Thursday, June 29, 2006

Axe Body Spray: Time to Axe the Campaign.

By now you've all seen the ads for Axe Body Spray (and also Lynx in the UK). Some guy sprays the deodorant on, girls flock to him. There are varying takes on this premise (girlfriend's mother hits on the guy, girls smell the leftovers of the spray in other metal objects made from the recycled canisters, etc) but it's all basically the same: more powerful than a pheromone, it'll get you laid and quick.

At first, these ads stood out. Old Spice doesn't market like this. Right Guard doesn't market like this. But now the market is innudated with spots of women running after guys who wear this. At this point, even the guys are tired of it.

So... I'll admit it, it's nice when a boy smells nice. But I'm not going to jump him based solely on his scent. Axe, please, move on. I don't care if you won a Lion at Cannes this year. Put all of that angsty boy energy to better use, and maybe take a shower to rinse yourself of stench instead of just covering it over. Girls are pretty smart, we catch on to that.

Heck, for an alternative, check out how Mitchum's been pushing its deodorant. They have a highly effective campaign in the NYC subways which emphasizes masculinity, being a guy, being a cool guy, etc, without making women into creatures ruled by pheromones.

Coke continues to impress! Women directors, awesome spots.

Yet another new Coke spot (c0-directed by a woman) is out! Coke "Happiness Factory" was released yesterday-- a new stunner from production company PSYOP and agency WK Amsterdam. Check it out here on 'boards! [DISCLOSURE: I might work at PSYOP. "Might" as in "yeah, I do."]

The :60 tells the story of what happens inside the vending machine, after you drop in your coin (or these days, dollar) and before the bottle drops out. Kylie Matulick and directing partner Todd Mueller envisioned a whole community of original characters, each contributing to the bottle's production and quality. The design work is amazing, showing incredible imagination and detail. Believe it or not, the bottles featured in the spot are CG, just showing exactly how talented the team of animators, effects artists, and designers is.

PSYOP continues to put out terrific work this year, with this new work from Matulick and Marie Hyon working on this year's earlier MTV HD "Crow" ID. It's gonna be a great year for them at awards... PSYOP definitely sets high standards, both with their stunning work, and their involvement of women in every aspect of production. Neil French can shove it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Nancy Vonk tells it to the man. Specifically, the sexist one.

Neil French, an (ex)top creative consultant at WPP made comments back in October 05 about the inability of women to balance both a home and a career. His specific words? "All women in the industry are crap, who inevitably wimp out and go suckle something.” Luckily, women in the industry (who evidently, were not busy "suckling something" or perhaps CAN juggle two things at once) fired back and French ended up resigning.

One of the most vocal critics in this incident was Nancy Vonk, a senior creative executive then at WPP, now at Olgivy and Mather Toronto. Boards sums it up nicely, naming Vonk to their 2006 It List: "After attending a live event in which former WPP creative chief Neil French boorishly diminished the importance of women in the ad sphere, Ogilvy & Mather Canada co-chief creative officer Nancy Vonk blogged a level-headed but firmly-written rebuttal that started the gears turning on French's eventual dismissal. Much more crucially, in the course of decimating French's glibness with well-argued polemic, she shone a light on the industry's woeful lack of female representation and sparked an international discourse that extended far outside the realm of advertising."

To grab more of Vonk's pearls of wisdom and commentary on the 'biz as we know it, check out AskJancy from ihaveanidea.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One to Watch: Cat Solen

Director Cat Solen was recently signed by Partizan, the same prod. house that reps Nagi Noda (of recent Coke fame). Cat's definitely one to watch, as she's the creative force behind the awesome "Soul Meets Body" music video for Death Cab for Cutie, as well as some videos for Bright Eyes.

"What I love most about live action and animation is the combination of textures, and what that does inside people’s brains. I think it reminds us of childhood when we would respond to color and texture with such joy… I also think that combining animation and live-action makes the audience more aware of the process, which in the day and age of fancy computers and insane effects is very important in a film done entirely the old-fashioned way."

EDIT: It turns out that there are TWO versions of the music video for Soul Meets Body. Solen's was shot on super-8 by different familes on Thanksgiving Day. Jon Watts of Waverly Films was helming the video with the floating music notes.

