Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Advertising Is. Without Describing It.

I was at a bar with a group of ’09 Adcenter kids last week before the work started. Back when we still had the freedom to go to a bar. Shots of Bacardi rum were ordered and everyone toasted to what we hoped and prayed would be a successful year. I clinked my glass with whomever I could make out in my alcoholic haze, and took the sucker down, nearly sending it back the second it hit my throat.

‘Revolting’ would be the most succinct way of describing the taste. I mean, that thing was awful. I was in the midst of vowing to myself that I’d never take another one of those again when a curious thing happened.

“My God is that delicious,” proclaimed one of my roommates Jordan, in his hypnotic Southern drawl. Maybe it was just the way he said it but I felt a twinge of something in my stomach that was different from when it is greeted by intoxicating poison. It felt almost comforting to hear him praise the drink.

It made the drink taste better.

I wanted to experience what he had experienced. I went from wanting to hurl to wanting another one.

Now, aside from the obvious fact that people my age drink entirely too much (advertising students in particular), my point is not to say that we are all sheep who simply buy what others tell us to buy. In no way do I mean to discount advertising as an unethical barrage of lies that makes perfectly normal people crave unnecessary things. Rather, I use the story to illustrate the fact that advertising (and branding in particular), when done right, actually become benefits of a product.

In his book, What's The Big Idea, George Lois claims that when you brand something right, “Food tastes better, clothes feel better, cars drive better.”

Think about how true that is and how often we don't even realize it.

It’s no secret that in these days of parity products where everything is virtually the same, advertising is the differentiating factor.

Consider this: Why do we go to the supermarket and buy Barilla pasta when there is store brand pasta right next to it for half the price? The freaking store brand pasta is probably made by Barilla! And we know it! The answer, of course, is branding. We know in the back of our minds that it is the exact same product, but we want the comfort of seeing that Barilla box on our kitchen shelf. We want the reassurance of knowing that it’s Barilla simmering in our pots and not some inferior, generic pasta, regardless that it tastes exactly the same.

The same goes for Target-brand facewash that has the exact same ingredients as Neutrogena, or polo shirts that aren't Ralph Lauren.

Why is a 1/2-inch pink pony worth $30 more?

Getting back to the shot of rum, had Jordan not said what he did, had he not acted as an unintentional ambassador of the damn thing, I never would have given it a second thought. His liking it was validation enough for me to like it even though I had hated it seconds earlier. I find this absolutely incredible, likening it to the powerful sway that advertising has over us all. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

Maybe we’ll go out for shots again at the end of the year when the work dies down. And maybe then I'll relax a little and not feel compelled to document it.

dubs. out.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weird Works

Was rooting around adcritic today and stumbled upon this one, the newest of what will soon be a legendary Skittles campaign done by TBWA/Chiat/Day NY, which incidentally just won the honor of being the most awarded agency of the year.

A brilliant and hilarious addition to an already eccentric campaign that, as fate would have it, also sold a lot of Skittles. It's very refreshing these days when everyone is talking about alternative media and guerilla marketing that good old TV can still get it done when there's a great idea behind it.

For the other spots, Leak, Beard, and Trade, click on them, turn the volume up, and enjoy.

And if you don't laugh outloud, maybe it's you that's weird.

dubs. out.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why I Got Into Advertising

This commerical debuted for the Volkswagen Cabrio in 2000 and I believe that it’s as close to what I once read someone call “advertising poetry” as there ever has been. I was fifteen and a freshman in high school when it came out, and even today I can remember how I felt the first time I saw it. Obviously there is a reason for that.

What this spot does so well is something I think most mediocre advertisers forget and overlook nowadays. People are, by their very nature, emotional beings. They respond to emotional messages. They respond to feelings. Great advertising is emotional, not rational. It touches something inside of you that you can’t pinpoint. But you know it’s there. You can feel it pulling and influencing you. They often forget that when people buy a car they're not buying it for the features or for the fact that it can get you from point A to point B. At least not subconsciously. They're buying it for the emotions that driving evokes. VW's agency at the time, Arnold Worldwide, tapped into these emotions. They tapped into the feelings of being young and carefree, of driving around aimlessly with the top down. And they did so not only brilliantly, but beautifully.

The fact that they used the late English folksinger Nick Drake doesn’t bother me, even if Pink Moon is about suicide and depression as its rumored to be. It’s such a pure and honest song that goes so well with the visuals that you just can’t help but be moved by it. It’s funny that it's a goddamn car ad like this that actually moves people nowadays.

VW's recent and similiar "Night Driving" Golf spot from Noam Murro and DDB London this summer, although very good, evoked few of the same feelings as this in such human a way.

The thing that really intrigues me about commercials like these are their persuasive simplicity. So simple and straightforward. No words. Yet so complex and moving all at the same time. This one in particular captures a feeling that only lasts for a short period of time but is one that is timeless in the sense that you never forget it. Teen love. The gazing of the boy in the backseat is a look that we can all identify with.

