Sunday, 29 June 2014

Saturday Streaming #2

It's a day late but in any case here are my favourite videos from the past week.

At the Cannes advertising event, or rather festival of creativity as it is now called, apparently the most awarded campaign this year celebrates some of the basest greedy human behaviours in a desperate plea for attention. And apparently it worked out well for them. I don't like it. Particularly that it's about Christmas, and it's a time of year I love to spend with loved ones and sharing moments where I don't behave like a selfish spoiled brat.

This Lacoste video on the other hand, is gorgeous - quite the opposite and a beautiful film to boot.

John Oliver keeps kicking ass in his new weekly news show, and HBO publishes whole segments on Youtube which is awesome:

13/07/2014 Update: I haven't updated this segment last week or yesterday. I think I'll drop the idea, still considering. I was thinking it might make for easy blogging, which may be true but it's also lazy blogging. I'll think about it and post another update by end of July on the topic.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Saturday Streaming #1

Happy summer solstice everyone! I just realised I spent most of the longest day of the year working on a video edit for an upcoming podcast project I'm working on. Oh well. I diverge, anyways the point here is I'm starting a new series of simple posts, with a little alliteration for title and the videos I've enjoyed watching the most in the past week.

First up, I don't exactly know how I missed this campaign when it first came out in 2012 but in any case if ever you haven't seen this fantastic ad for Southern Comfort, check it out:

By far one of the best I've seen in a while, and the music excellent too. I actually have all the ads running in loops on my projector screen as I'm writing this. The others in the series are great too, you can watch them over on their Youtube channel. I believe we can thank W+K for those. I wonder if selling more Southern Comfort. They did keep with the campaign since 2012 so I guess it must be.

Next, I was just catching up with John Oliver's new show on HBO Last Week Tonight, there are several brilliant segments available on Youtube, and amongst the ones I watched a special mention of serious laughing out loud action goes to this special letter from POM Wonderful, the makers of the pomegranate juice, which I also know for being the title sponsors of Morgan Spurlock's documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. I still haven't tried the juice but seeing this I'm not sure I want to...

It is the Cannes Lions international advertising festival at the moment, so I reviewed some of the advertising work from the past year the industry press is saying will probably win awards, I had seen quite a few though this one I hadn't and is really compelling. A bit offbeat and an original, inspiring way of communicating a public service announcement:

I'll finish with the pretty amazing new OK GO music video, mind blowing once again. This time they are playing with optical illusions in a huge warehouse:

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Reverse engineering the Gillette Manscaping video

In my last post, I wrote about the idea of celebrating the bottom of the ad barrel with a series of posts. Yesterday I spent some time looking for a number of ads, wondering where to find these ads and how to evaluate what would be worth writing about while struggling to keep my eyes open watching one boring ad after another. In hindsight perhaps not the best use of two hours of free weekend time...

This made me think of a slightly different approach because there's no hope for any kind of objectivity in this exercise. I'll primarily try to keep note of ads I'm shown in Youtube pre-rolls that bore or irritate me, and I'll talk about them in the blog while attempting to recreate the creative brief that could have led to the creation of the ad. Of course everything I'll be writing in these kinds of posts is humorous parody (hopefully, mostly).

Without further ado, let's talk about this series of Gillette videos. I was shown this one in pre-roll:

I was not too happy to watch this ad again, but in the spirit and intention of benefiting the rest of humanity with marketing pseudo-science, I did anyways. I still remember being shown this ad on Youtube, of course while trying to watch another ad. They use the first five seconds before users can skip the ad effectively to capture the male users' attention, like blasting full fog lights from the speeding Gillette road train to the unsuspecting stag quietly crossing the road.

'Hey guys, I know there's a lot of rumours out there flying around about body-trimming' - 3 seconds in.

The poor target is hooked. As a naive consumer the questions immediately come to mind: Who is this guy and why does he look bare chested? Is he in a shower? Why is he talking to me like I'm his friend? Am I friends with this guy? Am I in the bathroom with him? Are there really rumours flying around about body-trimming? Should I know about them? Am I out of the loop? Why does he look so creepy?

The paralysis and horror shape up for the following few seconds. I don't skip the ad, I just viscerally need to understand why this person wants to tell me about chest shaving so badly. And maybe there's something I should know about it. We're at 15 seconds in the video. My finger is ready to click the skip button on my mouse but I can't seem to. 18 seconds. Now he's caressing his chest hair. This is really weird. His goatee is weird too. He's basically just taken a whole minute pretending to teach me something but telling me I can use shaving gel and start shaving / trimming under the shower. I'm pretty sure I knew that. I stopped before the end of the long video the first time, but the memory will be there forever and I would like to share it with you.

