All We Wanted Was a Walrus…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingWe’re getting ready to produce the new national television and radio campaigns for La Quinta Inns and Suites. And so  we’re talking to directors, working with production companies, readying our bids. We’re also pushing ideas; is each execution absolutely clear? Can we say the same thing with fewer syllables? Are the punchlines as tight as they can be?

All that led to the walrus.  Without giving away the spot, the creative team got silly excited thinking how magnificently hilarious it would be to place a living, breathing walrus rather incompatibly within a modern business conference room.

Never mind that these toothy marine mammals weigh in at about a ton and a half…  Or that they are from seven to twelve feet long…  And endangered…  The bottom line is, we thought it could be pants-wettingly funny to have a walrus on the set for a fifteen second long television shot. And so, the production company looked into it.

Think about that–this harebrained idea was enough to send professionals to the phones and web, trying to determine the availability and costs of bringing one of these creatures to our set. Once we learned the transportation costs alone would have topped twelve thousand dollars, we passed; the walrus isn’t that central to the comic idea and the budget’s tight.

Still, for about six hours, everyone treated that thought seriously.  Stop and think about that the next time someone complains about how tough it’s gotten in our business.  For at least half a day, a few of us got paid to chase walruses.

Don’t tell me this isn’t a great job…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Some Friday Video Awesome, Bollywood Style

One of the lessons video production inevitably teaches is that while action grabs the audience’s attention, reaction gets them involved.  In other words, the most amazing stunt in the world will always feel hollow unless it’s followed by a shot of someone reacting to it.  Seeing someone laugh or recoil or drop their jaw in amazement sets the context for the action and spurs our emotional engagement.  It’s one of the reasons the Transformers movies feel so achingly repetitive after twenty minutes of their incredibly sophisticated action scenes—there’s no one helping us care that the car is now a mighty flying robot.  Unless you want to count Megan Fox, but as an actress, she’s basically a posable action figure.

All that said, today’s awesome video clip could not care less about that kind of theory.  This delightfully cheesy clip excerpts a 2010 Bollywood film called Enthiran-The Robot, a madcap adrenaline rush about a scientist’s unsuccessful struggles to control his android robot after it falls in love with his own fiance.  Ouch.

It is the most expensive film in India’s prolific film history and has enjoyed worldwide financial and critical success, eventually becoming the highest grossing Indian film of all time.  Who knew?

The best part is that the visual effects imagination is as spectacular as the execution is awful.  Which reverses  the typical Hollywood formula that camouflages a lack of imagination under flawless CG perfection.

Anyway, enjoy this admittedly-overlong clip for the high-flying exuberance of its patently ludicrous story.  It makes little to no sense. Still, it’s kinda wonderful.  Happy Friday!

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Launching NoahsArcFoundation.org Last Night

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

At Element 79, we rarely play the Fabulous Club Kid card, mostly because we aren’t fabulous club kids.  Still, for one night, we had a gas and a giggle hanging at the special VIP section of Public House with Chicago Bull center Joakim Noah and his mom, sculptor Cecilia Rodhe.

Joakim was using the celebration of his cover story on Michigan Avenue Magazine to gain attention for his charitable foundation whose website we just redesigned.  Our ridiculously-capable team of Tom Napper, Ryan Carlos, Brad Simpson, Liz Rettger, Rick Janusz, Todd Crisman, David Boensch and Alana Beseau created a truly wonderful site.  Our inhouse video production team led by the ever wonderful Gus Gavino and Tracy Tran added some particularly lovely pieces, using video we shot augmented by some great event footage shot by Matt Downe, who is currently finishing up his studies at Flashpoint Academy.

Hanging out with Chicago Bear DT Israel Idonije and local son turned Kansas City DE Tony Moeaki is a great time.  But seeing all this media attention focused on a charitable venture that means so much to one of the city’s leading sports figures was particularly thrilling.  A lot of celebrities glad hand these kind of things, leveraging them for tax purposes.  Noah’s Arc is clearly deeply personal to both Joakim and Cecilia and all of us at Element 79 deeply appreciate how our Harris client Justine Fedak brought us in to help.

Free Don Julio and Ketel One just made it that much more fun.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Play It Forward, Chapter 3: The Key Reason the Old Spice Man Achieved Viral Dominance

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79By now, most everything that needs to be written has been written about Weiden + Kennedy’s groundbreaking viral video heavyweight “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” And unlike so many pop culture mayflies that swarm up and just as quickly disappear, this effort merits all those words and column inches.

