MLK Day

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.”

Rev. Martin, Luther King, April 4, 1967
Riverside Church, New York City


Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

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Please, no Sale-A-Brations…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Perhaps Skymall Does Portend the End of Days

So I took a day trip for business yesterday which meant I got to spend quality time with the American Airlines SkyMall magazine (“Free copy–take it.  We’ll replace it!”).  For someone in the business of selling, this publication is like a textbook of direct selling techniques and a glimpse into the dead, black heart of raw consumerism: dubious jewelry, a spectacular array of purported male pattern baldness remedies and of course, “Bigfoot, the Garden Yeti” statues, which clock in at two feet tall and twelve pounds of hand painted designer resin, courtesy of the artisans at Toscano design.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

Another stalwart of this publication has long been the Gravity Defyer shoe peddlers: those crafty cobblers who secret away springs in the heels of their footwear, all with the promise of making your every stride pain free and filled with energy…

But recently, the Gravity Defyer people updated their look.  No longer do they feature the hapless actuary fella striding purposefully with his arm extended as if to summon an imaginary taxicab.  Instead, both in their logo and worse, on their new athletic shoe, they feature graphics that can only be described as ‘spermatozoa-ick.’

I wish I were making this up.  I’m not.  Check out this enlargement:

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79 If I didn’t see it myself, I’d swear someone was making this up just to win a frat boy bar bet.  They not only refer to their little dribbler as a “Slick Seed of Life Logo,” they then explain it’s presence with the reality-defying claim “Because it’s cool!

Really?  Cool?  Really?

How can you respond to that?  How can you pretend that anything about this shoe and worse, the logo splashed on it’s side, represents anything but a total FAIL?  What kind of person wants to be seen in public sporting such an unfortunate stain on their footwear?

I love what I do.  I love positioning products to show off their utility and attractiveness.  But this product disturbs me deeply.  It is the font for a thousand off-color comments.

And next time you fly, it will be in the seat pocket in front of you.

Ewww…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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It’s January; This Is What Cold Looks Like

Every week, SportsIllustrated.com posts a collection of recent photographs.  Last week, amidst the hockey and NFL shots, this one appeared, taken by Alexey Malgavko last week at the Russian Orthodox Christmas Half Marathon.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

Held every year since 1991 and also known as the Siberian Ice Marathon, the 2011 race attracted 565 intrepid runners from all across Russia.  The unfortunately-timed road race takes place in the city of Omsk, the birthplace of writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, landlocked in the West-Central region of Russia, just North of Kazakhstan.  On this day, the mercury measured a teeth-rattling, lung-shrinking, beard-riming -22ºF, or -30ºC.

To me, this picture is worth far more than a thousand words or the only-God-knows-how-many words Eskimos have for ‘snow.’  More to the point, for running in temperatures that low, I’m not sure if this man should be commended or committed…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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How Do You Think Kraft Cheese Vetted Ted Williams?

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

Columbus Dispatch

They didn’t.  Of course they didn’t.  On the advice of their public relations savvy agency Crispin Porter Bogusky, Kraft Foods hired Ted Williams, the Ohio homeless man with the jarringly-mellifluous, built-for-radio voice to read the announcer copy for an otherwise unremarkable Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial.  And the nation cooed it’s approval upon hearing this happy ending to what had started with a local public-interest piece by The Columbus Dispatch and quickly became a viral sensation on YouTube, earning 8.5 million hits in days.

It was a storybook turnaround for a tough life made worse by self-admitted bad choices. In less than a week, this panhandler went from an exit ramp to the Today Show and life-changing job offers from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kraft Foods.  It was a wonderful story, and the nation applauded this turnaround and the good-hearted people and brands that helped make it happen.

And then yesterday, the LAPD detained Mr. Williams after an argument with his daughter became very loud at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood.  There were no charges filed so they were released reasonably quickly.  But still, a Kraft and Cavaliers spokesperson had a brush with the law.  And brands hate when their reps have brushes with the law.

Look, I want the guy to succeed.  I always want the underdog to win.  I love it when the town turns out to bail out George Bailey, I tear up when H.I. McDunnough writes his selfless letter to his wife in Raising Arizona, and I’m generally a sucker for any story that features people being nice to people.

But really, who’s surprised by this?  The guy lost a career and years of his life by being a crackhead.  One day he’s homeless, then the next, 300 million Americans suddenly know about him and want to wish him well.  That’s a pretty epic burden, and one that’s bound to bring up a few issues for someone with a minor criminal record and a history of chemical dependence.

So will these rough patches reflect badly on the Cavs or Kraft Mac and Cheese?  Probably not.  As a country, we’re programmed to forgive.  Besides, we’ll be on to some new thing next week.  Perhaps a cute puppy that does a dance or an outspoken Grandma who has a few choice words to say about today’s kids and all their texting and tweeting.

There’s always another act…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The NCAA and the BCS Have Officially Jumped The Shark

Last August, Dr. Pepper sent out a press release announcing that it “…entered into an agreement with ESPN to be the presenting sponsor of the official trophy awarded at the 2010 Citi BCS National Championship Game. The Coaches’ Trophy presented by Dr Pepper will also appear in various ESPN content throughout the upcoming season.”

