• I Don’t Mean To Be Too Altruistic

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    Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mean to be too altruistic, but…” The but is usually followed by the admittance of an act of generosity that they recently committed, like giving money to a charity or volunteering their time to support a cause. But instead of proudly owning the thoughtful gesture, they qualify the good deed so they won’t be labeled a “do-gooder.”

    That has never made sense to me. I’ve never understood this attitude or where it came from. Why apologize for doing something good for someone else? I mean, shouldn’t generosity and kindness be something we are proud of? And why worry about being too altruistic? Wouldn’t it be better if people were even more altruistic in their attitudes and their actions?

    Personally, I think answer is yes. Here’s why. First and foremost, giving and contributing to organizations and causes absolutely matters to the people it helps. More importantly, it is true that you always get more back than you give. Call it karma, or just needing to know that you matter, but community service makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. And finally, giving with pride sets an example that encourages and inspires others to do the same. So yes, I believe altruism is a damn good thing and something we should be proud of.

    I tend to be a very private person, and the last thing I want to be accused of is being “preachy,” but I also believe in speaking the truth from the heart, so I’ve decided to share my story. Doing meaningful work that makes a huge impact is the driving force behind Cactus and a mission that we have been pursuing as an agency since 1990. But my journey started a few years before that.

    After graduating from college, I landed my first professional job at an agency in Denver. I learned the ropes from some true pros, met some wonderful friends and began to explore what a career in advertising was all about. But after a year on the job I was miserable. I did not have an affinity for the clients or the kind of work I was being asked to do. And I definitely felt like a cog in the bill-more-hours-agency-machine. I was at a low point in my very young career and I longed for more. I needed to know that my work mattered and contributed something positive to the world.

    Around that same time, a co-worker gave me a book called “Critical Path” and told me the story of Buckminster Fuller, or Bucky as he is affectionately known. You never know how an act of thoughtfulness may affect someone in ways you can’t even imagine. That one book changed my life, and I can honestly say it has been the driving force of my career since I read it in 1989. It set off a firestorm inside of me that burns bright today and I am so grateful for the inspiration it gave me at a time when I needed it the most. After reading it, I saw the world in a different way. I knew my life mattered and that what my dad told me wasn’t just parental rhetoric, but it was actually true –– that I really could do anything I set my mind to.

    Why did Bucky’s story have such a profound impact on me? Because his life was living proof that an individual’s work does matter, and that it can have a profound impact on the world. Here’s the short story. Bucky Fuller was a brilliant man, but he considered himself a failure because of his frustration working within the corporate system of America and the bureaucracy of government. So when he was a young man in his 30s, with a wife and daughter, he made the decision to end his own life. At the eleventh hour, he decided that if his life had come to that point and wasn’t worth anything, he might as well conduct an experiment with his remaining years. He vowed that from that day forward, any and all work he would do had to benefit 100 percent of humanity. What a bold statement. Talk about your big, hairy, audacious goal. Really, everything you do. Benefit every human. Really? Yet that is exactly what he did.

    Here are his most noticeable accomplishments: 28 Patents; 30 Books; Geodesic domes –– the strongest most sound structure system in the world; Dymaxion House –– a more efficient way to build a better house; Dymaxion Car –– 3 wheels, sat 12 and got 60 miles per gallon; Dymaxion Map –– a new map of the world that doesn’t distort actual land mass like a globe does; World Game –– think the opposite of War Games and the notion of dividing and conquering; Coined new concepts –– Spaceship Earth, Synergy, and Tensegrity; and Fullerenes –– carbon molecules that were named after him because they are shaped like geodesic domes.

    So, yeah, he mattered. I would call Bucky Fuller probably the greatest altruist that ever lived. He proved that only good things can come from being an altruist and being proud of it. Bucky had a profound impact on the world and his contributions are enormous. Altruism fueled his life and he went on to create for five more decades. His life and work encouraged thousands of others to do the same. And I am one of those people he inspired.

    So in June of 1990, I founded Cactus with two partners who took that leap of faith with me. From day one, part of our vision was to help support the growth of non-profit organizations by bringing to them the same level of branding and marketing usually reserved for big companies. Together with my business partner Norm Shearer and the other 48 people at Cactus continue this commitment today. And we believe that we can do meaningful work that makes a huge impact for all sorts of great brands in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

    Over the past 23 years, we have had the honor of working with 78 cause-related organizations. Most of the work was pro bono, some of it was heavily discounted and even some of it was paid work with big media budgets. But all of it meant more than a job to us. It meant that we were bringing the power of branding, marketing smarts, creative solutions and world-class production to non-profit organizations, government agencies and foundations. This work has included a diverse range of issues, including sustainability, environmental, public health, tobacco cessation, mental health, obesity, housing, employment training, violence prevention, substance abuse, health screening and prevention, human services, fine arts, culture and outdoor recreation.

