Thursday, July 31, 2008

5 ads that feature robots like those in movies of the last 6 years -- part 4

(And if you've noticed that I've skipped mentioning any robot-themed movie for 2006, that's because there were none that year. Shocking, huh?)

The, ahem, transformed athlete of this Nike ad from 2003...

...looks like a potential recruit for the "Transformers" movie of 2007:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

5 ads that feature robots like those in movies of the last 6 years -- part 3

(Day 3 and we're not out of examples yet!)

The clunky but charming robot made of cookies in this 1999 ad...

...would seem to fit quite nicely among the lovable, junkheap characters of 2005's "Robots:"

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

5 ads that feature robots like those in movies of the last 6 years -- part 2

(Yes, I'm serious.  Sort of.)

Today, its an 2001 ad for engine lubricant that pairs a mechanical body with a creepily humanized visage:

...and has an eerie similarity to the mechanical men of the 2004 Will Smith movie, "I Robot:"

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Monday, July 28, 2008

5 ads that feature robots like those in movies of the last 6 years -- part 1

(How do I come up with these topics?)

First off: From 2008, comes this science fair ad with a sleekly humanoid robot of shiny, flowing metal. Remind you of anything?

Yes, it looks like another of the liquid metal assassins from from the "Terminator" series (the latest installment appearing in 2003):

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Sleeping on the job

Leo Burnett, the Chicago ad agency, had already spent years burnishing Maytag's reputation for reliability in print ads; when the washing machines began advertising on television starting in 1967, the agency created a personality every bit as distinctive, memorable and enduring as the agency's other characters, like Tony the Tiger and The PIllsbury Doughboy. In fact, this guy was a little doughy, too:

That's character actor Jesse White as the lonely sad sack indentified only as The Maytag Repairman.   Through a succession of TV spots and ads, "Ol' Lonely" waited in vain for the phone to ring, telling him he was needed to fix a broken Maytag.  

Jesse White got the part (beating out comic actor Phil Silvers, among others) and played the character until 1989, before relinquishing the role to a succession of actors since.  In recent years, with dependability becoming perceived as more of a parity quality among competing brands, Maytag has tweaked the character and scenarios in an attempt to remain relevant. (How successful were they? Do you remember any of the new commercials?)

But what was the inspiration behind the Original Maytag Repairman personna?  It's possible that Leo Burnett was just adapting a popular television stereotype, the Inaction Figure.   The character was present in a lot of shows back then, from the sittin' and whittlin' Jed Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies" to Floyd the Barber on the bench outside his shop on "The Andy Griffith Show."  But this man, a fixture (in both senses of the word) on a very popular TV show from 1963 to 1970, is the patron saint of apathy and listlessness:

That's Uncle Joe and (as always) he's a'movin' kind of slow.  Could the folks at Leo Burnett have based the Maytag Repairman in part on Edgar Buchanan's Uncle Joe of "Petticoat Junction"?

(Not that Uncle Joe was ever much at fixing anything, but still...)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The death of advertising

Okay, make that Death IN advertising. When it comes to "found concepts," creative people just love to ape obituaries. The most obvious purpose is to drive home a life-threatening public health or safety issue:

...but it can be even more effective when the tragedy of the form is played for laughs, like in this exterminator ad (which was actually run among real obituaries):

And what goes with funerals (well, Irish funerals, anyway) more than beer?  

Click to enlarge.  Or I can just save you the time (and eyestrain, although the copy is funny in parts) and tell you that the obit just goes on and on and on listing the man's endless family, friends and acquaintances,  all to set up the campaign's theme that Finnegan's is "as Irish as it gets."

Lastly, I suppose it's worth noting that, yes, it's even possible for obituaries to be the subject of an ad, not just the format:

(It's just a whole lot rarer.)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Waiting to exhale

It's really too easy to play "hindsight is 20/20" and have a few cheap laughs at the expense of ads of bygone eras, especially when the subject is cigarettes and smoking.  This 1926 Chesterfield ad, however, is too politically incorrect by today's culture not to give it special note here:

There's more to this scene than just a romantic appeal to women, though.  Back then, showing women smoking in ads was frowned on as much as women smoking in public.  Instead, consumers of the '20s were given coy come-ons like this one:

Is she enthralled by the man -- or the cigarette?  Only her tobacconist knows for sure.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I suppose you could say this is the epitomy of the "sticky" idea, and apparently, so obvious, every tire manufacturer's ad agency eventually thinks of it.