Let's analyse it a bit further, we'll go through the usual steps and imagine what the creative brief might have looked like. The creative brief is the document that usually leads to the advertising idea and execution for an ad like this one, it typically has the following elements:

Business context and objective:

While Gillette are usually content with getting the male audience excited about their new products by borrowing visual tropes from high end luxury and sports car adverts, this time they would like to create a meaningful and lasting personal connection with the guys. Plus they need to sell a huge bunch of trimmers, and if more men shaved more hair in more places, they would obviously buy more blades.

Target audience:

Men, ideally of the young Millennial variety but we'll talk about 18-45 years old to be on the safe side. Most of them shave, and even bearded hipsters trim. Plus a recent survey mentioned in Cosmopolitan states that 95% of men now 'manscape' so it is widely known and accepted.

Audience insight:

Given 95% of young men already manscape, the leftover 5% probably need help to figure it out. Also men really appreciate being told how to do stuff like shaving, many would like the idea of a shaving companion with them in the bathroom.

Single-minded message:

Gillette is men's friendly manscaping confidant.


- Perhaps a series of videos, like on Youtube, there are plenty of 'how to' videos
- Feature creepy guys inviting the unsuspecting watcher in their shower
- These could be actually pretty useful and informative videos for those who have questions about manscaping, but we'd like to make sure we remove useful information from the video in order to amp up the personal connection opportunities. For example, some men might have legitimate questions about shaving with or against the grain; do not answer those or provide an opinion. It's a trap.
- Ensure the media plan reaches people at strange times. If advertising on Youtube, no frequency cap required.

I'll finish with my actual opinion about the ad and a question. Overall I think there might be a decent idea in there somewhere but it's badly executed. I started watching a few other videos in the series and didn't find them any better.

I find the guys featured creepy, is it me or do others think that too?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Scraping the bottom of the ad barrel: a new series of posts

Image credit: midiman

I haven't wrote about advertising for a while, and given I'd like to ramp up activity around here I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a new series of blog posts, something I could write about on a weekly basis perhaps.

It is pretty commonly accepted that 99% of ads are pretty boring, bad, run of the mill, etc. Just turn your TV on and see for yourself. Or walk outside and notice billboards, read a magazine, or pay attention to banners online. There is a lot of industry press and awards for the 1% of good work out there, so that's covered, but what about the wide majority of ads that allow admen to eat and pay bills every month? And what about the 1% at the other end of the spectrum, the very worst stuff, the boring bottom of the ad barrel? Sure the catastrophes get some press, like really stupidly offensive stuff, but how about the mind-numbingly mundane..? 

I feel not enough is written about bad ads and bad practices. Well actually, there are typically a few posts every year about the worst ads. I just want to write about it, I think it could be fun. So this upcoming series of posts aims to celebrate or at least provide some online coverage for the worst and most boring ad campaigns out there. Some of my commentary might be insightful, but don't hope for too much of that.

Of course given 99% of ads are pretty bad to start with, where do you find the really boring ones? It is going to be pretty subjective. Plus I work in advertising too so I might have to be slightly careful... (Perhaps a good time to remind everyone that this blog is personal and doesn't represent the views of my employer). 

This is one of the main reasons I'm starting with an opening post, if you have suggestions or ideas as to how or where to find these ads please tell me in the comments. In my experience and given I don't watch TV, Youtube pre-rolls are decent place to start - I'll pay more attention. If I keep at it properly, there could be some kind of small competition for vote for the worst ads... Maybe Ads of the World can help too? I'll be doing some more research.

If you have more ideas, please keep in touch in the comments, or Twitter, or you can send me an email via Thanks!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

My Travel Bug

Image Credit: 'Wandering' by Hasna Lahmini
Image Credit: 'Wandering' by Hasna Lahmini

In the past couple of weeks since a friend of mine sent me this post about what it is to have the travel bug (in French, 'Le virus du voyage') I've been giving some thought as to why I travel, what I enjoy about it, and what this supposed bug is all about.

To start with, I haven't really considered myself a great traveler until only recently. I'm not sure if it's because I always meet people who have traveled more than I have while travelling, or if I just hadn't really thought about myself in this way - I mean by that I've just been thinking that traveling the way I have is a pretty normal thing to do. Checking my TripAdvisor Facebook app, I've traveled to 27 countries, about 17% of the world. You might know I spent 18 months traveling in Asia and over a year of that time trying out the digital nomad thing. I have also been on a few 1-2 month long trips before. The fact is my family and friends think of me as a great traveler. According to a recent survey, the average Briton has traveled to 7 countries. I'm not British, but I think I can agree I'm not average either, at least when it comes to travel.

