Art Direction or Graphic Design. Who leads?

Who’s more needed, necessary and valuable in toady’s creative environment? The AD or the GD? In my opinion it’s neither. Or rather both. Versatility and broad creative-solving skills are the best way to stay relevant and valuable in the marketplace of ideas.

More and more online and offline media are becoming mashed up. More online media outlets are popping up everyday. Consumers shape-shift from social community to social community with increasing rapidity. All of this requires creative skills that can adapt ideas – big ideas – to whichever medium is called upon to create a connection to the consumer ad the communities they form.

Design and advertising have formed a creative alliance thanks to the Internet and social media.  Let’s call it designvertising.

How duct tape became post-it notes

Current advertising campaigns driven by big ideas are about as plentiful today as plug-in stations for electric cars. Geico’s the one big exception that comes to mind. And it’s no wonder they’re an endangered species. Ideas, really good, honkin’-big ideas that take a brand “on their shoulders” and powerfully position them, are seldom recognized or truly understood by today’s crop of marketing mavens. Hey, it’s a tough balancing act making that sales chart grow in the right direction and keeping the bloggers from flaming your product at the same time.

Warning: 20 tweets and a well-liked fan page do not a big idea make.

Fortunately, there is still a real need today for big ideas that adhere like velcro to your brain. Great ones do that. They take a product, make it water-in-the-desert desirable and create a rabid community of brand lovers. They drive brand leadership and bottom line sales. And they spawn legions of imitators. And they’ve been doing it long before the Internet. The stickiness of Bartles and Jaymes and Miller Lite’s “Less Filling/Tastes Great” campaigns (Google ’em) are good examples of iconic, powerful concepts from the late 20th century.

In contrast, Apple’s recent “Mac vs PC” campaign may have been memorable and entertaining but upon closer examination reveals itself to be an excellent example of an execution substituting for a concept. And so is the original iPod television campaign. Visually compelling? Absolutely. Great product demonstration? Dead on. Strategic? Yep. Big idea? Uh-uh>

And when it comes to ideas don’t confuse consistency with concept. Progressive Insurance relies on their sales concierge, Flo, to deliver their brand message but I challenge you to tell me what their big difference is.

When they do surface, big, duct-tape-sticky ideas barely have the time to drive brand equity or positioning in today’s viral, solar-flair-hot, crash and burn, social media online environment. Instead, replacing them is an avalanche of lukewarm, interchangeable, post-it note ideas. Hardly sticky. Easily forgettable. A classic case of quantity over quality. Like technology inmates running the idea asylum. Think Transformers II.

Think it’s a crazy point of view? Well, this big-idea aversion is even infecting some of the big NY agencies. The recent exodus of top several creative directors from top New York shops underscores my point. Most recent is the departure of BBH New York Creative Chief Kevin Roddy. Here’s what he had to say in a story that ran in last week’s ad age: “Creativity used to be put on a pedestal, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” he said. “Creative people have become more of a commodity, and I think that takes the wind out of them. The creative ego is a very important thing, because it drives talent. But it’s also a very fragile thing.”

The big idea is dead. Long live the big idea.

Battle of the Brands: Part II

Geico vs State Farm
High Concept vs Down-to-earth
Style vs Stable
Memorable vs Meaningful

Whose creative do you want in your portfolio?
Whose insurance card do you want in your glove box?
Whose advertising is more effective?
Who’s your favorite brand?
3 reasons please!

U gotta problem wit dat?

I love problems. Big problems, little problems, serious ones and stupid ones.

Do you??? I hope so.

After all, that’s what we’re in the business of. Solving problems. Creatively. Intelligently. Insightfully. Powerfully. And all too often, quickly and cheaply. But problems are what I love. Do you?

Sales are down. Problem!

Our brand has lost it’s mojo. Problem!

We’re not being re-tweeted enough. Problem!

We need more visitors to our website. Problem!

We need an integrated, online marketing campaign in 3 days! Big problem!

Lots of problems. And lots of opportunity. Funable opportunity!

Take advantage of the opportunity. Solve the problem. Bingo, you got a job.

Solve the problems, solve them very well, and for a long time, and you’ve got yourself something we call a career.

Avoid problems and you’ve got yourself a… problem!

Mad Men, Beautiful Women and Great Looking Hair

If anyone has yet to avail themselves of the uplifting viewing experience of watching Mad Men on AMC wait no longer. Beyond the outstanding writing and universally exceptional performance lies the art direction and the creative process on display that deals with creativity in a reasonable, if not accurate, way. The staging this past week was to my eye, exceptional, evidenced in the scene which take place in the SCDP lobby. Don is flanked by “The Beautiful Women” (the episode title), Joan, Faye, et. al., who “support” him at the agency as his ex-wife arrives to take their daughter back to her home. It’s a perfect illustration of the issues that tear at Don from week to week.

The Beautiful Women are also beautifully coiffed. So it’s no coincidence that one of last Sunday’s advertisers was Suave, makers of affordable shampoos and conditioners. Which, in fact, brings me to the next class assignment. (And you were wondering where all this was leading.

So, in advance of this week’s class take some time to visit the Suave website and get to know the brand. Maybe even shampoo your hair with some of it. We’ll cover all the details on Thursday.

Bedeviling boredom with “funable”.

Funable. It’s a new word. I made it up. Yep! New word. Not in the dictionary. You can look it up. And you won’t find it. Right there in the New Oxford American Dictionary between fumitory and Funabashi. Right there, where it should be, it isn’t. I looked it up and when I found out it wasn’t there… I created it. Funable. Created at 7:13 am, September 18, 2010.

“An idea is nothing more nor less then a new combination of old things.” James Webb Young

Fun + able = funable. Definition: The ability to take something boring, mundane, pedestrian or uninteresting and turn it into an enjoyable and satisfying experience. Noun, adjective, verb, adverb. Versatile. Easy on the eyes… and easy to use. Except in Scrabble. Just try to sneak it by a hardcore Scrabbler. Busted!

So that’s how I made this post that’s simply intended to give you access to this week’s materials… funable.

That’s right. Creating “funable” made writing this post funable.

Got Gecko?

I know, it’s a bad reference to the iconic Milk Processing Board of California slogan, “Got Milk?’, but the long-running Geico campaign has become just as well known and in some ways even more successful. The Gecko’s most recent campaign ad has his “boss” turning him into a media-star meets trade-show-giveaway. Have they run out of creative ideas for the little green guy named… ?

This is just one of many television campaigns that the number 3 car insurer has run over the years. Some were very good. Others, not so much. Which one gets a gold star and which one is a bust?  All can be viewed… where else… on YouTube. But you knew that already.

Brown Falls In Love & Week Two Materials

An interesting brand change occurred this week as UPS refreshed their entire brand position and strategy. It’s best exemplified by their new brand line. You may remember the tag “What can brown do for you?” Well, its been replaced by the new more consumer-ish “We [heart] logistics.” Check out their website to see how the new positioning plays out.