To see Solen's take on Soul Meets Body, check out Death Cab for Cutie's site. Solen, via, comments on her idea: "plans is an album about relationships and the ways
that our plans effect them and change us. for "soul meets body" i wanted to make a video where our different plans could all exist together anyways. i sent 8 super8 cameras around the country and asked those folks to film whatever they did on Thanksgiving day 2005. i asked them to hold on a subject (any subject) and then pan to another, and hold on that subject and then cut. i chose super8 because i wanted the film's physicality to be directly representative of the subject manner. super8 has a contextual relationship with society that i all about plans, family, and documentation of experience. "

Cannes honors Whopperettes

Crispin Porter + Bogusky's Whopperettes campaign (blogged earlier by Toxic Shock here) was honored at Cannes' advertising festival. Their website design and execution took home a Gold Cyberlion.

Still think it was all a bit over the top, but I suppose it was clever and well-executed. Hopefully this will be the end of the "woman as ingredient" objectification.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

3,000 ads a day, and rising...

Here's a great article from Ms. magazine, discussing the ever colossal amount of ads the average person sees each day, and how that sheer magnitude can affect women. The main offenders? Who else: the regular glossies: Vogue, Cosmo, Elle, Seventeen, etc. I'll add my own two sense in here and suggest that even Jane is a culprit-- a supposedly progressive and feminist magazine, it still receives plenty of ad revenue from companies who peddle an impossible standard of beauty. Which are you to believe: the articles saying women can be strong and independant, or the full page ads saying you need a new lip gloss?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Paris Hilton: Celebration of Mindless Mediocrity

I have a beef against Paris Hilton. Besides the fact that she's famous and has no discernable talent, she's also corrupting and influencing an entire generation of girls and young women. Suddenly, it's hip to be dumb. It's appalling that girls will put themselves down, dress like little hussies, and put their brains and common sense on vacation-- all to emulate a "celebrity."

At some point, our culture went from mocking Paris Hilton and her superficial ways to celebrating them and copying them. It seems that no one knows exactly why this transition occurred either. No one will openly admit to admiring Paris Hilton (maybe her cash, but not her), yet more and more trends, culture references, and styles can be attributed to her or those like her. Even her new music video, "Stars are Blind," is a celebration of mediocrity: forgettable singing, bland beach sets, mindless prancing, etc. Apparently, with enough money, you can force yourself into popular culture.

It's not that there's a lack of better role models (Gwen Stefani, Sofia Coppola, Angelina Jolie). Unfortunately, I think it's something different that explains Paris's appeal: She's lazy and her life's been easy. Her life has not been full of hard work, and young girls would love to live that fantasy life. She's an American princess, crowned by the youth that worship her.

Monday, June 19, 2006

World Cup PSA: Human Trafficking.

What starts out as a celebration of soccer enthusiasm turns into something entirely different very quickly: this new PSA by JWT/London shows us the ugly reality of some "tourists" during the World Cup: women forced into prostitution by human traffickers. According to the PSA, thousands of women will be trafficked into Germany for this purpose during the games.

Nagafuki Surprise

So, this new Bud Light spot is just a tad offending... a cad asks for the Nagafuki Surprise at a sushi place, swearing he can handle anything because he's been to Japan. The attractive and exotic waitress, broken English and all, comes back and hands him the platter, promising free beer for the table if he eats it all. The meal attacks the idiot, everyone laughs. Yeah, it's nice to see a jackass get his comeuppance, but to revive the stereotype of the Dragon Lady is hardly progressive. Then again, maybe it's "always worth it" according Bud Light. Sexist and racist... awesome!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tui Beer: Brewed by Women, Marketed by Clouts.

Was this made by a team of college guys, or are they just selling to them? Tui's approach is incredibly immature, full of slow-mo shots of women in cut-offs, heels, tanktops, etc. The premise of this low-bro ad is simple: Tui beer is irresistable to men, and as such, all male workers have been banned from the brewery. They were drinking away the profits and product. Now, incredibly attractive, buxom, and otherwise above-average women staff the brewery-- it's become a Willy Wonka paradise of beer, but with playmates instead of Umpa-loompahs.

With commercials like this, I'm betting Tui is a cheap crappy beer often seen at frat parties and consumed in bulk. (At least, that's how they're positioning themselves.) It also seems, based on their own ads, that women have more sense than to drink this crap. Real women don't drink Tui. They drink Guiness [or insert other superior brand here].

*Update: Tui hails from New Zealand, where they've been "distracting the boys from the task at hand since 1889." I bet-- the girls have better things to do.

