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]

Gatorade, Milk, & the Very Latest Special Effect

It started with the recent milk campaign – replacing the long-running but no-longer-moving-the-needle milk mustache motif with a series of ads featuring milk pouring out of people as they go about their daily activities. Now, Gatorade has discovered the special effect whereby one’s product can flow forth in slow motion trails from the bodies of its consumers. In this case, behind athletes as they move majestically through their paces. Take a look:

I don’t know what’s going to be next, but with this effect out of the bag, I am expecting something to break soon. Perhaps a beer brand can jump on board, and golden sheets of sudsy ale can cascade from sports fans or bikini models as they party by the pool. How about something in the digestive aid category… say, Pepto Bismol? Is there a place for this effect in the realm of erectile dysfunction pharmacology? The mind reels with the possibilities.

Following so quickly on the heels of the milk campaign, the Gatorade effort comes across as extremely derivative. The commercials may be setting Gatorade apart from other sports drinks – but they’re doing it by reminding me of milk. Not, I’m guessing, what the market research must have called for. At least they didn’t steal the new milk campaign tagline, which might work for Gatorade as well: Milk Life.

~ Adam Schnitzler, Chief Creative Officer, The S3 Agency

Blood Into Art?

About 8 years ago I was introduced to Jordan Eagles at my sister-in-law’s place in upstate NY. He was the quiet guy at the party who struck up a conversation with me. I found out shortly in that he was an artist from Short Hills, NJ – right in our agency’s backyard. He even had a small portfolio of his work with him – and his work was gorgeous. His medium? Cow’s blood acquired by a local slaughterhouse.

These meticulous methods and executions incorporating resin, cheesecloth, copper and more all came together to make beautiful pieces of art that include sculpture, painting, video and even light installations.
Since blood is a source of life, Jordan’s work represents more the beauty of living than that of death – although it evokes the connection between both. I believe it’s best viewed for the end result, not necessarily the key ingredient in his medium which may or may not turn potential viewers off.

I didn’t think twice about checking out his gallery show when he came through NYC back in 2007. Years later, I’m excited to see that Eagles has made a serious impression on the world of modern art. This one is happening right now in Boston.

You can check out all his other work here. (Hard to believe True Blood hasn’t connected with Eagles to promote the final season…)

~ Michael Kolatac, Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency


Few would argue the fact that books have the ability to change the course of human history. Usually, it’s the words within the pages that do the work, but in this particular book it’s the pages themselves: meet The Drinkable Book, the beautiful and functional result of a partnership between DDB New York and Water is Life.

As the accompanying promotional video explains, “every year, 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases.” The Drinkable Book not only educates about the causes and dangers of contaminated waters, it provides an invaluable fix for them: its pages are made from paper coated with particles of silver that enable it to filter out 99 percent of harmful bacteria from contaminated water, rendering it as safe as tap water here in the states. The paper is inexpensive to produce and each filter can last up to 30 days, meaning each book can give its owner up to 4 years’ worth of clean water.

This combination of humanitarian effort, scientific innovation and beautiful, simple design make for an award-worthy piece that has the potential to change the lives of millions. Watch the video here:

~ Trish Salge, Sr. Art Director and Chief Environmental Correspondent, The S3 Agency

New McDonald’s Ads: Who’s Loving It?

Fast food and French food don’t often go hand in hand, unless you’re talking about french fries…then again, these ads from McDonald’s in Paris go beyond the normal Happy Meal. The upcoming summer campaign is much more elegant than one might expect from the Golden Arches. The brand is letting their iconic offerings such as French Fries, Big Mac, and Chicken McNuggets speak for themselves – sans headlines – via flattened pictograms. The only other element: a small “Golden Arches M” reminiscent of a registration mark appears next to the image.

These striking ads certainly let the product be the hero. The illustrative style goes a bit against the traditional “appetite appeal” directive by which most restaurants (including Mickey D’s) generally abide. When these outdoor ads begin popping up in France this summer, will that differentiation work in the brand’s favor? Quite possibly. The campaign invokes heritage and modern appeal simultaneously.

It appears that, in Europe at least, McDonald’s is looking to elevate its image with these tasteful ads. Who’s loving it?

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

Note: This article originally ran in my column. Follow me there for tasty tidbits about advertising, public relations, and social media! ~ Denise


We’ve heard about “likeable” media – but what about “blinkable” advertising? That’s our agency’s term for brand exposure that is so brief, you might miss the message if you blink. Is this not-quite-subliminal branding worthwhile or a waste of marketing dollars?

