The 2nd Screen Super Bowl; Hollywood Outsourcing; Next Stop Pottersvile

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The Big Idea
Can’t Wait Nation.  Remember the good old days when stores didn’t start pushing the holiday stuff till October? Now it seems ‘back to school’ and Christmas stockings hit Target around the same time. And didn’t it seem like the Black Friday ‘Doorbusters’ this year started at midnight rather than 5am?  Why sell later when you can sell it now seems to be the modus operandi at work here. And we saw it again this week as America braces its girdles for the Super Bowl.  Dozens of Super Bowl ads were available to be seen by all over the Internet as brands desperately tried to emulate the buzz-stealing strategy employed by Volkswagen last year. Of course, VW enjoyed a first-mover advantage and had a genuinely good commercial, but nevertheless it seems that many brands were willing to break their spots early. I’m not sure I agree with this strategy. Apple’s 1984 ad is still (25+ years later) the gold standard for Super Bowl ads and it famously only ran once prior to the Big Game: At 1:00am in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 15.

Of course, if 1984 wasn’t like 1984, then 2012 certainly isn’t 1984 either. Today’s 24/7 news cycle means you’ve got to beat the competition and that means get your product (whatever it is) out there first. But as the week before the Super Bowl now becomes the new battleground, I wonder if the new, new strategy will be the old strategy: keep it under wraps and build anticipation. For a far more eloquent riff on this, go read James Othmer’s piece in Salon.

Graphic Novels (follow up)
In last’s weeks edition I touched on the expanding subject matter of graphic novels and the sophistication of the genre. Couple of interesting follow up points to that.  Jeff Howe, the guy who coined (or at least popularized) the term “crowdsourcing” runs a Twitter bookclub for The Atlantic called 1Book140. For the month of February they are going to be reading some really great graphic novels, including Maus, V for Vendetta and The Sandman. I think it would be brilliant for a hotel chain, cruise line or car manufacturer to use the graphic novel format to tell an original story exclusively for guests, passengers or owners.

In other graphic novel news, DC – along with Marvel one of the two major comic publishing houses and home to Batman and Superman – announced that they would be releasing new titles that would act as a sort of prequel to the Watchmen graphic novel.  Remember how everyone was really excited for the Star Wars prequels and then they came out and everyone hated them and hated George Lucas for killing their most special childhood memories? Well, that’s how comic fans are treating this news, except without the ‘really excited before they came out’ part.  There are a handful of classic blunders in this world: Never get involved in a land war in Asia; never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line; and don’t mess with comic book fan boys and one of their most beloved treasures.

“How To Be Black” – The instruction manual you didn’t know you needed
This week saw the release of How to be Blackthe satirical instruction manual from Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital for The Onion. Here’s an interview Thurston did with NPR’s Fresh Air and you can check out the website for more great content. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m betting it’s going to be thought-provoking and funny.

In memoriam
Yes, deaths come in threes is a superstition and a cliche, but recently we saw the passing of three interesting footnotes of popular culture.

Don Cornelius
 brought America a glimpse at what was going on in African-American culture for 35 years (’71-’06) via his television show, Soul Train. In many ways a mirror reflection of American Bandstand, Soul Train introduced more musical acts to the mainstream than would be possible to mention. Since the Cultural Singularity in 1986, Hip Hop has become the dominant cultural source in America so it’s hard to remember or understand how important Soul Train was in the 70s and 80s.

Angelo Dundee
 was a witness to many of the seminal moments in sport as the cornerman for Muhammad Ali. In many aspects of life, one person becomes the physical manifestation of the profession. In the 1970s, when boxing was a significant part of our culture, Dundee was the one name you knew from that world who wasn’t actually a boxer. And since we’re talking Super Bowl spots, check out this Pizza Hut offering from 1997 featuring Dundee and Ali.

Finally we come to Ian Abercrombie. You may not know the name, but if you’ve ever eaten a candy bar with a fork and knife, or danced to Next Stop Pottersvillethen you know I’m talking about Mr. Pitt.  Of course his career went beyond that role, but like many character actors he’ll be remembered for one carerr-defining character.

