Nov 28, 2008

It's Friday, Take a Beer!

These commercials from my native country, Argentina, are by far the strangest spots I have seen for a beer. If a trainee would have come with an idea like this I would have laugh, enjoy the thought, but I would have never approved it..., at least as it is.

I may be losing my touch, but it seems to me like the type of idea that can get awards but adds nothing to the brand; the kind that is very convenient for the agency and not so much for the client.

The campaign includes three TV spots and they all work around the concept of "it is good to have friends". I will start by sharing the one that I find the "best" among them, "My Computer Expert Friend" (the translation is not literal it just maintains the general idea but it is the tramslation used by the agency)

It is funny don't get me wrong. But once you see the other two (below) you can't help but guess if they really needed to make all the duets so corny and "loving" and all in the same style. The next one: "My friend the Physician"...

And last but not least "My friend the Millionaire":

What would I have changed? The music style to start with. I would have done one spot with melodic, the other rock and the other one pop or heavy metal, for example. Because maybe I am getting old (well, I am!) but as it is I find the campaign almost effeminate something that can't help the brand, not a brand of beer.

Judging by the campaign web site's ranking it seems I may be right. It ranks around the 6 million position, while the website for another local campaign -the AIDS' related TrikiTriki-BangBang- is several millions ahead in the ranking, at around 500K.

As I said at the beginning, I wouldn't be surprised if the campaign gets some awards though. I just hate it when the agency looks more after their own interests than after their client's...

What's your take? Do you love it, hate it or just find it weird?


Nov 27, 2008

Funny Thanksgiving

I have a sweet spot for Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive". I heard that song for the first time when I was around 12 and since then has been one of my favorites. I also love some of the adaptations that have been made around that song and this one -for Thanksgiving- is not the exception.

What this video has to do with creativity? Well it is a good example of an old but very useful exercise to improve your creativity. It can be done in two different ways...

- One option is to find a theme (like Thanksgiving in this case) and then the excercise consists in finding a song to that you can change the lyrics for that theme (and work those lyrics)

- The other option is to pick a song -that has more or less usable lyrics not the same words over and over- and find a theme it can be "translated to" (and of course like in the previous case, work to transform those lyrics).

Now, if you are not interested in exercising your creativity but would like to see some funny Thanksgiving ad instead, check below one of my favorites with Bobby De Niro and Billy Crystal.

I don't know what you think, but I agree with De Niro, I can't picture him being the turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!


Nov 24, 2008

Advertising With the News

This ad is a real gem considering it is an online ad, just text, the kind that is normally very boring.

It was in the Spirit Airlines newsletter and as you can see it just play with the news (for those outside the US, it is directly related to the stupidity of Detroit's Big Three that flew their CEOs to Washington in three private separate jets to ask for billions of dollars to "stay afloat").

When it comes to the Big Three is just a matter of image. I guess they are not used to fly on commercial airlines when they are in a hurry, but any Public Relations executive with two brain cells making synapsis should have foreseen that it is not a good idea to go to church to ask for a handout in limousine and wearing a Rolex. Your chances of getting the money are just slim, even if a friend is the owner of the limousine and the Rolex is a knock-off (what wasn't what happened in this case).

But whoever wrote this little ad in the newsletter is a -no doubt- a good copywriter. Creativity in its most pure form, that with just words and some sense of humor makes this little ad stand out among the others.

PS: Thanks Brigitte for sending the ad this way!


Naives Designs from the Past

Today reading the blog of a friend -who is totally bent on remembering our teenage days-, a name of a chocolate from the past appeared: Chocolandia.

She made a whole article about it (even with the jingle!..., if you read Spanish, here it is) but still the name didn't ring a bell in my head what is not surprising at all considering that in the place of my brain where "memories" should be stored I have a mysterious Black Hole instead, that sucks any memory that would dare to go even near there.

Anyway, the brand did ring a bell, so I started a search and finally found the infamous packaging. Seeing it was remembering it, of course, how could I not remember such "special" design?

I am not sure how old I was when this chocolate was being sold in Argentina (10, maybe?) but seeing it made me laugh. It was clearly another time in the design world and Buenos Aires -today a gifted city in that sense- was probably a very different place.

The fonts used seemed to be done by a teenage himself even when I have to admit that the animals drawings (that you were supposed to collect) were pretty cute. I guess some things do not change though, and kids collecting animals will always be part of the marketing mix of new products.