Earlier this month, Eminem released a Spike Lee-directed video on Mother’s Day. The video is a fairly touching piece shot through the eyes of his long-estranged mother, and one would assume it represents an olive branch of sorts from Eminem. I watched the video and had to do a double take at the 2:26 mark when a single shot of the front grill of a Dodge is haphazardly spliced into to the video. I find this to be the worst kind of disruptive. Knowing that Eminem is a spokesperson for the Detroit car manufacturer, it is not surprising that he is driving a Dodge in the video. But the way the single shot is inserted in the video screams of a colossal mix-up on Spike Lee’s side. (Warning: explicit video follows.)

Interestingly, this explicit video that has a blip of Dodge branding jammed into it currently requires viewers to watch a family-friendly ad from Chevy:

What? If you’re going to literally insert yourself into the video, then at least own it in terms of the actual advertising opportunity.

This is not the first time I have noticed this kind of advertorial spliced into a music video. Check out the 2:23 mark of this Katy Perry video where it is clear that a ‘beauty shot’ of an Ice-Watch has been spliced into the action.

Working on the account / strategy team on the ad agency side, I understand both brands’ desires to have their products clearly featured in video content from two of music’s most popular acts. I just wonder if there might have been a better way to execute this in the pre OR post production phase of the video making.

In the end, I don’t think these types of disruptions do anything for the brand — except possibly look like a mistake.

~ Jaime Hamel, Digital Strategist, The S3 Agency


ESPN seems to think so. In fact, their World Cup Posters are creating buzz as the games get set to start!

World Cup fever is ramping up quickly among football (’soccer’) fans.  Hence the timing for the release of ESPN’s amazing World Cup posters could not be any better.  The set of 32 posters (one for each World Cup team) were created by Brazilian artist Cristiano Siqueira using a unique style that features each team’s nationality, team name, and star players. Above is the poster for Japan. Below are Netherlands and Switzerland.

Siqueira shows that print is certainly not dead…take a look at all the posters here.

~ Walid Elshahed, Web Designer, The S3 Agency


A student ad campaign supporting pro-public-breastfeeding in Texas is causing quite the online stir with its provocative images of women nursing their babies in public toilet stalls. The campaign called “When Nature Calls” is the work of two University of North Texas graphic-art majors, Jonathan Wenske and Kris Haro, who decided to take on this controversial issue for an assignment that requires students to design a campaign for a social issue or product.  

The ad campaign, aiming to protect the rights of nursing mothers, illustrates what it looks like when women don’t have the right to nurse in public and are forced to feed their children in dirty public bathroom stalls.

Here’s what the ad copy says, complete with a call to action: “Would you eat here? By law, breastfeeding mothers are not protected from harassment and refusal of service in public, often forcing them to feed in secluded spaces such as public bathrooms. Contact your state and/or local representative to voice your support for breastfeeding mothers, because a baby should never be nurtured where nature calls.”

While there was never any intention for the ads to run in public, they have gone somewhat viral after being featured on sites like the Huffington Post, Popsugar, and Cosmopolitan. The first image, posted on Facebook by blogger Mama Bean on May 3, has more than 12,800 likes and 8,000 shares, generating a lengthy stream of comments ranging from supportive to insulting.

What I like most about this campaign is that is touches an emotional chord – one that may make readers a bit uncomfortable. Whether you’re a breastfeeding advocate and the reality of this campaign makes you sad or you’re on the other side of the fence and breastfeeding in public makes you feel awkward, this ad campaign definitely makes you feel something. I believe that when advertising takes someone just a bit out of their comfort zone (especially for social awareness campaigns), the ads are most likely doing their job. This campaign is creating conversation and provoking thought. You can’t ask for more than that!

~ Tracey Jeffas, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

A Campaign of (Pint-Sized) Proportions

They say the best things in life come in small packages, or in Coca-Cola’s case, cans. In an effort to promote their 7.5 oz mini cans, tiny kiosks were set up across 5 major cities in Germany. With Coke being one of the most recognizable and valuable brands in the world, the company logo was all that was needed to let the public know what this stand was selling. Each kiosk came equipped with a miniature version of the classic Coke vending machine, along with a variety of other mini products available for sale and a not-so-mini salesman manning the booth (someone get that guy a chiropractor).

This interactive outdoor campaign certainly did its job. The little kiosks garnered a ton of attention from passersby who were eager to snap pictures with their phones, chat with the sales clerk, and ultimately make purchases. In fact, an average of 380 cans were sold out of the mini vending machines each day (which is a 278% increase in sales over regular-sized Coke vending machines)! It was the novelty of having everything downsized that created all the publicity and boosted sales. This just goes to show that bigger isn’t always better. 

~ Kim Schult, Account Coordinator, The S3 Agency