And I love that it defies convention. It captures that feeling that we all have but often do not want to give in to, especially when we’re young. The feeling of making the less popular decision. Of backing away from the party and going driving under the moonlight instead. It addresses a much larger issue than car advertising in that regard, almost as if it's VW's way of telling young people that what's popular isn't always right. That you can have a much better time "driving through this life" if you do what others don't. If you just take the "higher road," so to speak. (Pardon the necessary puns). Commercials such as these emotionally interact with their targets and create an attachment, and that's really what it's all about for most brands nowadays.

And the look on the girl's face at the end gives me goosebumps.

Every time.

dubs. out.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


That was what was written on the white board in big, faded, bubbly letters when the great Constantin "Coz" Cotzias angrily stormed into the classroom earlier today and looked out at the class. Pretty simply put, I thought, that one word could sum up the way every single person in the class felt at that moment. Just throw on an "ed" to the end. Proceeding to erase it in long swoops, he replaced it with the numbers “8/30.”

“Write this down,” Coz said in a tone that could only be characterized as threatening. Twenty-four pens slowly marked it onto notebooks.

“This is the date of the last day that you may be able to withdraw from the school and get your money back." Everyone took a deep breath and looked around helplessly.

"I don’t think any of you have any idea of what is about to happen to you," he continued. "You are about the get hit by a motherfucking Mac Truck. Now I want you to listen to me like I am the fucking burning bush: Every year we have at least ten kids who will not make it to second year. In fact, out of everyone in this room, 2 of you will not fucking make it to the second semester. Will you have the tenacity to not be one of those 2?”

Welcome to Conceptual Thinking in Copywriting, Fall semester 2007, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30-4:30.

We got out a shade before 7:30.

Welcome to advertising. Welcome to your future.

Coz’s class is, if the first class is any measurement, a mixture of pleasure and pain, highs and lows, heaven and hell. It’s a rollercoaster ride through orgasms and someone kicking you in the nuts with boots made out of shattered glass. All of this screaming, mind you. Let me elaborate.

In no way am I exaggerating when I say that I have never been so terrified in my entire life than I was the first half hour of class today-- my first ever at Adcenter. I listened to Coz speak about failure, about the workload, about thinking until your brain aches, about wanting to go home and pull the trigger when nothing brilliant comes, about the brutality of this business, and felt the pain settle in my stomach as I wondered if I had the stones to actually go through with this life-changing decision. If I had the stones to be in advertising. I watched as he pushed greasy locks out of his angry red face and jingled the keys in his vested pockets, merciless about the fact that he was scaring the ever-living shit out of twenty-four wide-eyed ad hopefuls. That he was dashing their dreams to nothing before their very eyes and basically telling them one thing: "Some of you don't belong here." But which ones, no one knows.

But of course, no one can stay that mad for long without having a brain aneurysm. Directly after he finished his tirade of yelling, threatening and cursing (the last of which, incidently, never stops), his manner completely changed. He softened up, for lack of a better term. His words became stimulating, intriguing, even quotable. I couldn't take my pen off the paper as he spurted off conversation-like rhetoric, the page evolving from three menacing numbers at the top to three full pages of insightful one-liners. This was a guy who knew what he was talking about. This was a guy I would be honored and blessed to learn from. This was a guy that had some of the funniest stories that I've ever heard. Stories that span a lifetime doing exactly what I someday want to be doing. Including the notion that John Goodman's character, Walter from the Big Lebowski, was based off of him, which he claimed went only as far as his wardrobe. To this day, however, he has never been able to prove that is true.

Here is a visual representation of Coz, plus long hair. Minus the coffee can.

Looking around the room I saw nodding, smiles, even genuine laughter from time to time. I felt relaxed. I felt excited. Excited to be in a business that pays people to sit around and come up with cool shit. I was ready to go. Throw the work at me. I can handle it.

It was funny to think about advertising as a whole, how, like the class, it is a business of ups and downs. A business where, as Coz puts it, "on any given day you can show up and not know if you're going to end that day feeling like the shit on the bottom of some dude's shoe, or be that same dude's hero." The "dudes" were my addition (in honor of the above picture).

I'm going to work my hardest to make sure I'm that dude's hero.

dubs. out.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Oh. Hey. Didn't see you there. Welcome to Rolling on Dubs. While I realize that it’s cool for the kids to refer to driving on 20" chrome automobile rims as "Rollin' on Dubs," (a phrase which—right—includes my last name) unfortunately that blogger domain was already taken and, alas, I was forced to title this blog with a "g" on the end of it. Although this is hardly an ample first blogging topic, hopefully it will serve as a good explanation as to why there is a little something off about this whole thing in terms of hipness. Or lack thereof. Plus it gave me an excuse to come on here and talk about something other than advertising as my first subject. Which might be rare.
In the meantime, my apologies.
The next one will be better.
I promise.

dubs. out.