Another detail I didn't remember was the green foil (see below). I am not sure if it was an advanced design decision made on purpose or if it was what was available (but different) at the time. My guess is it was the second option.

(sigh) It is a bit unbelievable how some products or some ads can get stuck with us. I didn't remember this product but there are a few others that I do remember in detail or that I can still sing their jingles, 20 years later!

Design can be an art and advertising shouldn't be conceived as one, but both can impress our psyche and stay with us for years or take us back to that place when we were the seed of what we are now, maybe -like this design- more naives at that time but already growing into something else.

PS: Ceci, you wanted a picture of Chocolandia, here they are!


Nov 21, 2008

It's Friday, Enjoy the Simple Things!

I am amazed this video has not become more popular yet. It may seem tremendously silly at first, but once you start watching it seems almost impossible to not have it open all the time and take a peek from time to time. It streams live so I don't really know what you will see whenever you arrive to my blog, but from my own experience I will guess "sleeping" or "playing". Ah, that's the life of a puppy!, or at least the life they should have (insert here my own ad against puppy mills).

BEWARE: Before clicking "read more" what will take you to the video, be advised that while 99% of the time there is extreme silence but if it is feeding time for the puppies it's also frenzy time and you will need to put the sound off!

I learned of someone that has this video as her screensaver because she finds it relaxing. I watch it for fun but I think it can also be a learning experience. You can write a novel based just on each puppy's character and for sure it is something to show your kids for entertaining.

Hope you'll enjoy it too.

PS: from time to time the life cam is offline -when that happens you will see a slideshow- and I guess that in some months it will not be on anymore... so have fun while it last!


Nov 20, 2008

New Gmail Themes

NO COMMENTS for this one.

Too busy at this time but the only thing you need to do is to click to enlarge the picture and you will be able to read the message...

Have you played with them yet?


Nov 14, 2008

It's Friday, Surprise Someone!

For some months, in Stourbridge (England) homeowners were surprised with an empty extra bottle when they went to pick up the milk at their doorstep.

This misterious bottles started appearing in the spring. They were empty, yes, but etched with pictures of animals -often cows or mice-, carefully carved into the glass in astonishing detail.

The identity of the artist behind them -nicknamed by some the 'bottle Banksy' after the secretive graffiti artist whose work appears overnight on buildings across the UK- remained a mystery for a long time. Another nickname was Pic-Glasso in obvious reference to the painter and -probably- the liking for bulls.

Attempts to "chase" the artist during the late night or early morning delivery were futile but finally the mistery was revealed. The Daily Mail finally identified the person behind the milk bottle creations as Charlotte Hughes-Martin a 30-year-old artist that said she had been motivated by a desire to show how 'domestic, everyday objects can be things of beauty too'.

In an interview with the newspaper, she explained: 'I like to give people a surprise and make them do a doubletake when they step outside their front doors in the morning to pick up their pints of milk...'

'Everyone should be able to enjoy art in their everyday life and I just love the idea that my designs could bring a smile to someone's face as they make a cup of tea in the morning.'

This is part of her work, being the ones with animals the bottles that have been left on doorsteps:

Miss Hughes-Martin said she buys the bottles from local shops -where they are sold containing orange juice- and then works on them in her spare time. She has completed between 30 and 50 milk bottle engravings to date and she had been dropping off batches of her work at random addresses for months.

I find her work pretty enough to get the attention it got, but what I like the most was her "marketing system".

On purpouse or not, the fact that she left those bottles randonmly and surreptitiously created a "mouth-to-mouth" around her work that I am not sure it could have been attained in any other way. In a moment in time with so many ways of market your job (blogs, social networks, Etsy, etc.) it seems that sometimes going back to basics with a creative twist can surely pay off.



Nov 12, 2008

Playing for Creativity: With and By the Rules?

This is a must see talk from Ted. The speaker, Tim Brown is the CEO of the "innovation and design" firm Ideo, and his talk is about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play.

At least to me, the whole thing about how playing can help creativity to thrive is not new at all but the reason I liked his speech is because he also talks about the need for some "rules", something that tends to be forgotten too often when it comes to creative brainstorming.

It is a 20' video but worth the time (click on either "player" line below to see the video):

Those that know me, know that I am not exactly a lover of rules. Nevertheless I do see the need for some basics rules when it comes to creative thinking (specially when it is done as a team) and Tim's talk, stating the differences between creative exploration and creative playing highlights the reasons to have some basic rules to brainstorm (or play) as well as the problems that can be avoided by playing by the rules.

