Timing Is Everything…Just Ask Channel 9

Fortune can be so painfully fickle.  If you happen to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and do exactly the right thing, you can achieve something truly extraordinary.

On the other hand, it’s a lot more common to miss.  This new ad for Chicago Superstation WGN openly showcases one of their recent and rather staggering FAILS: cutting away from a live implosion of a bridge in Joliet due to the producer’s impatience and thus totally missing the money shot.

Good for them for being able to laugh at themselves.  If you’ve ever watched their ramshackle, free-wheeling morning news program, this promo spot feels totally on brand.

Oh, and one more thing; by being so authentic and transparent, this footage went viral and garnered over 8.6 million views in less than two weeks on YouTube.  Good for them.  Really good for them.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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“Cyber Monday”? Of Course, Cyber Monday…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79I guess I wasn’t really paying attention these past five years, because somehow I missed the announcement from The National Retail Federation that today had a new name.  Apparently the people at Shop.org issued a press release back in 2005 which noted that 77% of online retailers earned substantial boosts to their sales on the Monday immediately following Black Friday or what I prefer to call, the day after Thanksgiving (I’m a sentimentalist in that regard).

Made-up Holiday or not, there’s no denying the numbers.  Last year, comScore reported that we spent $887 million dollars online, more than 25% higher than what we spent on Black Friday.

So if you are already feeling the pressure to get all of your Holiday shopping done, here’s a list of all the really big deals you can get in lieu of actually getting anything done at the office.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I Knew Mr. Whipple, Mr. Whipple Was A Friend of Mine, Kim Kardashian You’re No Mr. Whipple

It must be hard to sell toilet paper.

Sure, it’s a fine product.  One we rely upon everyday.  Still, it must be hard to come up with appropriate ideas that both promote the product and come across as…seemly.  Which is why I am so stumped by yesterday’s 5th Annual Charmin Restrooms in Times Square event.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79Stumped first off, because this “event” has happened four times already.  But super stumped because the promotional minds down at Procter & Gamble thought it would make sense to focus this year’s festivities around Kim Kardashian, a celebutante whose climb into our pop culture synapses began with the release of a sex tape made with a former boyfriend, before moving on to string of minor television roles and highly-staged paparazzi sightings.

Seriously, how have things gone so far off the rails down in Cincinnati?  Why would the celebrated marketing minds at Procter want to equate their free, clean, family-friendly U.S. Tourism-themed loos with this car wreck?  I could understand the thinking if this were the Times Square of twenty years ago but NYC has long since sanitized that location, making it more Disney and less…peep-show.  So why are they trolling around with a ‘reality star’?

Sometimes, I weep for our culture. This is one of those times.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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For Now At Least, The TSA Wishes Holiday Fliers “Happy Thanks-groping!”

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79It’s the news story you can’t avoid: since implementing their new pat-down procedures, the TSA has become a focal point for a fed-up public.  Critics rage about the intrusiveness of the procedure and how these aggressive new measures won’t stop determined terrorists so much as hassle law-abiding citizens.  Some believe the pat-down serves primarily to coerce people into using those new privacy-robbing full body scanners.

Judging from the volume of chatter on the internet, the TSA may have underestimated the public response.  As of yesterday, a Google search for “TSA Pat-down” returned 4,900,000 hits.  Everyone’s heard the shameful anecdote about the veteran flight attendant with the prosthetic breast.  And the chatter on talk radio only seems to be building.  Steadfast or not, this nascent agency doesn’t seem ready for the controversy, particularly in our Web 2.0 enabled world of today.

Today, everyone has a phone in their hand that records photos and videos.  So now we can all witness a TSA Agent strip-searching a young boy at Salt Lake City…

Today, everyone has a Twitter or Facebook account where they can post their personal experiences.  So now TV producers and magazine editors can quickly find human interest stories on the topic.

Today, anyone can start a free Tumblr blog, so now ordinary people can form national ad hoc repositories to express either their outrage or amusement over their TSA experiences.

The reality is that today, it’s no longer possible for any government agency to totally control any story, whether it’s a student uprising in Iran or Venezuela or a citizen protest here in America.  The tools of dissent are too widely available and wired into a viral, international network.

