Words or Pictures? Both?

In a recent informal survey, we asked advertising agency professionals which type of ad they are more drawn to: one with an image but no words, or one with words and no image. “Words with no image” won in a landslide…but don’t tell Rosetta Stone, the language-unlocking artifact, or Rosetta Stone, the language-teaching brand.

The original stone itself acted as a key to help the modern world understand the pictures that acted as language in the ancient world. Using “Rosetta Stone” as a brand name has always been a brilliant branding choice for the company that can teach you anything from Swedish to Swahili. Check out their newest ad campaign. Although one might expect a language-company’s ad to be driven by copywriting, it’s the visual that really catches the eye here:

The headline – in immediately understandable French, thanks to the ridiculous and ridiculously adorable photo of a moustachioed infant – ties it all together. Voila: the brand’s message is immediately unlocked in the viewer’s brain. Is the correlation between the ad and the artifact a bit of a stretch or a brilliant modern interpretation? I’d say the latter. Très bien, Rosetta Stone!

~ Denise Blasevick, @AdvertGirl & CEO, The S3 Agency

GNC Campaign Beats Average

Every morning I wake up at zero dark thirty to head to the gym for a workout. It’s a fight to get out of a warm bed when it’s cold and dark outside, and there is always that voice in my head saying “It’s cool, there is always tomorrow.”

GNC plays up this voice in their latest commercial “Beat Average”:

It points out all the reasons we choose not to work out on a daily basis, from unexpected office doughnuts to a single drop of rain. It shows no products or special offers, and the title card comes at the end, so you’re not quite sure what to expect until it’s over. At the end I find myself saying “I’m not average, I’ll show you!” The commercial could have easily been for a new gym, but perhaps that is the point. GNC wants to motivate you to work out, to care about looking and feeling better…and in turn visit them.

This ad will definitely connect with those who make working out a part of their daily routine. And hopefully it will reach those who want their daily routine to include exercising, too. It’s a motivational message for everything in life, really: above average beats average. Period.

~ Mike D’Ambrosio, Interactive Art Director and Average Beater, The S3 Agency


Thought Game of Thrones couldn’t get any cooler? Think again. Check out these cats. Scott Bradlee and crew (Postmodern Jukebox) currently have the heppest viral video — over 2 million views and counting — thanks to their jazzy interpretation of the cult show’s well-known theme song. In addition to the sudden insinuation into pop culture, Bradlee may experience lasting benefits: there is talk that this could become a new jazz standard. Imagine that: immortalizing oneself in a good way, thanks to a cable show and YouTube? Now that’s creativity at its best.

~ Denise Blasevick (@AdvertGirl), CEO, The S3 Agency


This one from Maui Jim sunglasses sure is…

Ad spotted by: Mike Kolatac, Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency

Whisky Ad Makes You Cry Without Being Drunk

I don’t remember a ton of tear-jerker ads for hard alcohol, but this South African spot for Bell’s makes up for that. Putting the “malt” in “schmaltz,” the Bell’s whisky commercial is a bit predictable – but that doesn’t take away from its emotional impact on the viewer. You’ll find yourself rooting for the spot’s hero…and agreeing that he does, indeed, deserve a reward. Overall, the ad makes you feel good (the way a good whisky should, I suppose) while elevating the brand. Nicely done.

Ad spotted by: Adam Schnitzler, CCO, The S3 Agency

What’s Your Age in Work Years?

Recently while looking over resumes of entry-level candidates, I began to think about how much has changed in the PR industry just since I started working.  I realized that you could probably date yourself and other people pretty easily just by figuring out what they’ve been around to see and do.  You can figure out your age in work years based on the different things you’ve seen come and go.  For example:

  • I’m old enough to have used Cision when it was called Bacon’s, but young enough to never have used Bacon’s in book form.
  • I’m old enough to have mailed out hard copies of press releases but young enough to never have needed to fax my pitches.
  • I’m old enough to have used the phone as my primary means of pitching for all media, but young enough that very few reporters have ever really welcomed a call over email.
  • I’m old enough to have sent hi-res images through the mail on a CD but not so old that I’ve ever had a strip of film paper-clipped to my press kit.
  • I’m old enough to remember a time before bloggers were part of a media outreach strategy but young enough to appreciate a hit on Huffington Post almost as much as one in USA Today.

I’m sure this same principle could apply to many different industries and practice areas.  Perhaps someone in advertising would be old enough to remember when ad concepts were always sketched by hand for presentations, but not old enough to have experienced martini-based lunches following those presentations.

There are probably plenty more examples – comment below with some ways you can gauge your age in work years!

