Hurry–There’s Still Time To Buy Ping Pong Balls Before The Fourth

Here’s a little video inspiration for your Independence Day celebrations … courtesy of some observant pyromaniacs in Germany apparently.

That’s right–you saw it here first: ping pong balls are flammable as hell. And if one is good, then clearly, one thousand are just that much more exponentially good-er. So if you can’t get to a fireworks tent, at least find a sporting goods store.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Wonderful…In Any Language

I’ve grown so tired of these kinds of stunts. “Hey, it’s a Flash Mob! Hey, we took over this train station, surprising the tired commuters with our lightly branded delights! See all the passers by, staring in slack-jawed amazement at our insouciance!”

It’s become the standard formula for viral: do something big and public and film all of it with unobtrusive GoPros. Then edit your clip together and send it out on social media where you try to encourage posting and sharing. As a tactic, it is horribly tired and creaky, despite being only a few years old.

And yet…  Kids? Santa? Joy?

Confound you, Oi Telecommunications. Just like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this gets me every time. Click on the “cc” button in the bottom bar to turn on the English translation. Merry Merry.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Beyond Awesome: Sharp Cellphone Ad from Japan

Two qualities often form the basis of exceptional ads: changing the conversation and creating a unique voice.  This new spot for Sharp’s SH-08C handset does both.

Timing in at over three minutes, I was initially reluctant to watch the entire production. But once the little wooden ball literally gets rolling, viewers will be hard pressed to turn away.  Check out this video…

Sweet mother of god, that is wonderful. The science required to determine the length and angle of this gravity-fed ramp to keep the speed of the ball rolling at a controlled pace alone boggles the mind.  But the folks at the production company Drill, Inc jumped into the challenge with gusto, first creating this combination pachinko machine/marimba and then assembling it in the woods outside of Kama City on the island of Kyushu. The press notes make a huge deal about the music being one hundred percent organic and authentic but you can believe it as you listen to this wholly original version of Bach’s transcendant “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

Dennis Ryan, OLSON, Advertising

Why go to all this trouble?  Because the SH-08C smartphone actually sports a kidney shaped wooden case.  Unfortunately, the Japanese tagged this mobile device with the unfortunate moniker “Touch Wood” proving that artfulness can still stumble in translation.  Worse, given that this amazing commercial is already going viral, Sharp limited the production quantities to a mere 15,000. Oh well.

Apparently, they think this phone’s QWERTY touchscreen and 5 megapixel cameras don’t grow on trees.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON


PS: Special thanks to the inimitable John Barry for passing along this link.

Yes, You Can Be a Historical Figure and a Bad Ass

Case in point: Teddy Roosevelt.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OLSON

These posters are part of a series called “Historically Hardcore” by Jenny Burrows (AD) and Matt Kappler (CW) who created it as a spec campaign when they were ad students at Creative Circus.

The fact that so many of us have enjoyedt Matt and Jenny’s old classwork these past two weeks speaks to one of the web’s peculiarities: the ability to confer a certain type of immortality on ideas.

Despite being well over a year old, these posters have captured public attention through the type of key blog and twitter mentions that drive an idea viral. If you go to Jenny’s Behance page, she writes about how the phenomenon caught her by surprise.

But there’s another side to all this attention. Despite creating the precise sort of message any museum should crave–that history is cool, relevant and real–the august group at the Smithsonian, under advice of counsel no doubt, sent Jenny a warning to remove their name from her work. They have a logomark to protect–if they don’t, what’s to stop some unscrupulous upstart from naming their paperclip collection “The Smithsonian”? And so Jenny changed the layouts.

But again, the web bestows a certain immortality. So despite the best efforts of the Smithsonian’s lawyers, I was able to find the original above. And if you Google “viral Smithsonian posters,” you’ll find a URL that reads: Of course, if you follow the link, you’ll find a blank page with this message: “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.”

But even the attorney’s have to admit that’s not entirely right. It should read “Sorry, no posts match your criteria anymore.”


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON


That Sound You Heard Last Night Was My Arteries Occluding

In the 50’s, Jack LaLanne brought fitness awareness to mainstream America via television. In the 60’s, Julia Child brought French cooking to mainstream America via television and a best selling cook book. And in December, 2008, the BBQ Addicts blog brought the Bacon Explosion to mainstream America via the virality of the nutritionally unthinkable.

If you like bacon, the Bacon Explosion is magic. If you like pork, it’s super magic. And if you like them rolled together in an unholy protein mash up even Robert Atkins might consider excessive, this is your holy grail. Of course, if you’re vegetarian, some well-meaning fella did create one out of tempeh but that’s just kind of depressing…

The sheer surprise and audacity of this recipe idea made it a natural pass along on the forward-friendly web, quickly leading this monstrous concoction to widespread awareness and ultimately, my plate during last night’s game.  And I’m more than just okay with that…

A quick Google search turns up nearly 1.7 million results, including step-by-step how-to’s and video cooking demonstrations.  And one of those seemingly endless posts inspired my brother-in-law Chris to create one. Of course, now that the Pack proved triumphant, I can pretty much expect this for every Green Bay post-season game: Christopher has his superstitions.

Anyway, this is what glory looks like in photographs. Enjoy…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Character: The Key To Great Comedy Writing

Truly funny television commercials get picked up and passed around in a sort of ad hoc media buy that clients can only wish they could afford.  Unfortunately, creating truly funny television commercials is extraordinarily difficult, particularly when you add the requirement that the comedy must have some strategic relationship with the product or service being advertised.

But occasionally, someone does it brilliantly.  The crinkly-male-wisdom of the old Miller High Life voice over…  The over the top histrionics of Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius announcer.  The deadpan charisma of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World…  All of these served as the cornerstone of highly-successful comic ad campaigns.  What do they have in common?  I mean, aside from the fact that they are from the beer category–one of the few sectors unafraid to chase entertainment as a branding strategy.

The most interesting trait that they all share is that their unique comic voices spring from character.  We never see him but we know the High Life guy is a wisened old dog from the blue collar set, street smart and unimpressed by foolishness.  Given that well defined character, the kind of lines he’d read became self-selecting.  Puns wouldn’t work.  Name checking pop culture references wouldn’t work.  But talking about plumbing?  Right in his wheel house.

It is extraordinarily difficult to create an advertising character in thirty seconds that’s well defined.  Most characters evolve over the course of a campaign.  But recently, Weiden and Kennedy introduced us to a shirtless he-man with a loopy self-confidence named Isaiah Mustafa who sold all sorts of deodorants and body washes for Old Spice.  And in short order, they created a singular comic patois that is totally unique: sprightly, unerring, stentorian…and prone to idiosyncratic references like monocles and motorcycles.

Extending this campaign virally, they created a series of one-take, single wall set monologues where Isaiah ostensibly addresses people who either reference him, his commercials or the Old Spice brand in social media.  A collection of nearly two dozen of his responses can be found on this You Tube page.  If you appreciate good writing and winning performance, go watch each and every one of them.  They are note perfect and widely-divergent, yet the words in each one of them seem almost pre-ordained.

Because they spring from a singularly unique character.  Well played Old Spice, well played…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79