Car insurance and cell phone plans – two of the most exciting topics to create memorable advertising campaigns around. Right?

I’ll grant you that making the wrong choice for either can prove costly in any number of ways. But wading through the options, pricing alternatives, deductibles and payment terms can make your hair hurt. Just writing about them, I can feel a dull ache starting just above my hairline.

Fortunately, when it comes to communicating brand messaging for these industries over the television airwaves we creatives can always resort to a tried and true artifice to make the details palatable: the spokesperson. The history of advertising has been populated by legions of them. From Charmin’s Mr. Whipple to Direct TV’s Rob Lowe, they toil frantically in 30 second story arcs to get us to remember the brand, the advantages and where to go to find them.

Which brings me to the point of this post. And by the way, for those of you still reading, thanks for your patience. Two very “popular” brand spokeswomen will be battling it out in this zero-sum competition. I say popular because, like an over-the-counter medication, their on-air performances are closely scrutinized and tested for effectiveness among their intended users. In the case of each of these women, “sell-ebrity” can be a very, very fleeting thing. Fortunately both enjoy strong audience recognition and acceptance.

COMPETITOR #1: Progressive Insurance’s Flo. FLO PROGRESSIVE

A veteran of the ad wars, Flo’s animated, off-kilter sensibility and delivery continues to offer many story telling opportunities. Played by stand-up comic Stephanie Courtney, she’s perky, energetic and always ready with an answer when it come to saving people gobs of money on their vehicle insurance.

COMPETITOR #2: AT&T Mobile’s Lily Adams. LILY ADAMS

Compared to Flo, she’s a relative newcomer to the Ad Wars. Brought to life, so to speak, by comedic actress Milana Vayntrub (say that three times fast), Lily’s approachability, sense of humor and Q scores make her a fave among consumers. Every customer’s friend, she shows no signs of wearing out her welcome or losing her appeal anytime soon.

HOW TO SCORE: Evaluate both of these hard-working, young women on 1) their ability to create brand awareness, 2) entertain you, 3) their likability, 4) the ability to make information understandable and clear, 5) how effectively they “sell” and finally 6) their ability to keep your hand from frantically reaching for the remote.

I invite you to watch, vote and comment, and look forward to your contributions.




Borrowing the title for this post from the 1956 Peabody Award Winning Rod Serling teleplay is a most appropriate way to mark the passing of an undisputed “heavyweight champion” of design and creativity, Massimo Vignelli. From the liquid lines of his handkerchief armchairs for Knoll, designed with David Law, to his controversial poster design for the New York City Subway System, his work has been a constant reminder why he has been a master in the grammar of design for more than half a century.HANDKERCHIEF CHAIR

I was always struck by the directness and clarity of his design philosophy, best summed up in this quote taken from his free e-book published in 2009 looking back at his and his company’s work: “We think good Design is always an expression of creative strength bringing forward clear concepts expressed in beautiful form and color, where every element expresses the content in the most forceful way.”

Every time I unlock my iPhone I’m reminded of him, and while the flat icons have an almost “un-designed” quality to their execution, I can’t help but think that the designers were channeling Mr. Vignelli, either consciously or unconsciously. In all honesty, I had forgotten so many of the wonderful designs he created and it was only upon reading of his passing that I sought to refresh my creative memory. I’ve spent the last few days “clicking” through archives of his work and was both amazed and refreshed. Amazed at rediscovering the scope of his work. Refreshed by the timelessness of great designs, his designs.

The Wall Street Journal noted his passing in a recent article that chronicles Mr. Vignelli’s design career with a brevity that befits his creative philosophy. A philosophy that is well represented in another of his quotes: “Everything that is around us, this table, this chair, this lamp, this pen has been designed. All of these things, everything has been designed by somebody. I think that it is my responsibility to make the work better than it is.”


Back to the Future

You could make a pretty strong argument that Lincoln, upscale marque of the Ford Motor Company, had lost it’s way, if not it’s soul for the better part of the last decade. While Ford styling was evolving in  utilitarian increments, Lincoln’s designers were wandering in a sea of chrome and disorganized proportions.