~ Ali Gogarty, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

3 Things You Need to Know About the New Twitter Layout

The microblog / social network has updated its layout and features.

Twitter, the popular 140-character microblog / social network, has just updated its layout (again) and added some new features. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Bigger, more beautiful profile header. That’s exactly what Twitter is calling their newly dimensioned (1500x500 pixels) image that can be placed at the top of your profile. This is similar to the cover photo in Facebook.
  2. Automatic sizing of profile photo. Per Twitter, just update your photo (recommended size 400x400 pixels) and it’s automatically resized to fit.
  3. Pin a tweet. Again, similar to Facebook, now you can choose a single tweet to pin to the top of your Twitter profile. This is perhaps the biggest, most important change of all because it allows you to control the first impression beyond the profile design and write up. Previously, tweets simply moved down in the timeline as new tweets took first position. Now, you can choose your shining Twitter moment and feature that right up top for all to see. You can also share tweets via email and embed tweets, all from the same function bar at the bottom of each tweet.

With these new easy-to-implement options, it’s probably worth checking out your Twitter profile today.

~ Denise Blasevick (aka @AdvertGirl), CEO, The S3 Agency

Note: This post originally appeared in my column. Please follow me there too!


I’m talking way beyond Meow Mix. The latest Starbucks campaign kicks off with a bang: a gif of a frappuccino-drinking cat that has kaleidoscopic designs exploding out of his paws. But let me backtrack.

I got a message from Starbucks asking me if I wanted to have some summer fun…and in order to accept this offer, I simply had to text “WOOHOO” to 22122. Who doesn’t love summer fun? Seeing as the offer came from a brand as reputable as Starbucks, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I was immediately rewarded with the below gif, in which “Pew Pew” the cat is apparently so refreshed by the frozen cappuccino he is consuming that he suddenly possesses a powerful expression of joy (and perhaps lasers?).

Is this silly? Maybe. Is it fun? Definitely. Will it appeal to people who like coffee and cats? Without question.

I’m looking forward to my next text and to seeing how the campaign unfolds. The only thing I would change at this point: perhaps a more appetizing name than “Pew Pew” for the color-wielding kitty…

~ Denise Blasevick (aka @AdvertGirl), CEO, The S3 Agency

Will You Make a Date with Burt’s Bees?

E-mail. YouTube. Facebook. We’ve grown accustomed to being digitally invaded by ads on a regular (ie, minute-by-minute) basis. But our calendars serve as a sell-free sanctuary. And that’s something Burt’s Bees is looking to change.

Launching their new line of skin-brightening products, the popular nature-ceuticals brand is asking consumers to allow them 8 weeks of “dates” in their online calendars – to “brighten up” their schedules with everything from softballs (like a link to watch pandas eating birthday cake) to hard sell tactics (like a coupon to encourage trial of the new product line).

This goes along with the brand’s “Retouched by Nature” campaign that tells women they will see a radical transformation when they try the products over an 8-week period. To bring that point home, they photographed a model sans make-up after the 8 week period — and that fresh face plays a convincing starring role in the campaign.

Will American women grant Burt’s Bees access to their daily life schedules? While I don’t think this would work for every brand, Burt’s Bees has built a reputation for honesty and has developed true equity with its consumers. So I think the answer is yes. We’ll see (over the next 8 weeks, I suppose)…

~ Denise Blasevick (@AdvertGirl and CEO, The S3 Agency)


They just pop up: friend requests of people you really are not friends with. Maybe you were at one time. Maybe you sort of know them. Maybe you think you should but you really don’t. Anyway, sometimes you may just accept them because you feel bad denying their outreach. Sure, you can block them from seeing your posts – and you can stop their posts from filling your feed. Yet when one of these non-friends’ birthdays rolls along, you can’t avoid knowing about it. Not only does Facebook tell you about it – they even encourage you to celebrate by giving a little gift.

You know what gift I give? The gift of honesty. That’s the moment when I force myself to decide whether or not I would cross the street to wish said “friend” a birthday if I saw him or her. If the answer is “no” or “I wouldn’t recognize them” or “they’d have no idea who I am,” the time has come to unfriend.

I do not consider this to be cold or cruel – au contraire mon frere. I believe this removes a little bit of social awkwardness and helps restore Facebook to its original intent: staying in touch with actual friends. I’m putting the “social” back in social media, one unbirthday at a time. And since I started doing this a couple years ago, my page has become far more robust!

