Can brands still ride The Beatles’ coattails? It seems so.

One of the first ads I saw upon arriving in London today at first resulted in a roll of the eyes. Really? Could my visit start with something so, well, stereotypical?

Much as I wanted to dislike this advert, I just couldn’t. Tikka to ride?! What a fun spin on a famous song title from the Fab Four to bring attention to food delivery service. The graphic is equally smile-inducing. Bonus points for the placement on a double decker bus literally giving people rides. And it’s all for the type of food we know was quite popular with the boys from Liverpool.

So yes, this advert gets a ticket to ride indeed.

Can brands still ride The Beatles’ coattails? It seems so.

One of the first ads I saw upon arriving in London today at first resulted in a roll of the eyes. Really? Could my visit start with something so, well, stereotypical?

Much as I wanted to dislike this advert, I just couldn’t. Tikka to ride?! What a fun spin on a famous song title from the Fab Four to bring attention to food delivery service. The graphic is equally smile-inducing. Bonus points for the placement on a double decker bus literally giving people rides. And it’s all for the type of food we know was quite popular with the boys from Liverpool.

So yes, this advert gets a ticket to ride indeed.

Advertiser Beware: Context Matters

While most traditional advertising left advertisers at a bit of risk for running next to inappropriate content, at least there were usually human beings viewing the context before it went live. And if they saw a story that would completely clash with your ad’s content, most likely that media outlet did some quick finagling to keep paying accounts from looking like buffoons. The world of online advertising, however, has no such built-in safety net. Take a look at the ad below that popped up in the middle of a news story I was reading. The story, a touching piece about a 12-year-old girl with a rare medical condition that made her gain uncontrollable amounts of weight who had finally received the surgery she needed to help reverse her morbid obesity. The ad, a banner for fast food pioneer McDonald’s. In Spanish.

Do I blame McDonald’s for this ad placement? Of course not. That’s how online advertising works. But could I see how people could be outraged by seeing the headline “Texas Girl Obesity Surgery” tied into a Filet-o-Fish banner ad? Absolutely.

This type of potential backlash puts digital marketers in a bit of a pickle, right McDonald’s? Reaching as many targeted people as possible for the best budget means upping the potential contextual risk. On the other hand, buying ads exclusively anchored to specific content reduces your audience and ups your cost.

In the end, it’s yet another layer in an increasingly complex criteria matrix must consider with each media buy.

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

Andy and Daniel: A Story of Inspiration

Picasso once said, “All children are born as artists. The problem is how to continue to be artists while growing up.”

I was introduced to Andy yesterday while at a photo shoot. He was the quiet guy in the back of the studio retouching some beautiful watch photography. I took him for a retoucher – which he was, and a very good one at that. As the day progressed, I found out that he was an amazing painter as well. One of the pieces that caught my eye was hung on the studio wall. Bart, the photographer, told me it was Andy’s – something he created in collaboration with his 2 year old son, Daniel. Daniel would begin the painting and Andy would work with him combining his line work and colors to coincide with Daniel’s. The result: beautiful paintings that share a father’s love for his son and their mutual passion for art. Andy was generous to take some time away from his job and share with me this video, which not only demonstrates both their talents but was a warming end to a productive day.

So the next time your creativity is blocked and you need a little inspiration, or call up Andy and Daniel’s website. It’s sure to put you in a better frame of mind.

~ Mike Kolatac, Senior Art Director, The S3 Agency

CAN A SHELF TALKER REALLY SPEAK TO YOU?

I feel a bit uneasy admitting this, but I recently purchased Old Spice deodorant. And it wasn’t because of their ad campaigns that featured minotaurs, clingy mothers signing, and Fabio. I was shopping at Wal-Mart recently and heard the brand’s signature whistle from a few aisles away. When I went to the deodorant aisle, there was no display to be seen. The voice activated ‘whistle’ was hidden somewhere behind the rows of deodorant. It was enough to get me to pick up a stick of a variety called ‘Bear Glove’. After inspecting the packaging I gave it a whiff and I was in. It did not smell like the ‘Soap On A Rope’ musk scent that I was expecting.

