Tag Archives: advertising

Tommy Lee Jones in Japan

The actor Tommy Lee Jones has been the celebrity spokesperson for Suntory’s Boss canned coffee since 2006. Many Western celebrities do commercials in Japan, it’s a quick way to make a buck. But TLJ has been doing it for so long he has become synonymous with Boss coffee and his face firmly part of Japanese popular culture.

In all his commercials he is cast as an outsider, watching Japanese society as a melancholy observer. Over time, we discover he is an alien, sent to investigate the Japanese. He takes a series of odd jobs to get closer to his subjects but he is always removed, watching, alone, with his can of coffee. Stoic.

Last week the Emperor of Japan voluntarily stepped down and a younger generation took his place. It was the end of the Heisei era and the beginning of the next. Everyone in Japan was given 10 days off to reflect and, while I’m not there, I can imagine it must be a time of great retrospection as people look back on the past 30 years and how the country has changed.

The Tommy Lee Jones character is no different so in celebration, Suntory ran this 2 minute super cut of TLJ’s greatest hits as a nostalgia piece.

Further Reading

Serena Williams is Crazy

For me, the highlight of this year’s Oscars was the new Nike commercial.

This piece is the latest in their campaign celebrating 20 years of Just Do It and setting the company up to lead the charge US Women’s Soccer heads to France to defend the World Cup.

Super Bowl 53 – the ads

So the game was not that interesting – like watching trench warfare – resulting in one of the lowest scoring Super Bowl games on record. Someone said it was like both teams knew the winner was going to have to eat fast food at the White House.

Even the half-time show was a disaster as Maroon 5’s lead singer strutted out in a designer tank top that looked remarkably similar to Target’s throw pillow covers.

Instead, here’s a selection of commentary on the advertisements. At $5 million a pop, it’s the grand showcase of the creative output of our economy so worth paying attention to see what advertisers think will get our attention.

SBNation did a frame-by-frame analysis of the NFL commercial to identify all the players.

If you were paying attention to the Expensify commercial, using the app to take a photo of the receipt in the video would automatically enter you into a contest. Clever!

Verizon underscored that they are often the network of choice for first responders. Here is the backstory behind how LA Chargers coach Anthony Lynn ended up in the emergency room.

AdAge tells the story of how executives at Burger King acquired the rights to the Andy Warhol film of him eating a Whopper and why they didn’t run the entire 15-minute film.

Jason Bateman operates an elevator in a building that stops at all the things we sometimes have to do but would rather not. Middle row seats, root canals and jury duty are unfortunate but unavoidable and Bateman is a modern day Virgil from Dante’s Divine Comedy. But vegans didn’t take to kindly in Hyundai’s dig at their beet salad dinner.

Pringles, TurboTax and Michelob all poked fun at our dystopian future. Who can forget the dark nod to the famous Ronald Regan campaign ad Morning in America by Hulu and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Doritos expressed how adding spice to an original can make things fresh by having Chance the Rapper remix the Backstreet Boys and it was pretty awesome.

Michelob hired Zoe Kravitz to introduce the internet sensation that is ASMR to the Super Bowl crowd and used it to sell beer.

It was five years since Bob Dylan was first used in a Super Bowl ad (for Chrysler) so the use of Blowin in the Wind in a Budweiser commercial didn’t raise too many eyebrows. What was surprising was the backlash from the fossil fuel industry.

Bud Light had several commercials including a weird hybrid one where Bud Light gets killed off by Game of Thrones (?). Budweiser also highlighted that they are one of the few beers to list their ingredients of which corn syrup is not one of them (not like Miller Lite or Coors). The National Corn Growers Association was not pleased.

Amazon hired Harrison Ford and Forrest Whitaker to explain why Alexa-everywhere might not be such a good idea. (regular readers of TWTW will recall Rocco, the Alexa-obsessed parrot) This follows last year’s Alexa spot which featured Cardi B, Gordon Ramsey, Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Cardi B turned down a chance to perform at the halftime (in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick) but she did get to make an entrance in a totally-over-the-top Pepsi commercial.

Google, on the other hand, played down their technology and focused on the human side of what they enable.

Two ads tipped their hat to female football players. The NFL ad featured Samantha Gordon and Toyota featured Toni Harris. 

Finally, the male-oriented Dodge Ram pickup truck broke tradition and celebrated the strong women of the future. The other Dodge Ram advert was brilliantly meta.

