Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ITALY: Can't Fend Off Fendi

This evening, I was meandering the streets of Venice, enjoying the old architecture, the cobblestoned streets, and the canal-view restaurants, when I looked up and saw this billboard. Interestingly, on all the streets that I had walked, this was the only billboard I saw...or at least the only one I noticed.

I must admit that while it is a relatively appealing billboard, it felt totally out of place on these charming Venician streets. To be frank, I was enjoying a break from the "outer world," where taxis honk their horns, cars dodge pedestrians, and billboards hawk their wares. In a sense, I felt like I had warped back in time to a gentler, kinder world where people cared about more than the brand name of their sunglasses.

But, on all other fronts, the charming city of Venice did not disappoint.

ITALY: Luggage Roulette

Have you ever wondered who owns the first bags that appear on the luggage carousel at the airport? Because, quite frankly, they always seem to go around and around and around ... with no one ever claiming those lonely, stray suitcases. As those one or two pieces of luggage pass you too many times to count, you continue to stare at the carousel, thinking that your luggage will suddenly appear, as if by magic.

Well, that happened to me today at the Venice airport in Italy. As I continued to peruse the pieces of luggage circling the carousel, it began to dawn on me that I was staring at a life size roulette wheel ... that happened to be advertising Casino Di Venezia. I must have read the name of the casino at least 12 or 15 times before my giant-sized green bag finally made its way to my side.

I love nontraditional advertising. It's ads like this that kind of sneak up on you, grab your attention, and then go on their merry way, leaving you informed - and possibly persuaded - in the process.

Molto intelligente.

HUNGARY: Have A Coke, A Kifli & A Smile

While in Hungary, I stopped to feast my eyes (and my stomach) upon kifli, fluffo, zservo, beigli, dobos torte, and countless other delectable treats at a local Budapest bakery.

In an instant, I flashed back to the days when my Grandmother (who immigrated to the U.S. from Croatia in the early 1900's) would make strudel, potica, and other favorites from her homeland. As kids, we welcomed grandma's treats, without a second thought to where the recipes originated from.

As I sat at a small cafe table enjoying my fruit-filled kifli, I noticed this Coca-Cola ad. I found it interesting on a number of levels:

1. I can't ever remember seeing pastries paired with Coca-Cola - it doesn't seem like a natural fit to me...kind of an overload on sugar.

2. This ad had quite a vintage feel to it, despite the new "Open Happiness" logo on the bottom.

3. I didn't need to be able to read the words to understand what the ad was saying.

Interestingly, despite a language barrier and an ocean separating Hungary from the United States, this ad did its job. It welcomed me to enjoy a Coca-Cola with one of the delectable pastries on display at this fine bakery ... without a second thought to where I originated from.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rapunzel Lets Down Her Hair For Pantene

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."

In order to convince Canadian consumers that new Pantene Anti-Breakage Shampoo is all it's cracked up to be, Pantene delivered a guerrilla campaign that made people stop and take note.

Pantene hung long braids from the windows of buildings throughout Toronto. Perched on the top of the braid hung a man climbing to reach his Rapunzel.

The message? Pantene's new Anti-Breakage Shampoo is so strong you could climb on it.

I would give Pantene a solid A for breaking through the clutter, while simultaneously slamming home their single-minded message.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

McDonald's Does The Hand Jive

Have you ever heard of Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding? They are famous Irish dancers who have appeared on stage with Riverdance, as well as other Irish dance productions around the world. 

But, their talents extend beyond doing fancy moves with their feet ... to doing fancy moves with their hands and arms, too.  

Last year, Cleary and Harding created a video that showed the world just how "handy" they were. Their debut YouTube sensation, "We No Speak No Americano," has racked up 7.5 million hits since its debut on July 25, 2010, entertaining people around the world.

