That Awkward Feeling

Have you ever had to tell your wife that “Yes, in fact that outfit does look horrendous.”?

That’s how I’ve felt the last few days, and I do not mean to say my wife needs a new wardrobe.

Oddly, we’re one of the 3.3%* of Americans without a television. (Actually, we have one, but it’s in the unfinished basement doing nothing.) There are certain times that we are frustrated by that fact, but in general, life has been fine thanks to Hulu, Netflix and iTunes. It used to be that sports and news were our concern. With Twitter and various other online or app venues, news has been pretty much forgotten about when we relive our concerns. Sports on the other hand is one thing that we both miss. I miss my pathetic Twins, and she misses the Olympics.

This year, during the opening ceremonies broadcast (pushed to prime time by NBC, which should get its own post, but I digress), I was at home working on a project, while Mary was doing a photoshoot for a friend. The television was on in the background for her, and I of course, had my Twitter stream up.

I’m not sure whether I was the chicken or the egg, but I started to see some interesting things pop up in my Twitter stream, and my wife recalls her confusion as well.

Let’s step back a moment. For those who don’t know me, I’m what you call a “fanboy.”  Look at my résumé and you’ll see that I dedicated just shy of seven years of my professional career to working for Apple. Why? Because it’s Apple. You can’t resist the allure of working for a brand that you so admire. While there, I met some of the smartest people, and best teams ever. (Unrelated to this post, go read Forbes: http://onforb.es/NBsJr5 .) While with Apple, I spent a good chunk of my time focusing on visual merchandising of the stores – making sure that they all looked, felt, and spewed the Apple brand. Not an easy task when you have thousands of people walking in and out on a daily basis. We got what it was to be the brand, and we knew the importance of protecting it.

So during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and Apple spent a few million on air time, I was a wee bit confused. Not necessarily at the fact that they bought the time, but the reactions that were surfacing across the web.

Me not having a TV, I relied on Twitter for an explanation of what was going on. The first Tweet that really got my attention came from another former Apple employee who now works for one of the best ad agencies in town:

 

 

From there, the conversation continued, and I found an online recording of the commercials. (Now available from Apple at: http://www.apple.com/mac/videos/#tv-ads-mayday )

Well that was interesting.

Another former Apple employee joined in our Twitter conversation and pointed out that they seem more like Best Buy commercials than Apple. Spot on comment in my opinion.

Now that it has been a few days, the internet has spoken up, and the majority of folks think that they missed the mark – with a few specific exceptions.

To me, this points out a few very important things.

1. People actually pay attention to Apple’s advertising. What I mean is that if it truly were a Best Buy commercial, no one would have said anything or cared. It would just be normal for that situation. Apple just has a history with the ad world. It not only provides the tools for most of the ad world to survive on, but also provides great and inspirational ads. 1984 changed the Super Bowl. Think Different brought emotion to a box of plastic and metal. Silhouettes on billboards made us want to dance. Justin Long and John Hodgman had characters that made points worth listening to.

2. The category of people who thought they were cute, or good, were (in my audience at least) current Apple employees. There’s nothing wrong with this. They were fine ads – they weren’t horrible, they were questionable, and seemed un-Apple. But their defendants where those who are still drinking the Kool-Aid, as we say. Ironically, they also were first to point out how incorrect the ads were. The character shouldn’t necessarily have been a Genius – a Creative would be a better choice, or potentially a Specialist. But they made a concession and chose to go with the most widely known in the cast of Apple retail characters.

And that’s what I saw. Concessions being made. So here is where I tell my wife she’s got some ugly clothes on.  Apple fights the status quo in everything it does. In products, in retail, in culture. The same has held true for advertising. It seems as the times have changed lately, and not just in relation to this batch, either. If you look at their most recent iPhone commercials, you’ll see big celebrities being big celebrities. That hasn’t happened in the past. We didn’t need proof that the products were cool since Sam Jackson was using them. They were cool because they were cool. Apple had it’s own street cred and didn’t need anyone else to hold it’s hand.

Don’t get me wrong though. I have complete faith in Apple. But, I struggle with who at their roster of ad agencies came up with (and will admit) to this campaign.

Go ahead and rip me apart in the comments – I can take it.

****Update: Check out Ken Segall’s take. If you don’t know Ken, you know his work. From the Apple campaigns prior to this one….: http://kensegall.com/2012/07/new-mac-ads-landing-with-a-serious-thud/ ****

*Stat from Nielsen report in March of 2011 stating that 96.7% of households have a television, which actually dropped since their last survey where 98.9% had one.

On Top: MIMA Summit a Success

Alright. I am very proud to say that I am no longer a MIMA Summit virgin.

Yesterday, I had the unbelievable luck to be one of several hundred to attend what must be one of the best conferences in the country. Yeah, you heard me. The big old United States.

What made it so great you ask? The Summit started with a stellar keynote by Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), one of the undeniable wise-guys from Google. Not only was it great content, but he understands the showmanship that is involved with presenting information. He talked about great experiences online leading to true ROI – and how to measure it. He also humbled some of our local big brands by telling them what they’re doing wrong. No joke, Best Buy, who had several TABLES of people right next to the stage, was one of his victims. 3M – whose products he loves, also was brought to it’s digital knees.