Serena Williams

Nike debuted a video of Richard Williams coaching his then 9-year-old daughter Serena Williams. The commercial juxtaposes the images of Richard crouched next to a tiny Serena as he says, “This is you in the U.S. Open.” – The Root

Then there is this clip from an interview when she was 14-years-old when her father stepped in to defend his daughter and her dreams.

Celebrating athletes and the parents who supported their future dreams, gambatte Serena!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign ad

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked everyone last night with her huge upset the in New York’s 14th congressional district primary. The 28-year-old newcomer unseated Democrat Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent and one of the more powerful old guards of the party. Not only that, headlines screamed, she was a socialist.

She was outspent 18-to-1 and Congressman Crowley didn’t even bother to show up to two of the debates. By giving her something to push against, her supporters found purpose and Alexandria brought them along for the ride.

Here campaign video is powerful and gives me hope because it lays out a vision which is one that has been missing. She speaks to her voters because she is one of them in a way that the establishment is not.

We’ve all seen the “my story” candidate ads (some of which are powerful and mold-breaking). But there was something decidedly different, intoxicatingly defiant but also accessible in this film. The aforementioned, fleeting hallmarks of empathy and authenticity are everywhere in this work. For all the talk of storytelling, the little more than two minutes in the film is a master class in compacting passion, honesty and, yes, empathy and authenticity into a compelling package. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t merely telling her story; she’s telling everyone’s story in the district.

One could very easily deconstruct the tight copy, the beautiful film craft, the pacing leading to an anthemic crescendo, the excellent structure. Yes, there are the trappings of political ads, but what makes this ad special is that there isn’t a full-service ad agency behind it. Ocasio-Cortez wrote it, and she relied on volunteers to coordinate the shoot and real people, including the candidate’s campaign workers, are present throughout.

AdWeek

Humanity Star

Rocket Labs, a spaceflight startup based in Los Angeles, secretly stowed away a “disco ball” satellite that has no other purpose than, “to encourage everyone to look up and consider our place in the universe.”

The satellite is a “geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels. It spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars.” The company has put up the Humanity Star website where you can track the satellite’s progress across the sky and plan the best time to see it. The satellite will orbit the earth every 90 minutes for the next nine months until it falls out of orbit and burns up in the atmosphere.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck shared the following statement.

For millennia, humans have focused on their terrestrial lives and issues. Seldom do we as a species stop, look to the stars and realize our position in the universe as an achingly tiny speck of dust in the grandness of it all.

Humanity is finite, and we won’t be here forever. Yet in the face of this almost inconceivable insignificance, humanity is capable of great and kind things when we recognize we are one species, responsible for the care of each other, and our planet, together. The Humanity Star is to remind us of this.

No matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace, everyone will be able to see the bright, blinking Humanity Star orbiting Earth in the night sky. My hope is that everyone looking up at the Humanity Star will look past it to the expanse of the universe, feel a connection to our place in it and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important.

Wait for when the Humanity Star is overhead and take your loved ones outside to look up and reflect. You may just feel a connection to the more than seven billion other people on this planet we share this ride with.

My brother-in-law says the Humanity Star is, “burning man thing in space news this week” but professional astronomers call it a pain in the ass.

One thing is certain. This may be the first example of Space Advertising.

Preventing Harry Tuttle

My last post, Democracy’s Soft Underbelly warned how algorithms for content distribution and advertising have been weaponized to alter public opinion.

The most disturbing aspect of the affair is there is no public evidence of the ad campaigns so there is literally nothing to talk about. When there is no public record of what ad creatives were used, there can be no debate over the of the veracity of the claims made or appropriateness of the imagery used. This recently changed as Facebook has now turned over evidence (most likely because of a warrant) to Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is looking into Russian hacking of the election.

Mueller’s investigation has received copies of the Russian-bought ads and details about the specific account information and targeting criteria the buyers used to distribute their ads, according to the (Wall Street) Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. TechCrunch

“Democracy dies in darkness” is the new Washington Post tagline. The only way to have an open civic debate about the new threat to public discourse posed by advertising on social media platforms is to review the evidence. There needs to be transparency about how advertisers are paying their way into the hearts and minds of their target audiences. With transparency comes accountability.

If you’re going to target me, I deserve to know.  All ads and ad copy must be stored, shared, and freely available to anybody in a searchable database. So if I want to see ads targeted at African-Americans in a swing state, I can just type “African-Americans aged 35-60 with a college degrees” and show me all the ads that were done. – Jason Calcanis, This Week in Startups

This database of ads, freely available to the public, would expose any questionable or unethical activity by advertisers and hopefully prevent heavy-handed regulation of this industry which has been such an important driver of economic growth.

