I have a Facebook friend who, well, makes it worth being on Facebook. While I haven’t seen this friend face-to-face in years, she never ceases to post thought-provoking content…something tells me she must have a history in the advertising industry.

Recently she posted the “Verizon: Inspire Her Mind” ad with the simple comment “hmm.” How nice, I thought, that this friend is inviting me to formulate my own opinion rather than to simply adopt hers. So, here’s my opinion (or rant, as the case may be).

My dislike of so-called “Girl Power” ads has been bubbling in my skull for some time now, so it may just be that this one is getting the brunt of my frustration because it’s the most recent. For me, this video missed the boat in a few ways:

1. Right off the bat: Who doesn’t call their daughter pretty? Or their son handsome? These types of compliments don’t deter kids from pursuing dreams. There’s nothing wrong with telling your child you think they’re adorable, as long as that’s not the only thing you tell them.

2. The comments made by these phantom parents are comments that could be made to ANY child - girl or boy. Boys are told not to get dirty or make messes as much as girls are (probably even more so if you’ve ever witnessed the mess one little boy is capable of making), and the elder of any sibling would probably be any parents’ choice for the wielding of power tools. While the parents do come across as sticks in the mud, their comments are not gender-specific.

3. While I get the payoff, at what point did applying lipgloss in a reflective surface become a tragic event? For all we know, afterwards this little girl could have trotted off to her advanced chemistry class and entered an award-winning project into that science fair after all. The message of her losing confidence or giving up is just not there for me - even brilliant physicists apply lip gloss occasionally.

Which brings me to the biggest issue: the message that femininity and intelligence are mutually exclusive. I suppose that if you’re going to be smart, you better toss all your makeup and stock up on elastic-waisted khakis. At what point did it become failure to be “girly”? This video might give props to all the girls out there who want to be engineers, but does it also frown upon those who’d rather be something less left-brained?

To look at a personal case study, I was fortunate enough to grow up in an extremely supportive household where my parents never treated me any particular way just because I happened to be female. I learned to cook, but I also learned how to drive a stick shift (both at the age of 11). I learned to sew a and I learned to fish. I had all kinds of opportunities - and I ended up as an art major. GASP! I must have failed. My PARENTS must have failed! I am not an engineer. Or an astronomer. Or a physicist. But yet…I’m happy. Because I was allowed to choose a path that was right for me.   

The focus of these collective ads needs to shift. Rather than being gender-specific or career-sector-specific, a better use of energy would be to simply acknowledge the fact that all kids, male or female, have different interests and strengths that need to be fostered. As a society, we give the traditional female roles of motherhood and being a homemaker practically no credit, though there are few jobs as important as raising the next generation. We steer boys away from classes like Home Ec in favor of more “manly” pursuits, regardless of where their interests really lie. We shove ALL kids onto the path of technology, whether it meshes with their young brains or not. We need to take a step back and look at the child herself, not the trends. Whatever her interests are, they should be respected, fostered and allowed to flourish because a society can’t grow if it’s made up of only one type of person anyway.

I don’t know what my son will grow up to be. I do know that I will be supportive of whatever path he chooses. And I will always tell him how handsome I think he is.   

-Trish Salge, Opinionated Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency

Is Samsung’s “Wall Huggers” the Brand’s Most Compelling Ad Yet?

I love my iPhone. At least, that’s what I tell myself. The reality is I’m used to my iPhone…including the fact that I’m constantly on the hunt for a power source to keep my ever-low battery charged. Samsung’s new commercial for the Galaxy S5 exploits the iPhone’s greatest weakness, calling iPhone users “wall huggers” who are “tethered to the wall” with their charger cords. Up until now, “plugged in” had a positive connotation — but when one sees the unfortunate iPhone users enslaved to power outlets in an airport, those who have been in that situation (including me) may start to wonder if the iPhone is, indeed, worth their loyalty.

