Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cultural Alzheimer's?

The old cliche is that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.
In world affairs, the consequences are usually tragic. In advertising, they're more often inadvertently hilarious.

Last night I heard Electric Light Orchestra's "Hold on Tight to your Dreams" emanating from the TV and I thought, "What the fuck! The National Coffee Association is back on air?"

Because for those of us whose memories stretch back that far, that music is inextricably tied to a cheesy effort to make coffee hip. It was in the pre-Starbuck '80s when coffee sales were tubing and an entire generation was chugging cola for breakfast.

Except now it's the sountrack for the advertising for the new Honda Accord, which is a pretty good looking car from a pretty classy brand and now there's a sonic layer of cheese all over it.

At least in my mind. But here's my question: are the creators (and approvers) of the Honda work...
a) oblivious to the music's prior advertising life?
b) aware but don't care?
c) ironically commenting on it in some meta way that's beyond my comprehension, like sampling crap 70s pop songs in rap beats?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Freelance Envy

I had a bout of Freelance Envy recently, having brought in a team for a project I was just beyond the beyond-o on. They did their thing (very well, I might add), dropped off the files and their invoice and said the magic words, the words only freelancers get to say:

“Here you go. Hope you like it.”

I never had the intestinal fortitude to go freelance full time. Waiting for the phone to ring while writing out mortgage checks was just not something I could handle.

There was a brief period years ago while I was “exploring other opportunities” as the press release put it, when I did freelance, and boy, was it fun. It was good money, too, but honestly, if it weren’t for those pesky mortgage checks, I would have done it for free.

Think about it: an agency pulls freelancers in for only two reasons: 1) they’re short-staffed and the client’s freaking; or 2) the people on staff (or the last batch of freelancers) couldn’t crack it and the client’s freaking. Either way, the agency is desperate and at least temporarily open to a new take on things.

Not coincidentally, those are the optimum conditions for creating great work. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to deal with internal politics or client comments, and it’s a pretty sweet gig. You’re the Gunslinger. You come into town, take care of business, and ride off into the sunset.

But then two nights ago The Seven Samurai was on TV and I thought about those master-less ronin, with nothing but their swords and their honor as they wandered from gig to gig, and thought about all the great work freelancers do that wind up as meeting fodder, or with some other jackass’s name on it for the award shows.

That’s the flip side of “Here you go. Hope you like it.” And it is no small price to pay for freedom.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ideate this.

I love the new IBM commercials that riff off the stupid jargon infecting the process of coming up with new ideas. One part New Age hooey, one part consultant corporate babble, one part Dr. Phil "everyone's got a good idea" faux-empowerment, it's all captured beautifully in this campaign.

Here's my question: how many people within IBM (those good ol' "internal stakeholders") looked at these ads and didn't get the joke? IBM, like most other big companies, especially in tech, can ideate with the best of them.

A cursory look through IBM's website uncovered the following subjects:
"Expanding the innovation horizon"
"Drive strategic change"
"Transform your workforce"

That's halfway home on Bullshit Bingo, the way I play it.

By the way, if you've never played it, pick up your score cards here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Please, no more:

Plink-plinky pseudo-Phillip Glass piano scores that are supposed to signal "thoughtful."

Question-themed copy. Don't ask me where I want to go, what I want to do, what my dreams are, what I'm working for.

Sales "events."

Drawings layered onto photography meant to suggest "possibility." Sprint: haven't you seen the Microsoft spots?

Looking off-camera when you're supposed to be looking at me. Sam Waterston (and Bob Giraldi): I'm talking to you. I'd look at you, too. if you were here.

Vodka commercials filmed on yachts not tied up in the marina. If you want to get drunk and be a danger to others on the water, get a Cigarette boat.