Outsourcing, Hollywood-style
Here’s an interesting little nugget from Hollywood Stock Exchange. The Top 10 trending star bonds were all foreign-born actors. Yes, this is a one-day snapshot, and a small sample size, but it does seem to say something interesting. A movie industry that is more culturally diverse? A dearth of U.S. source material? A weak U.S. talent pool? Cheaper labor? Perhaps it reflects something wider. In the last century, when America dictated global culture, stars from John Wayne to Robert Deniro to Harrison Ford, Sly Stallone and Tom Hanks were the standard bearers.  Now, as America stands upon that global perch uneasily, our movie stars no longer reflect a global aspirational quality (Clooney and Pitt proving the exception to the rule). The two actors to star in the biggest young adult franchises of the last decade (Harry Potter and Twilight): Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson. Both from Blighty. For goodness sakes, even Batman is English.

Super Bowl and the Second Screen
A final Super Bowl note to let you know that on Monday we’ll be pushing out an executive summary of  Super Bowl: Winner and Losers on the 2nd Screen. This report will look at how brands leveraged twitter on Super Bowl Sunday to extend their Big Game ad spend (or perhaps in lieu of one).

At the end of the month will have the full report. We’ll be sharing this throughout the agency and encourage you to share it with your clients if you find it interesting. And if you are interested in this sort of thing check out BrandBowl or this clever little thing from Brandwatch.

Something for the non-football fan this weekend (or for those who root for the Jets)
Can’t handle any more Super Bowl hype? Looking to hear commentary and ideas from someone not named Deion, Moose or The Bus?  This Saturday is TEDxBigApple. The invitation only event is sold out, but they’re going to live stream this event on Saturday at 3pm. You can watch a clutch of great speakers by tuning in here. The event is described thusly:

Disruptive Ideas with Near-Term Impact in housing, biotech, local spaces, biomimicry, fashion, business and much more. It will focus on ideas that are likely to change the world in the near-term (~3-5 years) instead of those whose impact is in the past or the distant future. We have chosen this around-the-corner time horizon because we believe, in our quickly evolving world, it’ll enable the impressive roster of speakers to share a clearer vision from their learned “crystal ball.” These ideas are expected to change and even transform the lives of the world’s poorest, the disadvantaged, and the everyday lives of peoples. The program is designed to spark deep discussion and connection. We hope it will inspire you to propel positive change in your life and the world.

Have a great weekend, here are the Beastie Boys on Soul Train to play us out. Check out the Don Cornelius name drops.

Super Bowl Ads: Six Great Performances in Super Bowl Ads

Aaron Rodgers Packers Super Bowl Winner

The Packers weren't the only ones earning statues last night.

Another year, another Super Bowl. While this marked the 45th time teams have met on the field of play to decide the NFL champion in a Super Bowl, this was the 28th season that the Super Bowl ads have generated buzz. Yes, it all started with the ‘1984’ Apple spot from Chiat/Day back in, well, 1984.  Since then, the Super Bowl ads have increased in grandeur, cost, and the interest level displayed by fans (and those of us in the marketing industry).  This year, if you were following the game (no, not the Steelers v. Packers game, the ad game) you were spoiled for choice. Adweek had full coverage, as did Ad Age. Brand Bowl, brought to you by Mullen and Radian6, was also a gathering place. These arbiters and scorekeepers focused, rightly so, on how well brands did with their Big Game efforts.  Brand Bowl determined Chrysler was a big winner and Adweek’s crew enjoyed the work by Volkswagon.

A lot of great work went into what I thought was a surprising number of good spots. While some spots fell short – Go Daddy’s Joan Rivers reveal and Groupon’s middle finger to social causes come to mind – many others delivered the goods.  But rather than focus on the brands or the agencies who created the spots, I’d like to focus on an element that rarely gets mentioned – the quality of the acting in the spots themselves. So, today, I’m unveiling the Anya! The Anya is named after Anya Major the actress/model/athlete who launched the whole Super Bowl ad phenomenon when she launched the anvil at Big Brother in that Apple ad. The Anya looks to highlight and honor the winning performances by those that appeared in the ads, for while a great creative idea is critical, the execution of that idea makes or breaks the spot. So, live from the Shrine Auditorium in beautiful Los Angeles, California… Here’s Ricky Ger… no, actually, maybe I’ll just host it myself this year.

Best Supporting Actor

The first big winner of the night for me was Audi. Their spot had multiple laughs, but the line of the night was “Hit ’em with the Kenny G” as uttered by the warden. I enjoyed the understated performance. There is just the slightest grin upon his face when he utters the line, a subtle hint to the diabolical evil that lurks within him – not unlike a James Bond villain.

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Best Supporting Actress

A tremendously weak field here. I’m loathe to reward Roseanne or Joan Rivers, so I’m going to go with the lead senior citizen from the Chevrolet ‘Misunderstanding’ spot.