I don’t think that I’m their target market, but as a marketer I found it cool that a simple tactic like this won me over faster than a shirtless Terry Crews could. I also smell like a Bear… so that is another plus.

~ Jaime Hamel (aka @StopHamelTime), Digital Strategist, The S3 Agency

FINALLY, SOMEONE USES “AFTERNOON DELIGHT” IN AN AD

And that someone is Taco Bell. Yes, the “Live Mas” sloganeer has tapped retro sex-ballad “Afternoon Delight” as the theme for their new Happier Hour campaign. So now, when you need to fill your belly during that void between lunch and dinner, just raise an eyebrow at your cubicle neighbor and steal away to sneak in an extra meal. The campaign is attention getting, informative and memorable. However…it’s a little sad that grabbing a $1 loaded griller between 2 and 5pm is the 2014 version of 1970s free-love.

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

APP HAS EVERYTHING BUT THE GUM

Tomorrow marks the first calendar day of spring, but baseball fans know that the season doesn’t really start until Opening Day. And though the dreams of someday seeing yourself on a baseball card may have faded when Ron Guidry left the mound, “Rookies” now revives them: this awesome app enables users to create old-school baseball cards featuring their own roster composed of anyone from family and friends to co-workers and Fantasy League buddies. While users can share cards via Facebook, this app goes the extra mile by also offering custom printing, with 20 cards arriving in a traditional sealed wax pack. Your card may never fetch $1,000,000 on eBay, but it’ll still beat the pants off a boring old business card. Check out the whole story at RookiesApp.com.

~ Trish Salge, Sr. Art Director and Bleacher Creature, The S3 Agency

eSurance Commercial Balances Old and New

Car insurance commercial balances old and new, striking perfect humor balance

These days it seems every grandma is on Facebook. Not Beatrice. No, the star of the new eSurance commercial posts her vacation photos to her wall – that is, to the wall in her house. As she shows them to her other senior citizen friends, extolling the speed with which she does things like post photos, Beatrice references the mere “15 minutes” of Geico fame in which she saved on her car insurance. One of her cronies pipes up, saying she saved more in half the time – to which Beatrice responds that she’s unfriending her. The clearly more savvy friend says in exasperation, “That’s now how it works. That’s not how any of this works.” The voice over swoops in, confirming for viewers that, indeed, 15 minutes is no longer the standard. Instead, they claim you’ll save more in 7-1/2 minutes or less. And in only 30 seconds, a new speed-demon has entered the auto insurance race.

This spot works so well because eSurance strikes the balance perfectly: new technology balances old, all delivered via a spot-on casting of Beatrice and friends. Seeing this on TV, it seems to leave one questioning if they actually saw what they just saw: someone posting photos on the wall of their home – and then telling someone they are unfriending them to their face? Old school rules the comedy of this spot, which is punctuated exclamation-point style by the claim that they’ll save you more in less time. After all, in this age of social media in which an unlimited supply of content is in constant battle to stand out, time is at an all-time premium. So saving 7-1/2 minutes…well, that’s actually a pretty powerful statement.

Even more: this is a spot that begs to be shared. To be shown to friends and family of all ages. With something for everyone to enjoy, eSurance is getting their message of time and money savings across. Will the brand promise live up to the expectations set by such a strong campaign? Only time (and money) will tell…

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

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

Be Greater Than…Smoking.

The latest Marlboro cigarettes ad campaign from Philip Morris International is global in reach – deployed in 50 countries – and is sparking quite a controversy. The question at hand: do these ads target teens?

Let’s take a look at the visuals: crowd surfing at a concert; sucking face in the street; catching air on a snowboard. Well, that’s a big yes. What about the copy? The headline concept always involves the word “maybe” — as in, “maybe” is what weaklings think; strong individuals take action. Action like smoking cigarettes, I suppose. So don’t be a maybe…be a somebody and smoke Marlboro. That sounds like peer pressure any way you read it, which is another indicator that this campaign targets teens.