    I am proud to work in an industry where creative agencies of all sizes and types contribute thousands of staff hours and millions of dollars in pro bono services every year. Our industry has enormous power because of our ability to solve any problem through innovation, ideation and creativity. And I’m happy to see more and more agencies talk boldly about doing work that makes the world better rather than worse.

    The most famous example is creative icon Alex Bogusky, who after moving to Boulder and leaving CBP, publicly renounced the sins of his past and made a commitment to get to get back creating positive change in the world. Alex has a huge following and a loud voice and I was really glad to see him use it that way. It surely inspired even more creative agencies to do the same. The important thing to remember is that we all have the power to influence society, in either direction.

    The reason I started to do some soul searching on this topic was because of a recent invitation I received from AD2, the young leaders of the Ad Club of Denver. They asked me to give a talk about the value of public service work in the creative community and a behind-the-scenes look at the Man Therapy campaign. The event is a fundraiser to support AD2’s public service campaign for this year’s non-profit partner, We Don’t Waste, an organization that works to ensure that good, quality food from restaurants and caterers does not go to waste. The event is $20, which includes free food and craft beer from our friends at the Odell Brewery. The event is Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m. at Thrive in Cherry Creek. Please RSVP for the event at http://adclubdenver.com/ad2-public-service.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Thank You, Brett Robbs.

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    I know you’re not one for the spotlight so I apologize in advance for the public thank you note. It’s just that as I sat down to write this it felt too small. Maybe by sharing my gratitude with the world it will seem more worthy of one of the finest men I’ve ever met.

    In a business dominated by greed and self-importance you started my career by teaching me humility and kindness. Most people probably don’t have someone to point to as the lone reason for their entire career, but I do. While I’ve been fortunate to work for and learn from some very smart people, none of it would have been possible if you hadn’t taken pity on me 14 years ago.

    I knocked on your office door as a business major without a “book” or an idea of what a book was. A couple of days later I showed some horrible attempts at print ads that I drew with a box of colored pencils I bought at McGuckin’s. While this convinced me to be a copywriter it somehow convinced you to let me into the ad program. I’d like to flatter myself by saying you saw something in me, but as anyone who has ever met you knows, you were just being nice. As you always are.

    Since then I’ve watched you grow CU’s ad program into one of the best of the country. Not because you taught every single student who came through the progam, but because you cared about each and every one of them. You’re the reason I was lucky enough to have Schoenie and Norm as teachers, and today’s students are lucky enough to have Austin, Barrett and Noah. You care, and you’ve always gone out of your way to find teachers who do as well.

    I know I wasn’t the first beneficiary of your kindness (pity), nor the last, so on behalf of all of us, thank you. Enjoy retirement, you deserve it.

    Sincerely,

    Jeremy Seibold

  • Hey, Spike Lee and Zach Braff; You’re Not Welcome.

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    Before I dive into the meat of this rant, I will preface it by saying it will not contain my usual heady mix of swearing, foul metaphors and other colorful language.

    The main reason is that I want this one to get a lot of traction, and I don’t want any of that window dressing to get in the way. And, judging by my last rant, it seems most you think the R-rated Felix is not making much sense. I want this plea to make sense to every tortured soul and fellow creative that takes the time to read it. So, for those very few of you who came here looking for foul-mouthed frippery, I apologize.

    Oh, and if you prefer my diatribes without the profanity, let me know. As much as I enjoy the process of speaking in a way that I rarely get to during my daily life, I would rather get my point across clearly, and to a larger audience.

    OK. That’s out of the way. I’ll still bend and break all the usual grammar rules though. If you don’t like that, well, you get no apology. This. Is. How. I. Do. It.

    So, what are we talking about? It’s called Kickstarter, and I’m sure you know it well.

    I love the idea of Kickstarter; and as you know, I don’t truly love a lot of things in this world.

    Someone has an idea. But, they just don't have the money to get it off the ground. So, they come up with a Kickstarter campaign, bringing the masses together to collectively get support from thousands of individuals. $50 isn’t a lot. But if 20,000 people give $50, that’s $1 million. To put that in perspective, Madison Square Garden can hold 20,000 people for a concert. And you know they all pay more than $50 to get in.

    This is the power of crowd funding, and Kickstarter. A complete unknown with a great idea or project actually has a shot. They can make it happen. Doors that never open to them now have a “welcome” mat outside.

    This is, for lack of a better word, tremendous.

    Some recent Kickstarter projects I have personally supported include:

    Pressy – The Almighty Android Button
    Glyphs & Co. – The Grammar Army Knife (oh the irony)
    Sidecar – Laptop to Tablet Connector

    I like the fact that out of determination and hard work, people just like you or I can get the funding they need to make dreams become a reality.

    Emphasis on “people like you or I.”

    So, when I see the likes of Spike Lee, Zach Braff, and the team behind Veronica Mars, are invading Kickstarter for funds, it really ticks me off.

