The Super Bowl and what it says about me

February 2, 2009

I’m pretty much obligated to watch the Super Bowl. As an ad guy and all, I know that for the next couple of weeks, people will ask me what I thought about the ads. So I watch.  For the record, I didn’t think there was a lot to write home about.  There were some decent spots.  I laughed out loud a few times. I was surprised at what some companies spent.  And the game? Pretty darn good. I wanted the Steeelers but found myself happy when Larry Fitzgerald sprinted into the endzone to take the lead.  And when Santonio Holmes reeled in that catch and managed to keep two feet in, well, I was happy again.

springsteen-slideBut maybe what I noticed to most about the Super Bowl was the halftime show. Springsteen. The guy is still a showman.  I’ve seen him live a couple of times — but not for something like a two decades or something. So when he made for the piano and jumped up on it with a low degree of sprightliness, alarm bells went off for me.  When he jumped from the piano, I winced. And when he was down with the microphone, I was sure his knees weren’t going to allow him to get back with any grace whatsoever.

I guess I was relatively wrong. And, judging from posts like this and the tweets in response, perhaps I’m in a distinct minority.  springsteen-tweet1

I read the news today, oh boy

May 16, 2008

california ruling

Yesterday California’s Supreme Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. I should be walking on clouds today, but instead I’m fixated on what it all means and I have this dreadful sense of deja vu.

In the interest of full disclosure, marriage equality is something I absolutely believe in and have fought for both personally and professionally.  It was our agency, DDB in Seattle, that worked with Equality California Institute to develop the Let California Ring campaign and the television spot that, hopefully, helped create an environment where yesterday’s ruling is viewed by most as just. I spent many, many hours over the course of more than a year helping bring this creative perspective to life.

So I should be thrilled.  And in many ways I am.  But I also feel like the timing is as unfortunate as it was four years ago.  It was in the run-up to the 2004 Bush/Kerry election that gay marriage jumped onto the front pages and became national news.  San Francisco began marrying gay couples and the story became a media sensation.

But it was also clearly a gift for the right who used constitutional amendment ballot measures to energize conservative voters in swing states.  Conservatives used this as a wedge.  And it worked.  Look at Ohio.  Before Florida and hanging chads, the election in 2004 hinged on this state. Ohio’s anti gay marriage amendment drove a lot of very conservative voters to the polls — and convinced other voters who might have gone for Kerry to vote for Bush because he was the candidate who would protect “the sanctity of marriage.”

Are we about to replay 2004 all over again?  I’m sure there are many people I have worked with on this cause who will think that my view is far too pragmatic — that I have abandoned my ideals.  And, in some ways, I suppose this criticism is probably true.

Better books. Please.

May 15, 2008

I sat down with a young guy recently to review his book. He’d gone to a good, graduate level creative school.  I liked him.  Turns out we had some commonalities in our life and background.

But nothing about his portfolio of work excited me.  It looked like so many others I see.  There were spec print ads that used quirky visual solutions – but not in a very sophisticated way.  There were the out-of-home guerilla-ish ideas.  Books these days are often so formulaic, it’s unbelievable.

So, as nicely as I could, I asked him if he ever did digital work – anything on the Web.  “Oh, yeah, I love that stuff.  But I’ve been told to keep that stuff out of my book because it will just typecast me.  I’ll get stuck just being a “Web guy.”  Typecast?  The fastest way to be typecast is to show work that’s not reflective of our current reality and where the world is headed.  This guy should get a refund on his tuition because his professors gave him such profoundly bad advice.

A creative book is, after all, simply a means of showing a prospective employer how you think.  How you solve problems.  What kind of intelligence and insight you bring to a creative challenge.  I suppose it does level the playing field to some degree when all books have essentially the same kinds of work.  Then it’s all about the quality of the ideas – the creative thought – rather than how it’s delivered.

Except that’s presuming that how and where you tell a story – and in what combinations – isn’t nearly as important as what you say.  I know there are agencies out there whose go-to media continues to be TV, print and radio.  At DDB in Seattle, our world is very different.  And we need to see candidates who reflect a new way of tackling the world.  How do they think about sight, sound and motion in a digital age?  How will we consume information a year from now? What about social media?  What about surrounding your audience rather than using a single media in hopes of snagging them?  Imagination in the delivery of ideas is a lot about what creativity is these days.  It’s what makes campaigns greater than the sum of the individual executions.

Well, if your book is tradition bound, it’s going to be tough to excite us.  Some of the people I’ve been most excited about hiring recently are those people who clearly understand communications in this digital age, but also have the knowledge, desire and skill to ideate in traditional media.   They know how to bring it all together.  To surround an idea.

Without those skills, a candidate isn’t likely to find a job here.

PS  I’m not just talking about creatives, etiher.  The same is true if you plan to be a great planner, media strategist, or account person.  It’s a new day.

Can you get it TOO right?

April 28, 2008

apple-pc-mac-peopleYou’ve seen the ads. The Mac Guy talking with the PC Guy.  One very cool, easy going guy. The other flawed, but inadvertently lovable.

TBWA\Chiat\Day rocked these ads and sales for Apple have never been stronger, But according to a story I heard on NPR’s Marketplace, all is not well in Mac land.  Or maybe it’s more apt to say that maybe the account planners at Chiat got it a bit too right.  In a study done by Mindset Media, they found that Mac users are more likely to eat organic food, drive hybrids and, well, generally think a lot of themselves.  And that’s what they see in the Mac Guy.  Trouble is, a lot of Mac users don’t actually like that image — or self image.

So the question is, when it comes to understanding who your audience is, can you get it too right? When does confidence become smug?  Where’s the likability?  Do you need to leave room for the aspirational qualities your audience wishes they had?

Interesting questions.  And, come to think of it, seems like Mac Guy has been bending over backwards to be a little more charitable lately …