Now let’s look at the tagline: the word “Be,” the “greater than” sign that teens just learned about in math class, and the Marlboro box. What does this mean? Either it’s “Be greater than, Be Marlboro” – which is the intent. Or, maybe (just maybe) teens will read it as “Be greater than Marlboro” – in other words, be greater than smoking. So even if it’s the latter and encouraging readers in some bizarrely subliminal manner not to smoke, it’s another element that has “teenager” written all over it.

Tsk tsk, Philip Morris. No wonder Germany banned your ads. Now if you really wanted to reach teens without sparking a storm of media hate, maybe you should put old people in the same ads and go for an ironic effect. But I’m thinking you wanted the free press…after all, if mommy and daddy hate the ads, it’s just one more reason to pick up a pack of reds, right?

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

Haunting Charity Ad Brings the Conflict Home

We often turn to YouTube to see the latest cat video, social snafu or viral hoax. This video is none of those – and it showcases YouTube’s capacity as a global information tool.

U.K.-based Save the Children charity asks viewers to remember that, just because the Syrian conflict is happening far away, that doesn’t mean it isn’t really happening.

The spot uses a series of 1-second-a-day video snapshots of a young girl from one birthday to the next to slowly reveal a nightmare version of Britain. What a difference a year can make. And even though it isn’t shot in the US, this video is something anyone in America can immediately understand. Perhaps that is why it gained nearly 11 million views in under two days on YouTube.

~ Walid Elshahed, Web Designer, The S3 Agency

FIRST KISS: VIRAL VIDEO OR HOAX?

Who knew watching 20 strangers kiss for the first time on camera would be so interesting? With over 37 million YouTube views in just three days, this clothing brand ad that initially masqueraded as a viral video is drawing kudos as well as some viewer ire.

The first thing I thought when I watched this video was “I wouldn’t mind being one of those twenty people,” because they are all absolutely gorgeous. Then I realized that while they may all technically be strangers, there was nothing random about the professional models, actors and musicians included in this video. But I’ll be honest I didn’t think this was a fashion ad. Maybe a social experiment about awkwardness and intimacy, but not an advertisement for a clothing line.

Filmmaker Tatia Pilieva paired up with Wren Studio, a LA-based fashion label, to launch this video in support of their 2014 Fall collection. Wren’s founder and creative director Melissa Coker said that the video was launched as part of Style.com's video fashion week. “We make these fashion films every season,” Coker said. “I strive to make them an interesting film that exists on its own rather than something that feels like a commercial, and it seems to be touching people — not only people who are in fashion and would see this, but also random guys who aren't connected at all”.

So, while initially it seems as though the intention of this video was to pay tribute to every first kiss ever the reality is it was a brilliantly executed marketing stunt that got millions and millions of people talking about the Wren fashion label.

However, many who were drawn into the video by the apparent random romance are feeling “duped” when they find out that it is, indeed, an ad. In today’s transparent world, audiences don’t like to be duped. But when you look at 37 million views (and growing), all the social shares and chatter, plus the earned media (even if it’s negative), a whole lot more people know about this brand than they did four days ago.

~ Tracey Jeffas, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency

Does Maytag Man Stand Out? Depend On It!

As a recent first time home buyer, I had the oh-so-exciting (not) experience of shopping for appliances several months ago. Store after store filled with row after row of stainless steel extra cooling super durable whatchamacallits. Even the word appliance has a negative connotation. The branding is equally lackluster: you could swap the logo on any 2 machines and they would have the exact same customer ratings. Some good, some bad.

The advertising for these items is as boring as the product themselves, often touting how reliable they are (they aren’t). However, Maytag recently came out with a new series of “Maytag Manthem” ads, aimed at humanizing these appliances and showing off how much abuse they can take. Here’s one of the spots:

Gone is the old Maytag Man, who had been around for 2 decades, and here now is a younger face with a hint of dry humor and wit. He takes the place of your household appliances, and speaks to you while performing the machines duties. Knowing that no one gets excited over a dishwasher, the product is only shown for a second at the end, then is gone. I was introduced to the campaign on TV, but it’s 360 degrees; online, social media, and in-store branding are included.

Had this campaign come out a few months earlier, I definitely would have had something to remember at the point of sale, instead of looking at rows of soulless machines.


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

DHL Prank Delivers!