3G Ad a Metaphor for Phone Sex?

A new ad for Hutchison 3G Network in the UK has some great visual effects, but seems a little odd after a second viewing. Here's the story: a man leaves on a business trip; his wife tearily says goodbye at the bus stop. As he travels cross-country on the bus, the husband opens his mouth to talk, but a silky pink ribbon flows out. The ribbon travels back across the country, and wraps itself lovingly around the wife as she walks home from the bus stop. Next scene: the ribbon floats in an open window of a flat, and we see it's floating all through-out the room, also wrapped intricately around the wife, caressing her body, which is luxiourously stretched out on the bed. She smiles, sighing as if in pleasure, and then opens her mouth, and a yellow ribbon comes billowing out. As the ad ends, it travels out the window, supposedly to the traveling husband.

So-- not your typical cell phone ad. They aren't triumphing their network or their extra minutes. It seems to simply build awareness about the brand. This is so sensual though, and so exquisitely crafted, that it certainly seems to be about more than just staying in touch. Looking at the images would definitely support this theory-- she's wiggling and writhing in bed, her shoes are kicked off to the side. It's not like the creatives chose to show her in the living room or the home office receiving her call. It's certainly pretty progressive, and it's nice that the couple portrayed can have that kind of intimacy, if this is the case. Maybe next time the woman can take a trip and pleasure the man from afar?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Perfect Parenting PSA

There's a new PSA campaign out for AdoptUsKids, and it's funny, clever, and realistic. In a world where Mommy Wars exist, and women are held to ideals (often driven by the media) of what motherhood should be, these are great spots. Adoption is a long process, not for the weak, but as the spots point out, you don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. It'd help though, if you knew when to hang up the phone...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Biggest Product Placement Coup EVER?

Some have called this the most brilliant PR move ever. Others are saying it's the most exploitative example of product placement they've ever seen. I'm with the latter. In an effort to raise awareness about Belly Maternity clothes, PR firm 5W delivered a "hand selected" baby shirt for little Shiloh, the newborn daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, anticipating that the baby photos would be broadcast all over the world.

By now everyone's seen the photos. Does anyone notice the Belly Maternity logo on the infant? No. You don't. You would have no idea what brand of clothing Shiloh was wearing if not for 5W's press release. 5W is currently patting itself on the back, heralding its success like some sort of military mission that no one expected them to win. Did they win though? Are pregnant women and new mothers going to rush out and buy Belly Maternity clothing? I wish I could say otherwise, but I expect there will be a spike in sales. Especially since People Magazine cover is right on their homepage, with the infant T that Shiloh wore selling at $42. (Belly's even watermarked the images of the T-shirt, if you can believe it.)

It's disgusting that Shiloh has no say in what she's being used to sell, and it's worse that it's a marketing technique that will probably work. If the most anticipated celebrity baby of all time is wearing a special shirt, why not everyone else too? Pregnancy's becoming less of a stigma and way more hip-- women have more choices in what they wear while pregnant, and infants evidently do as well. It's yet another culture taken over by trends, marketing, and fashion. Littlest trend-setters of the world unite!

Friday, June 09, 2006


Busby Berkeley would have been proud: Burger King splashed out recently with a huge ad campaign that aired on no other night than the Super Bowl, and has a tie-in website. Each ingredient is represented by a woman in costume, and man, those costumes look elaborate and heavy!

The website itself is a little creepy-- you're prompted to enter your name, which the site actually addresses you by with a creepy voice-over if you're idle too long. You can then customize which ingredients you want on your own Whopper, and then watch the Whopperettes assemble it. A little much, perhaps. Makes you wonder how many people will visit the site, will remember Whopper vs. Big Mac, etc. The customization features fits in nicely with BK's current slogan "Have it Your Way," even if it is a tad Big Brother-esque.

Burger King's campaign is fun, and while it takes objectifying women to new heights (they're not just women, they're ingredients!) it seems to be more in the spirit of play than of actually believing women are all that vapid. Kudos on the art direction.

Autopia Car Sense.

Wired's Autopia recently posted a little article comparing car ads from the 1970's to those of today-- as they point out, little has changed. There's still a huge emphasis on sex and swooning women. If I had to think of some of the most successful car and auto advertisements, they aren't focused on sex (Honda's Cog and Grr spots respectively). So what's the fascination with leggy women and autos? Do guys really think a big truck or a really fast car will compensate for other uh... shortcomings?