Not a believer in rules? Feel free to disagree!


Nov 8, 2008

Art as a Healing Factor

Last month I talked about poverty because of Blog Action Day. Today's post is in some way linked to that previous one because the truth is that poverty has other names: it can be hunger, it can be thirst or it can be something wider like "homeless".

During my visit to Argentina I spent a great night with my friends at a small, warm and very unusual restaurant in Buenos Aires -part of something bigger-, an organization called: "Arte Sin Techo" (Art Without a Roof). It is a very creative idea from every angle you look at it: aimed to homeless people, as their director says, they don't "give" they instead "take away". How is that? Simple: In that place homeless will not find food or a blanket but a place that may help them to forsake their fears or their past; it is a place that will help those who want help to start all over.

What homeless can get there is the opportunity to express themselves through art, learn a new trade and interact with others in the same situation. At the same time psychological assistance and a bathroom to use for a shower or a trim are available for all of them as well as a library.

The person that started this (Felicitas Luisi) is a firmly believer that when it comes to homeless is not about "giving". Most of them are used to get a breakfast in a church, some clothes from charities and a dinner at some other non-profit. But that giving and giving does not break a vicious circle that keeps them sleeping and sometimes dying in the streets.

Here they can learn something that may get them a job but most importantly just the social interaction (friends and foes, conversations or disagreements) it's a step forward to get back into a society that sometimes feeds them but that also excludes them.

All started with an art project, the idea of painting street murals with the art of recognized painters. Those painters were open to make a draft but they were not so prone to the idea of painting in the streets and in a very unusual twist it was a group of homeless the ones that agreed to actually do the paintings on the street in exchange for a lunch and a shower. From there on it became something more. Art can have a healing power no doubt, but for what I heard it was more the the fact of being together doing something as a group that lead to what today is a small but steady organization.

"Art Without a Roof" has now a place in the very porteño neighborhood of Almagro -an old house that had nothing but some walls and that they almost built again-, where courses, training and psychological assistance are given but also where the art of the men and women in the program is exhibited. They offer services to the community (such as messanger services, web services or woodworking services) as a way to get more funds to keep the program going.

Of course their need for funding is almost infinite so a new idea took shape and now -in their small patio and just on Fridays-, they have the small "restaurant" I was talkig about. It is nothing like going to a restaurant, it is more like having dinner with some family and friends in someone's else patio. With a great dog going around the tables (Pappo is his name) and some cats also lying here and there, the ambiance is completely relaxed and there is a very small show each Friday that entertains without interrupting the night.

Felicitas is already working in new services that like the restaurant can link the neighbours with their work helping homeless. She usually is around on Friday's night so if you go to have dinner you can also talk with her about what they are doing and what new ideas are on the make.

The place is open to the public on weekdays and a small donation (what you want or what you can) is required at the entry. When there are no events schedule you can visit the art exhibition or their little shop, and on Fridays only you can have dinner and a good time in their open patio (you can make your reservation by calling 4982-2436). The food is great but this is not a place for those in a hurry or those that can't live without their Diet Cola; with a very small kitchen, it takes some time to get your food and to make things more profitable they do not serve colas: you can choose between limonade, fresh orange juice or wine.

The entrance:

The patio at dinner time:

Part of the exhibition, under this stair is the patio:

So if you are in Buenos Aires and want to know and see more about their work, the address is Medrano 107 near the rail tracks. You can also visit their website (for now just in Spanish) to learn more, see some of their work or contact them if you want to help.

This is a good example of how creativity can go a long way not just at a personal but at a social level too.

PS: On November 14th, 2008, a small fair with invited artists will take place in "Arte sin Techo". Some of them are: Verónica García, Lucila Bodelón, Carolina Sticotti and Carolina Molinari. At 20:30 an intervened object from Claudio Ronocoli will be auctioned.


Nov 6, 2008

Power of Change - Lessons from the Elections

Now that the elections have passed seems to be a good moment to talk about the relationship between change, creativity and innovation.

During this long campaign I have several discussions with followers of the McPalin ticket that were accusing Obama of being a "socialist" just because he said "spread the wealth".

None of them were able to answer a simple question though: Why when Obama said "spread the wealth" they perceive that as socialism but when Gov. Palin said that "we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs" they didn't see that as "socialist" at all.