The brand has done something brilliant with this spot: it’s not about tech-spertise. It’s not about bigger screen. It’s not about being cool. What Samsung’s new ad does is awake iPhone users from their Apple-defensive comas with a reminder that mobile phones are supposed to free you from plugging in. I remember my pre-smartphones that would last for days on a single charge. Samsung appears to be promising me I can get that back, complete with all of the features I expect from a Smart Phone.

Will I continue to be a pitiful wall hugger when my contract is up? This is the first time I can honestly say I’m not sure…which means the commercial is doing it’s job. And it’s not just speaking to me: almost 700,000 have elected to watch this :60 spot on YouTube within the first day it aired. Looks like Samsung is trying to let power-outlet-freedom ring in time for July 4!

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

Wendy’s Wants You to Wear Their Salads!

Okay, maybe not exactly.

Have you ever decided what to wear by looking at your food? Well, that’s what Wendy’s wants you to do.

To promote their new salad collection, they teamed up with actress / model / fashion icon Molly Sims and Polyvore, a website where avid fashion, beauty, and home décor lovers can piece together outfits, looks, and rooms. This collaboration is a contest for people to create outfit looks via style boards inspired by Wendy’s new salads. Each winner will receive $1,000 to put towards their style choices. Anyone can start an account, create a look, and post it using the hashtag #NewSaladCollection, which by the way includes their Strawberry Field Chicken Salad, Asian Cashew Chicken Salad, BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad, Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, and Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad.

This promotion may seem a little far fetched but it is a fresh, new idea – and a couple thousand have entered the first three phases so far. The fourth and final entry phase begins in early July. The salads are only here for a limited time, and so is the contest.

Will this really boost Wendy’s summer salad sales? Sure, the winners may post all over their social media accounts that they’re so thankful to Wendy’s and Molly Sims. But then what? Is it going to make people want to eat salad from a fast food chain? Personally, I never want to “eat healthy” when I go to a fast food restaurant. I always want something that’s bad for me, but oh so yummy. But hey, who knows? Maybe this will start a trend that fast food salads are in and the fashionable thing to eat. Maybe it’ll just let people know about the fact these salads exist and since they’re limited edition, people might feel the need to try them before they’re gone. After all, that is the contest’s job: to build awareness. The rest is up to the product itself.

Are you craving a Wendy’s salad now?

~ Monique Moore, Summer Associate, The S3 Agency



That’s the question Pantene asks in its new “Not Sorry” ad. The video is a follow-up to their “Labels Against Women” ad from last year, which showed how men and women are often labeled differently for identical behavior. When men are perceived as persuasive, women are perceived as pushy. The spot, which was part of Pantene’s Shine Strong campaign, has garnered more than 46 million views on YouTube since November 2013. Here’s Pantene’s newest ad, which is also part of the Shine Strong campaign.

I cringed a little as I watched each woman say she was sorry for things that did not warrant an apology at all. I cringed at them undermining their own thoughts, ideas, and actions. Most of all, I cringed because I saw myself. Why do we say we are sorry for things we should not be sorry for? Why do we consider that being polite?

I think part of what makes this ad work is that it raises an issue with which women can identify. Every one of the situations presented in the ad situations that I have witnessed and  / or participated in, and I’m sure that’s true for many other women. To me, the video is a bit reminiscent of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in that it seeks to make an emotional connection with the viewer. Notice how there’s not a single shampoo bottle in sight. The ad is not about selling hair care products (although everyone’s hair is pretty fabulous).  It’s more about showing that Pantene as a brand is connected to its audience. Here, that brand is doing more than selling stronger hair; they are empowering their audience to be stronger human beings. 

My only qualm comes at the end, when the women say “sorry not sorry.” Is that not still apologizing? Personally, I feel that sort of juvenile commentary detracts from the positive-yet-polite message. Continuing the confident, unapologetic reactions the first few women had would have made for a more cohesive spot. Not sorry. 

~ Kim Schult, Account Coordinator, The S3 Agency


Skechers is going against the grain with a quirkier approach that has sales booming and stock rising. This approach has even pushed the brand into the top five largest athletic brands in the U.S.