Adicolor Podcasts

Adidas recently commisioned seven different directors to helm viral spots based simply on a color- this was used to hype the launch of the new Adicolor line of shoes. (You can color them yourself!)

While White might not be that amazing, primarily relying on Jenna Jameson's wrack to make it's point, Pink and the other films are amazing works of viral video. Pink's story is intriguing, using some strong art direction to back up an odd little tale that definitely ends too soon-- half of it's quicktime play bar is taken up by credits. Supremely abstract, I'm still struggling to figure out if there's greater meaning to Pink, or if it's just eye candy? Either way, that bear is creepy.


Sex sells, but when you're selling a push-up bra, that's usually the case... This ad for Chantelle bras is ingenious- strong imagery, no copywriting needed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Coke's "What Goes Around..."

Nagi Noda is about to be a big name. The director of this new spot for Coke, she perfectly executes the breif, adding flavor, fun, and depth to a simple story that plays on the "pay it forward" theory-- pass along a Coke, and ultimately, the favor will be returned.

The twist on this? Noda's use of visual repitition: almost like taking many freeze-frame photos, the spot uses duplicate actor stand-ins as we pan and weave through this fantasy world. Each actor strikes a pose, like keyframes in an animation that tell a story. It's a technique that's signature Noda-- she's used it before to great success (it got her a D&AD Award) with the music video Sentimental Journey for singer Yuki. And, believe it or not, there's no CG involved.

This spot definitely harkens back to "Classic" Coke-- Jack White's (White Stripes) nostalgic track floats along, perfectly matching the colorful visuals. Like older spots however, it could be seen to draw on older stereotypes-- the innocent girl in the beginning is almost like a Red Riding Hood; however, when she passes her Coke along, her innocence and generoisity isn't betrayed, and instead, she's rewarded in the end.

It'll be worth keeping an eye on Noda to see what she comes up with in the future. Whether she sticks with this visual style or not, her future work will probably continue to have her cheerful mood and tone.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dove's Real Women Campaign

What's behind the success of Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty"? Dove's website and advertisements (print and television) feature healthy and vibrant plus sized, older, freckled, etc, women. The ads are then coupled with statistics about body image and self-esteem ("Only 2% of women label themselves as beautiful.")

Considering this campaign is coming in a field where we usually see waifish blonds, perfect legs, and not a hint of cellulite, it's certainly been making waves in the marketing world (Brand Channel also has a pretty good rundown on it here.), and generallythe campaign is considered a success-- but why this approach and can Dove keep it up?

Dove states on its site that it chose this campaign because "For too long, beauty has been defined by narrow, stifling stereotypes. Women have told us it's time to change all that. Dove agrees. We believe real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes and ages. That is why Dove is launching the Campaign for Real Beauty.

Dove's global Campaign for Real Beauty aims to change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty. A view of beauty that all women can own and enjoy everyday."

Democratizing beauty and smashing stereotypes? Sounds good. We've been putting up with unhealthy ideals for all too long-- to the point where girls form clubs and pro-support groups around thier eating disorders. A campaign that supports realistic body images and real women being healthy is definitely going to be viewed in a positive light, and will set that brand apart from others in the field, which is what Dove's counting on. (Much like Body Shop's success with their stance on animal rights.)

Despite all of these positive and supposedly revolutionary ideas, Dove still aims to do one thing: sell skin care items. As Seth Steverson of Slate points out " the end, you simply can't sell a beauty product without somehow playing on women's insecurities. If women thought they looked perfect—just the way they are—why would they buy anything?"

He's got a valid point. These women might be hefty, freckly, or really wrinkled. But their skin has got to be perfect. None of the women within this campaign have acne, flaking or dryness issues, or other skin problems. That's what you have to aspire to, and that's where the brand's traditional aspirational message kicks in: You can be fat, but your skin has better be smooth and silky.

Another good question is how long Dove can continue with this campaign. It's refreshing for now, but will a point come when we think Dove is the brand for "the rest of us?" That could spell out plummeting sales if Dove's the brand for fatties. The fallout of a marketing shift towards thin trendy models would be disasterous. They'd errode any sort of trust and brand community-base they're building, effectively shooting themselves in the foot. Given how more and more of the American public is overweight however, maybe Dove's poineering a new (and growing) market.