Forget Cam Newton’s Dad, rapacious sports agents, the Ohio State five and every other embarrassing example of just how much money this flawed system wrings from the sweat of young, unpaid amateur athletes…  Just parse that sentence for a moment and follow the trail of bigtime corporate investment in this game.  As a longtime college football fan, it’s kind of nauseating.  We are mere steps away from becoming like the Manchester United soccer team and wearing “Vodafone” on our jerseys.  Although ours might say “Verizon”…or the far sportier “Sprint” if we’re lucky.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingBut things really got awful with this visual, broadcast at various points during last night’s telecast.  Look, I like Dr. Pepper; their diet product is delicious.  But still, seeing that crimson Dr. Pepper logo radiate off the onyx base of a trophy that commemorates the highest achievement in college football feels about as inappropriate as putting a Century 21 sign on the White House lawn.

Ick.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Even the Most Modern Brands Should Not Make Digital Tools A Default Setting

Groupon is a modern brand. In two short years, they’ve burst upon the marketing landscape with staggering impact.  The mighty Google bid six billion to buy them a month ago. And was rebuffed.

But today, Ad Age reports that this brand has chosen a shocking media vehicle to build awareness quickly–

Super Bowl TV ads.

Everyone realizes the marketing world has changed. The deep consumer engagement that digital channels make possible are definitely a powerful asset. But all of that engagement is meaningless when your brand’s growth challenge is awareness.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingThat is why Groupon’s media investment in high-profile TV advertising makes so much sense.  And yet this kind of wise, strategic thinking flies in the face of the prevailing conventional wisdom as spouted by the web’s loudest ad pundits, many of whom earn attention by loudly and repeatedly tap dancing on the grave of TV.

TV is far from dead; it remains the single most dependable medium for generating broad awareness.  Writing it off may be fashionable, but it’s also irresponsible. Because for every task, there is a right tool.

Despite what some other tools may claim.
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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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Some Friday Video Awesome: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

A charming idea.  Simply executed.  But made truly transcendent through the exquisitely perfect VO invented by SNL’s Jennie Slate.  For background on how this huggable little movie came to be, check out this entry on Pop Candy.

If you’ve not seen it, you’re in for a delight.  If you already have, watch it again–the delight doesn’t diminish.

And of course, Happy Friday!

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Don’t You Wish You Were A Pepper Too?

Out among that infinite zoo of long tails woven together to form the world wide web, you can stumble across some pretty strange topics and things you could never imagine. Including neatly curated repositories of some hobbyists’ rather arcane collections.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingToday’s exhibit?  Soda cans representing every generic version of Dr. Pepper.  Initially, this might not seem compelling enough to CLICK THIS LINK and take a look, but for anyone in marketing, the sheer audacity and shamelessness required to skirt copyright infringement laws while blatantly drafting off the appeal of a popular product  makes pretty funny viewing.  Enjoy, won’t you?

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Learning To Promote Sharing

As a parent, you want to teach your child to share; it demonstrates a good nature and assures that your child will be welcomed into their communities.  Sharing is critical to their personal development.

Today, it’s also critical to every advertiser’s development.  Our biggest new challenge is understanding how we can encourage our market to share the video and promotional content we create.  How can we shape our ideas to encourage our audiences to pass them along?  That’s a radically different challenge for video messages created for broadcast on social networks as opposed to television networks.  More critically, it’s one where our success or failure  is easily measured.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingFor years, the challenge of brand video production was creating something that would make your audience feel “Wow, that was cool/real/hilarious.”  In today’s socially networked world, that challenge is now a compound phrase: “Wow, that was cool/real/hilarious, and I have to pass that on to my friends ____ and ____.”  The true power of new media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter lies in it’s ability to leverage low cost, highly effective recommendation, to activate crowdsourced PR.  Today, the best online video content becomes curated by key consumers to engage other key consumers.  So broadcasting these videos is not merely cheap, it’s highly selective and effective.

So what triggers a consumer to take your brand content and pass it on to other pre-qualified audiences?  In an entry on MediaPost yesterday, David Murdico, ECD of the rather hubristically-named Supercool Creative, takes a shot at defining what drives people to pass along video.  He lists seven ideas, but ultimately, the image that sticks in my head is of that kid back in grade school with the comedy record.  You know, the one who played cuts from Cheech and Chong/Steve Martin/Richard Pryor/Sam Kinison/Chris Rock/Dane Cook for his friends and somehow, through a mysterious bit of entertainment osmosis, accrued cred for his find.  These kids were never the entertainer, but they were the presenter, bringing their discoveries to a group of like-minded people sure to enjoy them.

That’s who we have to try to reach today.  And it will be a hill of fun to watch and see how different brands do it.

Because right now, it’s pretty much all fresh powder in front of us.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Set The Wayback Machine For 1993 TV Advertising…

And check out this campaign.  Clearly influenced by the interior visuals of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, this work from AT&T rather accurately foretold the world we live in today.  Of course, there was already a nascent, publicly-accessed internet back then, thanks to Mosaic, the first graphics-based browser.  Wireless technology and video phones also already existed but still, it’s rather remarkable to consider this futuristic big budget production from our vantage point here in that future.

That’s the thing about the vast modern digital world: everything published, posted or broadcast exists somewhere on that ever expanding interwebs universe.  Even, sadly, the musings of mindless Reality TV personalities

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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