Wait. Are we talking about the same brand that used to sell platform sneakers in the 90s?

Yep. Having only entered the performance market in 2011, Sketchers’ athletic line of products has gained serious traction with some peculiar marketing. While most brands are shelling out millions in order to book the biggest celebrities and athletes, Skechers’ off-the-beaten path approach is not only cost effective, but is proving to have a major return on investment. 

Skechers looks for unusual deals that many big brands might toss aside. The company seeks out up-and-coming competitors as well as unsigned retired athletes. That includes athletes with four legs, like California Chrome. No, they aren’t making horseshoes quite yet. Skechers signed on to sponsor the thoroughbred, using the speedy stallion as a galloping billboard worth oodles in exposure at a significantly lower cost. Even though California Chrome failed to nail the Triple Crown, all eyes were on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner – and many of those eyes saw his blanket emblazoned with the Skechers logo.

To me, it kind of seems like “the hipster approach”.  

Step one: Find the thing before it becomes cool or go retro. The costs are down, and you’ve got something you like.

Step two: Do what’s weird and outside of the box. Act like what you’ve got is the coolest thing out there.  

Step three: Watch as the world takes note and envies what you have.

The latest Skechers technique proves that it’s worth checking out what your competitors aren’t looking at. Quirky moves can have even top brands peering over with jealous eyes. I definitely have Skechers on my radar, as it will be interesting to see where they take things next. In the mean time, I’ve got to see a man about a horse.

~ Kristin Drabik, Summer Associate, The S3 Agency

HelloFlo Nails It Again!

While I had never heard of the service Hello Flo or a “first moon party” before, I will forever remember both due to the hilarious video that has just been released. HelloFlo, a tampon subscription service, had a major advertising hit last summer with “Camp Gyno,” a long-form spot about a know-it-all girl who is the first to get her period and who the other girls at camp turn to for advice when they get theirs. Well, the sequel “First Moon Party” has just been released and this video (possibly funnier than the last) focuses on a girl who has the opposite problem. All her friends are getting their period and she is not. So…she decides to fake it.

Before you watch this video I feel a warning is necessary: If you are at all squeamish or uncomfortable with the word vagina and anything related, you may want to refrain.


I love the brilliance behind this idea. It so magnificently tries to make this topic less taboo and bring humor to what can be an uncomfortable situation for a young girl, as well as sell a few products along the way. And with over 1,700,000 views on Youtube and 19.5k shares on Mashable in just a day, I’m definitely not the only one who’s impressed.

Well done, HelloFlo. I approve.  And in case you missed last years hit, here you go.

!~ Tracey Jeffas, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

Does Your Brand Make People Dance?

This is a tale of brands and viral videos and dancing…


Do you know Matt Harding? If you do, it probably wasn’t until after he started dancing in famous places across the world, as captured by YouTube videos. Videos that you can’t help but smile at because they focus on the joyful act of dancing, with an unusual twist. I recently had the privilege to meet Matt and hear his story – and it’s a story all brands who tout their need for a “viral video” should heed.

Matt was traveling with a friend in 2005, when digital video had just become mainstream available via handheld recorders and phones. When he was standing in front of a famous monument, his friend said “Why don’t you do that silly dance you do in front of that?” Matt did, the friend recorded it, and together they proceeded to do this at every major stop. Matt then put the video on his own website. A little while later, Matt got a call from his friend saying “Your video is on YouTube.” Matt replied, “What’s YouTube?” (Imagine saying that today?) He proceeded to go to YouTube, find his video, and see that he had 600,000 views. That’s a lot today — let alone back then — and the next thing he knew, he got a call from Cadbury Schweppes’ brand, Stride Gum.

