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.

The Egg, the Peacock, and the Mistaken Identity

Last night, I honestly had no intention of watching the Grammys.

And then I opened up Twitter on my phone and saw that Gaga was an egg, and Cee Lo was a peacock. Like the car crash that you pass on the highway, sometimes you just need to see what’s going on. So we tuned in. It was interesting enough, that’s for sure. Twitter made me do it, but I’m glad I did.

And then I saw it. Not some abhorrent costume that required my attention, but Eminem’s continued push back into the mainstream. Sure, I thought it was a decent showing, but then that darn Twitter got in my way again. I saw the tweet below:

My first instinct was to congratulate Chevrolet on a campaign well played. To pay attention to the sponsor’s activities and continue to push their Super Bowl message of hope and inspiration was divine.

But then I realized I was stupid.

Chrysler had the Eminem commercial during the Super Bowl with Eminem, not Chevrolet.

Whoops.

Apparently this isn’t the first time the car companies have crossed paths recently. After the commercial originally aired for Chrysler, Chevrolet made a smart investment. They purchased Google AdWords campaigns related to the phrase “imported from Detroit” – the commercials tagline.

Chrysler countered by reinvesting in those keywords, and now GM/Chrysler are the top results.

Pretty interesting dynamics though. The counter-campaigns haven’t ever really been seen (at least by me). But I also think it comes down to the brands themselves, and their identities.

I leave you with this. Look up the Twitter streams for both companies Chrysler and Chevrolet and evaluate the tone of their messages for yourself.

Also important to note, I made the comment below, and now have acquired two “ChevyBots” as I’ve deemed them. They spew out “news” from Chevy, and I say bots because they have no personality to them.

This is What We Do

I’ve tried to forget it.

Last night I watched 50+ commercials while a ver good game was being played. But this isn’t the story of the Packers and Steelers. It isn’t a story about every ad being a flop or a success. This is about the story that took two minutes to tell, and will take far longer to forget.

To put things in perspective, two minutes of air, at this super bowl stage, could’ve cost between $10-$11.2 million*. Yes. That’s roughly the amount of the cash option if you won the Mega Millions Lottery right now.

Talk about a risk.

Lots of bets were placed last night, I’m sure. But to bet a brands identity is far more costly loss than any bookie could handle. Especially for an aged brand with a lost identity. One who viciously needs to find its place in a saturated market- a market historically built off of icons that last for decades.

I wish could have been in the room, to be there to see the spark that lit the fire. I wish I could have seen two groups of brilliant teams, client and agency, discuss what the root of their problem was. I wish I could have seen the pitch to help build the next identity, based on the past identity, but seeing how different that message was. I wish I could have seen the chills of excitement run through the client when they realized they could not only help change themselves, but provide hope and inspiration for others.

Chrysler needed a story to tell. And it got one.

Their ad was just that – a story. Not a funny or cute one though, like some of it’s memorable competition (who can resist a mini-darth vader?). The story was gritty, it led you somewhere, and, as I’m learning, is hard to forget.

It was also the perfect audience. The history behind both the Packers and Steelers parallel that of the “industrialized” comeback. No one likes a recession, and we die trying to get out of it. We are human. We fail, and we succeed. We measure our success by the legacy we leave, not the dollars in our bank account. But to bet two whole minutes of consecutive ad time, good production costs, and the invaluable asset of the brand image takes some guts. Their bet was placed, and the hands are now on the table.

How’d their bet payoff? Time will tell. But it reminds me of when Cadillac reinvented themselves for a new generation, and were quite successful. Early reports from the ad world suggest success. According to Mullen’s BrandBowl, it ended up the winner based on the 300,000+ monitored tweets. Similarly, Colle +McVoy of Minneapolis conducted analysis of the whole game- not just the ads – and posted their superchatter results. Again, based on the social media world, it appears that Chrysler was the winner in the automotive category (be sure to check out all the results, very interesting).

I earnestly hope Chrysler continues pushing their brand to be better, pushing Detroit to be better, and pushing us all to think about how we can be better. Maybe it’s just an ad. But maybe it doesn’t have to be.

I might be a little biased though.

I live in Minneapolis. This is advertising. This, is what we do.

*According to a CBS article, :30 cost between $2.5-$2.8 million, not including any production- merely the air time :

Truly Great Ad

Before I go further, I’ll point out that I’m very biased.

April of 2007, my (now) wife and I were in a horrible car accident. I was almost killed, we spent a night in the ER, but amazingly we both walked away from it all. My car was absolutely totaled. Since then, and even more so now with our daughter, I drive more like my grandma than how I drove two years ago.

The PSA from Sussex Safer Roads Partnership linked here is a great reminder, without the usual gore. Truly inspired, well written, and well produced. Hats off to Tim Nudd at AdFreak who brought it to my attention, and in blogging about it, helping spread a valuable message to this side of the pond.

The ad can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/EmbraceLifeAdvert