But amidst all the celebration and analysis, I’ve never seen any article that calls out the reason why this ad and series, more so than any of the thousands of others trying to garner attention, fired the imagination of viewers. Beyond universal agreement around the genius of the creative idea, the production, the writing and Isaiah Mustafa’s note-perfect performance, no one’s mentioned the one thing that makes this–or any video–truly stand out…

Surprise.

In a media-saturated world, any video, any voice, any meme that surprises is remarkable.  And rare.  And so it stands out, head and shoulders above the rabble.

But the truly remarkable thing about the Old Spice work is that it doesn’t just surprise the audience once; every video functions as a continuous sequence of surprises.  It’s a surprise (“tickets to that thing you love”) then another surprise (“They’re diamonds!”) and then another and another and another (“I’m on a horse!”). Revealing a series of surprises makes it all the more amazing.  And forward-friendly.

The importance of surprise when engaging viewers is a simple concept to grasp. And a bear to actually accomplish. Try to keep that one on your To Do list…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Play It Forward, Chapter 2: The Common Denominator of Viral Memes

I’ve talked about the “Downfall” based viral meme in the past, where people alter the meaning of a screaming Hitler tirade by changing the supers.  For a short time back in April, these were pulled from YouTube over some misguided intellectual property rights fussiness.  I found that particularly ironic given that these memes helped me discover and purchase this remarkable movie, largely based on Bruno Ganz’s remarkable performance.  They are back now, covering everything from Brett Favre’s waffling to the waning popularity of the gag itself.Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

Those topics are critical to the success of this kind of meme, which goes far beyond parodying the Third Reich. By commenting on issues, these types of viral memes help people identify like-minded audiences.  Lately, xtranormal, with its ability to generate customized animated clips, has become the meme-generator of choice for this kind of viral.  A few weeks back, I received the same clip regarding the University of Michigan’s ham handed handling of football coach Rich Rodriguez’ firing.

Topicality fuels viral memes like these.  But more than that, it’s topicality that’s relevant to a specific communities.  Upset about Lovie Smith’s playcalling?  There’s a meme for that.  Think Obama is awesome or awful?  There’s a meme for both.  And if you’re feeling particularly creative, you can generate your own clip which, if it’s entertaining enough and pertinent to a group of your friends, will be quickly passed along.

Identifying the group you hope to reach can really drive viral success.  Sure, it’s awesome to have tens of millions of hits, but if you craft the right message and get it to a few thought leaders in your targeted group, they will self select the qualified leads who would be most interested in viewing it.  The common denominator in any popular viral meme is a well-defined community.  That may not help sell aspirin given the large, wide range of that consumer market, but it can be invaluable for anything with a narrower, more defined target, and thus a better defined community.

When you deliver a great creative idea to influential people in your target community, your video focuses in from a broad dim streetlight that falls over everything to a powerful spotlight shining on your exact issue for your exact audience.  And that’s compelling branding.

Having a community share in the task of finding your brand’s ideal audience and capturing their digital information is the real promise of video broadcasting on social networks.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Play It Forward, Chapter 1: Identifying Criteria for Success With Viral Video

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingWhat makes a video viral? What do the most viral clips have in common? And what lessons can we learn to insure our video work in this space is as forward-friendly as possible?

I want to spend this week exploring this topic and welcome any input you can share because fundamentally, those of us with deep experience in consumer video need to reset our expectations and objectives. As creative strategies migrate from focusing solely on the needs of broadcast network videos to the more specific demands of social network broadcasting, knowing what most encourages viewers to share and spread your video will be critical to brand success. Clearly, not all viral videos are marketing driven, but even those that aren’t can provide clues about the common denominators of viral success.

Why should this matter?  Why fret about something that while popular, still represents a proportionately small percentage of client marketing budgets?

Because the future of brand-building advertising–the classic television image spot creatives love to produce–will continue moving into this new space.  Creating engaging, entertaining, relevant video for brand advocates to adopt and forward audiences they select as relevant insures more impact for your message than a general broadcast airing. In a marketplace increasingly defined by affiliations, tribes or communities, marketers that create surprising, engaging video that speaks directly to those groups will find more return for their brand image investment.

Which means nothing less than a reinvestment in the kind of production that excites and pushes creative people.

The future of high-end video production will be vastly different, but it will also prove to be a hill of fun. We just must do our homework around strategies, techniques and lessons for building success in this new forum. Video storytelling skill is not platform dependent, it’s aptitude based. And it would be a massive waste to dismiss the skills and lessons so many of us acquired over the years, merely because we’re ‘television creatives.’