    This is not a place for the wealthy.
    This is not for the rich and famous.
    This is not for the elite.

    Kickstarter is for the little guy that needs some help. The nobody. The David trying to take down Goliath. The you. The me. The unwashed masses, so to speak.

    And yet, we are hearing of celebrities rushing to Kickstarter and using their considerable fame to bag the money they want.

    Not need. Want.

    Spike Lee has a net worth of $40 million. Let that sink in for a second. It's not like Spielberg’s $3 billion, or the $7 billion George Lucas fortune, I’ll admit that. But it’s not exactly small change either. $40 million dollars, and he’s on Kickstarter looking for $1.25 million. To you or I, that’s a fortune. To Spike, it’s a cash withdrawal.

    Zach Braff, he’s got a net worth of $22 million. And he went on Kickstarter to raise $2 million. He got over $3 million by the way.

    Then there’s the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign. Screenwriter Rob Thomas has a net worth of $17 million. Kristin Bell, she’s not quite up there yet, she’s only got $8 million. They went on Kickstarter looking for $2 million, and got almost three times that amount. Why? Because unlike other Kickstarter projects, these have famous people behind them, giving them the push they need to hit the spotlight.

    So to add insult to injury, they are getting massive support because they already have the fame and influence that 99% of the people on Kickstarter wish they had. With it, they wouldn’t need Kickstarter in the first place.

    I don’t have anything against Spike Lee, Zach Braff or Kristin Bell as artists. They do some good work, they deserve their fame and fortune. But here’s the thing. They made it. They got to the top, and it’s a very small percentage who ever reach those giddy heights.

    These people are all multimillionaires, sure. But they have something even more valuable than money. They have connections.

    They have names and careers that open doors.

    Even if Spike Lee doesn’t want to go to a studio, he can borrow the money from just about any financial institution or entrepreneur, and pay it back with the profits. If he doesn’t think there’ll be a profit, that’s on him. Why should he get regular people to fund his personal projects?

    Spike says “I was doing Kickstarter before there was Kickstarter. I was writing letters, making phone calls, shaking hands. This is not necessarily new to me.” So…do it again now!

    The idea of raising funds is not new. But this venue, this particular outlet, is new. And it was not designed to help people like you, Spike. It was designed to help the Spike Lee of 1985, who was desperately trying to raise money for “She’s Gotta Have It.”

    Back then, yeah, you deserved Kickstarter, Spike.

    Now, and I hate to point this out dude, but…you're rich and famous! Sorry, but you are. You know everyone in the whole messed up town of Hollywood. If you want a meeting with the head honchos at Paramount or Time Warner, you pick up the phone. And guess what…they take your call.

    Think I can do that? Or a struggling filmmaker like Steve McClure? He’s a guy in Colorado who's been trying to raise $20,000 for a documentary he’s making. He went on Kickstarter, and didn't hit the goal. Not even close. He tried again with a different venue and a lower number, and finally met his goal. Many people in Colorado, and across the nation, have backed him. But he’s not a well-known guy. He doesn't have connections. He struggled, like most independent filmmakers do.

    Let’s look at that goal again. $20,000. That’s the cost of 10 courtside seats at a Knicks game. And Spike, you have season tickets. You can blow that kind of cash in a weekend, and it won’t make a dent.

    Seriously, what happened? Imagine if the Spike Lee of 1985 had to compete with the Spike Lee of today. He’d be shut out. You, Spike, are hogging the very opportunities that got you where you are today, and it’s nauseating.

    The bottom line is this. Kickstarter should be left to those that need it. Rules should be put in place that prevent the rich and famous from using it. Perhaps even income limits, like certain affordable housing ventures stipulate, or that you need to be under to get welfare and food stamps.

    This is not charity, but it is for the needy. Spike Lee, Zach Braff, you’re not needy…you’re just plain greedy. And this does not sit well at all.

    Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

  • The Pitch Season 2 Episode 6 – Gibson. Yes, Gibson.

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    Not Gibson dry cleaning services, or Gibson truck rental. This is Gibson guitar. A brand we all know, many of us love, and most of us would do a deal with Satan to work on. Well, maybe that’s just because I love Gibson, but still.

    I have a feeling this episode is going to be as disappointing as the final season of Dexter. Although, maybe that’s going too far.

    Two local Nashville agencies step up to the plate to try and win the business. Powell Creative, and DBD. Powell Creative is 22 years old, and has worked on brands as diverse as breweries and real estate. Their website is not filled with work I’d call impressive. It’s what you’d expect for a small agency working in Nashville. Mediocre, verging on laughable. Not a good start. The owner says each team member is as good as he can find. I’m guessing he can’t find people of the caliber W&K can. Then we meet Christa, who is apparently a stunning leggy brunette who uses her killer good looks to her advantage.