At least Toyo found a new way to illustrate the analogy (though it ends up looking like something out of Odd Rods or Wacky Races).


(And yes, I know, a squid isn't the same as an octopus, but I liked the title, so I used it.  Just be happy I didn't do some pun on how these ads "suck.")

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Monday funnies

Here's a decidedly comic approach to advertising:

This type of comic strip -- using photos instead of drawings -- are known as Fumetti (after the Italian term for the same, though they also included drawn comics). The Fumetti style was always more popular abroad than here in America; for some reason, it always seemed to combine the worst aspects of each medium -- leaden, expository dialogue and the images of vigorous overacting. That, of course, made it ideal for 70s advertising, especially in ads targeted to the less educated; appropriately, those ads were often found in comic books of the era.

(Another Fumetti of somewhat higher quality was recently highlighted in this posting.)

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The last home you'll ever own (?)

Houses for the Atomic Age! trumpets this 1955 ad.  But are they referring to the sleek, geometric styling of era?  Not exactly.

To get the full picture, read into the copy a bit:
The blast-resistant house design is based on principals learned at Hiroshima and Nagasaki...a rigidly integrated house that the engineers calculate will resist blast pressures 40% closer to bursts than conventionally built houses.  
Only 40%?  Oh, wait, there's more:
A special shelter has been provided in the basement to protect occupants from blast pressures expected at distances as close as 3,600 feet from ground zero of a bomb with an explosive force equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT...affords protection from radiation, fire and flying debris as well.
This certainly paints a different picture of suburbia than the usual illustrations of the time:

But it's understandable, given that just underneath the surface of shiny optimism about the promise of nuclear energy to reshape our society...

...was the looming specter of atomic cataclysm.

(Lest we forget, the whole purpose of the federal interstate system was to enable mass evacuation of cities in the event of...well, you know.)

Portland Cement, by the way, was originally the Edison Portland Cement Company, founded by none other than Thomas Edison in 1899.  To promote the use of cement, Edison used it to build low-cost concrete houses, though the construction never found much popularity at the time.  Apparently, he was about 50 years too early.  Portland Cement, however, maintains a web site dedicated to promoting the use of concrete in home-building; you can see it here.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's the story?

Today, a humdrum, run-of-the-mill shirt ad:

Or at least, it would be, but for the addition of-- well, see for yourself:

Stunning, isn't it, how just putting an eye patch on the fellow creates a stronger interest in the ad? Suddenly the man seems more mysterious, edgy, worldly. And what is it about those shirts he wears...

Creator David Ogilvy credits this "story appeal" to researcher Harold Rudolph. As Ogilvy explains in "Confessions of an Advertising Man,"
"...the more of it you inject into your photographs, the more people will look at your advertisements ... I concocted eighteen different ways to inject this magic ingredient. The eighteenth was the eye patch."
In 1952, Ogilvy confided to Time Magazine that he was inspired by pictures of ex-Ambassador Lewis Williams Douglas, who wore an eye patch after a fishing accident robbed him of the sight in one eye. The rest is history, right? Not quite:
"At first we rejected it in favor of a more obvious idea, but on the way to the studio I ducked into a drug store and bought an eyepatch for $1.50. Exactly why it turned out to be so successful, I shall never know ... What struck me as a moderately good idea for a wet Tuesday morning made me famous."
And as for the real Man in the Hathaway Shirt?

He was Baron George Wrangell, the nephew of a White Russian general working in America as a model -- his own backstory may have been as intriguing as any that eye patch suggested. (Wrangell, by the way, actually had 20/20 vision in both eyes.)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not just hyperbole

Maybe you've seen this classic Guinness poster, created back in the '30s and assumed that it was nothing more than silly hyperbole:

And you'd be partly right. The idea is actually based on the high iron content of Guinness (probably from the water used), though of course, the benefit of this is exaggerated to an unbelievable extent in the poster above. That didn't stop the image from becoming so iconic that a pint Guinness became known as a "girder."

