Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Tag

Seeing Somewhat Smarter

I love my eyes, but I’m learning to love them better.

You could argue that there are higher demands placed on our visual literacy today than at any other point in history. So as the sun sets on 2008, how smart do you see?

1. Colour IQ


When I took the x-rite colour IQ test a few months ago I scored a 7. Although I’m no designer I can see that’s not award-winning. But it’s a start, eh?

Take the test yourself to see how your eyes stack up.

2. Colour Matching


This year Idée Labs developed Multicolr searches for Flickr and Alamy.

The screengrab above is from a search I did a few days ago. I’m working on a Brazilian NYE set for the Jungle Drums party and wanted some content ideas to fit the palette. It’s a great test for your matching instincts.

Try a Multicolr Flickr search.

3. Musical Visual IQ


So far so static. But I mix live visuals, and I need to know my eyes got rhythm.

The phrase Associative Visual Musical Intelligence was a new one to me before I found this test on Current. AMVI is a condition of synaesthesia. Call a doctor!

Or just take the test. (I did a bit better on this one. Phew.)

4. Research


This is a scan from David A. Beronä’s Wordless Books – a magnificent xmas present from Audrey Q.

I’m getting deeper into old graphic forms. Looking at woodcut novels, where individual panels were as small as 3.5 x 2.5 inches, truly sharpens the focus (sorry to mix the metric but 1/2 looked whack).

Throw the laptop to one side and think pre-digital. And get this book while you’re at it – another present that keeps giving.

5. Pencil and paper


I got big lucky with presents this year. My brother bought me The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry (scan above).

I know it’s something Creative Directors say so much it can prick. But it’s true. Start with a sharp pencil and paper.

Pete Barry’s book of scamps is such a pleasure. Reminded me what it’s all about. Great visual ideas express themselves in the simplest of ways.

You can call me stupid, but I’m off to do some drawing.

We All Live In A Dream World

“No make that nightmare world”, says Archie from Northampton. But we’ll come back to Archie later.

Advertising exaggerates the truth, it seems. And for that reason two TV spots have been banned in the last couple of weeks.

First there was the iPhone advert. A popular product by a popular brand – but not as fast at web browsing as the product demo suggests:

More controversial was the DFS rockstar ad. DFS shrank its actors to make their sofas look bigger.

Readers of the Daily Mail went ballistic. And sarcastic. And helpful. And then there’s good old Archie in Northampton, rightly sick of “sutpid ad people” and the “iditos” signing it off at the client end.


DFS are not like Apple, and they suffered a greater backlash.

On TV’s Worst Adverts, one star of the greenscreen denounced his role in the DFS ad and the furniture company’s Machiavellian creative.


So what about Lynx’s advertising? Over the past few months, Lynx have been promoting their new deodorant Dark Temptation.

The product demo in their TV spot reveals a feral, cannibalistic world where women gorge on the poor deodorant user. At one point they literally tear off a limb.

So when does the dream world become a nightmare?

I’ve been reading an excellent book by New York Times columnist Rob Walker – I’m with the Brand. This quote bounced out at me today – from a Unilever exec (responsible for Lynx):

“Everything that we do, we test with both moms and young women. We want to make sure that people know it’s an over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek take on the mating game.”

Even with “dream world” ads like BBH‘s campaign for Lynx, there’s a need to verify that the dream is dreamy enough.

And reality? The truth – and nothing but?

In this new age of austerity, I’d imagine there is a strong probability we’ll be seeing much more of that.

Previous banned ads:

The Motrin momtroversy and Nike That Ain’t Right

Global billboard bans

Heinz homophobia

Dial V for Viral

Interesting (half?) thought at the Halfbakery (via).


There was a fully baked version of this idea a couple of years ago.

Virgin Mobile Australia launched a viral campaign using Jason Donovan. Donovan was paparazzo’d in-car with a ‘for sale’ window ad displaying his full phone number.

The pictures got around blogs. 680,000 prank calls and a D&AD Yellow Pencil for interactive viral followed. If I’ve not explained this clearly, the video below should:

Now back to the 555-idea.

It’s different in a few ways, but the difference isn’t insurmountable. Donavon (an actor) was snapped in real life. So people could assume the number was real.

Phone numbers in films are generally assumed to be false – I don’t think that would change overnight, even without the 555 prefix.

You’d need some word-of-mouth that the fictional characters have a life beyond the film/ TV show. Maybe throw in some sham PR.

And that’s been done before, too – with websites, at least.

Arrested Development frequently referenced “fictional” websites that, if the viewer checked, turned out to be real. (Sadly, as far as I can see, they’ve been taken down now.)

So what do you think? Getting warm yet?

This Report Via Hologram

“We’re going to do something that’s never been done on television before.”