    Yeah. You guys all need to get out more. Try walking through the offices of CP&B, you’ll seem some real tens. Not that it matters, but hey, you started it.

    DBD is a family business started in 1976. The father has passed it on to the son. Whether that was a good idea is yet to be seen. A quick look at DBD’s website puts that question to rest. They suck.

    So, two below-par agencies pitching for a client neither of them has any right pitching to, based on their portfolios. This sounds familiar.

    The client meeting with Gibson is surprising. Their head office has seen better days. The meeting room itself is a million miles away from the rock ‘n’ roll image of Gibson. The brief is to bring Gibson to a wider, and younger audience, and to get away from the guitar-only image. As I said in the past, that’s a client problem. The CEO then goes on to say they want to be known as a “music and lifestyle” company. Edgy. Cool. Funny.

    Oh. Dear. Why do one thing well, when you can do ten things ok? That’s how this feels. The CEO also announces that he’s worked with agencies in the past for only short periods of time. They fell short of his expectations. This means he could be a really difficult client. Time will tell.

    We focus on DBD first, and there’s a weird father/son vibe going on. The boss doesn’t like big groups, so he culls it to four. They stumble around and end up pursuing emotion without sound. Could be interesting. Gibson audio: Hear it.

    On the other team, one of the Powell Creative team has an idea of reshaping your ear into the shape of an instrument. Hear what you want to. I can see it for a guitar. A flute or a saxophone, you’re fucked. Or deformed.

    The client visit brings panic. “To show, or not to show. That is the question.” It’s a toughie. Do you put it all out there and risk stealing the thunder of your pitch? I feel for them. But when the client comes, you have the chance to redirect. Use the client. Fuck it. Get their buyoff.

    And the Gibson head honcho gives Powell a 1/10. Ouch. And it’s not surprising. Ears with pianos cut out of them. “Power your own sound.” It’s not subtle, like the Gibson client says. It’s trite, wishy washy “branding” that does nothing to empower people. Would you look at an image of a piano in someone’s ear and go “fuck me, I better check out the Gibson website” or would you turn the damned page? It’s the kind of advertising that he’s obviously hated in the past.

    Time to start over, and turn up the heat. The Powell heads keep on the same road, but end up at “life played through Gibson.” And they’re using a “play” icon to put the imagery inside.

    That’s original. Actually, it stopped being original about 50 years ago. God, I love to bitch, you know that. But right now I’m tired of it, as I’m sure you are. I really want to scream and shout about some good ideas for fuck’s sake.

    DBD have the campaign idea of “Gibson Sound: Hear It.” We see people playing guitar with lacrosse sticks. Seems like it demeans the brand, and makes light of the power of Gibson. At this point, it’s no surprise. Then things get bizarre. The photo shoot has a guy with brown jizz (sorry, but it’s relevant) covering his face. And the guy with the messy face gets to go to the pitch. Daddy said yes.

    Anyway, the pitch finally comes, after various questions about being parents and marrying life with advertising. I agree, it sucks. But it’s the nature of the beast.

    The DBD work is cliché and expected. The video is awful. The client says it’s too subtle. He says he doesn’t get the message. Yep. I can’t figure out who is more annoying. But, they bring out the face-melting, mouth-exploding stuff, and it’s worth looking at. I think it’s a bit goofy looking, but it wouldn’t be ignored.

    Powell goes next. They bring out the secret weapon…Christa, the “hot” one. She presents the creative, which underwhelms. Play Life Through Gibson. Meh. It’s more generic, lifestyle crap.

    The Gibson CEO says Powell is the shit. They’re the winners. It’s awesome. So obviously they have the account. And the winner is…DBD.

    Once again, the way this shit is cut together makes you think one agency hat it won, when it always goes to the other. Did they deserve it? Honestly, both agencies sucked. I think it was another “lesser of two evils” decision.

    Do you agree? Have you given up weeks ago? Let us know. Because honestly, I’m getting burned out on shitty advertising.

    Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

  • The Pitch Season 2, Episode 5: Belittle Caesar’s

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    Wow, anyone else getting tired of this dumb series yet? Or these dumb reviews for that matter? I tell you, this show is just how Bill Hick’s described Cops. “I’m like a guy with a sore tooth, I can’t stop touching it. Ow. Cops is on. Ow.” Same here with this sack of shit show. If anyone from AMC is reading this, here’s how you make the show better:

    You don’t need better clients. You need better agencies.

    Unfortunately, the kind of agencies willing to go through this crap to win an account are not the ones we need. We want to see how solid agencies with great reputations go about pitching. Imagine Weiden & Kennedy up against The Martin Agency. Or Hill Holiday knocking blows with Fallon. Christ, even smaller agencies with chops would be awesome. Our own TDA_Boulder in one corner, and Bailey Lauerman in the other.

    Instead, we really are dealing with some small potatoes agencies here. And this week, we see two Chicago agencies go head to head: CommonGround and Bee-Line Communications.