“It’s a cruise for plus size individuals,” she explains, before getting in a nice product feature plug with “…eco, eco, eco.”

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Best Actress.

This was a tough year for women in the ads. Just not a lot of depth of choice. Guys and animals tend to get the best roles and if women are featured, it’s usually a very one dimensional role – or overly three-dimensional if we’re talking cleavage.  The Thespy for Best Supporting Actress goes to…  Faith Hill for her work in the Teleflora spot:

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I thought Faith came across very natural. Considering she’s not an actress by trade I was impressed by her work. The voice-over at the end has just the right delivery.  In a role that didn’t have much to work with she didn’t try to over-sell it, but rather played within the confines of the role. Well done, Faith.

Best Actor

I really enjoyed the Stella Artois spot and considered giving this to Adrian Brody, but ultimately I wanted to go with an unknown. In this case we have the rare tie as the Anya goes to both actors in the Coke “Border” spot. With absolutely zero dialogue, these two needed to bring the emotion through gestures, expressions and timing. It would be easy, especially  in a Coke ad, to go over the top schmaltzy here, but both play with just enough restraint. Yeah, it’s still a corny Coke ad, but I thought these two gave it just enough dignity.

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Special Category – Best Character Homage

I had to find a place to honor the Little Darth Vader from the Volkswagon ad.  If acting with no dialogue is a challenge, how about with a Darth Vader mask on? Yet, this little actor is able to portray a variety of emotions and suck you in, when it would have been easy to go over the top. Well done little man.

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Special Category – Best Voice Acting

Again, needed to find a way to work this spot in, just too good. The winner here is really the copywriting as noted at the time by Mike Arauz:

Whoa. Eminem in two commercials, and that Chrysler ad wins my award for best copywriting.
Mike Arauz

But great work though by the voice actor as well. That guy just sounds like the voice of Detroit.

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I’d love to know who were your winners and losers from last night. Who do you think turned in the best performances? Let me know in the comments.

Super Bowl Ads Fail To Deliver On The Night.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a Steelers fan.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a Steelers fan.

The Super Bowl has now come and gone. There was certainly plenty of chatter about the commercials but did any cut through the clutter? Did any stick?

I thought a couple were clever: Hyundai, Castrol, Coke with the bugs in the park; the Wes Anderson-esque one for, I think might have had a good one too.

Can any of the Super Bowl advertisers keep momentum going with online activations? I think that’s going to be tough. The game itself was very exciting, so no one is saying, “Well, the game was a dud, but what about those commercials?”  Between the game, the economy, the million and one other things going on in this world and you wonder if anything that aired last night will resonate beyond its initial context.

Here’s a look at various Super Bowl Ad reviews/ratings:

Jeremiah Owyang

USA Today

Ad Rants

DJ Francis

A modest proposal: 21,900 commercials for the price of 1

This Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday!, 30 second TV spots during the game will go for $3 million. That’s just for airing the spots and doesn’t include production.

Three million dollars to talk to consumers for 30 seconds. Not listen to consumers. Not even dialogue with consumers. Just talk to your consumers.

Here’s a proposal for using that money differently:

1. Identify 60 people: 50 states + DC + 9 from the following countries:

Brazil, China, Dubai, UAE, England, India, Israel, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa

Men, women, old, young, rich, poor, etc., etc.

2. Give them each US$50,000

Ok, stop right there. You just gave $50,ooo to an out of work factory worker, stay at home Mom with medical bills or a recently laid off finance guy. Stop here and you’ve probably already won. That’s $3 million.

3. But also give them each a video camera. Could be one of those Flip cameras, what are they, $100?

4. Ask them to do one, 30 second interview every day for a year. The question: “What does ‘America’ mean to you today?”

Let’s do the math:

60 people x 365 interviews = 21,900 thirty seconds spots

21,900 thirty second spots = 182.5 hours of interviews

Now you are not only listening to 182.5 hours of consumer feedback, you are sharing it with the world. Some of the interviews will be dull, uninteresting. But some – 100? 1,000? 5,000? – will be insightful, impactful and will travel the world via social media.

The entire concept will create what David Meerman Scott calls a World Wide Rave.

It’s more time consuming that producing one 30 second spot. But it lasts a lot longer because it’s not a spot, it’s an idea. Whether you sell soda, beer, financial services or cars, spreading an idea, engaging and listening to consumers is going to be a more successful strategy than just talking for 30 seconds.