Later that year, Cleary & Harding  put their hand-dancing skills to work for McDonald's in this video, by performing a four-handed flash mob while drinking Caramel Mocha at a McDonald's McCafe. 
I must admit that I would sit up and take note if Suzanne and Peter showed up at my local McDonald's.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Greatest Music Video Ever Made

On May 22, 2011, the city of Grand Rapids shut down a large part of their downtown to create a video that would indelibly change the world's perceptions of their fine Midwestern city. 

The video was a direct response to the "America's Dying Cities" online article published by Newsweek  earlier this year. In this article, Grand Rapids was selected as #10 on the auspicious list of dying U.S. cities due to population declines in recent years.

This unedited 9 minute, 49 second one-shot video was heralded by American film critic and screenwriter, Roger Ebert, as "The Greatest Music Video Ever Made."

The video features more than 3,000 of the city's residents. Set to a live recording of Don McLean's "American Pie," the video is chock full of dancing and guitar strumming Grand Rapidians, pom pon swinging cheerleaders, backhand springing gymnasts, pillow fighting teens, champagne drinking newlyweds, swing dancing couples, and much much more.  The video's crescendo is an aerial view of a place that Newsweek may have called "a bridge over troubled water" filled with those that are proud to call Grand Rapids home.

The video is carefully set to the words of Don McLean's famous song, showing football players passing a football to the words, "The players tried for a forward pass," a couple swinging their legs from the back of a pick-up truck to the words, "I was a lonely teenage bronking buck with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck" and the high school band marching down the streets to the lyrics, "the marching band refused to yield."

This expertly choreographed video simultaneously delivers the spirit of the residents of Grand Rapids, its attractive downtown and lakefront areas, its cultural diversity, and its unbelievably positive response to Newsweek's negative portrayal of their home.

After viewing the video, even Newsweek felt compelled to send a message to Grand Rapids, posting the following message on their Facebook page:

To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We're big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you're responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called -- not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal) -- and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn't endorse and wouldn't have employed. It certainly doesn't reflect our view of Grand Rapids.

Nice save Newsweek.

I have been to Grand Rapids many times, as a former client of mine (BISSELL) calls Grand Rapids home. On each of my visits, I found the city to be delightful, full of friendly, hard-working and caring individuals. I am amazingly gratified to see a city pull together in the midst of negativity, to produce an uplifting and inspiring work of art, when it would have been all too easy to lash back in a negative way.

This video should be a lesson to all of us...when faced with negative publicity, we have two choices: 1) Echo the negative response or 2) Find a positive way to turn the negativity into something positive.

KUDOS to Grand Rapids for not mudslinging. Maybe our nation's politicians should take note.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are New Cigarette Labels Too Graphic?

Front page, USA Today, June 22, 2011:

WARNING: In a new controversial push against smoking,
the FDA will require graphic photos on cigarette packs.

This headline really grabbed my attention this morning as I stepped outside the door of my hotel room in Dallas. When I took a moment to look at the pictures, I was stunned ... to the point that I actually looked at the newspaper once again to make sure I hadn't picked up The Onion rather than a USA Today.

My first reaction was this: Cigarette smokers know full well that every time they take a puff, they are increasing their chances of developing lung cancer ... just like an overweight person knows that repeatedly devouring large quantities of desserts makes them more susceptible to Type II diabetes or a heart patient understands that living a sedentary lifestyle in front of their TV makes them more susceptible to a heart attack.

So, why would the FDA open themselves up to a firestorm of controversy and criticism?

Which led to my second more thoughtful reaction ... Did the FDA conduct market research to prove that the insertion of graphic visual images on cigarettes deters individuals from smoking?

And, of course, the answer is yes.

Findings from international research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proved that, depending on the country surveyed, as many as 25-50% of smokers believe they would be more likely to quit smoking after viewing these images.

While I am quite confident that many smokers will yell "discrimination" when these changes go into effect, if it stops even a handful of young people from picking up their first cigarette and if it takes the "coolness" out of smoking in our nation's schools, this fundamental shift in "truth in labeling" is worth every criticism or snide comment received.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Slim-Fast Pulls A Disappearing Act

Slim-Fast uses guerrilla advertising to cleverly communicate their message to pedestrians.