    CommonGround stand out immediately as an agency that embraces diversity. You can’t knock them, it really is an agency filled with mélange of different people. It was nice to see. And they look like they have their shit together.

    Bee-Line, different story. It’s another mom and pop shop, with mommy running the show. And it’s based in the suburbs of Chicago, in a house that they’ve turned into a working agency. When the queen bee said they are a “full service global strategic marketing communications company” I knew this was a sign of things to come. Big, lofty boasting, but it’s all empty puffery. I mean…global? The site shows US, UK, and ASIA under the logo. The implication…they have offices in the US, the UK, and Asia. Do they? Nope. Just the one little house in suburban Chicago.

    So, the client is another famous brand — Little Caesar’s pizza. I’ve eaten it. It’s kinda crap. Worth about $5, but not much more. It turns out that this bland pizza comes from really good quality ingredients, including awesome, freshly picked tomatoes that are never frozen, and high quality cheese. Not pizza cheese.

    They want what most clients seem to want these days. Something that will go viral. A 30-second web spot, and social ideas to back it up. They also say “we’ll be working with you guys tomorrow” which probably means a tissue session. They could not expect ideas in that short a timeframe. Unless they’re complete cocks.

    After the client visit, where everyone had to look excited about eating shitloads of Little Caesar’s pizza, the real work begins.

    The expected clichés come pouring out. It’s all about strategy first. Let’s do killer creative. You can’t put a price on quality. Bee-Line comes up with the “Pizza Revolution.” Could have legs, but seems like it’s been done before. Oh, yeah, it has…for another pizza place. Panic mode. They switch gears and the new line is #PQuality. It sounds like equality. The P stands for pizza. It means “fresh for all.” I’ve seen worse ideas, but not many.

    CommonGround create an employee who loves the pizza ingredients so much, he starts spamming everyone on Facebook and Twitter. He’s that douchebag everyone hates. Great idea.

    At the pitch, CommonGround goes first. They introduce their dickhead employee, Chuck Parry, who won’t shut the fuck up about cheese. They show the 250 tweets and Facebook posts in two days. Then, they bring out the ace up their sleeve. A customer service rep issuing an apology that they are not apologizing for Chuck. See, edgy. Honestly, I think people will be so turned off by this dick that when this finally does come out, they’ll have already blocked Little Caesar’s. Who wants 100 tweets a day from an ass clown? This is like Joy from Progressive on crack. And we all hate her.

    Bee-Line goes next. They bring out #PQuality and it’s some of the most poorly designed and art directed shit I have ever seen. Really awful, student-type work. It’s cheesy. Oh, hey, hang on…cheesy. Cheesy pizza. #PQuality…#Piece o shit. It all fits.

    They also consider themselves experts in consumer engagement, and bring out the street team — a guy on a Segway handing out free pizza. Where he stores all this piping hot pizza is anyone’s guess. He’s wearing a Little Caesar toga tee —the only thing in their whole presentation I could see catching on, if they gave them out free with every pizza.

    Overall, it was embarrassing. Again. The client does thier best to talk nicely about both, before offering the account to the only agency that made sense –— CommonGround. I mean, they had to. But once more, it was the lesser of two evils. Maybe CommonGround will come up with something better once they really start to work on it.

    One thing’s for sure. They’ll be doing it on stomachs full of cheap, cold pizza from Little Caesar’s. Poor bastards.

  • The Pitch Season 2, Episode 4: Tommy Ba Ha Ha.

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    My apologies for another late review. What can I say, I work in advertising. It’s a lot easier watching the show while I’m multi-tasking than it is to sit down and review it. I’m missing out on some quality sleep writing this.

    So, two agencies once again meet to compete; Pasadena Advertising and Neuron Syndicate. I laughed out loud when I saw the second name on screen. I’m pretty sure that’s the most pretentious agency moniker I’ve ever seen. You’d have to really sit down and think hard to come up with something worse. Maybe “The Cognitive Catalysts” or “Braintrust Consortium.” Nope, they’re not even close. Help me out here.

    The client on this episode is the women’s sportswear division of Tommy Bahama. They consider themselves the purveyors of the “island lifestyle.” Not in a Quiksilver way, more of a Quiksilver’s dad way. Personally, it’s not my kind of gear, but this stuff has a market. And it’s a big account. I mean, I’ve actually heard of this one.

    Pasadena Advertising is run by a husband and wife team. Instant alarm bells. She seems to wear the pants, he loves playing with words. And his dog. I’m not sure how well these husband and wife teams work out, generally they seem to have major conflicts. But it’s worked for them for over 20 years, even though they’ve laid off a massive amount of people – from 100 people to a handful. They seem down to earth though. Nice. That’s the word. Nice. But does nice cut it?