The words, last week, of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Before you ask yourself how that can be a real name – watch the clip below.

A real hologram?

Technically, no (a point well elucidated elsewhere). But let’s not get hung up on the technicality.

CNN liked the trick so much they kept turning it throughout election night. Later in the evening, witness Will I Am:

For a musician, he’s got awful timing. But wait a second… That’s because although his virtual body is in the real studio, the audio link still lags.

Hmmm… So what’s billed as hologram isn’t technically a hologram. The green screening is rough around the edges. And in spite of the spatial trick, the sound can’t keep up. All pretty comical.

Reminded me of Tchaikovsky’s ghost judging Music 2000 in Look Around You:

It’s understandable that TV wants to get less 2D, and I’d imagine that’s where all this comes from.

But in this context, a virtual 3D body is less credible than a real 2D image. It works for comedy, but not serious reportage. The perception that the hologram isn’t “real” is too overwhelming to see beyond it.

Conversely, in a strange twist of perception, a fake body with a real spatial existence can be more convincing. It can all be achieved in a glance.

As this work from OgilvyAction Amsterdam shows:


I wonder if anyone interviewed the man with the placard…

Big Smoke in A Blink

In case you’ve never been here, a chance to fill your eyes in quick:

3328 photos in under 2 minutes by David Hubert.

It’s a little unreal, but feels right at the same time. One comment on Vimeo says it all:

“I like how you made our buses feel plentiful and on time.” Quite.

And while we’re warping time in the capital, have you seen Grey London‘s new Toshiba spot?

The Greenest of Boozehounds

Around the time Bear Stearns got crunched (or was it Northern Rock?), there was an “office humour” email doing the rounds.

Invest your money in Stella Artois, your liver in drinking, and some spare time recycling the cans afterwards. You’ll get a better return than you would from the market. Ba-boom.

Was the laughter still ringing in the ears of Public Life when they created this campaign? Or are they hitching a ride on the greenwash bandwagon?

You can’t miss these ads on London’s buses – and they do catch your attention. But they took me in the wrong direction. Much like the bus I caught this morning.

Are many of the UK’s conscientious recyclers also thick-lidded boozehounds? Has the country, collectively, taken one email gag that literally? Should I recycle less and save a bottle bank backlash?


The Drink Aware Trust’s website made me feel first thoughts on this campaign were overharsh.

The interactivity’s good, the use of video is engaging. It’s all very navigable and informative.

I guess that’s a difficulty with advertising for government/ non-profit. You need a captive market before full engagement. And who’s out there browsing for social change?

Only in America.

The Magnificent Recession

I’m not sure the sea will become the land, and the land the sea.

But the recession will inevitably lead to trading places.

“Be there when the market turns”, say the black-humoured creatives at Storåkers McCann, Stockholm for Dagens industri.

It’s a sharp thought, and a creative result.

Thanks to Hyper Island the ad world expects great digital from Sweden. So I’m pleased to see that pedigree in print, too.

Back in London, bussing through Bank and dodging the pinstriped boozehounds – I wonder. Will the City Boys sleep long and hard this Friday? How far will they go on craft and spittle in the Magnificent Recession?

A penny for the shoeshine’s thoughts.

Reversing: A White Van Story

I wish my wife was this clean. Also available in soot grey. Not phrases you’ll have seen written on a white van.

When a white van is pristine clean, no one writes “clean me” on it. It would be criminal damage without a meaning to the message (except to a postmodernist).

Written on a dirty van, it makes a lot more sense. It’s a form of reverse graffiti or dust tagging.

Two of the world’s most famous dust taggers are the UK’s Paul “Moose” Curtis and Brazil’s Alexandre Orion.

Last year, Alexandre Orion dust tagged São Paulo with hundreds of skulls. He attacked the sooted walls of the underpass between Avenida Europa and Avenida Cidade Jardim as a protest.

He wanted city authorities to recognise the level of road pollution and do something about it. They did. They spray-cleaned the walls to remove his skulls. But he kept moving, and they had to keep cleaning.

In April this year, Paul Curtis dust tagged San Francisco’s Broadway Tunnel. Using stencils of plants and wildlife indigenous to the region, he created an elaborate mural. It cleaned the surfaces it adorned.

It was a project commissioned by Clorox Green Works cleaner: a commercial product that uses plant-based ingredients for “natural cleaning”. So still makes sense, right?

I saw this advert today for Bacardi on the streets of Farringdon today (click the map for an exact location).

Now London’s got pollution. No doubt about it. But when you see how faded the stencil is, you’ll guess the soot underfoot isn’t inches thick. There’s been no need to spray it off.

So is Bacardi an organic product, guerilla-styling its green credentials? Not unless Vinnie Jones has taken to tugging on green stems since we last saw him.

