike’s Just do it anniversary and the relevance of brand strategy to this commercial. So I’m not going to be a bad blogger and rehash content, you can read the original on their site.

Overall, my reflections are that this spot successfully conveys Nike as a brand for the lives of all people. It deepens Nike’s accessibility to its customers in a highly human and emotional way.

The director is Ralf Schmerberg. Way. To. Go.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Canadian internet usage statistics

It’s Christmas in July!

Yes, it’s that time of year again, the time when the Statistics Canada Internet Use Survey (CIUS) results are released to the public. Actually, the results were published in June, but I’m still brimming with excitement!

This is the kind of stuff that tech seers and Web 2.0 magi (I think I’m a magi?) eagerly anticipate. It’s hard empirical evidence for the adoption of trends and technologies which have really only been explained through rough anecdotes and less pure statistical findings.
In 2005, the HIUS was replaced by the CIUS. The new report can be found here on Statistics Canada’s website and it’s designed “to more closely conform to international standards” with a greater focus on individual, rather than household internet use.

But can you tell the real from the fake findings? Read the statements below and try to determine if they’re true or false.

To see the correct answer, highlight the space after >>> marks with your cursor.

In 2007, 73% of Canadians went online

This is down from 75% of Canadians in 2005
>>>FALSE, this is UP from 68% in 2005

Those living in cities access the internet relatively more than those living in rural areas

In Canada, women spend more time online at each sitting than men
>>>FALSE, relatively more men spend more time online than women

In Canada, women are online more frequently than men
>>>FALSE, relatively more men go online more often than women

Internet usage is relatively identical among people in different income brackets
>>>FALSE, the internet is used relatively more by people with higher incomes

91% of people with incomes of more than $95,000 used the internet in the last 12 months while only 47% of people with incomes of less than $24,000 used the internet in the last 12 months

96% of people ages 16-24 went online in the last 12 months

Relatively more immigrants who arrived in Canada in the last 10 years used the internet in the last 12 months than people who were born in Canada

A majority of Canadians with broadband access report seething rage and dissatisfaction with Bell Sympatico or Rogers High Speed internet services.
>>>TRUE! Actually, this wasn’t published in the report, so I do not know whether it’s true or not

Adoption of Web 2.0 related online activities (blogging, posting images, contributing content, or participating in discussion groups) is practiced by 50% of home internet users
>>>FALSE, it’s only 20% who do this

In Calgary, 85% of people ages 16 and over use the internet

70% of Canadians report having five or more years of experience going online
>>>FALSE, 54% of Canadians have five or more years experience going online

More Canadians play games online than in 2005
>>>FALSE, 39% of Canadians played online games in 2007 and 2005

British Columbia experienced the greatest growth in internet usage from 2005 and now has the most number of people online of any province
>>>TRUE, 78% of people from BC went online in 2007, up from 69% in 2005

So overall there are some pretty interesting findings. I’d encourage the B!G associates and execs to check this out. Of particular interest to me is the big leap in high bandwidth online activities like streaming video or downloading music. Also intriguing is the plateauing of general purpose internet searching activities for information at levels between 60-70% of the population.

Monday, July 21, 2008

iBranded: My dabbles into the world of Apple

I was never one to believe the iPod hype that swept the world around 2001. Despite having watched hundreds of commercials featuring funky dancing shadows against almost fluorescent backgrounds, I was never quite convinced! Instead, I was mildly perturbed every time I saw groups of teenagers walking around with the identifiable white earphones in their ears. They were just so openly branded. All the hip and trendy individualists suddenly became a cult - Oh the irony!

When asked what brand they would be, lots of youth openly say “APPLE”. Maybe I was crazy... not only did I not understand what “being Apple” meant, but I also did everything I could not to give in and buy an iPod. In 2004 I had an iPod Nano for a total of 3 days before I returned it. I just simply could not be “Apple-ized” or “Apple-ated”.

The success of Apple products is the result of intelligent marketing and genius branding. It's the epitome of everything I learned in Brand Management when millions of individuals define themselves using a brand name. Everyone knows how Apple's Mac compares to PCs and 'MP3 player' is synonymous with iPod. Apple's July 11th launch of the iPhone 3G continues this storied tradition. So I caved and bought the iPhone. I was hooked instatly. Even at work I was sitting there checking out every feature available on the phone. From the scientific calculator to the Application store, I was mesmerized by the quality of the screen, the relevance of the programs and how smooth everything flowed. I was reading an article in the Globe and Mail about how the world has shifted from PCs to Smartphones. To test that theory, I took my new iPhone on the road to see whether or not it could replace my technological artery, my laptop. Despite the phone’s ability to surf on wireless networks at top speeds, I found 3G to be decent at best so I wouldn’t ditch my laptop just yet. Also, the battery life and camera fail in comparison to competitors. Now, I am in no way qualified to make a technical analysis of the specs of this phone. I am however, a true culture junkie and I rate this phone a 10 out of 10 on the coolness meter.