    Neuron Syndicate, on the other hand, are way up their own assholes. The name suits them. It screams pretentious and they live up to that, right down to one guy’s two-foot long ponytail. They also just hired a new business guy, John Fox, who they clearly hate. I’ve heard of having a dissenting opinion in the office, but this borders on disdain. And he also hasn’t sold any business yet.

    Now, the good part — the client brief. Is it incisive? Is it clear, providing solid direction? Well, it’s not too bad. They want to reach the average woman and tell her about Tommy Bahama. They want print and catalogs. They don’t want clichés and coconuts. It seems like enough for a good account manager to work with. They tell the agencies they’ll be visiting in a few days, which could mean one of two things — a tissue session, or “show us where you’re at.” I’m betting it’s the latter.

    Neuron Syndicate then blurt out the most contrived, trite shit I’ve ever heard — "it’s not about lifestyle, it’s how you style your life." My head hurts. What the fuck does that even mean? It’s generic vomit.

    They present it to the team; they look appropriately sickened. Excellent. They have a clue. John Fox hates it. There’s a lot of internal bickering going on. Seems like there’s some major dysfunction here.

    At Pasadena, it isn’t much better. They basically have the “idea” of a tampon commercial. In Tommy Bahama clothes, women go zip lining and ride motorcycles. Christ. Old lady owner wants her to be sailing. It all sounds like a crap fashion shoot.

    The client comes to both agencies looking for “what have you got?” and are disappointed. Not surprising. But Pasadena made some rum cake! Like I said, nice. After some rehashing, they come up with “Where To Next?” For this kind of brand, it’s not too bad. Of course, it’s all in the strategy and execution, and it looks a lot like catalog shots. The virtual dressing room is one of those “nice try” ideas. You’re trying to be cool and modern, but it was done poorly. How does that encompass “where to next?”

    Back to Neuron. They still love “style your life.” Unbelievable. However, I do like some of the guerrilla ideas. The subway beach takeover had merit. How that says “style your life” is beyond me, seems like a stretch. The whole campaign feels very much style over content in fact.

    The pitch comes, and the Neurons go first. Their “style your life” line seemed to go down like a bucket of cold sick. The client is missing a lot of their product shots, and says the work looks generic and like a cruise line. They crap all over it. They hate it.

    Right now, my money is on Neuron to win this one.

    Pasadena goes next, starting with a brand video that reflects on “where to next?” Then the presentation goes in the shitter when the tech fails. I feel for them, we’ve all been there. It’s one of those “fuck, kill me now” moments. So they wing it for a while. And judicious cutting makes it seem like Pasadena have walked this.

    You know what happened. They gave the account to Neuron Syndicate, probably because they don’t want a mom and pop shop with grandma at the helm. They even said, “you don’t hire an idea, you hire an agency.”

    I wonder, is that true?

    Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

  • The Pitch Season 2, Episode 3. Square Trade.

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    Another week, another two agencies come into the ring to duke it out. This time, it was the turn of Mischievious Studios and Heavenspot to compete for the business. And the business…SquareTrade – a tech warranty company.

    I’m not going to bother with the usual, in-depth over-analysis of the two agencies competing. The last thing we need is another cease and desist (per my post on Episode Two).

    What I will say is that Heavenspot came across as the grown ups, and Mischievious Studios were desperate to be seen as anything but. “No one here at Mischievious Studios is older than 26.” That’s seen as a plus. Luke Sullivan is a corpse to these guys. They want to be the upstarts. The viral kings. In fact, that’s what they do. Viral videos. Kind of.

    Jimmy Kimmel’s “twerking fire” is a true viral video creation. Commercial Kings (Nope, Chuck Testa) know how to do great viral. The stuff these guys do is cheesy, poorly acted, over acted, campy and blatantly obvious. Take a look at their site and see how many “viral” videos you actually recognize. Oh, they also said “we don’t need to sell, we need to entertain.” Jesus H. Christ. Throw that one out in the pitch, I dare you.

    Once again, we get to the client brief. The SquareTrade meeting was the usual bollocks. A lot of peacocking and dick measuring from all involved. A Mischievious creative “accidentally” dropped his phone in water while has was washing windows (what?) the night before, and brought it to the meeting in a jar of rice. That was about as genuine as Dolly Parton’s cleavage.

    It turns out that SquareTrade doesn’t want something advertisingy. None of that crap. No ads. They want the real love of their customers to be encapsulated. And a platform for customers to share their stories. Imagine the fun times you could spend reading about warranties. Let the party begin.

    Something I should say here, and maybe I’m getting soft, is that I know it must be hard to come up with ideas with a film crew right there in your face. I couldn’t do it. I like to lock my door and think. Or brainstorm with a couple of trusted creatives. So, I get that this is no walk in the park. However, Heavenspot’s ideas verged on the blatantly obvious. "SquareTrade Saves." Blergh. The rehash, a support group, had promise but seemed very forced and overdone.

