Monday, March 29, 2010

Footlong, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Three posts in a row about Subway advertising? That's the meme talking.

But obsession spun into revulsion yesterday. During one of the car/fast food/cellphone/car/fast food commercial breaks interrupted on occasion by the NCAA tournament, a new Subway spot appeared featuring two guys and footlong meatball subs.

Their shared passion for...meatballs and footlongs...sends them off into a homoerotic reverie. When they snap back to the here and now, awkwardness and overcompensating bro-ness ensues.

Ugh. Didn't Snickers try this bullshit on the Super Bowl last year, playing homophobia for cheap laughs with the frat boy set? Just because Subway is (quite rightly) perceived as skewing towards women with their emphasis on healthy eating and weight loss doesn't justify this stupidity.

"I think I'll just stick with the turkey wrap."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

$5 foot longs are f---ing fabulous!

Vice President Biden caught on mic; calls health care bill a 'big f---ing deal'

How long before the F-bomb is dropped into advertising? It's going to be in my lifetime, I'm pretty sure of that. And maybe even while I'm still sentient.

Why am I so sure? Because I hear it every night on teevee, and every day seeping through someone's ear buds on the subway or the elevator. Advertising lags popular culture and mores, but only by about 5 years. By the time the generation of marketers raised on Jay-Z and The Sopranos makes it to the C-suite, you're gonna hear advertising that sounds just like open-mike night at the White House.

By the way, not to carp or anything, but "big f---ing deal" usually means it's not a big f---ing deal at all. What the Vice President meant to say was "...f---ing big deal" as in "That $5 foot long is f---ing fabulous!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

They're ambulance-chasing scum, but they can write a mean headline.

Law firms are right up there with dermatologists and local real estate agents for horrendous ads. They all seem to think that a wildly grinning shot of the boss, combined with Microsoft Word clip art and garish typography, are the ticket. For New York subway riders, Dr. Zizmor's oeuvre is the apotheosis of the genre.

But a few days ago, on the back of a city bus, I saw a simply art-directed ad for a slip-and-fall law firm (whose name I forget, unfortunately) with a picture of a hand gripping a cane and this headline:

We've never seen a cane strong enough to support a whole family.

Whoever wrote that, if handing out business cards in the ER doesn't work out for you, give me a call.

Friday, March 12, 2010

And the winner for Next Bit of Hip Jargon Destined to Wind Up in an Ad for a Tired,Dated Brand is...

..."I'd hit that."

The critical moment may have been when Gabourey Sidibe said it about Gerald Butler on the Oscar red carpet show.

You watch. "I'd hit that" will wind up being the new theme for Pepsi or Bud Light or KFC in, oh, 12-18 months. That's the usual time lag.

The ur-moment for this type of thing was when Buick--Buick!--appropriated "It's all good" for a while in the early 2000s. Although I guess car companies would shy away from this one. "I'd hit that" and unintended acceleration problems don't mix, even in adland.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The perfect killer meme.

Admit it. "Five Dollar foot long" is the last thing you hear in your head before you go to sleep and the first thing you think when you wake up.

It's OK. You've been attacked and overwhelmed by a perfect storm of a meme, as has everyone else. We're just mindless bots in Subway's world, and if you don't believe it, check the numbers. $3.8 billion in footlongs is a frikkin' pandemic of footlong consumption.

Who came up with this killer mental tapeworm? Hint: not corporate, not the ad agency and it wasn't heard first in a focus group room. A franchisee in Miami did it because he likes round numbers and it's easier giving change on a $5 item than it is on a $10.

So much for the consumer engagement strategy.

So why, why, is "$5 foot long" so mercilessly effective? Let's break it down.

First, it's a jingle. The biggest dirty secret of advertising is that jingles work. No creative under the age of 60 wants to do them, the great jingle houses are all gone, but jingles are what everyone remembers.

Second, "Five dollar foot long" is an incredibly felicitous combination of sounds. It rolls off the tongue like it was coated with mayo, and the alliterative repetition of F sounds gives it that final touch.

Third, it's amazingly and incontestably dirty, yet manages not to offend those whose minds don't go that way...whoever they are. I mean, it's a full 12 inches long! And only $5! That's a lot of...value.

As Jessica Simpson said, in reference to full 1080p HD television, "I don't know what it is, but I want it."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Taking down the wall.

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps
Haul them trusses down and get'em up them ramps...

But when that last guitar's been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano

I haven't posted for 2 weeks because I haven't done anything for 2 weeks except wrangle a huge, complicated new-business pitch into shape. The presentation was yesterday, it was kick-ass and now we wait.

And now I take down the wall.

The wall is covered in cork tile, and I've had one everywhere I've worked since I became responsible for other people's work.

The wall is the only way I know where I am on a project. It starts with a brief, pinned up on the extreme upper left, and then blankness. Slowly, thoughts, questions, to-dos, swipe, scrawled end-lines fill the wall. These, in turn, are replaced by layouts, scripts and key frames, and then comps, storyboards and ominous patches of bare brown cork representing stuff that still needs doing.

Eventually the wall gets filled, and its next role comes into play. The pieces get rearranged, clumped into buckets, put into order...and some get tossed. At this point, the wall is not a chalkboard, it's a scoreboard. And since my office door is open 99% of the time, everyone comes by to check the score.

It's all very low-tech and also, especially at the end, very 30,000 feet, which makes it easy to forget how every piece of paper that went up on that wall was turned into something actual and beautiful by incredibly dedicated, hardworking people working crazy stupid hours.

From the elegant "place mats" that greeted clients as they took their seats to the rocking goodie-bags they got on the way out; from the perfectly edited video clips to the carefully recreated retail shelf environment they assembled in the presentation room; from the hours of taping and transcribing interviews to the wee hours of proofreading and revising, here's to Meredith, Matt D, Kim M, Jess, Anthony, Katie and Liz.

And now the wall comes down...easy as pulling out a tack. Five minutes, and the wall is bare again. This afternoon, the first casting selects from an upcoming shoot go up.

But the band's on the bus
And they're waiting to go
We've got to drive all night and do a show in Chicago
or Detroit, I don't know
We do so many shows in a row
And these towns all look the same
We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
And wander 'round backstage
Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
And we remember why we came

--Jackson Browne, from "The Load-out"