"They told me they wanted me to do what I did on the video," Matt recalls. "I said, ‘You want to pay me to travel around the world and dance? Ok!" According to Matt, he went to their corporate office with a carefully thought out plan of where he wanted to travel and why — expecting scrutiny, lots of rules, and more. Basically, he was told to do what he wants as long is it was done in time. BRAND POINT #1: The brand recognized that Matt’s original video had something that appealed to people, naturally. Rather than try to shoehorn that “Mattness” into something more “Stride Gum-like,” they let him be authentic. Lots of brands talk about authenticity, but how many actually execute that way?

In addition to be pleasantly surprised by the client’s lack of overt control, Matt was shocked that he wasn’t asked to bring the product into the experience. Watch the video. He’s not wearing Stride Gum swag; there are no Stride Gum signs; he’s not even chewing any gum! At the end of the video, text informs you that the video exists courtesy of Stride Gum. Knowledge you gain a time when you are already smiling. And that may just telegraph that happy emotion onto the Stride Gum brand. BRAND POINT #2: The brand did not force unnatural product references down the viewers’ collective throat. Many times, that “integration” interferes with the experience. Here, viewers didn’t even know it was a brand-sponsored video until the modest end-of-video reveal. That feels pretty nice to a consumer. Take a look, sound on, and feet on the floor (just in case…).

This virtually unbranded, brand-sponsored video has almost 19 million views and counting. It continues to live on long after the launch, because it is relevant: it makes people feel good. (Brand Point #3: Be relevant beyond the short term.) But Matt’s brand-sponsored career doesn’t end here.

This video was seen as so special, both to people and to the brand that had sponsored it, that is caught the eye of Visa. The credit card giant picked Matt up to do a commercial that began running internationally in 2008…and six years later is still on air. Not too many commercials have that sort of staying power, but as Visa was quick to recognize, Matt has something special here. So while they did brand their spot more than the Stride Gum video (this is, after all, an actual commercial), they are reaching millions of people each year with Matt’s own brand of happiness.

It’s interesting to note how Matt’s videos have evolved…and how they have impacted his viewers. His initial video focused simply on Matt dancing in front of landmarks. As you watch the progression of videos, he starts bringing in other people, and the videos become less about the places he is visiting and more about the people residing in those places. He also trades out his signature dance at times in favor of the cultural dance going on around him. Matt says this happened organically — at one point he was dancing and a bunch of kids simply ran over to start dancing with him. Brand Point #5: recognize when divine providence is giving you an opportunity and jump on it. Matt immediately understood that adding other happy people from the places he was visiting humanized the experience…and increased the happiness factor.

The video in which Matt pushes his own personal brand the furthest is the video that is purely his vision, sans sponsors. Matt chose to finance his own video and visit places that sponsors had forbidden. Places like North Korea, Moscow, Syria. Why? He wanted to show that the world is full of great people everywhere who want to be happy — and dispel what he feels is a myth: that the world is a scary place to visit. And his bravery has been rewarded. (Brand Point #6: Be brave.) With millions of views (one video has over 47 million), the ads on those videos have more than compensated the dancing video star for his out-of-pocket expenses – and the videos have brought value to the viewers: by providing a different type of peek into foreign cultures, we are all connected a little bit more, via the universal language of dance.

I hope this blog post captures even a tiny amount of the joy I felt meeting Matt and hearing his story. And I hope your brand is able to help your customers feel more joy by being in their lives!

~ Denise Blasevick, @Advertgirl & CEO, The S3 Agency — seen here dancing with Matt Harding at MIT

Kiehl’s Puts Space on Your Face


In the industry of high-end cosmetics, how does a company reach out to male audiences? Put a little sci-fi into it.

That was the goal of Kiehl’s Since 1851 when they “launched” their campaign “How to: Put Space on Your Face.” The campaign features the new Kiehl’s product, the Oil Elimintaor 24-hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer for Men.

The 2-1/2-minute video shows a team of engineers building a small, simple spacecraft that has one purpose: to launch a bottle of Oil Eliminator Anti-Shine Moisturizer past the atmosphere and into space. (The behind-the-scenes video reveals that the engineers prepared months in advance for this.) The bottle-turned-astronaut makes it back to Earth after successfully completing its mission – a few minutes in space.