Too bad brand pages can’t unfan non-fans. Maybe someday…

Hamm Helps Mercedes Sizzle at New York International Auto Show

Did you know that Jon Hamm, aka Mad Men’s Don Draper, is the voice of Mercedes-Benz advertising? Neither did a group of stunned journalists who attended the brand’s press conference yesterday at the New York International Auto Show. It’s not that Mercedes has kept this juicy tidbit completely under wraps, as this blog post from May 2012 shows. (…) However, it’s something that simply seemed to have escaped the automotive media crowd. So when Hamm stepped into the spotlight to help introduce the high-performance S63 AMG COUPE, he stole the show.

The reveal was a bit odd, at first. Shortly after Mercedes-Benz USA’s President and CEO Steve Cannon kicked off the press conference, a “voice of God” began interrupting his speech. One comment referenced how people liked the Super Bowl commercial. The voice then went on to complain that it is always behind-the-scenes instead of on-the-screen. The next thing the crowd knew, Jon Hamm stepped out into the spotlight – and this typically jaded group of journalists became putty in Mercedes’ clever hands.

The fact that Mad Men is all about the Manhattan advertising culture of the 1960s was an especially nice touch at the New York Auto Show. And the presence of one of the hottest small screen stars just three days after this season’s premiere was another strong draw.

Did Don Draper take too much attention away from the German car manufacturer’s latest over-the-top automotive offering? Not at all. Cameras were thrust into the air, people clamoring to get that great shot for what was already a great story…and certainly one that will set this press conference apart from the many others attended that day. That’s terrific branding: standing out with the media much the way Mercedes expects its vehicles to stand out from the competition.

~ Denise Blasevick

Note: This post originally appeared under my Examiner colum.

An Open Letter to Mitsubishi

Dear Mitsubishi Motors,

You and I go way back. My first car was built by you, and we had a lot of fun together. The day I sold it was the definition of mixed emotions.

And now, here we are, almost 15 years later, and where are you? Where is attention-getting advertising that captures your core values and makes me hear about you in a way that makes me want to come back to you? You may not be big like Toyota or have the sterling reputation of Honda, but you are unique, and a little edgy, especially among Japanese brands, and you need an agency that understands you.

It wasn’t that long ago you had three sports cars and unlimited potential in your lineup. Let’s bring that feeling back. It’s not to late. Because in the end, it’s not the bean counters who will save you, but the designer that fights for that extra curve in the bodywork, and yes, the art director from New Jersey that still fondly remembers his first car.

~ Mike D’Ambrosio, Former Mitsubishi Owner, The S3 Agency

Editor’s note: My first new car was a metallic raspberry Eclipse with manual trans. Just the thought of it makes me smile…



Did you know? Cereal mascots are designed to make eye contact with our children!

Having two young children, I avoid the cereal isle at all cost. It’s bad enough these sugary cereals are everywhere you turn…now it’s been revealed that the cute characters on the boxes are actually making eye contact with our kids. Creepy, but smart. Besides the love of sugar, this also explains why our kids feel connected to spokes characters like Cap’n Crunch, Trix Rabbit, and Lucky the Leprechaun.

A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab reveals consumers are 16% more likely to trust a brand of cereal if the character on the box is staring directly into their eyes. The research included 65 brands of cereal on the shelves of 10 different grocery stores in New York and Connecticut. Allowing a standard four-feet distance between shoppers and the cereal shelf, researchers calculated the angle in which 86 different cereal characters gazed at shoppers.


The result? Cereal characters marketed toward children and those geared toward adults are designed to make incidental eye contact with their target consumers. Out of 86 different cereal characters, 57 were designed with a 9.67-degree downward gaze in order to attract the attention of kids.

The researchers also found that kids’ cereals are positioned at “kid height” – about 23 inches off of the floor – while adult cereals are positioned at about 48 inches high. The mascots of “adult” cereals were designed with a slight upward angle and basically stared straight ahead.

The study also asked 63 college students to observe two versions of a Trix cereal box and give their opinion on trust and connection to its trademark rabbit.

One version of the cereal box showed the rabbit looking straight ahead while the second showed the rabbit looking down. Brand trust increased by 16% and brand connection jumped 10% when the Trix Rabbit made eye contact with the participant.

On the flip side, perhaps this means that eye-contact from characters adorning healthier products could result in better brand connections there – and a natural desire from children to choose better-for-them options.

~ Meredith Aman, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

How does Expedia UK get consumer attention? With a clever campaign that ties travel into pub trivia!

How does Expedia UK get consumer attention? With a clever campaign that ties travel into pub trivia!

America’s contribution to British advertising. I apologize on behalf of my country.

America’s contribution to British advertising. I apologize on behalf of my country.