    Mischievious came up with an idea I liked, actually. I know, shocker. Being able to give your friend a replacement phone for free, because you’re a SquareTrade member, has appeal. We all like to be the hero, even a cantankerous old shit like me.

    After a tissue session with the client, both agencies have to hit the reset button. They dig in and get to work on their new big ideas.

    Mischievious go with the five stages of smartphone grief. Could be funny, although it will probably amuse them more anyone else. Heavenspot came up with the happiness tracker. Yeah, you can share with people every stage of your warranty process. Riveting.

    Then, it was time to hone their ideas into a dull point. Mischievious Studios bring out their helicopter cam, and no doubt they work that into every bloody ad they do. They certainly did here. Gimmicks, the 26-year-olds love ‘em. We also find out that the main guy at Mischievious Studious is a genius. But he does have the right amount of self-esteem for a creative Einstein, so don’t worry.

    The pitch finally came, and it wasn’t clear who was going to win this one. Mischievious looked like they had it; even though it was the same level of campy, cheesy crap they always trot out, the clients laughed. And the Heavenspot stuff was a tad mundane. Even the client said “will people really share their stories?”

    SquareTrade announced Heavenspot as the winners. Mixed emotions here, as I liked the people from Heavenspot but thought their work was humdrum. However, seeing the genius take a beating was fun.

    As an aside, when I saw the work from Mischievious, I swore it looked familiar. And the reason? It is. It’s currently being used, far more effectively, in a T-Mobile campaign with Bill Hader called Jump. Same concept, much better execution. Did Publicis rip it off? Highly doubtful, but I’m sure the genius kid at Mischievous Studios will say they did.

    So, another episode of 'The Pitch.' Another disappointment. Will we see any genuinely good work this season? Are you enjoying this season? Are you even watching it? Or reading this? Beuller? Bueller?

    Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

  • Using Your Brain as a Designer

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    “I really like it.”

    Probably one of the most important things I learned in design school, and subsequently in the working world, is that “liking” a design is not sufficient enough. That’s what separates art and design; art is subjective, design is communicative. It’s also, like Atomicdust Creative Director Mike Spakowski often says, disposable. Design always has new trends and technology always has new devices. The only thing that seems to have any longevity is the content behind them.

    It makes sense then to design around the message. After all, the purpose of any design is to remove obstacles and make it easier for people to understand a specific message. I am as guilty as any designer when it comes to getting swept up in the romance of making something look cool, but here are some things that help me keep a focus on the real purpose of what I’m making:

    1. Understand What You’re Trying to Say

    It’s surprisingly difficult to communicate something, when you don’t know what that something is. It’s your job to be a translator of sorts, explaining broad ideas and feelings in simple visual terms so you should probably know what those broad ideas and feelings are.

    2. Focus Group of One

    Chances are the people you are talking to are actually people. And what luck, you’re a person too. Test your design on yourself. Would you really read that chunk of text in the corner? Does that button actually make you want to click it? Does this piece of marketing accurately communicate the right message?

    3. Be as Genuine as You Can

    There’s a lot of marketing in the world and we’re bombarded with it every day. Subsequently we’re starting to automatically rate things as believable or unbelievable and that determines to what we’ll give the time of day. Avoid making outrageous claims, or implying that stock image perfection is exactly what you’re selling. Where does your design piece rank on the believable scale?

    4. Now, Make it Cool

    You’ve got the basics of the message, it’s a functional piece, and your tone is believable. Here’s your chance to flex (within reason) your design skills. Half the fun of being a designer is creating something that communicates a message and makes people say, “I really like it.”

    - - -

    Originally posted on Atomicdust's blog. Beth Porter joined Atomicdust as a design intern in 2011 and has been designing there ever since.

  • Stop Trying To Solve The Client’s Problem

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    It’s been a while since I really went off on a fundamental aspect of the advertising business, but after sitting through a deluge of piss-poor creative briefs, the time has come. And it has been a long time coming.

    Let’s start with a scenario.

    The client, let’s call them Amalgamated Durables, sets up a meeting with your agency. Specifically, the account director, hopefully the creative director, and maybe even the owners (having the owners there can be good, or really fucking bad).

    After the usual introductory bullshit and ass kissing, the client gets down to brass tacks. And it is at this point you get to the meat and taters of the meeting. What’s the client thinking? Do they have a great new product or service? Do they want a launch campaign? Do they want something revolutionary?

    The client will lay it out on the table, and the agency representatives will, hopefully, probe for the details. And then the agency kicks into gear, with a creative brief that will address the problem at hand and the direction the creatives should head in.

    What problem?

    These days, it seems to be the client’s fucking problem. And 99% of the time, that is the wrong approach.

    Here are a few examples of problems I have seen in the last few months, both at my own place of work, and from other places that reached out and touched me in that way ad folks tend to do. OK, they were venting.

    “We need to penetrate the marketplace and gain at least 5% market share.”