Why go through all this trouble just to send one bottle into space? Well, Kiehl’s wanted to showcase the moisturizer’s key ingredient: Aerolite, a substance engineered by NASA. Made from aerogel, it’s 99.98% air, making it the lightest man-made solid on Earth, so it’s really light on a user’s face. Apparently Aerolite can absorb four times its weight in oil and breaks up sweat from skin, making it a very effective ingredient in oil elimination.

Although the video doesn’t say all of this, it can still grab attention with the visual premise accompanied by Star Wars-type music. At the very least, it will capture the attention of sci-fi fans, which include quite a few men. This will also feed into the current advertising trend of infusing space and technology into social campaigns (e.g. Red Bull and “the Highest Free Fall”, Watch Dogs “Real World Hacks”, etc.). In fact, Kiehl’s is currently running a contest where winners will be able to have action figures of themselves sent to space on a similar spacecraft, and gifted a picture of them in action.

More than moisturizer? Affirmative.

~ Jay H. Kim, Summer Associate, The S3 Agency

Product Placement Madness!

The summer movie season is upon us, and that means big movies with big budgets. When I hear about how many squillions of dollars these movies take to make, I know a good deal of that is recouped from product placement. But does it have to be so obvious?

It’s very distracting from the movie watching experience. You’re engrossed in a story being told..the camera is following an actor’s movements. Perhaps he walks by a car, or pulls out a phone, and the camera focuses on that object for a beat. Or two. Or five…it becomes an awkward silence in the middle of a story being told.

Looking an egregious example? Marvel’s The Avengers follows two heroes around a car in the middle of a fight, only to stay on that car long after the characters have left the frame.

My favorite example? The most recent Superman! This Hollywood creation features no less then three different call outs to the IHOP franchise, including a long fight scene inside a restaurant. Because nothing says “Man of Steel” like a short stack.

I’d gladly sacrifice some special effects budget if it meant that I could enjoy an entire movie without interruption. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch Michael Bay blow stuff up.

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

Volvo Uses Nostalgia to Market to Millennials

Twenty years ago, the Volvo station wagon was the minivan for moms who didn’t want to drive a minivan. It was a car that a lot of kids my age grew up riding in, fighting each other to sit in the third row that had seats facing the rear window of the car. As a kid, I thought Volvo was a cool car for parents to have – who wouldn’t want to stare out the back window and make faces at the car behind you at a red light?

Unlike the flashy ad for Volvo trucks released earlier this year and featured Jean Claude Van Damme doing a split between two moving trucks, a new Volvo cars ad uses nostalgia to market their products to a new generation of drivers: fellow Millennials, like myself, who grew up having (or knowing at least one person who had) a Volvo station wagon.  The new ad takes the viewer back to a simpler time in his or her life when the worst part of the day was the possible nausea induced by a backward-facing ride.

The spot organically highlights the Volvo’s features and benefits (like ample trunk space) that have been updated for the modern world. Its purpose is to remind Millennials that we now have the power to purchase our own Volvos and create new memories in them. However, as a member of the ad’s target audience, the ad inspires me to buy an old Volvo station wagon and hire a chauffeur to drive me around while I sit in the third row and make faces at the cars behind me. Either way, it has me thinking Volvo.

~ Riley Kertesz, Summer Associate, The S3 Agency

VW’s Eerie, Interactive, Anti-Texting PSA

Mobile use is now the leading cause of death on the road. Despite increased awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, people continue to take the risk. VW is taking a new approach in an attempt to help solve this deadly roadway issue with their new PSA.
It’s powerful and very smart. It didn’t utilize footage of totaled vehicles or
pedestrians being taking away in an ambulance. Rather, what it did do was grab everyone’s attention to really drive the point home.