Vision is vision. And ideas either excite or they don’t. In every medium…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Today’s Friday Video Awesome: Scandal!! Shock!! Yawn…

Apparently, the mainstream media didn’t get the message.  Specifically, the one about how nobody pays attention to television commercials anymore.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t waste so many column inches on the annual parade of BANNED SUPERBOWL COMMERCIALS!

We haven’t even played the AFC or NFC championship yet and already, we’ve read stories about the spot for the shocking Ashley Madison website that argues “Life is short, have an affair.”  It was so scandalous, Fox banned it! Actually watching this crummy, boringly bad spot reveals it has less production value than your average bar mitzvah video.

But it’s not just sex, politics also reared its ugly, partisan head with a craptacular piece featuring an Obama bobblehead and a non-scripturally compliant Jesus doll, thrown together in a shocking ad designed to sell trash and trinkets emblazoned with inane rhetoric.  This tripe makes Mr. Bill seem like a Merchant-Ivory production.

And then there’s the banned commercial granddaddy: godaddy.  Long featuring the ‘pretty-hot-if-you-dig-hillbilly-elves’ Danica Patrick, this year they’ve lassoed celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels plus a GoDaddy Mystery babe.  Oooh, I’m crazy with anticipation.  Except I’m not.

In fairness, godaddy.com has actually paid for Superbowl spots in the past.  They’ve been execrable, but they aired.  The political hatchet job and the Ashley Madison spots are just cheap tricks to generate headlines–there’s no way either of those organizations would pony up three million real dollars to air their embarrassments.  This is nothing more than a tired PR ploy that pops up every January, a hackneyed effort to generate free views by a scandalized, sensationalizing media.  Which is why I won’t put in links to this crap.

I will however, post an absolutely inane video I dug up on YouTube of Boo, The Cutest Dog Ever! Comparatively, lil’ Boo is a bit of real Friday Video Awesome…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Sometimes, Someone Else Says Something Far, Far Better Than I Could Ever Hope To

Like this marvelous infographic, from this post on dvice.com.  Read this, and then ask yourself if perhaps you should be concerned about this company’s recidivist pattern of security lapses with your personal information…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

* Information provided by: Online Schools (www.onlineschools.org)


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Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a status update to post.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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When New Brands Come With Pre-Established Opinions

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79By now, the media narrative surrounding Jennifer Aniston is deeply ingrained.  She’s the sad pretty girl, the jilted wife, the woman who can’t seem to move on after the break-up.  It’s an easy story to grasp and so it’s accepted as truth, whether or not it is.

With that in mind, this perfume ad jarred me out of my commuting stupor when I passed through La Guardia airport earlier today.  Jennifer Aniston perfume?  Really?  So that would smell like what, tears?  Bitterness?  Regret?  The bottle looks nice but the name just seems like a bad idea.

Then again, I can’t think of a single person I would actually want to smell like.  I’m an unabashed Abraham Lincoln admirer, but I can’t begin to imagine what notes the logsplitter might lend to a cologne.

Some things are better left abstract.  And unnamed.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Brand Truth: Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge Candy Bars Aren’t Nuclear, Are Toxic

As truth in advertising goes, you can file this one under ‘unfortunate.’

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingLast Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration issued a press release warning about unacceptable levels of lead in Toxic Waste® brand Nuclear Sludge® cherry flavored Chew Bars. After the California Department of Public Health pegged the candy’s lead levels at 0.24 parts per million–more than twice the FDA tolerance of 0.1 ppm–the parent company Candy Dynamics voluntarily recalled all flavors from all lots distributed since its 2007 introduction (evidently, a food product called “Toxic Waste® brand Nuclear Sludge®” can assume a shelf life approaching four years).

Interestingly, both Candy Dynamics and Circle City Marketing and Distributing–the company responsible for actually producing the candy–operate out of Indianapolis. But the bar manufacturing is outsourced to Pakistan, the source of the lead contamination. Perhaps that third world production line moonlights creating low end batteries for knock off Tickle Me Elmos; whatever the explanation, the company valued cost efficiencies over quality control up until the moment they had no choice.

As anyone who’s ever been a cash strapped kid knows, there will always be a market for cheap candy, so perhaps Candy Dynamics and Circle City won’t be terribly hurt by this particular PR nightmare.  Then again, like some king-sized chocolate irony candy bar. their memorable brand name makes this story just too tasty not to share.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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