The message?

Drink Slim-Fast and you'll be so skinny you'll fit through a sewer grate.


Certainly, but the message comes through loud and clear without spending anything more than the cost of an orange baseball cap.

I love the simplicity, delivery, and low cost of this advertising tactic.

The only thing I would change is to make the cap the same color as the Slim-Fast logo, which is more red than orange.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dirt Devil Ad or Exorcist Move Trailer?

If you're my age, you may have memories of the Exorcist or even Amityville Horror. You know the drill ... homes or children haunted by an unseen evil force. Heads spinning. Pea soup spewing. Priests praying chants. All of it leaving you with a somewhat unsettled feeling.

This commercial helps you feel the same sense of trepidation that a priest must feel as he confronts the devil he wishes to exorcise. It does the job so expertly that, at times, you actually feel like you are watching a horror flick rather than a TV commercial.

It isn't until the very end of the commercial when the brand being advertised is revealed. Instantly, you find yourself swinging from trepidation to hilarity in a few short seconds.

I don't want to spoil the plot ... watch it for yourself and tell me what you think of this ad!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Isenbeck Makes Men Want To Be Ballerinas

Every father dreams of his son becoming a ballerina, right?

Well, not exactly.

But, this commercial makes all hormone crazy teenage boys seriously think about becoming just that.

The spot opens with a group of guys having a beer together. One guy finishes off his brew and slams the empty Isenbeck stein down on the table, announcing, "Sorry, but I have ballet classes."

His friends look at him as if he's lost his mind, as he drapes the pink satin ballet pointe shoes around his neck and strides out of the bar. As he confidently walks towards class, man after man stares at his back as he passes by.

The scene flashes to ballet class. It is only then that one begins to understand exactly why he enjoys his ballet classes so much. Shot after shot of him perched beneath women in compromising positions paints a pretty clear picture of his "inside" look at women from all angles.

As the class files out, his friends all look at the young ladies with appreciation ... and at their friend with a whole new set of eyes.

He grabs a drink of his favorite beer and the super reads, "He who knows, knows. Isenbeck."

Definitely an entertaining ad guaranteed to raise a few chuckles. (Unless, of course, you happen to be a male ballerina.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

VW Piñata Hangs Tough

You're watching one of your favorite TV shows when a commercial comes on. Time to grab a snack or to make a restroom visit.

But, before you even have a chance to leave the room, a young blonde boy grabs your attention by smacking a piñata. Hard. And just like the Energizer bunny, he keeps hitting and hitting and hitting. As time wears on, he becomes more and more aggressive ... to no avail.

I think to myself, "Now this boy has a lot of rage inside of him."  Since I am often watching Criminal Minds when this ad comes on, the words "budding serial killer" wade unabated into the fringes of my brain, without permission from the kinder side of my brain.

Finally, this young lad gives up, mystified as to why his efforts have not opened up the treasure trove of goodies nestled deep inside the piñata truck.

Everybody stands by mute. What to do now?

Then, the gentle movement of the breeze turns the piñata truck and we see a VW insignia on its grill. A super comes up: "Built like a Volkswagen. The 2011 Tiguan." 

My husband and I laughed out loud the first time we saw this ad. Love it, love it, love it.

Unfortunately, VW vehicles are just not built for those of us who are over 6'0" tall (myself included).

But, thanks for the laugh anyway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jilted Lover Advertises Girlfriend's Abortion

In a rather shocking usage of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a 35-year-old New Mexico man - Greg Fultz - lashed out at his ex-girlfriend who allegedly had an abortion against his wishes.

This public display of exercising freedom of speech has resulted in a legal debate of epic proportions. At what point does freedom of speech step over the boundary and invade someone's right to privacy? Or at the very least, when does it become unethical or immoral to speak your piece?