A democratic society evolves through transparency and public debate. Advertisers that operate in the open will be forced to self-regulate themselves in full view of public opinion. Without public exposure, advertising standards and interpretation of these standards will remain behind closed doors.  In such a world, reform will come through an opaque and inevitably bureaucratic regulations that will stifle innovation.

Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film  Brazil cast a satirical eye on a world  where bureaucracy and regulation have run amok. Nothing can be done without the appropriate paperwork. Harry Tuttle (played by Robert De Niro) is the terrorist heating engineer is our hero of common sense.

Have you got a 27B/6?

* It’s been pointed out that the title of this post is misleading. We do not want to “prevent” Harry Tuttle, he’s the hero and one of my favorite characters. We want to avoid being “Brazilled” – Thanks Stephen Davidson!

Democracy’s Soft Underbelly

Let me explain.

It’s now well-documented that outside forces took advantage of social media platforms to spread rumors in order to swing the 2016 presidential election. Journalists digging into the story are looking more closely at the tools used to purchase advertising that helped amplify these rumors, and are horrified by what they are discovering.

Last week Pro Publica discovered you can target “jew haters” and BuzzFeed News found that on Google you could target phrases such as “blacks ruin everything”

In the days of print, each advertisement was reviewed by multiple people from both the organization that bought the ad and the publication that ran it. Extreme care was taken to make sure the advertising complemented the editorial and the message was the right fit for the audience, not only to maximize effectiveness but also to avoid instances such as the one below.

Despite careful review, print ad placements sometimes backfire

Online advertising is a delicate balance between scale and quality. The dream is to serve a perfectly targeted ad to as many people as possible. But because of the scale, it is impossible to manually review each and every ad creative for quality and fit. In the online world, people “optimize” and let the algorithms do the work.

While at Yahoo, I met with an advertiser who wanted to learn about our behavioral targeting options. I was working with a team that was thinking about exposing detailed facets of the massive Yahoo audience that would help advertisers reach very specific segments. When I walked into the room, the client had a spreadsheet he was using to allocate his million-dollar budget. After asking a few questions about his goals, I proposed a few very targeted criteria to build his target audience. Unfortunately, he grew frustrated because the total audience was too small and we were going to have to run hundreds of queries to build up the reach he needed. He didn’t have the time to continue the exercise nor appetite to keep track of all the data to show ROI to his client. The meeting wrapped up with four very broad buckets into which he poured roughly $250k each and called it a day.

He couldn’t be bothered with the details.

This is the state of online advertising today. The tools available to reach massive scale are even more sophisticated but to do it right, with quality, requires manual oversight. Ad units can be configured to dynamically swap out ad copy and assets depending on the target audience, which can also be built algorithmically. Ad spend adjusts automatically and APIs monitor trending keywords to take early advantage of trending topics and get broad reach on the cheap.

“Programmatic Advertising” is a blanket term for techniques used to automatically generate thousands of “personalized” ads at massive scale. Because it’s automated, generating ad copy variants and target segments is inexpensive. The downside is that quality suffers if you take out the human element, leaving the robots to mind the store.

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There are many examples that show us that resulting matches still need regular review. As long as ad matching algorithms such as Google’s and Facebook’s remain black boxes, a regular human review is necessary to prevent the unexpected.

Which brings me back to what we’re learning today. Last week Facebook shared that ad placements made to “amplify divisive messages” were used to influence the 2016 elections. We are slowly uncovering the extent of information warfare that uses social media platforms to weaponize fake news. Using programmatic advertising to draw attention to and amplify these campaigns is a natural extension.

More careful review of editorial content posted to social networks is important to verify facts and prevent the spread of “fake news.” On the flip side, advertising platforms need review as well because ad targeting is also rife with repugnant audience segments automatically suggested by the algorithms. As they should, Facebook and Google have both said that more rigorous review is on the way but there will always be the tension of profit motives to discourage too rigorous a lens.

In the late-90’s, the movie Wag the Dog spins a tale of how a Washington “spin doctor” (Robert De Niro) hires top Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to engineer public opinion. The film made light of the gullible public but there was a broader, cynical message about how media (and the press) can be used to manipulate public opinion.

Today we are seeing this same scenario played out, but instead of manipulating public opinion through TV and Hollywood, public opinion is bought and sold using social networks and online advertising.