(Photos taken by my iPhone)

Apple's awesomeness extends to the methods they use to reach the consumer. Knowing that tech junkies and hipsters are always online, they skip out on the traditional paper back manual and instead opt for an online video tutorial. Check out the leaked YouTube version. It makes understanding the features much easier and it's terrific media presence and brand awareness. Not bad marketing at all.

Unsurprisingly, the launch of the iPhone triggered mass media frenzy. It was hard not to see the iPhone everywhere you looked. Television, newspapers, techie websites, consumer forums, blogs and magazines were just some of the places that buzzed about the iPhone.

I followed the iPhone story loyally in the weeks preceding the launch and I noticed that Rogers and Apple had some amazing PR tactics. For example, during the consumer movement against Rogers’ insane data price plans which - I have to admit, Ted - is borderline thievery, Apple positioned themselves as consumer friendly and refused to sell the iPhone in stores because of their disappointment in Rogers*. As a consumer, I didn’t feel resentment at all towards Apple, despite the fact they probably have mutually beneficial million dollar contracts.

Props to the Apple PR team!

Despite the drama and the UNREAL cost of using this product, I am having a blast with my new phone, although I still have not used the iPod feature. I am sure it's great but still I stubbornly resist the iPod movement. I am really satisfied with the rest of the gadget and if enjoying my iPhone finally makes me one with the dancing-shadow-with-white-earphones cult, then color me red and call me APPLE.

*DISCLAIMER: This may very well be an untrue rumour spread by the public to heighten the drama prior to the launch.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The weekend links

We just had a blackout in my neighbourhood. It was poetic actually, I was in the middle of typing an email when the lights went out and the wireless cut off. I felt disconnected and instantly bored. It was suggested to me that I read a book. "
WHAT??!!", I replied, "read something that isn't on a screen?"

Consumer lesson #1: Never cut off power to a Gen Y. They'll just shut down and die.

Ok, on with the links:
Haha - how clever. Check out Durex' 'Roger More' condom advert and other offensive ads at

Hungarian wine explained in a nutshell from Vinography. I just wish that wine could be delivered here in the mail.

It's called pedestrian kinetic energy and it's everywhere around us. Just takes someone smart to know how to harness it.

Remember the name Banksy. He's the old standard in grafitti and avant-garde art. He's also the guy to replace Paris Hilton dance albums with fake ones. Read it here, see it here. WebUrbanist is doing an eight-part series on Banksy.

Adverblog has got some great examples of microsites and promo spots online. Here are a few:

Talking strategy with Starbucks' VP Marketing, Terry Davenport.

Have a playlist? Looking for one? Check out Thanks Lucy!

How do I describe's like moveable monster art made of planks of wood. Make sense?

Great flash app from the mind of Paul Neave, a flash master.

A little Grandmaster flash while we're at it: (awesome turntablin')

Here's a cool picture I took of old people from the old country at Kensington yesterday:

And finally, Al Gore was on
Meet the Press this morning. He talks about his cilmate change plan which, no pun intended, I've really warmed to. Seriously, I respect anyone who is as committed and active as he is.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Creative spaces for creative faces

Marketing culture is unique in many respects. In the workplace, there’s a high need for interactivity and stimulation to catalyze innovation. Additionally, the multi-team collaboration required on client projects means that openness and team participation must be cultivated. Style wise, this translates to open-form offices, lots of public spaces or ‘idea rooms’, and a design aesthetic that often runs the gamut between edgy and exposed or frosted and futuristic. In Toronto, the head offices of Cossette or Capital C might be good examples of the former while Wunderman is a good example of the latter.

Of course, it would be nice to have a space like this for B!G and not have to work out of the dark basement of the Schulich building, but as we’re a non-profit, I’m happy for whatever we can get!

I am saying all this because today I stumbled across a really amazing workspace downtown, called 401 Richmond. This is a converted 1899 factory that has been restored and now houses about sixty arts and media related tenants, including ad shops. Creaky wood floors, 15 foot ceilings, and big open windows invite casual passers-by and tourists into the 401 to walk through the floors and see the boutiques and bookstores. On top of the building is a beautiful flower-filled roof garden with terrific views over the neighbourhood and downtown core. But really, it’s a space for artists with working studios and galleries side by side.

Thrown into the mix are a few small boutique media and marketing shops (Boxx3G, Agito Internet Marketing , and Meta Strategies.

I can appreciate why these companies would want to set up business next to artists and creatives. Not only is the building beautiful and occupies a fantastic site in downtown Toronto, but it’s also the model of the agency interior design taken to a larger, macro level. Idea diffusion and new visioning among creative heads is far quicker and clearer when you’re working next to each other. Think of this like a perpetual motion machine that moves faster and faster, it’s the same reason why research universities and technology firms always seem to be grouped together (e.g. Stanford, MIT, UNC Chapel Hill). Innovation spreads faster when the relationships among individuals and firms are mercurial and proximate.

You cannot be creative if you’re in an artistic and cultural vacuum. Agencies should learn from examples like 401 Richmond and internalize this to mean not just sleek, sexy desks with exposed brick walls, but also collocation with artistic people who will inspire and tickle the imaginations of their creative employees.