And rightfully so. One of the great things he pointed out was the age of the internet was also the most poignant example of what I call Digital Darwinism. Only good experiences survive. The rest perish. Many companies have lost their brand, profit, revenue and existence due to the web. And that isn’t a bad thing. The web provides accountability for success, and the ability to accurately test digital alternatives.

If I had payed the $450 just to see Avinash, it would have been worth it. But then, it kept getting better.

There are tremendously talented agencies in town – of which I’m proud to say many are our clients. But that’s not all. One of the greatest things was my brief encounter with Molly. Molly is a Senior at a liberal arts college currently. She came to the Summit (both days- the whole package). Why? She’s not a designer, or in UX. But because she wanted to see what it’s really like. What the world of Interactive and digital truly bring to the table. She was incredibly bright, and it made one thing clear: the future of the marketing world will be ok. She was hungry, smart, and someone out there better hire her right away. If you don’t, I will. Unfortunately, I’m stupid and didn’t get her last name.

SpyderTrap was also kind enough to build a great iOS App to keep me on track for the day. Not an easy task, in a short timeframe, and well executed.

Those little moments of greatness transpired throughout the day, and it made one thing for certain:

MIMA Summit 2012 will be amazing and I cannot wait for it.

Congrats to all who participated, presented, volunteered, and of course the committee members who helped make it so successful.

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I’ve compiled some of the presentations from SlideShare below, plus the Minnov8 guys did an outstanding job of providing content throughout the day as well. Make sure you check it out.

Inbound Marketing is All Connected

View more presentations from Rand Fishkin

The 22 Ideas of Creativity

As I was digesting the internet this evening, I ran into something fairly intriguing.

Several times I’ve heard that there are really only seven basic plots as it relates to television and movie scripts. In reality, potentially all of literature. Christopher Booker wrote a book about it.

Now, the standardization of content not only has entered the realm of creative briefs, but also the world of apps. All at the same time.

Don’t believe me? Check out Brief Buddy (found via The Denver Egotist).

Now, it isn’t exactly seven stories, but 22 ideas behind creativity. What’s really great is that it actually has live and relevant examples.

This is by no means a replacement for having a brain, but a refreshing approach to helping creatives break from their regular routine.

22 ways to spark creativity. 22 way to think about a new solution. 22 ways to create a different voice to be heard.

Related, I saw a post earlier in the week that was an inspiring thought. I can’t remember who to attribute it to, so my apologies if it was you. But the idea was simple enough:

Next time you throw a product away, redesign it.

That caught me off guard when I read it. And to be honest, I was hesitant to throw anything away. I’m not saying this app can solve my trash problem, but I am saying why not branch out and be inspired. Wherever it comes from.

One app. $2.99. Why not take a peek.

Creating and Maintaining Self

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in some of the Student Advertising Summit that was put on by Ad2/AdFed.

One of these sessions, I was particularly interested in. “How to Stand Out In a Crowd of Many” with Craig Pladson and Kristen Evanoff from Colle+McVoy. As Craig was talking about how to maintain a brand image for yourself, I couldn’t help but notice the young woman to my right feverishly taking notes. In big bold letters, as if it were written over 15 times, was the phrase “Update website!” with a fancy squiggly underline below it.

A little click in my brain went off. They were listening.

Or were they?

The most important things to take a way from each of the presenters wasn’t necessarily the “how to” but the “why to”.

Think about it for a second. When you’re busy working on your campaigns for class, or as an intern, do you have some magical checklist that is the same for each client? Do you do the same thing for everyone? These aren’t math problems, they’re brand problems.

Thinking of it like math might help though. Say we want to get to 10. Easy. 5 + 5 = 10. That is a correct solution, and probably one of the more popular ones. It is average.

But do you want to be 5+5? Not particularly. Do you want to be a little different? Maybe 4+6. Or are you insanely passionate about it so it turns out you are 9.99999999 + .00000001. You still communicate who you are, but the path to who you are is the most important part. You can be different. You can use those equations, or methodologies to get to the same solution.

You do all this work to show how you can be creatively different for your projects (hopefully), so why not do it for yourself? Think about your favorite brands. How do they differentiate from everyone else? Now how do you? For me, I have a big advantage (and disadvantage). I’m a Woestehoff. No one knows how to say it, let alone spell it. I can’t run from it, nor do I want to. I want to be remembered. I have business cards that even prove it. My name is hard to spell, but it’s worth the effort, and that is pressed into everything I do.

So take those messages about how to be yourself, and then brand yourself.

Dig deeper than the “how”, and explore the “why”. Those are the questions to not only ask at events like SAS, but also of yourself. You might be surprised at what you find.

Another idea for you? Use that network you’ve built from the day and expand on it. The Twitter hashtag was #ad2sas, have you searched it yet? See what others are saying, and what they said. You might find even more people to help you grow into who you want to be.

/ via @mjwessty