Well, things have changed with the advent of a new commitment by senior management led by Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford, who articulated the challenge, “We had to fix the Ford brand first, because without the [blue] oval, there is no Lincoln. Now it’s time to turn our attention to Lincoln.”

Ford launched a new advertising campaign for Lincoln late last year and even renamed the brand, The Lincoln Motor Company, a nod to it’s storied past. Four new or restyled models will roll into showrooms in the months ahead.

What remains to be seen is what type of buyers will be attracted to this latest effort at re-energizing the buying public. The Cadillac small car entry, the ATS, has gotten a huge marketing push and is creating a lot of buzz, while the German trinity of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW also have strong lineups. The Lincoln Motor Company has an uphill battle.

Here is the spot that sets the tone and style for the brand relaunch.

Full disclosure, the author has an M-B C300 AWD and Mini Cooper S in his garage.

Little Darth Vader vs. Bolt

or… the Battle of the Two Volkswagen Superbowl Spots

In one corner we have “The Force”, the 2011 Volkswagen 50-million-YouTube-views Superbowl commercial featuring a “powerless” diminutive Darth who re-gains the power of The Force with a little help from his father and a Passat.

In the other, we have this year’s Volkswagen Superbowl Spot, “The Dog Strikes Back”, starring Bolt, a St. Bernard – Australian Golden mix. A canine “biggest loser” metaphor for the return of the New Beetle.

Both entertain. Both offer a story arc of struggle and reward. Both have a surprise ending.

Does the former make the latter the better? Or does Little Darth still reign supreme?

Watch, smile and comment.

December 8, 2011: The Day the Internet Died

Time marches on. At warp speed. The web has reduced a news cycle “day” to eight hours. The life spans of electronic devices are now shorter than that of a snail darter. A new app is being “born” every 16.3 seconds.

Time marches on… at light speed.

And the latest victim of all this runaway innovation and technology is… wait for it, here it comes…

The Internet.

At least that’s the view of George Colony, chairman and CEO of Forrester Research. During his presentation at the Paris, France web conference, La Web, Colony dropped a few bombshells, to say the least.

His big prediction: it’s all Clouds and Apps.

His interview with WSJ provides some brief glimpses into the future of social media, the aforementioned, soon-to-be deceased Internet and the aggregation our personal files.

Here’s the link:

Watch. Enjoy. Ponder.

Then think long and hard about what technical skills you’ll need in the near future to keep your career on the fast track.

Battle of the Brands: Tire Advertising…Let’s see how they roll.

With winter only a few weeks away it’s only appropriate that we cast the critical eye of the Brand Battle on those groovy rubber discs whose job it is keep our motor vehicles on the road during the wet and snowy days ahead.

So here it is. The battle of a two tire titans (pardon the alliteration).

Michelin vs. Bridgestone

Pick a set for the four corners of your car…and please watch out for those little furry forest critters crossing the road.

The Man Who Put the Whole World In Our Hands

Steve Jobs was the consummate innovator. A CEO without peers. His vision was without a horizon. He didn’t have to think outside the box because for him there was no box. He didn’t create things people wanted or needed. He created things that let people be more of who they were and go places they never dreamed they could…or would. He innovated design with technology and technology with design. The day he said that Apple was reinventing the telephone he wasn’t bragging. It was an understatement. His greatness was in re-imagining the ways our communicative behavior could be intuitively simplified and improved. His enduring legacy is evident in the sleek, cool instruments we hold, click and tap every day.

Somewhere up there he’s probably sitting on an iCloud and smiling.

Thanks Steve. Thanks for your passion. Your singular vision. Thanks for never letting good get in the way of great. Thanks for making the unthinkable possible. Thanks for making dreams come true. For making the incredibly complex incredibly simple. Thanks for making excellence standard. Thanks for taking a big bite out of life.

Thanks for Apple. Thanks for the Apple I, Lisa, the IIe, the Macintosh, the iMac, iPod,  iPhone, iPad, iCloud.

Thank you for being you.

I’ll be thanking you every day of my iLife.

The Battle is Back

After an extended hiatus and looooooooong summer vacation The Battle of the Brands is back. Actually it’s the battle of the insurance spokesguys.

Allstate vs Nationwide

Boring vs nerdy

Sterile vs silly

Just which one would Flo pick if this were the Dating Game?