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Sorry for the serious drop in the frequency of our agency blog of late. However, it can be a not-enough-hours-in-the day challenge to generate content for yourself when you are also generating content for others. The old shoemaker’s kids going shoeless dilemma.

Several stories this week resonated in an intertwining way to touch nerves for me as someone in the creative business. The problem is that too many creatives don’t run their businesses as businesses (emporiums of wit and awesome graphics, maybe) and too many businesspeople who purchase creative services realize that and take advantage accordingly.

This Advertising Age article about a panel from a Mirren New Business Conference on agency compensation contained an all-too-familiar anecdote from one of the panelists, Christine Fruechte, CEO of the Colle & McVoy agency. She recounted about having gotten to the last round of a pitch, but losing to another agency because Colle & McVoy elected not to lower their fees in a race to the bottom. The winner of that race went out of business within a year of getting the business. Ironically, the client approached Colle & McVoy again and Ms. Fruechte got the account (and in a rare turnaround for this industry) plus even higher fees than what cost her the nod in the original pitch process.

That story made me feel smug about the agency side of the business for all of a few hours until reading an amusing interview with the Black Keys by Danny McBride in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly. In an especially ironic turnabout, it seems agencies have been blacklisting the Black Keys when it comes to licensing of their music. The reason is appalling — once the Black Keys and their infectiously memorable hook-loaded music became omnipresent on radio and music services, they had to go to court on multiple occasions to stop brands, agencies, and jingle houses from using obvious knockoff versions of their songs.

So, this is an especially galling case of pot, kettle, black. Creative shops have no business whining about clients not wanting to pay them for original creative when they turn around and borrow a popular sound or look from other creative artists but conveniently don’t pay them for it.

Fortunately, some brands are thinking in different ways. It was refreshing this week to see Adweek report on how Chipolte has figured out a new way to attract business by featuring original content from Real McCoy big name writers like Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safran Foer on the restaurant’s cups under the theme “Cultivating Thought.” Hell, I might even pay a little extra for something pithy or witty from a favorite writer while enjoying a taco meal. And that little extra multiplied by the business it brings in might more than compensate Chipolte, Toni Morrison and other featured writers, while building brand loyalty for the chain (and new readers for those writers). Hallelujah. A rare win-win in the creative compensation department.

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Transport yourself back to kindergarten. When the teacher handed out coloring book pages to color in, there was always one kid whose finished product looked like it was fresh off an eight-color Heidelberg press. Perfectly colored in, no white show-through, and no stray crayon lines. This is not the future artist in the class. This is the completely buttoned-down kid who subsequently earned straight A’s and became a corporate president.

The future artist is the kid in the corner whose scribbling went all over the page. The black lines that formed the image of the pokey little puppy be damned. This kid’s work resembled Jackson Pollack after a five-hour energy drink. This kid saw boundaries then ran roughshod over every single one of them.

This profession is full of the latter kids. Creativity demands that you recognize the expected parameters, then do something totally unexpected. Advertising is full of what we call “borrowed interest” — sexy models, outrageous humor, music that bores a hole in your brain it is so darn catchy. The best campaigns never feel like the interest is borrowed; their attention-getting is right on target and always earned.

In the past week, I saw two such examples during time spent online. Both pushed the actual media they were appearing in, going way outside the lines, and engaging readers and viewers along the way.

Adweek's AdFreak column spotlights 10 boundary-pushing print ads.

Adweek's AdFreak column spotlights 10 boundary-pushing print ads.

The first is an entire collection of ads that get you to rethink print much in the way that the best outdoor boards demonstrate what’s possible beyond the application of ink to canvas. I encourage you to take the time to check out this excellent Adweek feature (courtesy of AdFreak columnist Tim Nudd) on 10 wildly memorable print ads that go way beyond trim and bleed specifications.

The other is a surprising T-Mobile spot from Barcelona created by Saatchi and Saatchi (global agencies are not always known for drawing outside the lines, so even the creator in this case is a surprise). The clip came to my attention from Kerry Antezana in my LinkedIn network, who posted it from Terry Doyle, whom she follows on Twitter, and now I’m blogging about it (see the cross-platform boomerang power of social media?).

You don’t have to be an Angry Birds player on your smartphone to appreciate this clip, but it helps, because the wildly popular but wonderfully eccentric game has had its boundaries expanded, still within a smartphone screen, but replicated in real life with the same Angry Bird characters to a town square set-up. The virtual digital world is suddenly the real world and slingshotted birds really do knock down silly structures. And the black ones really do explode and cause more well-timed damage. There are some great reaction shots from the people who step up to play.

The most hackneyed overused expression of our industry is “think outside the box” but occasionally you come across reminders that it is still possible to do so and still be wildly original.

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