    “Consumer opinion of the latest widget has been poor. Its image needs revamping.”

    “Sales are down. Please create a campaign to boost 4th quarter income.”

    “Apple is kicking our ass. Let’s kick Apple’s ass.”

    “People don’t like this new flavor, and we invested $2 million in it.”

    “No one knows who the fuck we are!”

    The savvy among you will know why that’s wrong. If you’re a moronic account executive who thinks these are legitimate problems to solve, please do us all a favor and find a job in another industry. Maybe one that involves food service or bar work.

    If you're in the creative department and think they are problems you can solve, bang your head against the wall a few times. Then, pity yourself for having rotten agency experiences and awful mentors.

    Those are not problems that need to be stated. They can be listed in background information, or “other considerations.” But they are not problems your advertising should be solving.

    Your advertising needs to solve the CONSUMER’S PROBLEM.

    Sorry for the awful use of caps, but I had to. It came over me like an ocean of jizz at a bukkake competition.

    So, what’s the consumer’s problem?

    It’s something that can be solved by the client’s product or service. That’s the problem you have to solve, and it should always be the first place to start.

    Consumer problems include:

    “My phone bill is too damned high.”

    “This itchy asshole is killing me. And I wiped. ‘Roids!”

    “I don’t have much time to clean my shitty house.”

    “Just once I’d like an energy drink that doesn’t taste like battery acid.”

    “My 401k looks about as healthy as a Steve Jobs did before he kicked the bucket.”

    “I hate my fucking job.”

    Ah, I hear what some of you are saying. Sometimes, there’s no problem to solve. Like selling Pepsi or chips or flights. Or, the consumer problem could be solved by your product or service, but also every competitor’s out there.

    That’s when you dig deeper and find out why your product would be a better fit for the consumer than the one they have, or the others on the market.

    Pepsi is sweeter than Coke. Maybe Coke would be a better choice. The chips you’re eating right now don't have the flavor burst you’re looking for. XYZ airlines doesn’t charge a baggage fee. Or it has more flights to different destinations.

    You’ll find it. And you can use it to create a problem you can then solve. Yes, I did just say that. Create a problem for the consumer, then solve it. This is a basic advertising premise that has always been a part of our industry.

    But what you cannot do is dive headfirst into a project that is trying to solve the client’s problem. Their problems are always the same.

    We want more sales.
    We want more buzz.
    We want more customers.
    We want less bad press.

    Blah, fucking, blah. We know. Every creative knows. And seeing these stated as the problem to solve is about as useful as telling coal miners they need to dig for coal.

    No shit, Sherlock.

    Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

  • 50 Things You Never Knew About Aardman: Part Two

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    Here's Part Two of our Aardman exposé. They invited us down the other day and we hoovered up a ton of facts, 25 of which are regurgitated here:

    26. Head honchos, David Sproxton, Peter Lord and Nick Park are in every day (apart from holidays and off-site shoots).
    27. They've been in their current building for four years. It's shaped like an 'A'. Ish.

    28. Before that they were in a building 10 yards away - which still houses the studios and workshop.

    29. Their tech guys have an office called 'Boffin City'.

    30. Aardman have their own canteen.

    31. The tea's better than the coffee.

    32. The canteen's wall is lined with thumbnail portraits of the team, past and present - including voice talent they've worked with, like Sir Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman.

    33. One of the portraits has a willy.

    34. They have their own sound studio and voiceover booth.

    35. They have their own post-production facilities - 3D, compositing, grading, Smoke and all that.

    36. Their lift features the voice of Wallace (aka Peter Sallis).

    37. They have a garden where they grow strawberries and rhubarb (a tad neglected).

    38. They broke the world record for smallest stop motion character animation with 'Dot' for Nokia and Wieden & Kennedy.

    39. While they were at it they decided to break the opposite record - largest stop motion character animation - with 'Gulp'.

    40. The boat they used for that sits in the Aardman garden next to the pond.

    41. Aardman is named after the first character Sproxton and Lord animated - a superhero called Aardman ("...sort of Batman gone wrong... a complete idiot").

    42. They got paid £25 for that job.

    43. Their adopted local is the The Orchard Inn. Nearly all Aardman nights out start here. It doesn't look that salubrious from the outside...

    44. They have their own cinema, seating 40 people. They use it for social events - not just premieres and client presentations.

    45. Gromit's eye's have a pin hole in the middle so they can be moved and rotated using a drawing pin.

    46. If you break a heel, the workshop's a handy place to get it fixed.

    47. There's fierce competition at Aardman fancy dress parties - especially from supposedly less creative departments.

    48. They have a department specifically to oversee worldwide merchandising.

    49. Their new series 'Canimals' is going down a storm in South Korea.

    50. Aardman has artwork and props from their productions dotted al over the office - in Reception especially. This is from the film 'The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!'.

    Here's Part One in case you missed it. This piece was cross posted from The London Egotist.

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