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Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

In a digital marketplace crowded with marketing channels and marketing messages, businesses are faced with the age-old question — How do you cut through the clutter to get attention? With awesome creative, of course!

I just watched a late-night tv commercial from Gillette for ProGlide shaving cartridges that promises to last 5 weeks before dulling. It was aimed at the young male 20something demographic. It featured global travel, exotic locales, and the idea of around the world on a single blade. It was excellent in a big budget epic way. I’ve recently seen another well-done Gillette commercial for the Fusion ProGlide Styler featuring noted music and acting personalities with facial hair, André 3000, Adrien Brody, and Gael Garcia Bernal. A fresh approach in a competitive category. I’ve also stopped by the men’s shaving aisle during a grocery run and been overwhelmed by blade choices. Survey Gillette’s product lineup here for what I mean. Add in Schick’s offerings and it can be genuinely stupefying to remember what brand and version is in your own medicine cabinet. What’s more, razor blades now all come in plastic lockboxes that need to be opened at checkout in order to prevent shoplifting of these increasingly high-priced personal care necessities.

I’m guessing Michael Dubin found himself similarly challenged to buy and pay for a razor and blades when he conceived his new start-up A blade of the month club? Sounds like it may have been something tried and failed during the boom and bust period. Wrong. This enterprise is 2.0 conceived, built, and rolling.

I dare you to watch this YouTube viral gem without chuckling multiple times at how well-crafted on a micro budget it is. This isn’t Victor Kiam “I liked the shaver so much I bought the company” — it is Michael Dubin taking you behind the scenes at his entire start-up operation to cheekily demonstrate why his blades are so inexpensive and such great values at the same time. The clip is so entertaining that it has already been featured content on Mashable , All Things D, and Huffington Post and is already over one million views on YouTube.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

But the terrific creative doesn’t end there. The web site itself is a model of smart sales copy, good/better/best consumer choices, terrific graphic design, and ease of e-commerce. In other words, creative and commerce are in collusion for maximum results. Big package goods corporations have a lot invested in brand identities and line extensions, including big ad production and media budgets to feed the sales pipeline. Michael Dubin doesn’t have those luxuries. But he does have a winning concept and an awesome creative vision.

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Advertising awards are great. Advertising awards are overrated.

Advertising awards are great. Advertising awards are overrated.

Over the years, Newton Associates, like most other agencies have entered our share of industry awards competitions. And over the years, we have seen entry fees escalate, number of competitions proliferate, and an industry trend away from perceived value in awards. Clients are dazzled a lot less by hardware than they are by ROI. This post isn’t intended to make the case one way or the other for awards relevance (no, they don’t have the same luster that they once had, and yes, it is still better to win them  than to not be recognized for your work).

What captured my interest this week was the evolution of awards categories for The One Show, arguably the most prestigious of creative industry competitions out there.  The best-known advertising awards are probably the Cannes Lions because of prestige location, or perhaps the Clios, although they lost a lot of luster some years ago, when the stager ran into financial problems, the event did not run quite as planned, and in any ugly scene out of a Nathanael West novel, intoxicated ad execs randomly helped themselves to hardware on tables in the back of the banquet room. However, The One Show has always been known for tough judging by peers and for honoring cutting edge work. It has always meant a lot to join The One Club by winning one of its awards. Still on my bucket list and well ahead of running with the bulls at Pamplona.

My bigger challenge at the moment is how to interpret new award categories. The One Show long ago morphed into a series of One Shows, advertising being only one, followed by design, interactive, and now entertainment. Advertising hasn’t changed much, but under Multimedia, how would you define “Experiential Advertising”? Advertising that is so all-encompassing that you just don’t watch it, read it, hear it, you experience it? All right, skip that one. How about Cinema Advertising with a sub category of Integrated Cinema Experience? Experience seems to be a running theme. Five senses may not be enough.

This one stopped me dead — Brand Transformation Sponsored by Facebook. How do you begin to judge a brand transformation that took place on Facebook? By going from 5 to 50,000,0000,000 “Likes” overnight?

Even the category of Outdoor has gone way beyond billboards to now include “Transit and Street Furniture”. Are we talking about advertising on benches? Or awards for actually designing innovative ergonomic replacements for benches?

Interactive Advertising gets interesting with a category known as “Augmented Reality”.  That phrase doesn’t explain itself very well unless describing boob jobs and Jersey Shore.

Social Media also speaks its own language. The category of “Best Use of” social media is fine. But “Location Aware Services” sounds like people in constant need of GPS help. And while is blogging, a category we could almost enter, the actual category is “Microblogging”. Is there a space between normal blogging and 140-character tweeting that occurs inside some type of box designed to accommodate lawn gnomes?

After careful consideration of some truly creative creative awards categories, I think we’re going to skip The One Show entry this year. I have been officially creeped out by the actual creative used to promote The One Show competition. Our art director dubbed the hopefully Photoshopped model as the love child of Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno.

The One Show had gone from edgy to creepy.

The One Show had gone from edgy to creepy.

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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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