Not surprisingly, Fultz's ex-lover has taken him to court, claiming harassment and violation of her privacy. While Fultz's billboard cannot legally be removed, a court official has recommended that he remove it. But, Fultz's attorney, Todd Holmes, doesn't agree, stating: 

"As distasteful and offensive as the sign may be to some, 
for over 200 years in this country 
the First Amendment protects distasteful and offensive speech."   

Friends have lined up behind the defamed woman claiming she did not have an abortion, but rather that she had a natural miscarriage.

Whether you are anti-abortion or pro-abortion, this billboard brings the issue of privacy in this country front-and-center. While I am a staunch advocate of exercising the first amendment right, one has to question the morality of what Greg Fultz has done. In my mind, he has clearly walked over the line in publicly denouncing his ex-girlfriend's alleged abortion.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Activia Lies To Mexican Consumers

"Release yourself from constipation."
"Release yourself from constipation."
"Release yourself from constipation."
Mexico seems to be on a roll lately with advertising that breaks through the clutter ... or, in this case, breaks through, well, bowel blockage.

According to Dannon's website, the company that produces Activia yogurt and this ad campaign, the probiotics contained in Activia help regulate your digestive system.

Very interesting analogy of farm animals to constipation. What are they trying to tell us? That when you're constipated, you look like a pig? Or you feel like a cow? Or you smell like a sheep?

I get the visual image of a large animal trying to fit through a very tiny hole, but that's where my understanding of this ad begins to fade.

But, my fundamental issue with this ad goes much deeper.

Let's chat about the promise that is inferred within this campaign ... eating Activia yogurt will help relieve you of your nagging constipation problems.

Activia has been under attack for some time, both in the private sector where lawsuits are occurring and in the public sector where the Federal Trade Commission has taken Dannon to task over their claim that probiotics help improve digestive health. According to this referenced article, "The Federal Trade Commission ruled there's not enough evidence to back up those statements, and now the French-based company has to pay up - big time. That means $21 million in settlements with state and federal regulators."

According to Ads of the World, this campaign just broke in April 2011, suggesting that Dannon has opted for an unethical approach to advertising within the Mexican market. While the FTC will ensure that U.S. consumers are no longer subjected to misleading advertising claims by Activia, our Mexican neighbors do not have the same luxury.

Shame on you, Dannon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yoplait Oversells, Underdelivers

The latest Yoplait commercial opens with a woman hungrily eying up a delectable raspberry cheesecake in her refrigerator. She goes through an internal struggle that many of us can totally relate to...

What if I just had a small slice?
I was good today. I deserve it.
Or, I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks.
And they would cancel each other out, right?
Or ... OK, I could have one large slice ...
And jog in place as I eat it.

So far, so good, right?
We've all encountered internal struggles like this at some point, right?

But, here's where things head south ... and fast.

In steps woman #2, who reaches for the raspberry cheesecake to satisfy that craving she's had all day. But, instead of reaching for that tantalizing cheesecake, she plucks out a container of Yoplait Light Raspberry Cheesecake.

It's not that I don't agree that Yoplait Light tastes good; I happen to be a fan. But, come on ... let's get real here. Comparing a container of raspberry cheesecake flavored yogurt to a homemade delicious raspberry cheesecake is, well, it's just plain silly.

A classic case of overselling if I ever saw one.

Ford Edge Does A Turnaround

The 2011 Ford Edge is definitely a step up from its previous model, which was introduced to the market in 2007.  Ford touts that there are 10,000 commands at your fingertips. A few additional cool features include MyFord Touch and the Rear View Camera.

It was the Rear View Camera feature that Ford wanted to emphasize in the Mexican market with the above ad. The message is clear and poignant with an image of the Ford Edge actually turning back on itself.

Being a new owner of an Edge, I must say that the rear view camera feature is crazy-cool. No more scanning of the rear view and side mirrors, hoping that I won't drive off the driveway into the grass.

Great advertising and great vehicle (at least so far).
Sue Northey - Find me on