OK, we know UPS is brown, FedEx has a hidden arrow in its logo, and DHL…well, what do we know about DHL that differentiates it from its competition? Now we know, thanks to DHL’s very clever PR prank that put UPS to work delivering their message: DHL IS FASTER.

This is an example of a creative idea that was hard to pull off — and probably had many naysayers when it was first suggested. It’s also an idea that, if it didn’t work, nobody would hear about it — so the risk was low. But if it worked…

Here’s what DHL did: they wrapped large packages in thermoactive foil and made them so cold that the paper turned black. Those packages were given to UPS to deliver to “difficult-to-find” city addresses — which would be just another day in the life of a UPS delivery person except for the fact that, by the time delivery came, the packages had warmed up and revealed the real message. The oversized packages were actually bright yellow with “DHL IS FASTER” emblazoned across the front in large red letters.

In short: UPS workers were being spotted carrying giant yellow billboards that screamed “DHL IS FASTER.” Mortifying, yet they had to do what they were contracted to do. Pretty sneaky, DHL. (And kudos to UPS for being professionals about the whole thing.) I wonder if FedEx was intentionally left out or if they were targeted as well and just didn’t play along?

~ @advertgirl, The S3 Agency

The Rewards and Challenges of Teaching Web Design

About 7 years ago I decided to take a part-time teaching position at a technical post-secondary school.  My time in the classroom has been very challenging as well as one of the most rewarding experiences in my career.  I believe everyone should spend time in an educational setting teaching others their craft.  I also believe that sharing knowledge with others is a responsibility to help your own industry flourish. I wanted to share some of my experiences to help you consider such a move for your own career.

THE CHALLENGES
Let’s start by looking at the challenges and some of the solutions I’ve used to meet them over the years.  

Not Everyone Learns the Same Way
Over the years, students from all walks of life, age groups and experience levels have sat in my classroom.  Fundamentally, teaching is about presenting a concept in the best possible way for your students to grasp. However, no matter how well you prepare, the reality is that your materials will work great for some students and not so well for others. Everyone learns differently and at their own pace.

When you receive feedback from your students, use it to adjust your lesson plans to make sure you reach all students and not just the best and brightest.  Try to find ways to get those slower-paced learners up to speed. For example, I’ve allowed students to record lessons so that they can go over them later at their own pace.  I wasn’t crazy about the idea of being recorded but I felt it would help so I allowed it.  Sure enough the change was usually immediate in those students and they end up making a quick turnaround.

Not Everyone is Cut Out To Be a _______________  (Fill in the blank)
The reality is that there were still some students who no matter how much extra attention I gave them or how much tutoring and extra materials I offered, simply didn’t understand the concepts being taught despite my best efforts.  In most cases these students tried really hard and having to sit down with them and explain that I didn’t think they were right for the field is easily the most uncomfortable thing I have had to do as a teacher.

If you’re going to be a truly effective teacher, be prepared to make difficult decisions.  As uncomfortable as these conversations are, they sometimes necessary for the good of the class.

You Represent The Industry
You will be the first industry professional most of your students have ever met or been able to speak with.  To them, you represent the industry.  The stories and opinions you share will shape their understanding of the industry.  That is a HUGE responsibility!  The hardest part is trying to not take any negativity from a bad day at the office into the classroom.  I wasn’t trying to represent the industry as all rainbows and unicorns but I wanted to always teach students to respect clients no matter how frustrating some were.

Instead of just blowing off steam and complaining to students about clients, I tried to use the experiences in a productive way by explaining some of the obstacles they may encounter on a day-to-day basis and how try to overcome them.

THE REWARDS
The above are probably some of the most substantial challenges to face as a teacher, but if you meet those challenges, the rewards are even more substantial.  

Helping Others
It wasn’t long after starting to teach that I began to feel the huge impact I had on my students.  Spending time with people who are genuinely interested in the craft and the knowledge you have to share is an amazing feeling.   Many of my students were unemployed or underemployed at the time of enrollment, and seeing them graduate and find good entry-level jobs in the industry is very rewarding. Hearing students later on telling me how the lessons and conversations in the classroom helped prepare them for success really makes all my hard work worthwhile.