For the record, I don't believe that any of those comments per se indicates a socialist way of thinking but socialism and communism are mostly about collectively owning the means of production and sharing the wealth equally. So, if you were going to take things really literally Ms. Palin's comment was way more on the left than Obama's comment.

As I said, none of them were able to respond my original question. And then it stroke me... CHANGE was the culprit! It is the same in business. Let me explain this further.

Of course there is probably a (hopefully) very small percentage of the population that have perceived those two so similar statements in such a different way just because of the colour of the skin of each candidate. But leaving those aside, I am sure the big difference was that Obama also was talking about change and Palin wasn't.

Change is a word or a concept that actually scares a lot of people. I am not talking politics here, I am talking life and business. Of course change by itself has no right or wrong --like a hammer can be used for good or for bad. Nevertheless for some people it is difficult to see it as something positive.

Why? It can be several reasons. In some cases, they feel they are "ok" as they are now, so... why change? In other cases it's that they find it difficult to imagine something better even when it may be obvious for the rest. An interesting example of that are some battered women that can't even think about leaving their husbands... life is bad for them but the change that leaving him may mean scares them more than the actual beatings. They can see the benefits of not suffering anymore but they can't imagine a how they can manage if things change so much.

And then -last but not least- there are the ones that are scared by the idea of change because they are not sure about themselves: could they adapt to that change? What if that change actually exposes what they feel are their weaknesses? Similar to the previous case it has a side of "fear to the unknown" that when mixed with their own lack of self-esteem (or poor self-esteem) transforms that word in a big bad wolf. It doesn't matter how many times you explain to them what the change is about; their main problem is themselves, they just don't want to be exposed to any type of change.

Now, can anyone bring change to the table? Yes and no. Anyone can bring a new idea that implies change. But to actually be able to make that change happen you need more than the idea. According to a very interesting document from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) when it comes to "change management" these are some of the practical difficulties that will appear:

- There are no easy solutions.
- There will be a need to adapt processes to suit the change intended.
- Change requires teamwork and leadership (and the two are related).
- You have to work with the culture (even when you want to change it).
- You need to communicate, communicate, communicate...

This makes pretty clear that it's easier to talk about change than to actually manage that change. Politicians and businessmen are equally prone to talk about "change and innovation" but few of them have what it takes to be able to manage it. What also explains some other fears related to change, the ones that we may have from previous bad experiences. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"...what can be extended to "good intentions of change, bad managed".

Can change be bad? Of course it can! It may have "bad intentions" from the beginning or it may have the best intentions but a crappy implementantion and end up being a disaster. But remember, if it wasn't for change we would probably still be living in caves!

Now, going back to politics so far it seems that Obama has some of the qualities needed to manage change. He clearly knows that there are no easy solutions, he has already work on adapting some processes to get the part of the change intended (he draw more people to vote than any other elected official), his campaign showed a very well balanced mix of leadership and teamwork and it seems obvious that he knows how to communicate as well as how important is to communicate often and directly.

If you have any doubt about this last point I have two words for you: check As a strategist myself I am amazed with the communication side of this campaign: three days after the election a new site is up and running with part of the elected President agenda, a place to share your ideas on the topics and even a form to apply for a non-career job with this administration. Now --that's planification!


Nov 4, 2008

Vote, Just VOTE!

Today is almost like "D" Day. No soldiers to deploy or shores to conquer but it may be as crucial as that day was. It is the day when the US will choose which way they want to go, if they want to become again the power of change they were 10 years ago when other powerful countries looked up to the US for leadership or if they rather stay where they are now, still powerful but alone, crumbling and frigthened. I guess it goes without saying who I want to win.

Nevertheless this is not about voting for this or that ticket. This is about voting.

First, let's have fun together with a new PSA from Spielberg, another "Don't vote" one but with the look and feel of a backstage documentary. It is not for McCain or Obama, it is for democracy.

Please, no excuses today. If you want to have a voice, you should vote. Right or left, GOP, dem or independant there is no good excuse to not vote if you are allowed to. Yeap, there may a long waiting time involved and it may rain over you. But you will be part of a process that will shape the country and the world in the next years. A process that by itself -it doesn't really matters who the candidates are-, means the opportunity to innovate. No excuses allow, go ahead, be a man (or a woman), defy the weather or the long line and just VOTE.