So there, I'm a traveler.

There are several aspects of being a traveler I can write about, I'll spread that over a few different posts. I'd like to talk about the urge first, it's one way to talk about how it starts.

Travel bug is an interesting term in itself, taken literally it implies the traveler is not responsible for his wanting to wander, only the victim of a greater force at play, so strong it is compared with a disease or a virus. I don't think there is such a thing as not being entirely responsible for wanting to go travel, however the analogy is pretty good. It feels like a longing, wanting to drop everything and just go, seeing with my own eyes the landscape hiding beyond the horizon even though I intellectually know that the proverbial grass isn't actually any greener over there than it is here.

How did I catch this travel bug then? I'm not sure, but you could say I grew up in the right terrain: my parents left their own countries and traveled to different ones to live and work, I have too as a child, so I have an international background. I remember reading somewhere that children who grow up with an international background and travel are more likely to do the same as adults.

I've always loved reading, from the moment I learned I was reading 2-3 times more than school assignments asked for. I day dream a lot, and over think almost everything. My favourite books are science-fiction, fantasy, and travel journals - stories about exploring imagined worlds or our own. I know these things are related, without necessarily providing a specific reason.

I remember collecting post cards from various places as a teenager, they decorated the walls of my bedroom. I preferred them over posters of any movies or bands I liked. It may have started even earlier, though it makes me think of a story, probably the closest explanation I have right now.

When I was 15 years old, just before turning 16, I went to visit old friends of my parents in Long Island, near Oyster Bay if I remember correctly. They had two kids about my age I hadn't seen since I was 6 years old, before we moved to France. I didn't really have a good time during the trip. I was hanging out with the kids and their friends, it was ok but I don't remember really getting along with them. As a teenager, being part of the group is essential though, and I didn't really have anyone else to hang out with so I made efforts to be friendly.

Then something happened, I can't remember exactly what it was, but probably something barely interesting enough to make it in a daytime TV sitcom scenario. Something along the lines of being made the scapegoat for something that was said to someone and upset the whole group. Drama, shouting, and vague threats ensued, and basically it was made clear to me I was no longer welcome in the gang. Then on top of that I was told off be the father that night for not helping around the house (I was, or at least I thought I was) and had some weird speech about how I should be more sociable (again, I thought I was). He didn't let me call my parents after that when I asked, because it was too expensive.

Needless to say I was seriously upset. I went to my room, cried a while, I missed my friends and family back in France, and suddenly felt very far away from home. Then I thought about it all. I felt alone, and also like I was the only one I could count on to have anything else happen.

I wondered what I could do about it, what I wanted to do about it. I didn't want to be a victim of the situation.

I was only a few days away from the end of the trip, and I hadn't really seen anything of New York City, which was why I wanted to go in the first place. I had spent most of the time in Long Island so far. I looked at the train schedule, made a decision, and made a plan. I would get the hell out of that house and go visit Manhattan, I'd be solid and self-reliant, I didn't need any of those people. I didn't think exactly in those words, but thinking back they describe the way I was being pretty accurately. I spent the last few days of my trip taking an early train to Penn Station, about 90 minutes or so on the train, wander walking all around Manhattan, and taking a train back to Long Island at the end of the day.

I think that's the first time I experienced travelling on my own. It felt and still feels like a curious mix of contemplation, admiration and appreciation of my surroundings, feeling free, yet also melancholic.

These moments tend to be quite magical, and strangely they are also times my mind feels the quietest and most peaceful - particularly hours spent on a train or a bus watching the landscape go by, not thinking about much and thoroughly enjoying it. I always meet lots of great people while I travel though I'm not talking of these moments, I mean the times really spent alone.

It is also the traveler's feeling - at least mine - of being part of the world, seeing it with one's own eyes yet being somewhat separated from the societies and people traveled through, being some kind of sideline observer. It calms me, give me new perspectives, gives me new thoughts and ideas. I think Paul Theroux writes very well about this kind of feeling, I love his travel books. Sort of in this style Happy Isles of Oceania comes to mind.

I think this is what my traveling is about, craving and chasing these feelings and experiences, trying to maintain a balance between satisfying the travel bug without loosing myself to it entirely.