The image also inspired this parody from Heinekin some 40 years later (though its likely that many young drinkers never realized its source), that both fit the idea into its own ad format and made the male sexual subtext even more implicit:

(Best not to take any of this too seriously, though. In reality, the pictures in the Heinken ad would have to be reversed.)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Meet The Unswitchables

Mangled grammar aside, you gotta give Tareyton Cigarettes 1963 campaign points for chutzpah:

With the competition of cigarette brands heating up, Tareyton's slogan was designed to push the loyalty of their smokers. The words, though, would probably have not as been as effective had they not been accompanied by the photos of proud Tareyton smokers -- both men and women -- sporting black eyes.   (Yes, it was just makeup, but even so, looking back with forty-five years of hindsight, it's still hard not to look at the above image and think of domestic violence.  It probably occurred to some readers back then, too -- though few people probably voiced any concerns publicly.)

By the way, the same ad man who gave us this admittedly clever mnemonic -- James Jordan, who died a couple of years back -- also was behind Wisk's well-remembered (if screechy) "Ring around the collar" slogan.  Ring around the collar.  Ring around the eye.  I sense a pattern here.

TV spots turned on the same slogan but with sixty seconds to fill, the spots fall a little flat, with a lot of vamping upfront to fill time, but at least the full-throated chorus keeps it moving.  The jingle's lyrics are pretty weak, too, apart from the opening line.


But who am I to quibble?  The campaign resulted in robust sales.  However, thanks to the government ban on advertising tobacco products via broadcast, we were spared any further iterations of the jingle or the brand's labored attempts at humor after 1971.  But the slogan-and-black-eyes continued in print for the next decade, till declining sales put an end to the advertising altogether.

The brand's still around, though.  Given the public hostility to smoking these days, the campaign's pugilistic attitude would be particularly useful today, with just one word change:
"Us Tareyton Smokers Would Rather Fight Than Quit."

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Monday, July 14, 2008

A real Swinger

I liked this spot when it first ran in 1965 and, seeing it again after 40-plus years, I have to marvel at the multiple audiences the spot courts simultaneously.

First of all, we start with a gal sauntering in a bikini bottom, guaranteed to appeal to youth and middle-aged men alike (each group naturally interested in swinging, though perhaps in different meanings of the word).  Then there's the guitar heavy jingle, contemporary enough for the kids, but middle-of-the-road enough for mom and dad -- and irresistibly catchy with the female singers' yeah-yeah's and their repetition of the product name.)  And just when you think the spot is just getting a little too wholesome in its depiction of modern teens, here comes the musical bridge for some jangly rock-and-roll, wild dancing and lots of cavorting on the beach (with a big "YES" as one couple is photographed getting friendly in the sand).  Then the whole thing is wrapped up with an all-ages romantic shot of a couple walking away in the surf.

Go ahead.  Play it again.  I know you want to.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Not worth it

In the early 80s, as part of their "It's Worth It." campaign, Maxell and their ad agency hit on a dramatic if exaggerated visualization of the sound quality of their cassette tapes.  Never mind that it's really more of a depiction of stereo's quality than the tape's.  The point is that it got the message across and was in fact, so popular that the image became a poster on many a dorm room:

Adding to its iconic nature was probably the accuracy with which it depicted its target audience: Not only was it iconic and aspirational (what more do you need in life but alcohol and big speakers?), it also portrayed its target audience with uncanny accuracy: Slouchy young men fixated on looking cool at all times.

(By the way, contrary to a popular belief on the internet, that is NOT Peter Murphy of the British rock group Bauhaus. Murphy appeared in the original UK versions of the ad, shown below:)

But back to the U.S. version.  Given the success of the print ad, it was decided to adapt the idea to a television spot.   (This happens with ad campaigns frequently, in hopes that the consistency between mediums will help reinforce the message and increase its memorability.)  Sometimes it works.

And sometimes it doesn't:  

In trying to turn a photograph into 30 seconds of movement (even minimal movement), the idea loses most of its punch.  Seeing the man blown back in real time just isn't as effective as in a still image.  Then there's the new, distracting element of a butler to compete for our attention.  Even just hearing the music the man is listening to (Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries") is disappointing and robs the reader of the chance to "personalize" it to his own tastes.

Good ad, marginal commercial.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008


Following the release of the mariachi-influenced band's 3rd album, released in 1964, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass soared to new heights of popularity, selling millions of albums and cementing their place in popular music.  And of all the songs on the album, the best-remembered is surely "The Mexican Shuffle."