So will this rising hue and cry, magnified by the heavy Holiday air travel season, impact or even alter government policy?  From a specifics standpoint, it’s too early to tell.

But speaking generally, it already has.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Is Mobile The Future of Advertising…or Couponing?

For the past couple of years, the advertising industry has heard the steadily-rising drumbeat for mobile–how it, along with geo-tagging and participation marketing, is going to change our industry.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79It makes sense.  Everyone carries a cell phone these days and the penetration of smart phones increases dramatically every quarter.  People use their phones to research all kinds of things during shopping trips so the aperture seems right.

The only problem is that despite all the headlines and conferences, no one can point to a single “kick ass mobile ad.”  Because there’s no such thing.  And don’t hold your breath for one anytime soon…

A post this morning on Digiday reports on a nationwide survey conducted by Sybase 365, a self-described “mobile commerce and content delivery company.”  The Sybase folks breathlessly report that over 30% of all consumers would buy things from their mobile devices if they were offered a discount or coupon.  From this, they conclude mobile commerce is about to hit “critical mass” because “mobile commerce ties the physical to the virtual world.”  Oh boy, pinch me.

Yes, this is advertising.  No, it’s not particularly interesting.  This is advertising at it’s most transactional, purely functional level.  It is database activation and optimization: certainly a necessary and useful pursuit, but not one laden with personal meaning or consumer engagement for the brand.  It’s commerce yes, but not content.

Hopefully, if the mobile platform proves relevant to consumers, someone will find a way to innovate brand messaging on mobile screens.  I just hope that by that point, my eyes aren’t too far gone to notice.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Ice Sculpture, Cake Decorating and Other Transient Yet Inspiring Creative Expressions

Ice sculpture both fascinates and confuses me.  Watching some craftsman take a chainsaw to a big block of ice and then chisel and scrape it into a gleaming dolphin or pineapple basket always bums me out a little: all that work on something that will just melt away.  It seems a bit sad.

But maybe all art is transient.  Maybe the key to art is not the finished product but the vision, the effort, and the process.  And maybe I have to get over my damn self and stop thinking every creative object must be museum worthy.

Whatever that truth is, art for art’s sake inspires.  And last night at the 2010 AICP Midwest Show, Optimus One created a wonderfully-imaginative piece to kick off the show.  This show’s opening films always try to find a visually-interesting way to present the laundry list of sponsors who support the show.  This year, John Noble and his amazing team went far above and beyond expectations with their solution; a fully-realized history of an imagined logo company.  Working seamlessly with Bonnie Phoenix and the visual treasure trove she manages at Getty, the young team at Optimus One built a tremendous film: wonderfully shot with artful visual effects and the kind of deft pacing you’d expect from a world class edit house.  They even had the film’s introduce the screening live, in character from the stage, much to the crowd’s initial confusion.

The film delivered far more than the task required, far more than expectations demanded.

It was artful.  And because of that, it was perfect.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Let The Blatant Manipulation Begin!

Thanks to the good folks at AdweekMedia and Harris Interactive, we now have scientific quantification as to what images most “tug at the heartstrings” of potential customers.

Of course, you already know what they are.  Witness…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

Babies and Puppies: the can’t-miss, one-two punch of emotional manipulation.  According to the pollsters, at this point, the total number of women feeling the tug will be 8% greater than the total number of men.

And some people think advertising research isn’t insightful…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Of Course Your Brand Wants Fans

Sure…  Every brand wants fans these days, right?  A whole new sector of marketing agencies have sprung up, dedicated to converting ordinary consumers into motivated brand advocates and dedicated brand fans!! And yes, I did just add two exclamation points to the end of the prior sentence.  You know, for emphasis.

But has anyone really stopped to consider what that means, what hardcore fandom looks like?  Brands can play critical roles in peoples’ lives, but only at limited, highly-specific times.  To be a brand fan 24/7 wouldn’t actually be a very good, it would be kinda weird.  It might even scare off the more populous ranks of casual fans.

Case in point: this guy.  The self-proclaimed world’s biggest Harry Potter fan.  If you click the link, you’ll watch him spend three excruciatingly-painful minutes arguing his case with a zeal that makes you weep for future generations, all in an effort to win some lame contest from Moviefone.  You have been warned…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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