These kinds of reverse graffiti ads are popping up all over the place now. Sometimes they champion an anti-pollution issue. But more often they don’t.

Companies like Street Advertising Services are offering their high-pressure steam and stencils to polish the good corporate buck.

I don’t mean to diss SAS. Their heart’s in the right place. But this advertising is not.

To my eye, it looks like a white van spray-painted “clean me”. Somehow things have got a bit back-to-front. (Thanks to Giles for the original tip-off).

More on reverse graffiti at Environmental Graffiti.

More on ads cleaning streets at Springwise.

Clouds vs. Adverts

Round 1 São Paulo, January 2007 (photos by Tony de Marco)

The general public terrorised by aimless, drifting clouds. Where still, stately adverts once filled billboards on highways and street corners, the hoardings now stood bare.

São Paulo banned outdoor advertising. And, joking aside, there weren’t many complaints. (Advertisers aside.)

Sure – some folks lost landmarks that helped them navigate the streets. Outdoor ads can have this auxiliary function when they stay put long enough. But the reduction of visual noise was and has been appreciated.

For the record, here’s a glimpse of what São Paulo was like before:

Round 2 – Tel Aviv, January 2008 (via Treehugger)

The central “Ayalon” highway was the battle ground. And once again, on New Year’s Eve, ads lost.

A 40 year-old law won – ensuring that “fields and hills will not be stained as well with objects foreign to them.” First shroudings were broadcast live on TV (see below).

Round 4 – Buenos Aires, August 2008 (via The Anti-Advertising Agency)

It’s not happened yet, but it will do soon. Original story (for Spanish readers) from Clarín, reported at length by Treehugger and remixed for your leisure here.

Buenos Aires will remove 40,000 billboards that are infracting the city’s code. That amounts to 60% of the city’s outdoor advertising. It’s projected to result in something that looks like this. But it won’t be illustrated. It’ll be so real your camera can taste it.

The billboards were causing a hazard to drivers. With the digital flashes and cavalier cab-driving of the capital, this move could match the pleasure of finding a seat belt.

Better still – the new codes insist that different types of signs are tailored to each district’s visual style. Now that’s personalisation. Localisation, for the literal-minded reader.

Round 5 – Atlanta, sometime in 1951 (photo via)

The lights are turned off. Not even the messaging of the sky to mist this scene.

Just two signs catch my eye: Coca-Cola and Club Perchtree.

Club Perchree has a strapline I wish I’d written: “Dine and Dance”. That’s all you need to know, isn’t it? I’d go if I was hungry and wanted to move my feet after the eat.

And Coca-Cola? Well – it’s Atlanta. Colonised by Coke as a 20th-century sugar plantation. The first brand flag stabbed into the landscape by its native conquerors.

Incidentally, although Butler’s Shop is highly visible it doesn’t interest me. What kind of shop? Don’t know – so I’ll go for a dine and dance instead. Maybe drink a Coke while I’m there.

Points Score

The judges give a unanimous victory to simplicity in the city.

I’m an advertiser who lives in the city. So where does this leave me?

Content, for one. Excited, for two.

Because if you can reduce and organise, as John Maeda would say, you’re off to a start. Proceed with integrity – you’re communicating to other people – and you’ll be heading somewhere.

Not a billboard on your cobblestone highway.

Mom! My Body’s Gone Video

It’s some weird science. But it must be as popular as happy-slapping these days.

Improv Everywhere have been zapping reality with orchestrated human video effects – slow motion, freeze frame – and watching their latest work it clicked. That’s 3. A trend?

I’d say Michel Gondry has something to do with it. Be Kind Rewind aired the idea feature-length for the mainstream, and music videos – beyond Gondry’s – were making up the rules before.

Manipulating reality to mimic a video effect now requires more skill and effort than making a film. Orchestrating a “cinematic moment” live, and generating the precision of an edited film spontaneously… Well that technique’s alive in the commercial world after Honda’s Difficult is Worth Doing TV spot.

There’s a few key characteristics to this as a trend, if you could call it that:

1. Liveness

2. Real people

3. A real context

4. Mass participation

5. Precise results

I much prefer Improv Everywhere to its commercial progeny, and you should peep their excellent blog for the full range of their playful anarchy. It’s more compelling because of point (3) – it has a real context.

The participants are larger in number (see point 4). But it’s more important that they’re volunteers. They choose to be there because they want to be there. And as long as you’re paying people to do something, and controlling the environment, it’s not a real context.

Gondry? That’s art. That isn’t live or real – but it more than makes up for it with its inventiveness and dedication to point (5) – blissful, beautiful precision.

What’s your take on this as a trend? Do you agree with these characteristics, or have I left my lens cap on here?