But it's not remembered as that:

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Anti-Endorsement

Finally, a celebrity testimonial we can believe, circa 1991::

A clever way for Mr. Zappa to have his cake and eat it too -- to "sell out" without selling anything -- but really, nothing new for the the visionary rock composer.  You can find those contrarian instincts at least as far back as his 1968 Mothers of Invention album, "We're Only In It For The Money," which lived up to its apolitical, capitalistic title with it biting critiques of both "the establishment" and counter-culture attitudes (and a bit of a skewering of the Beatles, too it seems):

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More killer whale than killer spot

This United Airlines spot from 1992 is an interesting idea that falls apart in execution.

The ad agency came up with a pretty memorable demonstration -- show the size of the cabin by having two massive Orcas swim through it -- and then proceeded to undercut the idea in the most basic ways.  

First, they open with the plane on the runway and the whales viewed through a window, so right away, you know the demonstration is a fake -- and thus, made the believability suspect.  (Apparently, even the whales are computer-controlled models, but that's not really evident.)  

Then the copy goes on to make some punny allusions to the size of the cabin without ever just coming right out and saying it -- "Look how roomy our cabins are.  A killer whale can comfortably swim through it."

What you're left with is a couple of friendly Orcas who swim around to the music of Gershwin.  Maybe it's a tryout for the new Shamu show at SeaWorld.

Still, it's a visually arresting spot -- even if it does conjure up the uncomfortable thought of a jumbo jet fuselage at the bottom of the ocean.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Out damned spots

An odd recent ad from Cottonelle:

Here's the payoff line in the copy: "If we had a puppy for every extra sheet, there'd be 100 of them!" Okay, I get it. But what's the point of using 100 puppies as an analogy for 100 sheets of toilet paper? (And if its two-ply tissue, should there be 200 puppies?) Is it just the old adage that everybody loves puppies, no matter how irrelevant the connection is to the product? Am I supposed to be making some "soft and fuzzy" connection?  And what's with the posh setting?  

Or maybe someone on the creative team just has fond memories of this movie:

Or maybe this one:

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Friday, July 4, 2008

The '80s Ad Guys 3-Day Film Festival concludes

Time for just one more movie before hitting the backyard barbecue and fireworks.  Admittedly, Albert Brooks can be an acquired taste, but this is him at his whiny best: As a needy, desperate ex-ad man in "Lost In America":

Regular postings resume Monday. See you then!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

The '80s Ad Guys 3-Day Film Festival continues!

Knock off work early today, hit the video store and find a copy of "How To Get A Head In Advertising."   

Here's a clip of Richard E. Grant in the throes of a nervous breakdown before the boil on his neck becomes a second head (and consummate ad man):

(There's a little harmless backside nudity on this clip, but consider yourself warned.)

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The '80s Ad Guys 3-Day Film Festival Begins

Why the 1980s?  Why not?  Surprisingly, this maligned decade did manage to turn out a few decent pictures that touched on the Wacky World Of Advertising in one way or another.

Here's the 1986 comedy-drama, "Nothing In Common," starring Tom Hanks as an emotionally stunted Big Agency Creative Director, to get you started:

Another recommendation tomorrow!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Swiping Peanuts

Around 1959, amid the first wave of "Peanuts" merchandising (whose millions in profits would forever change how the business of comic strips), Ford came to creator Charles Schulz with a lucrative offer of an annual licensing fee in return for Charlie Brown and company to serve as "spokeskids" for their new Falcon model.  

Under Schulz's close supervision, Ford gave the Peanuts characters their first TV exposure in animated spots like this one from 1964:

The awkward, stilted dialogue is of course, a horrible fit with the cast, with none of the substance, easy verbosity and wit of future productions like "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  But it worked well enough to help the Falcon become a huge success for Ford.

When some newspaper industry professionals accused Schulz of excessive profiteering, he responded this way (as detailed in his recent biography):
"The duty of the comic strip is to bring readers to the newspaper as a whole... If that is not fulfilling an obligation, I don't know what is."
Apparently, however, there were limits to the type of products to which Schulz would be willing to lend his character's endorsements.  When Schulz refused an offer from Talon Zippers (maybe the punchline was just one indignity too many to inflict on poor Charlie Brown), the agency we ahead with the ad anyway, using photos instead of drawing and somehow sidestepping copyright infringement in the process:

(Click to enlarge)

Interestingly, the ad first ran just a few years before this play also brought the Peanuts gang into three dimensions:

Who knows?  Maybe composer/lyricist Clark Gesner saw the Talon ad and was inspired to write 1967's "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown."

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