Here’s how it went down: The PSA takes place in a movie theater in Hong Kong. The lights dim and what looks like a pre-screening advertisement  begins to roll. It’s a first-person-POV video of somebody driving. Just motoring along, .The seconds tick by as the crowd is lulled into boredom, until everybody in the audience with a cell phone receives a “location-based” text message from someone behind the scenes.
See what happens next:

Published 5 days ago, over 10 million sets of eyeballs have tuned into YouTube to see the spot. Hopefully they will all get the message.

~ Michael Kolatac, Senior Art Director, The S3 Agency

Did the CIA just join Twitter?

The world’s most secretive organization, the Central Intelligence Agency joined Twitter on Friday by launching its official account and sending out a humorous first tweet, proving that spies can have a sense of humor. The agency, tweeting with the handle @CIA, confirmed in a news release that it has established a presence on both Twitter and Facebook.

The CIA’s first tweet – “We can neither confirm or deny that this is our first tweet.” – resulted in more than 160,000 followers in the first few hours, 216,000 retweets and 124,000 favorites. Celebrities got in on the fun, adding their starpower to the CIA’s instant Twitter popularity.

What can the CIA possibly share, you ask? Apparently, a lot.

"By expanding to these platforms (Facebook and Twitter), CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA’s mission, history, and other developments," CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement.

The agency also promised to post “the latest news, statements, and career information” from the CIA, along with artifacts from the CIA’s museum, updates from its World Factbook and unclassified intelligence information.

Is this part of an image campaign? It certainly seems to be…although they might want to tweet more than every three days if they want to keep their followers engaged.

~ Meredith Aman, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency


As hard as it is to believe, the actors who portray the characters on MAD MEN have yet to take the Emmy for their individual roles. Perhaps Matt Weiner’s years creating Sterling Cooper & Partners has convinced him that advertising works…because the show has launched a Don Draper-worthy print campaign of 8 ads, each with a spotlight on a different actor.

Each ad transports us back in time with a vintage late 60s/early 70s look and feel, connecting each character with a fictional product that very well could have existed. As Joan hawks hair color (red of course) and Roger is all about the shoes, the brilliant copy draws parallels between the faux ad and why the subject deserves to win an Emmy…without actually saying it. Betty, for example, “loves pearls but prefers gold.”

With ads this fun and well done, it’s entirely possible an Emmy judge could be influenced – connecting the campaign creativity to each actor’s stellar performance. We’ll see when the awards air almost 3 months from now, on August 25, 2014, whether or not Jon Hamm takes home the Emmy, proving that “Behind every pair of our glasses is a man with winning character…” We’ll also see if this campaign sparks a new round of retro concepts from real ad agencies for real products.

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


Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore recently launched their new advertising campaign to build awareness and boost enrollment. Being an art school, the campaign needed to showcase both creativity and inspiration – and they did just that.

Lasalle used quotes from famous artists and innovators on their own personal paths to hone in on the profound effect the arts have to inspire. Faces of these iconic figures were beautifully brought to life via words from their own quotes.

Each of the creative executions end with a simple, yet powerful, call-to-action: “What do you want to try?”; “What course will you drop in on?”; “What will you be?”. The detail of the calligraphy paired with with the quotes is really impressive. Now will this boost enrollment is the question…

What inspires YOU?

~ Stefanie Fernandez, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

[Images: at top, Van Gogh; below, Steve Jobs and Picasso]



[Self Portrait: Vincent van Gogh]

What once was started out as unsolicited spec work by by Italian designer Marco Sodano has now become an advertising campaign. This pixelated art has become part of Lego’s “Imagine” campaign, conveying the message that “every child with Lego can become a great artist like Da Vinci and Vermeer.”

[American Gothic: Grant Wood]

I think the execution is visually captivating. Would the use of more modern art icons have been more on the mark may for Lego’s young demographic? Or does this modernization of classics create that appeal? Whatever the answer, it looks like this spec work was well worth the effort for Sodano.

~ Meredith Aman, The S3 Agency, Account Supervisor

[Girl with a Pearl Earring: Johannes Vermeer]