Learning By Teaching
Probably the most valuable benefit of teaching is how much I’ve learned in the process.  Try to explain the difference between HTML and CSS to a new student and I guarantee you will understand the concept better than before.  This experience in explaining technical concepts to students will also help you speak with clients without being too technical or intimidating.  

Generating Business
Speaking of clients, I wouldn’t have expected this when I started teaching, but it lead to a number of projects outside of the classroom.  Multiple students and teachers have passed along solid leads to me because they couldn’t handle the projects themselves with their level of experience.

Over the years, people have asked me if I realized that I was training professionals who will one day replace me or take clients away from me.  I’ve honestly never felt that way because there’s plenty of work to go around.  From my experience, being a teacher and making a positive impression on your students won’t lose you clients, but could actually generate business for you and your agency.

If you ever decided to start teaching and sharing knowledge of your industry, I assure you that the students will not be the only ones who get something positive from the experience.

~ Walid Elshahed, Web Designer (and educator), The S3 Agency

Oscar Mayer Gives New Meaning To “Wake ‘n Bac(on)”

What’s better than waking up to the smell of bacon being cooked in the kitchen (by someone else)? Nothing, it seems. However, Oscar Mayer has introduced a clever runner-up: a bacon alarm clock app that attaches to your iPhone, releasing whiffs of savory goodness and sounds of unmistakeable sizzle. That’s right: it transforms your iPhone into a Bacon Scent Alarm Clock. The bacon scent alarm adds a new dimension of phone gadgetry enjoyment. It ties nicely into mornings – perhaps encouraging people to have a little more bacon during the work week by waking up earlier, rather than relegating its deliciousness to weekend enjoyment. It also taps into the unique Pavlovian-response inducing smell that may not belong solely to Oscar Mayer, but as the largest player in the bacon wars anything that’s good for bacon is good for Oscar Mayer.

The down side? (Other than potentially annoying the vegan in the bed next to you, who probably still likes the smell of bacon and may even be settling for tempeh “Fakin’ Bacon”…) Only 4,700 bacon fans will be lucky enough to receive this sensory device. To try and claim one, just go to their website: http://www.wakeupandsmellthebacon.com/. You may have the bacon gods smile upon you…or you may be greeted with an apology from this guy:

Should you be unable to join the elite 4,700 owners of this smell-tastic device, however, you can download the Oscar Mayer Wake Up & Smell the Bacon free app. You won’t get the scent, but the sizzling sounds may just provide enough reason to get out of bed.

~ advertgirl

ARE YOU RESPONSIVE? (AND IS YOUR WEBSITE?)

Mobile technology keeps getting better. The average smart phone today has more computing and processing power then a desktop did 10 years ago. Because of this, people are using their mobile devices increasingly for everyday tasks. Currently, 28% of a typical website’s traffic comes from a mobile device (tablet and phone combined)*, and that number will only go up in the future.

With all these mobile users looking at your website, perhaps it’s time you took a look too – to make sure it’s truly responsive. Does the content automatically reflow to fit a particular screen size well? If not, that lack of responsiveness can be hurting your brand’s digital experience just as an unresponsive company representative can negatively effect the customer experience.

Take CarAndDriver.com for example. Visit the site via your phone, and you will see the standard website, with microscopic body copy and tiny images. Sure, you could zoom in, but then you’re missing all the content on the right side – including the advertisements for which brand are paying but whose impact is clearly minimized. This digital experience simply doesn’t do the renowned automotive magazine justice.

Compare that to Jalopnik, a popular automotive blog who has a much more modern online appeal and sensibility. Right away, you’re met with bold headlines and easy to read copy. Simply scroll down for additional stories – today’s mobile surfer has no issue with scrolling down, after all. Before you know it, your 15 clicks into the site. It encourages you to read, rather then making you work.


Car and Driver has been around for over 50 years, while Jalopnik is just a few years old, which has allowed the latter to respond (no pun intended) to technological needs much faster. As magazine subscriptions continue to decline, I suspect sites like Jalopnik will only continue to become more relevant.

* http://bgr.com/2013/11/08/mobile-devices-internet-traffic-q3-2013/

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